FLAME’s founder and president is octogenarian Holocaust survivor Gerardo Joffe. In 1967, Joffe founded Haverhill’s, a mail order firm that has advertised heavily in both liberal magazines—including The Nation—as well as conservative magazines such as National Review.
Joffe later sold Haverhill’s and started a virtually identical operation, Jomira, which advertises in the same publications and sells some of the same—albeit rebranded—products.
According to a Feb. 27, 2001, Village Voice article by Cynthia Cotts, New York Times columnist “Anthony Lewis denounced a FLAME ad as a ‘sorry evasion of reality,’ and in 1998, FLAME ran an ad calling the Islamic religion ‘virulent’ and blaming Islam for promoting violence against the United States and Israel. When a reporter pointed out the overt bigotry ... Joffe said, ‘All Arab Muslims may not be a bunch of fanatics, but I've never met one who isn’t.’”
FLAME’s ads in The Nation have drawn heated criticism, leading that cash-strapped icon of the left to impose a higher fee on the organization’s ads in 2005, according to a letter of complaint Joffe sent to Victor Navasky, the magazine’s Jewish publisher. This letter is now posted on the FLAME website under the heading, “Why does the left oppose Israel?”
After alleging that FLAME was being charged twice the rate as Jomira for its ads, Joffe said “all magazines, other than The Nation, especially those of a ‘rightist’ persuasion (National Review, Human Events, Spectator) love our advertising and have run it for many years at a favorable rate.”
After another FLAME ad in The Nation’s Jan. 9-16, 2006, issue sparked what an unsigned editorial described as “a flurry of ‘How could you’ (or worse) e-mails from our readers,” the editors said the publication’s policy was to accept FLAME’s advertisement as part of “our editorial commitment to free speech.”
But while The Nation endorsed the medium, it didn’t back FLAME’s message, declaring, “And let’s be clear: The editors find the views of FLAME quite repugnant.”
FLAME has courted Christian fundamentalists, including John Hagee, a San Antonio minister and militant Christian Zionist.
As founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), Hagee is a strong supporter of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, perhaps the country’s leading Zio-Con lobby.
In an article circulated by FLAME, Hagee recounted seven biblical reasons Christians should support Israel, the last reading: “We support Israel because all other nations were created by an act of men, but Israel was created by an act of God! The Royal Land Grant that was given to Abraham and his seed through Isaac and Jacob with an everlasting and unconditional covenant.”
Sinkinson wrote glowingly of Hagee in an April 11, 2007, “FLAME Hotline” e-mail to supporters, declaring that “Evangelicals are important to the pro-Israel movement because they number over 50 million in the U.S. alone, compared with five million U.S. Jews, many of whose support for Israel is tentative at best.”
Many FLAME contributions come from Christians, Sinkinson wrote, “and we have always heartily welcomed their blessings.”
The FLAME message said Hagee’s support for Israel drew “numerous standing ovations” when he addressed an AIPAC convention.
Sinkinson’s message was widely reprinted on fundamentalist Christian blogs.
Sen. Joseph Lieberman has also spoken glowingly of Hagee, describing him as Moses-like at a CUFI conclave.
The former vice presidential candidate told the CUFI gathering on July 18, 2007 , “I want to take the liberty of describing Paster Hagee in the words that the Torah uses to describe Moses. He is an Ish Elohim, a man of God.”
Republican presidential candidate John McCain courted Hagee’s endorsement last year, and when he won it, held a highly publicized Feb. 27, 2008, press conference to tout his newest ecclesiastic imprimatur.
And then it began to crumble, due to the efforts of bloggers at talk2action.org, a website that covers the world of the Christian Right. The day after the endorsement, blogger Bruce Wilson laid out the details of Hagee’s peculiar theology .
Quoting Hagee’s book, Jerusalem Countdown, Wilson cited the pastor’s claim that “Hitler’ and the Nazis were sent by God, agents of ‘God’s boundless love ... for the Jewish people.’ ”
After God sent the “fishermen to Israel ... the Zionists, men like Theodore Herzl, who called the Jews of Europe and the World to come to Palestine to establish the Jewish state,” he then “sent the hunters... the force and fear of Hitler’s Nazis drove the Jewish people back to the only home God had ever intended for the Jews to have—Israel.
“I am stricken with awe and wonder at His boundless love for Israel and the Jewish people,” Hagee wrote.
As Wilson noted, “The implication of Hagee’s writing is that the Jews have no legitimate right to live anywhere else but in Israel, where per Hagee’s beliefs they will soon all but be destroyed, reduced to a ‘remnant’ and converted to Christianity.”
More revelations surfaced, including the oldest of anti-Semitic canards, with Hagee blaming the world’s plight on “a group of people ... who call themselves the Illuminati,” which he described as “a super secret organization of international power brokers in Europe, who had as their goal a worldwide economic power, and they would rule the world through economic wealth.”
Their descendants today include, Hagee told his congregation on March 23, 2003, Alan Greenspan, “the Rothschilds of Europe and the David Rockefellers of America,” Wilson reported , citing a hauntingly similar quote from the Nazi propaganda film The Eternal Jew.
On the same day that Wilson fired his initial volley, Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights President Bill Donohue fired a second fusillade, demanding McCain repudiate Hagee’s endorsement just days after Barack Obama had spurned an unsolicited endorsement from Louis Farrakhan.
Glen Greenwald reported his conversation with Donohue in a Feb. 28, 2008 post at Salon.com.
Donohue told Greenwald, “Hagee is far more powerful than Farrakhan is today ... If someone said to me, who is the biggest anti-Catholic bigot in the evangelical community, I would say: Hands down, John Hagee.”
Even with the controversy, it took McCain until May 22 to issue a statement renouncing the endorsement , which he said was sparked in large part by Hagee’s belief in a divinely inspired Shoah.
“Obviously, I find these remarks and others offensive and indefensible. I did not know of them before Reverend Hagee’s endorsement, and I feel I must reject his endorsement as well,” McCain said.
But none of this appears on FLAME’s website, only Sinkinson’s praise of Hagee and the contrafactual declaration that the reasons for Evangelical support of Israel “have nothing to do with hastening the Apocalypse, a myth often repeated in Jewish circles, but which has no part in the thinking of most Evangelicals.”
A search of FLAME’s website on May 1 for “Hagee” yielded only two hits, Sinkinson’s original and a printer-ready version of the FLAME director’s paen to the pastor’s “eye-opening and useful” scriptural exegesis.
Sinkinson, though a visceral critic of the Berkeley Daily Planet, hasn’t one harsh word for a powerful minister who rehashes some of the founding myths of racist anti-Semitism .
Tax returns for FLAME list three names under the heading “Current Officers, Directors, Trustees, and Key Employees”: Gerardo Joffe as president, Priscilla Joffee as vice president and Daniel Pipes—not Sinkinson—as director.
The son of a conservative Harvard historian, Pipes has emerged as one of the nation’s most visible Zio-Cons. He runs the Philadelphia-based Middle East Forum, and after the 9/11 attacks called for taking the “war on terror” into Iran, Iraq and the Sudan.
Pipes was a relentless opponent of Barack Obama’s campaign for the presidency, writing in the Oct. 23, 2008, edition of Jewish World Review about “new information confirming Obama’s Muslim childhood” and “Obama’s connections and even indebtedness, throughout his career, to extremist Islam.”
The headline on the article read “Obama Would Fail Security Clearance.”
Pipes, one of the most ardent proponents of the invasion of Iraq, told an Australian television reporter in 2006 that while he hoped that nation wouldn’t erupt into civil war, if it did happen, “it doesn’t very much affect those of us who don’t live in Iraq. It’s not really our problem.”
During the last three years for which IRS returns are available, FLAME reported taking in gross receipts of $2,997,654, of which direct public support accounted for $2,330,032.
During the same three-year period, FLAME spent $1,352,696 on mass media ads, $133,850 on direct mail fundraising and an additional $200,772 on “educational” mailings.
The forms report $70,552 in costs to maintain the group’s Internet site, and while the tax documents don’t list the payee, separate “Statements of Condition” found on the organizational website reveal that the recipient is Sinkinson’s Infocom Group.
Jomira, FLAME founder Gerardo Joffe’s mail-order business, also takes $77,311 to cover office expenses.
The organization has no paid executive or managerial staff and prepares its own ads and mailings.
While FLAME’s tax returns list the organization’s annual income and expenditures, they offer no details on the source of the money that FLAME uses to lobby on behalf of a small nation half a world away.
One small source of revenue with potentially far-reaching impacts listed on the group’s IRS Form 990 is “mailing list royalty,” revenues the group claims are justified as tax-exempt because they are “sold to other 501 (c) 3 organizations in order to gain access to other nonprofit organization’s mailing list.” (501 (c) 3 refers to the tax code section which defines nonprofits.)
One Israeli firm engaged in marketing FLAME’s mailing list, Negev Direct Marketing, cites a list of just such organizations which have used the 29,701 addresses on FLAME’s list. Some of the organizations sharing’s FLAME’s addresses are:
• AIPAC, which bills itself as “America’s Pro Israel Lobby.”
• American Friends of Magen David Adom, created in 1940, and which describes itself as “the first and only disaster relief organization which operates according to the principles of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.” First among its legal responsibilities is “providing auxiliary service to Israel’s Army Medical Corps in wartime,” treating the wounded and caring for refugees.
• Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, which has the motto, “Their job is to look after Israel. Our job is to look after them.”
• Gesher, an educational foundation “committed to strengthening the fabric of Israeli Society through the appreciation of our shared Jewish heritage and common destiny.” One of the group’s primary functions, at the request of the IDF, is operation of “the Gesher-IDF Officer Jewish Identity Program to help counter the deep divisions in Israeli society that are reflected in the IDF.”
• JINSA, the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, which has the dual role of promoting the U.S. military within the United States and “to inform the American defense and foreign affairs community about the important role Israel can and does play in bolstering democratic interests in the Mediterranean and the Middle East.”
• The Zionist Organization of America.
For the three years for which tax returns are available online, income from mailing list sales accounted for less than one percent of FLAME’s total gross receipts, weighing in at $23,298.