Biden Admin Officials Coordinated With Anti-Israel Group To Isolate Israeli Jews in West Bank, Emails Show

DAWN is leveraging clout with the Biden administration to push sanctions on Israeli military units for alleged human rights crimes

Biden, advisers (Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images), Israeli settlers (Amir Levy/Getty Images)
May 6, 2024

Senior Biden administration officials have been coordinating since at least early 2022 with an outside anti-Israel group to isolate Jewish Israelis living in the West Bank, internal government emails show.

The previously unreported emails show top officials at both the State and Defense Departments fielding concerns from Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN), a human rights group that is highly critical of the Israeli government and has lobbied the Biden administration to cut off military aid to the Jewish state.

At the time, DAWN sparked an internal push at both departments to stop American officials from engaging with Jewish Israelis living in the West Bank and other contested areas of Jerusalem. DAWN is leveraging its clout with the Biden administration to push fresh sanctions on Israeli military units for alleged human rights crimes, having provided the State Department with a list of Israelis to punish. DAWN's anti-Israel lobbying campaign traces back to at least 2022, with the internal government emails shining new light on the level of access and influence it peddles inside the Biden administration.

In February of that year, DAWN's then-advocacy director, Adam Shapiro, emailed two top Pentagon officials—Dana Stroul, then the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East, and Jennifer Zakriski, then the deputy director of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency.

In the email, Shapiro raised concerns about U.S. officials engaging with Israeli "settlers," citing "media reports documenting a trip to Hebron by 2 US military officers, organized by an [Israel Defense Forces] commander and hosted by a settler affiliated with the Hebron Fund," a nonprofit group that provides education about the city of Hebron's Jewish history.

"From where I sit," Shapiro wrote, "I think this raises serious questions about the purpose of this trip to occupied territory and the ideological nature of the presentation and messaging—and seeming endorsement by US military personnel."

Stroul elevated Shapiro's email a day later, when she forwarded it to Hady Amr, now the Biden administration's special representative for Palestinian affairs, who was then serving as deputy assistant secretary of state for Israeli and Palestinian affairs.

"Hi Dana," Amr responded to Stroul: "We saw the reports and spoke to [Gen. Michael] Fenzel about it a day or two after it happened."

"We're good," Amr added at the end of the note, a portion of which was redacted by the State Department prior to releasing the internal correspondence.

Fenzel is a three-star general who serves as U.S. security coordinator for Israel and the Palestinian Authority. He was recently identified in media reports as a central player in the Biden administration's campaign to sanction Israeli Jews whom the administration accuses of festering violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. Many of the claims about Israel peddled by Fenzel served as the basis for a set of sanctions the United States recently imposed on Israel, Tablet magazine reported in February.

"This email confirms that Biden officials were coordinating with fringe anti-Israel NGOs to undermine Israel and Israeli Jews for years," said one senior Republican congressional official who has received briefings from administration officials on the issue. "These officials were coordinating with each other to launder anti-Israel talking points and policies from fringe NGOs into the administration."

The internal emails cited in this report were provided to the Free Beacon by America First Legal, a conservative watchdog group that obtained them through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

The State Department would not elaborate on its dealings with DAWN.

"That was a private note between colleagues and does not reflect the close relationship that the State Department, [the Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs], and the Special Representative enjoy with [the Office of the U.S. Security Coordinator] and General Fenzel, which has only grown stronger over the last two years of the General's tenure," a spokesperson said on background.

The coordination with DAWN is attracting renewed interest on Capitol Hill in light of the Biden administration's current deliberations over possible sanctions on Israel.

DAWN and other anti-Israel advocacy groups recently provided the State Department with a list of Israelis they believe should be sanctioned for human rights abuses.

Reed Rubinstein, America First Legal's senior counselor and director of oversight and investigations, said the emails paint a disturbing picture about the Biden administration's coordination with outside groups that are highly critical of Israel.

"The State Department's partnership with and reliance on the DAWN organization—a virulently anti-Israel propaganda group that brags about 'sponsorship' by the Hamas/Muslim Brotherhood front group called the 'Council on American-Islamic Relations'—is even more evidence that key Biden officials are infected with a fundamental, and deeply perverse, hatred for Israel and the Jewish people," Rubinstein said.

"This administration rejected peace and stability," Rubinstein went on. "Instead, it has chosen to subvert Israel's democracy, subsidize Hamas, Fatah, and Iran, and fan a worldwide firestorm of anti-Semitism."