The millionaires funding SpinWatch

AGRI-BUSINESS FORTUNE BEHIND SPINWATCH

When the super-wealthy Jallad Group chairman, set up a secret fund to channel money into green advocacy groups, that story ought to have been uncovered by a project dedicated to uncovering corporate spin. But SpinWatch will not be exposing the Jallad Group’s clandestine support for NGOs, because SpinWatch gets its funds from Ayman Jallad’s Isvara Foundation.

SpinWatch’s major backer, the Isvara Foundation is a fund based in Zurich, from the fortune of Ayman Jallad, head of the Lebanese-based tractor company, the Jallad Group. The Jallad Group began life as an import company M. Ezzat Jallad & Fils in 1873. In 1929, Jallad became sole importer for the Caterpillar Company – and later their rivals Hyster, too – exporting agricultural equipment across the Middle East. Today the Jallad Group has offices in Jordan and in Palestine.

Ezzat Jallad & Fils was recognised as an important US commercial ally in the region, getting U.S. government ‘Point IV’ funding under the Eisenhower programme.[1] Ezzat Jallad & Fils features in the Survey of American interests in the Middle East, from 1953 (p 38-9), right through to the Middle East Economic Digest, 1977 (p 4, 55).

The Jallad fortune was made by industrialising Middle Eastern farms with American-made tractors.

In the 1990s, though, Group president Ayman Jallad was more critical of western influence in the region. Ayman set up many Non-Governmental Organisations as a front for Middle Eastern businesses.

In 1993 Ayman Jallad started the Humanitarian Group for Social Development, saying ‘We believe that the rules of global trade are tweaked in the favour of the rich and powerful at the expense of the poor and the environment.’ HGSD distributed the Ecologist to universities in Lebanon.[2]

Jallad also led the ‘Lebanon is Not For Sale’ group, which wants to ‘Ensure food sovereignty & protect agriculture’, ‘Stop de-industrialization & protect emerging markets’ and ‘Reform the public sector & keep basic services public’ (governments being key Jallad Group clients). Having grown rich holding the monopoly of Caterpillar and Hyster tractors, the Jallad Group stood to lose out under the more liberal WTO rules.

In 2001, heady with the fame his activism was bringing, Ayman Jallad wrote an open letter to his fellow NGO activists:

‘We have seen some excellent work done by civil society, NGOs, groups all over the world, I see them as the consciousness of the planet. Now, is it enough that they be just that? or could they be more?

It seems that they need to be more, they should be the AGENT FORCING CHANGE…’

What was the problem that Jallad thought NGOs should be addressing? It was the rise in wages that threatened his profits: ‘one of the things is changing the consumption pattern of people’, he worried: ‘we cannot survive long continuing in the way we consume’.

The complaint seems a bit graceless since the Jallad Group fortune was built on agri-business. But in Ayman Jallad’s imagination, the poor were massing outside his mansion: ‘we cannot survive long with humanity increasing the way it is’.[3]

In 2007, Ayman Jallad set up the Isvara Foundation that has been on a worldwide shopping spree, buying up NGOs, with big donations not just to SpinWatch, but also to Friends of the Earth, Corporate Europe Observatory and Carbon Trade Watch.

‘Transparency’ is a goal for the Isvara Foundation – but not one that if follows. The fund is secretly administered by the World Development Movement in the UK, and by UBS in Zurich. ‘Unsolicited approaches are not welcomed’, and emails are not replied to.

The businesses that Ayman Jallad does want to uncover are the ‘American Jewish lobby’, responsible in his eyes ‘for all kinds of mass murder and human rights abuse’: ‘When will civil society, media and the world will shine the light on their behavior?’[4]

Maybe it is not surprising to hear a Lebanese businessman raging against Jews. What is shocking is that a University-based project like SpinWatch is willing to draw up lists of Jews to shore up those paranoid delusions.


[1] Irene Gendzier, Notes from the Minefield: United States Intervention in Lebanon and the Middle East, 1945-58, 1998, Westview Press, p 109

[2] http://hgsd.org/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=28&Itemid=&Itemid=57

[3] Ayman Jallad ‘NGOs and Civil Society’, November 29, 2001  http://www.aquaac.org/UNtalk/free/messages/11.html

[4] Ayman Jallad, 4 October 2007, http://www.spectrezine.org/node/384

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HOW ZAC GOLDSMITH BOUGHT THE GREEN MOVEMENT

Why is the Conservative candidate for Richmond upon Thames funding so many of the environmental groups that ought to be attacking the Tories, asks Will Deighton

You might think that there is nothing surprising about the heir to James Goldsmith’s £300 million fortune saying he would stand for the Conservative Party in the next general election. But Zac Goldsmith has been deeply involved in the Green movement for the last decade.

Other leading Greens who took jobs as industry spokesmen and women, like Des Wilson, Jonathan Porritt, Sara Parkin and Peter Melchett, have been roundly attacked as sell-outs and ‘greenwashers’. Zac Goldsmith’s vow to fight the Richmond Upon Thames seat for David Cameron’s new model Tories, on the other hand, has drawn almost no criticism at all from his former Green pals.

The easy ride that Goldsmith got from the Greens over his turning blue is not so hard to understand when you look at the payments that his JMG Foundation has made to the many environmental and advocacy groups over the years: Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Soil Association, Sustain and the Green Alliance have all taken JMG money.

Zac’s brother Ben who helps him run the JMG Foundation, says that the foundation ‘does not have charitable status’, but ‘specialises in environmental grant-making’:

this often leads us to support quite spiky work – campaigning and hard-hitting advocacy – which prompts governments or business to move further, and faster, towards a truly sustainable course.

Jon Cracknell and Heather Godwin, who both ‘work for the family of the late Sir James Goldsmith’ managing the JMG Foundation and the Ecology Trust wrote a report Where The Green Grants Went that identified a gap in the market. According to Where The Green Grants Went lots of money went to conservation project, but not enough to advocacy groups dealing with climate change. That is an omission that Zac Goldsmith has put right, by using JMG funds to buy into these campaigns.

Some of the Green activists who might have been expected to warn against the dangers of being bought up by the millionaire Zac Goldsmith are those who have dedicated themselves to exposing ‘Greenwashing’ and Spin.

The Spinwatch website run by David Miller of Strathclyde University, and Claire Robinson (who looks after the ‘spin-profiles’ section of their website) have dedicated themselves to uncovering the big business charlatans who dress green to fool the public. But there is a big gap in Spinwatch’s encyclopedia of Spin. Where is the entry for the millionaire Zac Goldsmith? Where is the exposure of the Tory-led JMG Foundation, and its many contributions to green groups? There is none, because Spinwatch is one of those green groups taking the Goldsmith shilling.

Claire Robinson is no stranger to Goldsmith’s largesse. Before working for Spinwatch, she worked for the Ecologist magazine (after a stint at Horse & Rider). She also worked on another Goldsmith-funded operation ‘GMWatch’ with Jonathan Matthews. Another JMG funded ‘spinwatch’ off-shoot, ‘nuclearspin’ was criticised for attacking pro-nuclear Labour MPs, but not their Tory counterparts ‘Might this by any chance be related to the fact that the JMG Foundation was created by Zak Goldsmith, David Cameron’s “green guru”?’ asked Private Eye (26 May 2006).

Maybe Guardian columnist and Green star George Monbiot would have something to say about the tax-dodging millionaire Tory? What about the fact that candidate Zac Goldsmith has had himself classed as a Non-Domicile – despite owning a farm in Devon and standing for the UK Parliament – so that he does not have to pay tax. Certainly Monbiot thinks that ‘the Conservative Party’s most persistent embarassment is the hazy tax status of its deputy chairman, Lord Ashcroft’, but for some reason non-domicile Tory candidate Zac Goldsmith is never criticised in the many acres of newsprint of Monbiot’s columns.

Maybe it is unfair to say that Zac Goldsmith bought the Green movement – since it has been in his family for two generations, you might say he inherited it, along with daddy’s millions. Zac’s uncle Teddy founded the Ecologist magazine back in 1970 and after spending some time in an Ashram in Rajahstan, and at Teddy’s International Society for Ecology and Culture in Ladakh, Zac took over in 1998.

Still, that only makes Zac’s embrace of the Conservative Party look all the more strange. After all, his father James Goldsmith fought against the Conservative Party, standing as an anti-European Union candidate against the Tories’ disgraced cabinet minister David Mellor (a ranting Goldsmith rattled Mellor at the election count). To understand why Zac’s change of heart is not such a surprise, you have to understand the meeting point between deep green and deep blue. In his book The Constant Economy, Zac Goldsmith repeats the same philosophy that his uncle first popularised of a ‘steady state’, no growth, economy. Only a millimetre below the surface is a fierce hatred of modern society and the mass of people that it gathers.

Goldsmith economic theory fits Goldsmith economic practice. Sir James made his money by breaking up companies to raid their assets. His son makes his out of the gaming industry. Mass production is an anathema to them – they make their money by breaking things up, or transferring wealth from gamblers’ pockets to their own (and remember, the house always wins).

Before getting his seat in parliament, Zac Goldsmith had to be selected by the Tories. True to form, he donated £264,000 to help fund a campaign office, and has made contributions to the party just under the threshold of £40,000 himself, as has his brother and sister in law. David Cameron’s Tory Party is not only grateful for Goldsmith’s cash. His green credentials have made their tired brand look a bit special again. Happily, Goldsmith is funding the green ideas that in the election will cost their worn-out Labour rivals radical votes. There is no danger that the Green Party will take any votes from Goldsmith though: Richmond and Twickenham is not on the top of the party’s campaigning.

Now that Zac is getting into bed with David, where will the Green groups get their money? Luckily for Spinwatch, and others, another foundation has stepped in to fill any shortfall in their income. The Isvara Foundation (Isvara is Hindu for ‘believing in’) has been very generous. Unfortunately, the Isvara Foundation is not listed at Companies House or the Charity Commission, and does not reply to emails, so we cannot say who is behind it, other than that its website is run by Peter Taylor of the World Development Movement.

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