Avi Jorisch has a simple rule for combating Islamist militancy and bolstering Israel and America’s security: Follow the money.
In 2010, Jorisch — a former U.S. Treasury official and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies — testified before Congress on how Iran was using its state-owned banks and an array of front companies to bankroll terrorism.
Today, as president of the Red Cell Intelligence Group, he tracks down illicit funds that circle the globe and help fund Al Qaida, Hizbullah, and Hamas.
“I’m not the smartest guy in the room, but I know what I can do,” he told an audience at Temple Sholom in Scotch Plains on Sunday, May 17. His talk, on the Iranian threat to Israel and the United States, was cosponsored by Israel Bonds and by the Israel Support Committee of Central New Jersey, a coalition of seven Union County synagogues. It was the first joint project for the two organizations.
Jorisch was emphatic that three factors make Iran a major danger — its location, neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan; its proximity to American troops; and its massive oil reserves.
He declined to conjecture whether a strict global sanctions regime had undermined Iran’s nuclear agenda, but did say the Iranians are vulnerable to economic pressure.
“If we hadn’t slowed down the banking sector, they would have the bomb by now,” he said.
The son of Holocaust survivors, Jorisch earned a master’s degree in Islamic history from The Hebrew University in Jerusalem, and studied Arabic and Islamic culture in Cairo at the American University and al-Azhar University.
“On 9/11, I watched the Twin Towers collapse on Al Jazeera television [in Cairo]. I visited the site six days later. That image has never left my mind,” he said.
One of his first campaigns, he told the audience, was to track the financing behind the virulently anti-Israel, pro-terrorism, Lebanese television service al-Manar, the third largest Arab news organization after Al Jazeera and Al-Arabiya. Among its sponsors were major American corporations, which withdrew their support after his drive to expose the connection.
In Washington, DC, where he still lives, Jorisch served as a policy adviser to the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, and as a liaison to the Department of Homeland Security.
Jorisch insisted he wasn’t picking political sides but suggested that President Obama spend less time courting a reluctant Islamist ally like Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and expend more effort in combating radical Islam in all its forms.
The ISC brings together members from Congregation Anshe Chesed of Linden, Congregation Beth Israel of Scotch Plains, Temple Beth Ahm Yisrael of Springfield, Temple Beth O’r/Beth Torah of Clark, Temple Beth-El Mekor Chayim of Cranford, Temple Emanu-El of Westfield, and Temple Sholom.