Meet the Iranian donor bankrolling anti-Israel Jewish groups

Francis Najafi, an Iranian-born Phoenix investor, is a large donor to NIAC, which lobbies for policies favorable to the Iranian government.

By Alana Goodman, The Washington Free Beacon

An Iranian-American businessman who bankrolls the country’s largest pro-regime lobbying organization, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), is also a donor to left-wing Jewish organizations hostile to Israel, according to financial disclosure records.

Francis Najafi, an Iranian-born Phoenix investor and large donor to NIAC, which lobbies for policies favorable to the Iranian government, has also been a generous supporter of the anti-Israel Jewish group J Street and and the anti-Israel publication Jewish Currents, to which he has donated $175,000 and $25,000 respectively, according to the organizations’ financial filings.

Najafi is also a board member and donor at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, an anti-interventionist think tank that is run by NIAC’s founder and former president, Trita Parsi.

The donation records are the latest indication of a close connection between left-wing Jewish groups and advocates for closer U.S. relations with the Iranian government, which bombed Israel in April and has been financing Hamas’s war against the Jewish state.

Last year, J Street, NIAC, and other left-leaning groups—including the Open Society Foundations and Human Rights Watch—teamed up to launch a lobbying campaign to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

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Najafi told the Free Beacon that his foundation gives over $5 million a year to “mission driven organizations on education, health, women, children and global peace and security,” including Arizona State University, the International Crisis Group, and others.

“Our donation to JStreet is one of the smallest donation given by our foundation,” he said.

Daniel May, the publisher of Jewish Currents, told the Free Beacon that the magazine was “very proud and honored to have Mr. Najafi’s support for our work. Our relationship is pretty straightforward: as a 501(c)3 we rely on the generous support of many individuals, and he is among them.”

“Regarding editorial decisions, those are made by our editorial team. Donors to Jewish Currents do not have input,” added May.

J Street did not respond to requests for comment.

J Street and Jewish Currents have both criticized Israel’s military operations, with J Street calling for a ceasefire in March and urging the Biden administration and Congress to “impose clear guardrails on Israeli policy” as a condition of military aid to the Jewish state.

Just four days after Hamas’s mass terrorist attacks, the outlet published an article describing Israel’s military response as a “textbook case of genocide unfolding in front of our eyes.”

Najafi, the CEO of the Pivotal Group investment firm, has donated over $600,000 to NIAC since 2011 through his private charity, the Pivotal Foundation, according to tax records.

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His contributions to J Street and Jewish Currents began in 2019 and 2022 respectively.

Since 2020, Najafi has also given $350,000 to the Quincy Institute, which is led by Parsi, NIAC’s founder and former president.

The group has pushed for the revival of the Iran nuclear deal, with Parsi arguing that it would be a “significant breakthrough for U.S. national security and stability in the Middle East.”

Najafi, who was born in Iran and moved to the United States at 17, built his fortune in private equity and real estate, and holds a co-ownership stake in the Phoenix Suns.

Prior to 2019, Najafi didn’t appear to donate to any Jewish organizations. His donation history includes several Iranian-American groups, and community organizations in Arizona, where he now resides.

Najafi also gave $100,000 to the Biden Victory Fund in 2020, and in the past two years has given over $12,000 to Rep. Ruben Gallego, the Democratic Senate candidate in Arizona, according to campaign finance records. He has contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to candidates in both political parties, according to OpenSecrets.

NIAC is controversial among Iranian-Americans, many of whom have criticized it as an advocate for the Iranian regime. NIAC, which had close relations with the Obama administration, lobbied for closer ties between the United States and the Iranian government and was a key player in promoting the Iran nuclear deal.

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In 2008, NIAC sued Iranian-American activist Hassan Daioleslam for defamation after he accused the group of lobbying on behalf of the Iranian government.

A judge tossed the case, saying that NIAC founder Trita Parsi’s work was “not inconsistent with the idea that he was first and foremost an advocate for the regime.”

Internal NIAC records, obtained by Daioleslam as part of the lawsuit, also showed that Parsi had worked to set up meetings between members of Congress and Iran’s then-United Nations ambassador Javad Zarif, the Washington Times reported.

In 2020, a group of Republican senators asked the Department of Justice to investigate whether NIAC violated foreign lobbying registration laws, arguing that the organization “seems to spread propaganda and lobby on behalf of the Iranian government.”