Three well-known Israeli security figures said Monday they were duped into participating in an ad supporting US presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Uzi Dayan, a retired army general, and Efraim Halevy, a former Mossad chief, were included along with six other high-ranking retired members of Israel's security establishment in a pro-Obama film. A third official, former Mossad agent Yossi Alpher, also said he was misled.
The three said they were unaware they were being interviewed for a political campaign and were under the impression they were commenting on the regional strategic affairs that will face the next US president. All insisted they have not endorsed either US presidential candidate and their comments had been taken out of context.
"This is pure and simple deceit," said Dayan, a former deputy military chief of staff and national security adviser. "I never expressed support for Obama, his approach or his opinions. I've also never expressed support for McCain. I think that these are respectable people, but we should not interfere in the American elections."
Schlepping for Obama
The eight-minute video, aimed at American Jews, was produced by the Jewish Council for Education and Research. The nonprofit group supports Obama, the Democratic candidate, but says it is not connected to his presidential campaign.
The group is also behind "The Great Schlep" - a Web site featuring Jewish comedian Sarah Silverman encouraging young Jews to go to Florida to persuade their grandparents to vote for Obama.
Mik Moore, a co-founder of the political action committee, said the video was an educational film aimed at "setting the record straight" in light of "rumors and misinformation" surrounding Obama's approach to Israel.
Unlike Republican candidate John McCain and former Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, Obama is a relative unknown in Israel. Also, many American Jews have wondered if he shares the pro-Israel stances of the other presidential hopefuls.
His stated willingness to speak with Israel's archenemy, Iran, has irked many Israelis, while others have been put off by rumors that Obama — whose middle name is Hussein — is a closet Muslim, and because his former pastor praised Black Muslim leader Louis Farrakhan, who is known for anti-Semitic remarks.
Moore said the film's participants were all fully informed that the people making the film were supportive of Obama, and the film didn't claim that everyone in it had endorsed Obama - but he pledged to "address their concerns."
"It's a film to educate and mobilize the Jewish vote," he said. "It's not to encourage people to vote for Obama. The purpose is to have experts on Israeli security speak."
Deception and misrepresentation
But the video, which includes clips from Obama's recent visit to Israel, concludes with a black screen reading: "The people who have kept Israel alive offer you their choice."
Dayan said he agreed to be interviewed about the diplomatic challenges facing the next US president and did not at any time express an opinion about either candidate.
A press release promoting the film mistakenly identifies Dayan as a retired brigadier general (he was a major general) and son of famed general Moshe Dayan (he's his nephew).
Halevi, a former Mossad chief, is quoted as saying Obama is "very impressive." But he added he thought McCain was also impressive, a comment that was not included in the film.
"I was asked at the end of he interview who I support, and I said that I didn't think it was appropriate for an Israeli citizen to give such advice to an American voter on who should be the US president, just as I think it is not proper that an American citizen give advice to an Israeli citizen who should be the prime minister of Israel."
He said his last comment was not included in the film either.
"I made it very clear that I did not wish to take sides in the American elections," he told the AP. "I never would have given the interview had I known that they would edit my words into a film that endorsed either candidate ... they really misrepresented the purpose of the film."
Moore said it was not his intention to distort any of the film's participants comments in any way.
"If there are individuals who are concerned about how they were portrayed in the film, we'll talk to them and address their concerns," he said.