Oligarchs for Israel
Adelson-Saban tag-team underscores Israel lobby’s power
When Pat Buchanan described the American Congress as "Israeli-occupied territory" in the run up to the first Gulf war, he clearly underestimated the problem. Although Sheldon Adelson and Haim Saban didn’t mean to underscore and enlarge Buchanan’s point, this they surely did at the first national conference of a new pro-Israel lobbying group, the Israeli-American Council (IAC), where the two multi-billionaires appeared together on stage. It was an enlightening colloquy.
Adelson, whose casinos have made him one of the richest people in the world, pumped $150 million into the Republican Party in 2012, and is expected to give at least as much in the 2016 campaign. Saban who made his fortune on the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, has given a comparable amount to the Democrats, including the money to build Democratic National Committee headquarters in Washington: he has pledged to donate "whatever it takes" to elect Hillary Clinton in 2016.
On stage together, the duo engaged in a bit of a contest to see who could be more brazen about their desire to force US policy into a "pro-Israel" template. Both expressed intransigent opposition to current US-Iran talks over the latter’s nuclear energy program, with Adelson averring that if he were Prime Minister of Israel and the US sealed a deal with Iran that didn’t meet with his approval he "would not just talk, I would take action" – against whom, it wasn’t quite clear.
Saban, for his part, pushed well beyond that frontier, declaring that if he were in Netanyahu’s position "I would bomb the daylights out of these sons of bitches!"
As the conversation got around to Israel’s domestic problems, Adelson upped the ante, declaring that there is no Palestinian problem because there are no Palestinians: they are, he said, "an invented people." Yes, yes you’re right, averred Saban, but we still need a two-state solution because Israel must preserve its identity as a democratic Jewish state. Here was Adelson’s chance to win the contest, and he took it:
"I don’t think the Bible says anything about democracy. I think God didn’t say anything about democracy. God talked about all the good things in life. He didn’t talk about Israel remaining as a democratic state, otherwise Israel isn’t going to be a democratic state — so what?"
When the single biggest donor to the GOP – yes, bigger than the Koch brothers – starts musing in public about God’s indifference to democracy, you have to wonder where it’s going to end. Insofar as Israel is concerned, Adelson may be getting the despotism he apparently longs for, as the Jewish state clamps down on internal dissent, expelling Arabs from the Knesset and edging closer to the wholesale expulsion of the Arab population from the country.
Oh, it was quite a party, as the two philanthropists did their best to conform to every caricature out of the anti-Semites’ playbook. Complaining that the media is biased against Israel, Adelson suggested to Saban that they "go after the New York Times" by offering "more than it’s worth": shareholders could then sue the owners if they don’t accept the buyout. Saban told the audience he tried to buy the Washington Post, but Amazon’s Jeff Bezos got it for "bupkis" – a mere $250 million. He went on to say he’d "tried everything" to influence reporting about Israel, "including threats."
The IAC is generously funded by Adelson to the tune of $2.5 million: it consists mainly of dual Israeli-American citizens who seek to influence US policy toward Israel, and this was their first national conclave. Other speakers included Mitt Romney, who used the occasion to denounce US efforts to avoid war with Iran, former US Senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Lieberman, who "delivered gibes at the President," according to the Forward, and Senator Lindsey Graham, who vowed to block any agreement with Iran that wasn’t approved in advance by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
As the Adelson-Saban tag-team act makes all too clear, it isn’t just Congress that’s Israeli-occupied territory – it’s both political parties and a good deal of the media to boot.
The enormous power wielded by just these two individuals is only the snout of the whale: submerged just below the surface, and under the radar of most Americans, is a veritable army of Tel Aviv’s American fifth column.
The brazen vulgarity of these two oligarchs in boasting of their ability to dominate the political process on behalf of a foreign power ought to repel Americans no matter what their view of Israel: indeed, it almost seems designed to do so. That is, the Adelson-Saban performance is acted out in order to give the impression of a Jewish united front in favor of the warmongering views of Netanyahu and his American amen corner. Yet this is a fabrication, one perpetrated, ironically enough, by both ultra-Zionists and the most vicious anti-Semites. As a recent J Street poll revealed, over 80 percent of American Jews support a US-Iranian agreement on the nuclear issue.
The Israel lobby is playing a dangerous game. By advertising their clout, they encourage a backlash that is bound to have anti-Semitic overtones. Then again – as crazy as it may seem – from a Zionist perspective this is a desirable result because it will encourage Jewish emigration to Israel. The Jewish state is fast losing its best and brightest young people as they flee an increasingly intolerant – and openly anti-democratic – atmosphere. To add to the Zionists’ worries, the demographic time-bomb represented by the Arab birth rate is set to go off in the near future – a fact of which both Adelson and Saban seem acutely aware.
There’s just one solution to the problem of undue Israeli influence on US foreign policy, and that is a policy of strict nonintervention in Israel’s affairs, starting with a complete cut off of US aid to Israel. We should cease trying to broker a peace that neither the Israelis nor the present Palestinian leadership seem to want. Groups like the IAC, AIPAC, and other lobbying groups must be brought into line with existing law, specifically the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the provisions of which pro-Israel groups have successfully evaded for decades.
Most of all, we need a government impervious to the influence of foreign lobbyists, and public officials who put America first.
We here at Antiwar.com have been educating the American people on the dangers posed by the Israel lobby’s inordinate influence over the public discourse and the political process – and we’ve been doing it for years, before it was considered "acceptable." We didn’t care that our warnings were considered "beyond the pale" by the Washington political class, and we still don’t – even though identifying Israel’s powerful American lobby as such is now no longer forbidden territory. We were among the very first to explore that terrain, and it’s gratifying to see so many others following our lead – as has happened in many other instances. Where else can you get such leading edge analysis? Who else is breaking the taboo against plain talk when it comes to naming names and saying what is, bluntly and without apologies?
You’d think that, in view of this, Antiwar.com wouldn’t have to go begging for the funding to keep this little operation going – but you’d be quite wrong. The first day of our Winter 2014 fundraising campaign did occur the day before a national holiday, and that may account for the pathetic level of contributions so far – at least I sure hope so. But we can’t afford to take in much-needed donations at the current glacial pace: indeed, we could not survive for very long if that were the case.
So please – help us beat the Israel lobby, which has a long record of leading the drive to war that dates back to Gulf War I. We can’t outspend the two oligarchs depicted above – but we don’t need to. All we need is the kind of support we’ve gotten from our readers and supporters for the past 18 years or so – enough to get by so we can still keep making the case for a rational foreign policy. Because although our government does indeed seem as if it’s for sale to the higest bidder, the American people can’t and won’t be bought. And there are many signs that they are waking up to the scope of the problem, which is the War Party’s greatest fear.
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NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.
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