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Hillary’s Sheldon Adelson

No one was surprised to see Republican hawk Lindsey Graham, or even Mitt Romney, line up to kiss Sheldon Adelson’s ring at the Israel-American Council  [1]conference in Washington last weekend. Adelson has urged that the United States drop nuclear weapons on Iran as a “negotiating” tactic; he dreams that his son will be a sniper in the Israeli army; he is basically the kind of hawk with maximal loyalties to Israel and minimal ones to the United States that one might wish held no position of honor in the Republican Party. But alas he does [2]. In a better world a Sheldon Adelson event might receive no more attention from prominent Republicans than a David Duke conference, but we’re long past that point. The Romney and Graham speeches blasting Obama’s diplomacy towards Iran received headlines of the dog bites man nature.

But the Twittersphere was set aflame at the Sunday plenary session, where Adelson held court with fellow billionaire and Israel supporter Haim Saban [3]. Saban does not have the public persona of Adelson. The Power Ranger mogul is a major Democratic Party donor, perhaps the largest of all. He sponsors something called the Saban Center at Brookings, which provides a think tank gloss to pro-Israeli perspectives, but also funds some genuine scholarship. He is on first-name terms with the liberal hawk or liberal internationalist elite, “Tony” and “Shimon” and of course “Hillary.” You can get a sense of Saban’s world from the fulsome video [4] made to introduce Hillary when she spoke two years ago at the Saban Center—where she received a parade of warm endorsements from Israeli politicians well known in the U.S. It was the first concrete sign, many noted, that Hillary was really interested in running for the presidency in 2016.

But last weekend here was Saban, Democratic mogul, on stage alongside Sheldon Adelson, the two performing sort of duet: One could title it “Pity the Zionist Billionaires Who Can’t Always Get What They Want.” Adelson claimed the Palestinian were an “invented people” Saban came back with the retort that in the event of a “bad” Iran nuclear deal, Bibi “should bomb the living daylights of the sons of bitches [the Iranians].” When Saban mentioned that there were actually a lot of Palestinians between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, Adelson retorted with “So Israel won’t be a democratic state, so what.” (One might at least credit him with candor not usually evident among Israel’s most vociferous right wing supporters, fond of touting Israel as a democracy which shares American values.) The two talked of measures to squelch the rapidly expanding BDS movement, movement to boycott Israel either in full or part to pressure it to end the occupation. (The First Amendment might pose a problem here.)

The two naturally agreed that the American media was terribly biased against Israel, except for maybe Fox News, and that they discussed whether they could buy the Washington Post or New York Times to correct the problem. This aspect of the performance was comic, the lament, commonplace enough among neoconservatives, that the American press is biased against Israel. Consider that the Washington Post runs (the Wall Street Journal aside), the most neoconservative major editorial page in the country, and it’s been a long time since someone that one can even conceive of being slightly sympathetic to those subjected to Israeli occupation (perhaps the late Mary McGrory?) has written there. The Times is more diverse and makes occasionally sincere efforts at both balance and objective journalism, but if one looks at the roster of Times-men who regularly cover Israel, one could conclude that having a child serving in the IDF is a job requirement.

Sheldon and Haim then amused themselves and their audience by talking about taking over the Times and Washington Post.

The whole affair might have been comical but for the serious issues it raises for presumed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. Haim Saban is her close friend and major financial backer: one could go so far as to say that he and his donor circle constitute her “base” or at least a significant part of it. One question any inquisitive journalist might ask of Hillary is: What does she think of Haim Saban’s wish that Israel “bomb the daylights” out of Iran if Bibi doesn’t approve of a nuclear deal reached with Tehran by the United States and the other P5+1 countries? Since Bibi’s disapproval is virtually guaranteed (Israel insists that it be the only nuclear-capable country in the region), would she have that the United States support and even assist Israel bombing the daylights out of Iran, right after the United States signs a deal with the Iranian government? Or does she reject the counsel of her major backer? Saban’s partner on stage has urged that the United States drop nuclear bombs on Iran as a negotiating tactic. What does Hillary think of this?

Hillary has never paid a political price for her ties to right-wing Israel supporters, though she has reaped the usual benefits. Might the American political culture be ready to turn on this, at least to the extent that she will no longer get a free pass? The Twittersphere agog at the Sheldon and Haim show was largely a liberal Jewish one, journalists and writers who are hardly hostile to Israel, but are increasingly dismayed as the Israeli right wing entrenches itself in power while becoming ever more extreme. Its numbers are small, but it speaks for an influential slice of Democratic Party elite opinion—supportive of the two state solution, of negotiating with Iran. A recent J Street-sponsored poll found that 84 percent of American Jews backed an Iran deal which restricts Iranian nuclear enrichment and subjected Iran’s nuclear sites to inspection. But Adelson and Saban do not.

Where does Hillary stand, with her financial backers or the more mainstream opinion of the Democratic Party? It’s a question worth watching in the presidential year to come.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

22 Comments (Open | Close)

22 Comments To "Hillary’s Sheldon Adelson"

#1 Comment By Thomas O. Meehan On November 12, 2014 @ 12:30 am

Perhaps Saban’s clout as a major investor in Spanish Language media in the US is also a factor. Hilary, like all Democrats wants to rely on latino media to get out her peons on election day 2016.

#2 Comment By ferdigrofe On November 12, 2014 @ 4:21 am

I looked up a map of Israel. Exclude the West Bank and the Golan Heights. According to Bret Stephens, Adelson, Bibi, Saban, and the other NeoCons, Israel has seven districts: The Northern, Haifa, Central, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, the Southern and the Western, which is the United States of America.

#3 Comment By Neighborhood Watch On November 12, 2014 @ 6:58 am

” A recent J Street-sponsored poll found that 84 percent of American Jews backed an Iran deal which restricts Iranian nuclear enrichment and subjected Iran’s nuclear sites to inspection. But Adelson and Saban do not.”

We’re past the point where we can afford to let American Jews define the Israel relationship. Under that dispensation our Israel problem has steadily grown worse.

Re the subject of your article, while Saban’s credentials as an “American” are risible, his credentials as an Israeli agent of influence are sterling – he was a principal in the Jane Harman NSA intercept affair.

Harman is no longer in Congress, relegated to the “external advisor” astrocorner with untrustworthies like Sandy Berger, but with the help of Bush and Obama administration insiders she’s still at liberty, like the spies that she promised to protect. While the Justice Department released a carefully worded letter saying she was not a “current” target of investigation “by its Criminal Division”, one assumes that her doings are fairly thoroughly (and warrantlessly) monitored these days.

As to the HRC relationship, the Clintons have hobnobbed with shady characters, spies, and outright felons for decades, mostly with impunity, and in that sense Saban is just one of the crowd, a richer, sleeker Israeli edition of the Charlie Tries, Johnny Chungs, and Liu Chaoyings of the Clintons’ leaner years.

Nonetheless, as Jane Harman learned to her sorrow, he’s also the kind of loudmouth who makes trouble for the politicians he buys.

#4 Comment By John On November 12, 2014 @ 8:16 am

But I thought bipartisan agreement about an issue could mean only good things!

#5 Comment By ScottinMD On November 12, 2014 @ 9:12 am

“Hillary has never paid a political price for her ties to right-wing Israel supporters”

Very true. Then again, has anyone ever paid a political price for their ties to right-wing Israel supporters?

The facebooks and the twitters may get a little incensed for a few days, but does that constitute ‘paying a political price’?

#6 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 12, 2014 @ 9:19 am

“As Saban has said, ‘I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel’…

“In March [2010], Forbes estimated [Saban’s] net worth at $3.3 billion…

“At a conference last fall [2009] in Israel, Saban described his formula. His ‘three ways to be influential in American politics,’ he said, were:

[1] make donations to political parties,

[2] establish think tanks, and

[3] control media outlets.” (All quotes from “The Influencer” by Connie Bruck, May, 2010, The New Yorker)

Haim Saban, like Sheldon Adelson, pays for politicians who support Israel.

Doubtless, this foolishness whereby the money and reputation of the United States – and the very lives of its citizens — are again and again sacrificed at the bidding of a foreign state, Israel, and its domestic agents will someday end. That’s the good part.

The worrisome part is that growing American public awareness of the way support for Israel is bought – and who buys it – may someday create the paradox of “the good part” ending badly.

More people need to speak up about the overall problem now so that it can be fixed sooner rather than later. Delaying fixing the problem increases the likelihood that circumstances will someday arise in which the white-hot anger of an aroused American public will turn not only against the Sheldon Adelsons and the Haim Sabans – but also against innocent Americans who are nonetheless identified with the Adelsons and Sabans.

We must try our best not to have “the good part” end badly.

#7 Comment By PermReader On November 12, 2014 @ 10:29 am

This year Sheldon Adelson accordinly to Forbes 25.10. 2014 gave 5 mln $ for House Republicans.

#8 Comment By cka2nd On November 12, 2014 @ 12:41 pm

Thomas O. Meehan says: “Perhaps Saban’s clout as a major investor in Spanish Language media in the US is also a factor. Hilary, like all Democrats wants to rely on latino media to get out her peons on election day 2016.”

I can just imagine how Mr. Meehan would react if a liberal or progressive referred to Fox News viewers, Tea Partiers or members of politically active conservative churches as peons to be gotten out on Ted Cruz’s behalf in 2016.

I am curious, though, what insulting term Mr. Meehan would use for BET or MSNBC viewers. Anyone care to guess?

#9 Comment By James Canning On November 12, 2014 @ 1:34 pm

Haim Saban and Sheldon Adelson claim US media is biased AGAINST Israel? TOTAL RUBBISH. Amazing cr*p!

#10 Comment By T. Sledge On November 12, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

I wonder what the reaction would be if some loud mouthed rich black guy stood on a podium with a leading candidate of a major party after saying that he regretted serving in the American military, and wished that his son would be a sniper in the Nigerian army.

I don’t think that ANY such black (or irish, or german, or any other ethnic) American would be allowed in the same time zone of a major public figure, ever again after that.

Oh well, let’s just call that the “Adelson Privilege”. What is most galling is the assumption that anyone who shows a whiff of sympathy for the Palestinians is by that very fact anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, a veritable Nazi — what a damn scam. If Al Sharpton can be called (correctly) for not just playing the race card, but keeping a whole marked deck of them up his sleeve, then people of this type should be called for playing the Anti-Semite card to silence even the mildest criticism of Israel.

#11 Comment By bjiski On November 12, 2014 @ 2:13 pm

Will the press ask her about it? I doubt it. The press didn’t ask McCain about his idiot warmongering. The press didn’t ask Romney about all of the warmongerers in his advisory team.

Hillary is “mainstream” in her relations with warmongers, especially when it comes to Isreal. Both parties are.

#12 Comment By Clint On November 12, 2014 @ 3:29 pm

Bought & paid for foreign policy.

“Another way to put it is that Saban decided to buy himself a foreign policy. He has personally paid more money to politicians than any other American—$13 million since 1999, according to Portfolio—all with the avowed intent of ensuring that the U.S. will support Israel no matter what Israel does.”

[5]

#13 Comment By grumpy realist On November 12, 2014 @ 5:24 pm

What was that old advice? “Son, unless you can take their cash, fornicate with their women, drink their booze, and then go and vote exactly the opposite to what they want, you shouldn’t be in politics.”

#14 Comment By Bill Jones On November 12, 2014 @ 9:25 pm

The interests of the people of the United States in the Middle East are twofold.

1.Ensure a free-flow and future development of its oil resources ( The political scum, of course would add: maintain the ability to curtail other counties access, a policy which when applied to Japan in the ’30’s led to Pearl Harbor)
2. The prevention of radicalism that might transform into terrorism.

Both of these goals are best achieved by having a series of strong secular States. Both Syria and pre Bush the lesser’s Iraq performed these roles admirably.

Israel’s interests are in having a sea of failed statelets in constant turmoil unable to form a united front against its aggressions.

That we have gone from what we had to what we have in that region is testimony to the stupidity and treason of the filth in Washington.

#15 Comment By Glaivester On November 12, 2014 @ 10:07 pm

More people need to speak up about the overall problem now so that it can be fixed sooner rather than later. Delaying fixing the problem increases the likelihood that circumstances will someday arise in which the white-hot anger of an aroused American public will turn not only against the Sheldon Adelsons and the Haim Sabans – but also against innocent Americans who are nonetheless identified with the Adelsons and Sabans.

I think this is much more likely to happen in regards to immigration and racial issues than in regards to foreign policy. The same people who are pushing open borders and the dispossession of Europeans are also the ones pushing endless war.

#16 Comment By Mike Jacobs On November 12, 2014 @ 10:20 pm

In some ways this is but an inconsequential dance that will go on until the money crashes. Then everything changes overnight, and the gentile herd that has seemed so oblivious to what has been done to them will turn en masse and move the other way. If this crash includes a full blackout of TV and the internet, things will move much faster on the ground. We will probably look back on a public spectacle like this with a certain awe, almost nostalgia, that it could have been this blatant and crude this late in the game.

#17 Comment By balconesfault On November 13, 2014 @ 11:00 am

Sounds like we could use a way to push back on the influence of money on our political system, eh?

Alas … thanks to the Roberts Supreme Court, megadonors will only become more and more important to candidates in the future.

#18 Comment By Myron Hudson On November 13, 2014 @ 7:03 pm

The press, with few exceptions, will never question a pol about their ties to Zionism. It is the third rail of public conversation in the USA.

#19 Comment By KA On November 13, 2014 @ 7:40 pm

His facial expression is reminiscent of the joy expressed by the faces of those soldiers who boarded the Marva ( Turkish ) Flotilla

#20 Comment By TTT On November 13, 2014 @ 8:33 pm

The two talked of measures to squelch the rapidly expanding BDS movement

Hardly necessary, since the only things BDS has yet accomplished have been getting kosher food removed from London grocery stores, and leading violent mob riots against a synagogue in Paris.

All of which, of course, we’re not allowed to call them antisemitic for.

#21 Comment By KA On November 14, 2014 @ 1:47 am

Incitement to violence is not a crime . Paying somebody or one or two groups of opposite camps to commit a mass murder isn’t terrorism nor is a conspiracy to commit a crime .

How did America manage to turn upside down its own definition of crime and terrorism or turn the whole set of anti terror laws on its head?

Stalin ( or is it Hitler.? ) is being rehabilitated by anti Stalinist forces of the record . Stalin ( or again is it Hitler) said one murder is a crime ,a million is a statistic.

#22 Comment By dahoit On November 18, 2014 @ 6:08 pm

I don’t believe that picture is Adelson,it might be Saban,as I’ve never seen his photo.
Adelson is way uglier.
And to indict just that Shillary creep overlooks Cruz and others kneeling at Adelsons feet,they are all traitors.