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The pro-Israel lobby goes for broke

Sheldon Adelson attends Friends of The Israel Defence Forces (FIDF) gala in California, US on 1 November 2018 [Photo by Shahar Azran/Getty Images]
Sheldon Adelson attends Friends of The Israel Defence Forces (FIDF) gala in California, US on 1 November 2018 [Photo by Shahar Azran/Getty Images]

Ever since leading pro-Israel lobby financier Sheldon Adelson intervened in the 2016 election heavily in favour of Donald Trump, the now-president’s Middle East policies (if you can even call them that) have become more and more openly in favour of the Zionist state.

To call casino tycoon Adelson an “Israel first” financier is misleading, as it implies that he has second, third and fourth priorities. With a net worth of almost $34 billion at his disposal, though, his one and only cause is Israel, so “Israel only” financier would be a more accurate description.

Adelson has ploughed hundreds of millions of dollars into funding anti-Palestinian groups. He has, for example, donated a reported $410 million to Birthright Israel, a pro-Israel propaganda organisation which takes young Jews on brainwashing tours to occupied Palestine, inculcating in them the idea that the country forms part of their “birthright”.

Although nobody should delude themselves that such a huge amount of money does not have the intended effect on many impressionable young people, money isn’t everything and, thankfully, largely left-wing and liberal Jews are increasingly rejecting Israel. Last year, media outlets reported a number of walk-outs from Birthright tours, with participants reacting against the heavy-handed propaganda that always forms the basis of such trips.

READ: US comedian Roseanne, shunned since racist tweet, visits Israel

Left-wing and anti-Zionist Jews have for many years now been organising against Birthright, even putting on a “Birthwrong” tour celebrating diasporic Jewish life in ancestral Jewish homelands, such as Spain, France, Brazil, Germany, the USA and Britain.

Such efforts are now paying off. Birthright walk-outs are part of a broader trend in which Israel is haemorrhaging support from the base of the Democratic Party in the US. Once upon a time, Sheldon Adelson funded the Democrats. However, in a 2012 op-ed for the Wall Street Journal (the in-house organ of America’s billionaire business class), Adelson explained: “I didn’t leave the Democrats. They left me.” In that article it emerged that the main, if not the only, reason he switched his substantial financial support from the Democrats to the Republicans was that the Democrats’ base is now largely hostile to Israeli war crimes and apartheid.

Since then, Adelson has apparently made it his mission in life to fund the worst of the worst right-wing Republicans. As the late, lamented website Gawker reported, “In 2012 he spent $20 million supporting Newt Gingrich, nearly derailing [Mitt] Romney’s primary run.”

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 23: U.S. President Donald Trump answers questions during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room on October 23, 2018 in Washington, DC. Trump discussed a range of issues while press were in the room including current relations with Saudi Arabia, and the use of the U.S. military in protecting the borders of the United States. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump answers questions during a meeting with military leaders in the Cabinet Room on 23 October, 2018 in Washington [Win McNamee/Getty Images]

During the course of the race for the 2016 White House, every Republican candidate did their best to net Adelson’s support and, of course, his money. Marco Rubio was reportedly calling Adelson every other week at one stage, and “when Jeb Bush hired a foreign policy advisor who was critical of Israel’s diplomatic actions, Adelson forced Bush to issue an apology.”

With President Donald Trump now leading the most anti-Palestinian White House of all time, it’s easy to forget that at one stage, his non-interventionist instincts in matters of foreign policy seemed, for a brief moment, to extend even to Palestine. That’s when Adelson started to plough cash onto the Trump bandwagon and ended up being Trump’s number-one backer. The White House is now more pro-Israel than ever, with each new advisor seemingly more fanatically Zionist than the last.

READ: Media hypocrisy puts pressure on Arabs but not Israeli activists

The Trump-appointed US Ambassador to Israel not only tolerates illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, for example, but also actively funds them out of his own money. Trump has also followed through on a promise to Adelson to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in the face of international law, which still considers the latter to be an occupied city, the annexation of which by Israel is illegal.

While the pro-Israel lobby seems to have the White House sewn up for now, its propagandists look at the new crop of progressive and left-wing Democrats in Congress with some trepidation, for Israel no longer has the universal, bipartisan support in the House and Senate that it once had. This week, news emerged that its lobby has even had to establish a new group, aiming to shore up its floundering support among Democrats.

“Democratic Majority for Israel” is supposedly set to make the “progressive case for Israel”. The fact that such a move has had to be made now is a serious indication of how much US support for Israel has slipped. Indeed, in the secretly filmed words of Eric Gallagher, a leading “liberal” pro-Israel lobbyist when he referred to the lobby’s flagship organisation, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee: “The foundation that AIPAC sat on is rotting… There used to be actual widespread public support for Israel in the United States. So I don’t think that AIPAC is going to remain as influential as it is.”

READ: How AIPAC-Israel agenda became US priority

One establishment policy wonk conceded this week that the passage of a bill through the Senate targeting the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, while seemingly a victory for Israel, was “actually a pretty significant loss. Because only one serious presidential candidate voted for it.”

Kamala Harris and Cory Booker, two corporate Democrats who have thrown their hats into the presidential ring for 2020, both failed to show up for the vote, despite speaking at previous AIPAC policy conferences. Even they don’t want to enrage their support base, much of which is likely to opt for Bernie Sanders should he decide to run again.

With the situation in Congress changing rapidly, the pro-Israel lobby is going for broke to take advantage of its position in the White House while it lasts.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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