Haim Saban, funder of the Brookings Institution’s Saban Center on Middle East Policy, with some of his beloved. Photo by Israel Hadari
I don’t understand why people take the Brooking Institution’s Saban Center on Middle East Policy so seriously when its namesake and funder is holding fundraisers for the Israeli army. But that’s just me. Danielle Berrin reports in the Jewish Journal on a Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces gala held in Los Angeles on December 8 (the night before the IDF shot Mustafa Tamimi on occupied land in Nabi Saleh):
Century City’s Hyatt Regency ballroom was teeming with Los Angeles’ most hawkish, hard-line lovers of Israel, among them the annual event’s hosts, Haim and Cheryl Saban. Channeling a less idealized love were the evening’s headliners — Barbra Streisand, who sang, and Jason Alexander, who emceed — both of whom belong decidedly to the pro-peace, two-state solution left.
There were other, stranger contrasts and ironies: Maimed Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers and U.S. Army veterans shared tables …
It was a striking mix of Jewish guilt and privilege, and nowhere was the conflict between those forces more evident than in Haim Saban himself. When he took the podium, he momentarily digressed from the speech on the teleprompter to admit, “It’s truly humbling to follow these guys” — referring to a one-eyed veteran of the war in Iraq, a paralyzed IDF soldier and a female F-16 fighter pilot, all of whom risked life and limb in the name of national fealty. “And here we are in Beverly Hills,” Saban said, “having a good time.”
He should know. He used to drive tanks; now he has a driver. He used to live in Israel; now he lives in Beverly Park. He moved on from his first love and thrived with his next love. So how does a man repay the country that saved him from persecution in Egypt and remained faithfully true, even after he abandoned her for the good life in America?
Israel is Saban’s poor ex-wife to whom he’s paying lifelong alimony.
Which explains why, year after year, Saban goes all-out for Israel. In addition to the millions he provides to support pro-Israel U.S. political candidates and the Democratic Party, as well as to the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution, and his seemingly endless and unchecked support for local organizations like the Israeli Leadership Council, the FIDF dinner is his biggest public show. This one night of the year, Saban can prove to Israel that even though he can’t be with her, he really does still love her.