Penny Pritzker’s support for Israel played crucial role in Obama’s rise

The press anticipates controversy over Obama’s appointment of Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker to be Commerce Secretary– because she tried to get around banking regulations, opposed unions and is a fatcat. But no one is talking about another potential source of controversy: Pritzker’s support for Israel, which played a crucial role in Obama’s rise.

That’s because… support for Israel is never controversial in the mainstream press.

But as co-chair of Obama’s fundraising committee during the ’08 campaign, Pritzker was very useful to Obama in affirming his support for Israel in the Jewish community. Ami Eden of JTA:

A Chicago-based businesswoman-philanthropist, Pritzker was arguably President Obama’s most important political donor in his successful 2004 senatorial bid and the 2008 presidential election. And, as a player in Jewish communal and philanthropic circles, she also served as an important validator among pro-Israel Democratic donors who had concerns about Obama on Israel and would have much preferred Hillary Clinton.

When he nailed Obama in ’08, writing “How Barack Obama learned to love Israel,” Ali Abunimah also pointed out the Pritzker connection:

But Obama’s gradual shift into the AIPAC camp had begun as early as 2002 as he planned his move from small time Illinois politics to the national scene. In 2003, Forward reported on how he had “been courting the pro-Israel constituency.” He co-sponsored an amendment to the Illinois Pension Code allowing the state of Illinois to lend money to the Israeli government. Among his early backers was Penny Pritzker — now his national campaign finance chair — scion of the liberal but staunchly Zionist family that owns the Hyatt hotel chain. (The Hyatt Regency hotel on Mount Scopus was built on land forcibly expropriated from Palestinian owners after Israel occupied East Jerusalem in 1967). He has also appointed several prominent pro-Israel advisors.

In his new book on America’s failure to be an honest broker in the Israel/Palestine conflict, Rashid Khalidi also cites Obama’s support from the Pritzker family and others as a factor in his collapse:

…as [Obama] became more involved in electoral politics [in '04], his financial backers included Chicagoans Lester Crown, former president and chair of General Dynamics, several members of the Pritzker family, owners of the Hyatt hotel chain, and another neighbor, Alan Solow, later head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organiations. All were major financial backers of Israel.

Five years ago this British publication emphasized the Pritzers’ support for Israel:

The Pritzkers have always been major supporters of Israel. After the Six Day War, the family built the Hyatt Regency hotel in east Jerusalem, and in his early days as an Illinois senator, Obama co-sponsored an amendment to the Illinois Pension Code allowing the state to make loans to Israel.

Remember that old political adage, Follow the money! I wish the press would follow the money on our country’s Israel policy. During the last presidential campaign, The Times suggested that after Obama put pressure on Netanyahu, other Jewish leaders put pressure on Pritzker:
 
She had drawn business and Jewish leaders to support Mr. Obama, but when many of them turned hostile toward the president because of his policies, some directed their ire toward her, even though she had her own criticisms, too.
 
That was pretty oblique. I’d like to know more about that. Does it have anything to do with the fact that as neoconservative Joel Pollak reported, Penny Pritzker’s brother J.B. is a big supporter of AIPAC?

Meanwhile, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency speaks openly of the fact that the other Cabinet-level appointment Obama announced yesterday, Mike Froman as U.S. trade representative, also has “ties in the American Jewish community.”

Froman, the deputy national security adviser for international economics, is a graduate of the BBYO youth organization. In 1980-81, he led the movement…

BBYO is a Zionist organization

Is the press going to talk about this? I doubt it. Many Jews feel that even mentioning that Obama’s two latest Cabinet picks are Jewish could foster anti-Semitism. I think it’s a sign of our inclusion in America, which demonstrates the wrongness of Zionism: we’re safe in the west.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.
Posted in Israel/Palestine

{ 11 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Phil writes: BBYO is a Zionist organization complete with link. Well, yes and no. True the BBYO proclaims its ties to Israel right in its mission statement. But Bnai Brith preceded Zionism by some 50 or so years and its Zionism is a result of the natural Zionism of identifying Jews.

    Natural Zionism as in natural to support fellow Jews elsewhere in the world, something that Bnai Brith pursued without a Zionist bent after the Kishinev pogrom. Maybe when Jews lobbied Teddy Roosevelt to protest to the Czar that allowing pogroms is a no-no, those Jews including Bnai Brith were involved in proto Zionism, a type of dual loyalty as well. But I think not, that concern for Jews elsewhere on the globe, particularly in 1905 with the recentness of the immigration and the natural ties to the lands that were subject to the Czar’s winks vis a vis the pogroms, that this was merely a human response and not particularly ideological. Zionism does not flow as naturally as the lobbying in 1905. But it flows nonetheless. And it is obeying that flow of identity with Israel that BBYO is involved in rather than anything nefarious or political per se. The question of Jewish Zionism is one that could be raised, but labeling someone’s background as Zionist based on association with BBYO seems to be perverse. Associating with any Jewish organization other than United Neturie Karta or Jews for Palestine would thus be forbidden on any Jew’s resume, according to Phil’s standards.

    • Cliff says:

      Wondering Jew said:

      “Natural Zionism as in natural to support fellow Jews elsewhere in the world”

      What does that mean? Does BBYO support anti-Zionist Jews? post-Zionist?

      What does it ‘support’? How?

      All Jews? Or just some Jews?

      BBYO is a Zionist org.

    • Shmuel says:

      The question of Jewish Zionism is one that could be raised, but labeling someone’s background as Zionist based on association with BBYO seems to be perverse. Associating with any Jewish organization other than United Neturie Karta or Jews for Palestine would thus be forbidden on any Jew’s resume, according to Phil’s standards.

      You exaggerate, Yonah, but where does the perversity lie? Jewish solidarity is understandable, but when that solidarity almost inevitably entails at least indirect (ignorant, passive, deluded, wishful, whatever) support for ongoing crimes against humanity, and is almost ubiquitous in institutional Jewish circles, there is a serious problem, and it has nothing to do with Phil asking or not asking questions about Froman’s political views, based on his past associations, in an administration already heavily biased in Israel’s favour.

      • Shmuel- I think the story of Obama’s: There must be a settlement freeze and then his backing down from it, which ostensibly occurred as a result of threats of loss of financial contributions from Zionist democrats is a major story. This part about Mike Froman belonged to BBYO as anodyne (I know I know, Zionism can never be called anodyne) a Zionist organization as ever was, 33 years ago at the age of 18, is relevant in a very broad context, but other than that is more a symptom of Phil’s obsession against Zionist Jews of America..

        To me it seems that phil dreams of the day when Jews will be asked in front of congressional committees, (if not in front of citizen committees a la citoyen committees circa 1793 as some of the folks in this comments section salivate over) and asked, “are you now or have you ever been a zionist?” (this was a shortlived headline here at mw, for about 20 minutes, until phil changed the headline to something more anodyne). It is not clear if this is Phil’s dream come true or nightmare, but he certainly dreams of it.

    • marc b. says:

      how does an organization with an ’87-year history’ pre-date Zionism by ’50 or so years’?

  2. Les says:

    Be sure to read Dennis Bernstein’s piece on Pritzker the sub-prime queen.

    link to counterpunch.org

    • Keith says:

      LES- “Be sure to read Dennis Bernstein’s piece on Pritzker the sub-prime queen.”

      I agree wholeheartedly! Additionally, folks might be interested to know that in “Supermob,” by Gus Russo, focusing on mob lawyer Sidney Korshak, the Pritzker family enjoys considerable mention for apparent mob ties, and receiving mob investment money. Russo indicates that most of the Jewish Mafia is staunchly pro-Israel. I think many folks would be surprised at the extent to which organized crime is an integral part of the contemporary political economy.

    • Emma says:

      Thanks. That was a good piece in Counterpunch.

  3. American says:

    I only wonder if Obama knew the true nature of the zionist before or after he got in bed with them.

  4. flyod says:

    have to hand it to obama. he makes good on his debts