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.
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.