Our story on Sheldon Adelson saying Obama should nuke Iran, not talk to Iran, has gotten wide play, but it’s hardly the only quotable thing the 80-year-old billionaire casino mogul said on Tuesday night at Yeshiva University. He went on at length on many subjects, often cracking jokes and maundering, and reminded me a little of the late Brando with a Boston accent.
There was also a slightly thuggish side to Adelson’s demeanor, in that some things he said were mean or ugly but the columnist (Bret Stephens), educator (Richard Joel), and rabbi (Shmuley Boteach) on stage with him just smiled. That’s surely because Adelson funds a lot of causes on the right– and why Rabbi Shmuley Boteach called him a “colossus” bestriding the Jewish world of philanthropy, and maybe why Joel joked, “Whatever you want,” when Adelson got his name wrong. Others have made this point today, that the man who wants to nuke Iran funds major thinktanks.
Anyway, here are more sayings from Adelson.
On trading land for peace:
I think it’s unwise to trade land for peace… It’s more unwise to trade land for peace with a people who are not a people.
On why Palestinian aren’t Palestinians:
There’s no such thing as a Palestinian. Do you know what they are? The Palestinians call themselves southern Syrians. They were the Syrians who were left over from the district of Syria that was so named in the Ottoman Empire… There’s no such thing as a Palestinian people. They have fooled the world very successfully.
On the absurdity of allowing Palestinians to have a state:
Here’s a good compromise… I can imagine a meeting between an Israeli Jew and the Muslims. ‘Muslims, you want to kill 100 percent of the Jews. We don’t want you to kill anybody. So let’s compromise. We’ll surrender half the Jews so you can kill them.
And the other half of the Jews will stay alive. So both of us get a compromise. You can’t get everything you want! But we get some of what we want!’ It’s ridiculous. These people espouse the destruction of the Jewish people worldwide and the state of Israel. When they talk about the little Satan and the big Satan, this is not conjecture… they really mean it.
In their culture and in their religion… why do they say the men who become martyrs go to heaven and they meet up with 72 virgins? I can never figure out what the virgins did to deserve that. [laughter]
But they do distinguish between heaven and hell. Hell– they really believe in it.
On the similarity between the Holocaust and allowing the Palestinians to have a state:
Nobody believed Hillel Kook when he came to this country and tried to convince Roosevelt that millions of Jews were being gassed. Nobody believed him. So no one believes what they have in mind. So I think to go and allow a Palestinian state is like playing Russian Roulette with yourself. Because one day the bullet’s gong to come out and it’s going to kill you.
They hate us, they don’t want us alive. If they really wanted peace, somewhere, somehow in the last 65 years they would have moved one millimeter toward the Jewish demands.
On the Japanese being more justified in attacking Pearl Harbor than the Palestinians are in seeking a state:
This is not an issue about a grievance. Like the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor because in the Second World War the US cut off the flow of oil to Japan to punish them for taking over China. This is not a territorial issue. The Arabs have 500 times more land than Israel does.
On his money.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach: There has not been a Jewish philanthropist who bestrides the Jewish world as a colossus the way you do since the Rothschild family or maybe Moses Montefiore… there hasn’t been someone who has so dominated the field, becoming one of the top ten or so richest men in the world. Thank God. May you continue to prosper.
Adelson: It’s better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick.
On the importance of female fashion models:
We have an NGO for hasbara. [RethinkIsrael.org, launched last week with the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, per Eli Clifton] We’re going to provide information, propaganda if you will. To give you an example of a couple of the items. Israel has passed a law to outlaw thin models. Female fashion models. Can you imagine that?
We want to tell college students and we’re starting out with a target audience of 18-24… [My wife] Miri and I have well-financed this. We also say that we’re cool. The beaches are cool, the clubs are cool… Did you know that there are more museums per capital in Israel than … in any other country in the world? Did you know there’s a television show that dogs watch? We are hoping to diminish the reluctance of both Jewish and non-Jewish college students to look at Israel in a different way.
On polls showing that 58 percent of Jews are now marrying non-Jews:
Two more generations, maybe three, there won’t be any secular Jews left. There won’t be any need for Federations. No need for synagogues, no need for Jewish community centers, no need for Jewish family service agencies. No need for anything Jewish. It won’t be here. The one thing that Jews have been striving for, for thousands of years, acceptance as a first class citizen, to be assimilated into the society and let go, out of the pale of the pale of settlement. We finally got it, and it’s turning out to be our undoing. We don’t do something about it, there won’t be any Jews left.
On the difficulty of undoing a bad reputation.
Hasbara’s not going to work– and my cavalry coming over the hill [referring to RethinkIsrael.org] really isn’t any cavalry. But with my lifetime experience, I think it’s very difficult to try to convince somebody when they think … I’m such a bad guy I have no right to do that. I occupy somebody else’s territory, I torture them, and according to Hanan Ashrawi we poison their children, and I do all these bad things, and we live in a– we created apartheid. So you can’t get really very far when somebody thinks all these bad things of you.
More about those female models:
I don’t know what the word is, the conjecture is today, as the opposite of cool. Today everything in the young kids is cool or noncool. What’s the noncool word? …
When people think that Israel is a cool place, and I’m not just talking about because they set up a law. It’s a humanitarian issue. They don’t want female models to be anorexic, and get sick and perhaps die. So they.. passed a law to say that. We got to bring people on campus that will go to a rally that is called by the Muslim Students Association and rail against Israel and the Jewish people, ‘See they’re apartheid, they occupy someone else’s country, they’re very bad people so you cant believe anything they say.’ It’s going to take time, and it’s going to [unintelligible] like Pacman. We’re going to bite away a piece at a time. And we’re going to get to a point where Israel is cool and not uncool.
On Jewish gender relations:
We Jews don’t have any monarchs. Except we Jewish husbands who have Jewish wives. But exclusive of that–
Woman in audience: Vice versa.
What did she say?
Woman in audience: Vice versa.
Vice-a versa. Oh, really? You must be Chinese. The Asians have the practice that the man– that’s why if there is a second life I’m coming back as Chinese, because they are the boss in the household. I forgot what I was saying.
On how Adelson, which means son of a noble, has given him his mission in life:
I’ve concluded that the most noble thing a Jew can do is to be a mason– you know that you mix mortar and you cut stone. To mix the mortar that connects one generation to the next. Without that we wont have any Jews. That’s why birthright is so important.
Apologies to Josh Nathan-Kazis, who got there first. And thanks to Alex Kane.