‘NYT’ addresses pro-Israel donors’ influence over Congress

US Politics
on 32 Comments

The New York Times has finally done it: an honest piece about the Israel lobby’s financial influence over Congress. The Republican side of the aisle, anyway. Reporter Eric Lipton explains that the Republican orthodoxy on Israel is a reflection of big money:

Congress [is] controlled by Republicans who are more fervently pro-Israel than ever, partly a result of ideology, but also a product of a surge in donations and campaign spending on their behalf by a small group of wealthy donors.

The piece singles out Tom Cotton, the Arkansas meteor who was propelled into the Senate last fall after just one term in Congress with nearly $1 million from the Emergency Committee for Israel, as we reported weeks ago.

Mr. Cotton and other Republicans benefited from millions in campaign spending in 2014 by several pro-Israel Republican billionaires and other influential American donors who helped them topple Democratic opponents.

Turns out that Senator Lindsey Graham rakes in big pro-Israel money.

[Graham] saw his donations from pro-Israel donors soar to about $285,000 in the 2014 election cycle from less than $100,000 in 2008.

Headlined “G.O.P.’s Israel Support Deepens as Political Contributions Shift,” the piece follows Eli Clifton’s reporting in highlighting several wealthy Jewish donors: Paul Singer, Seth Klarman, Irving Moskowitz. And it quotes Scott McConnell, the former editor of the American Conservative, who says that Republicans have abandoned their traditional sympathy to “Arab claims against Israel” for one-sided “fanaticism.”

The piece treats Benjamin Netanyahu’s hero tour of Congress last month as part of the financial sweepstakes for Republican presidential candidates conducted by Sheldon Adelson (who has called on Obama to nuke Iran).

Over all, the most significant contributor by far to Republican supporters of Israel has been Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, who with his wife has invested at least $100 million in conservative causes over the last four years. A large chunk was spent on the 2012 presidential campaign, but Senate Republicans also benefited, and could soon again, particularly those considering a run for president.

The scope of the alliance was evident last month when Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, at the invitation of Speaker John A. Boehner, spoke to a joint meeting of Congress, over Mr. Obama’s objections.

After the speech, some of the nation’s most important pro-Israel donors, including Mr. Adelson, gathered with more than a dozen Republican members of Congress at the nearby Capitol Hill Club. “It was a love fest,” said Kenneth J. Bialkin, a corporate lawyer and donor who attended.

And the piece says that the pro-Israel money has flopped from the Democrats over to the Republicans.

Donors say the trend toward Republicans among wealthy, hawkish contributors is at least partly responsible for inspiring stronger support for Israel among party lawmakers who already had pro-Israel views.

“Absolutely, it is a factor,” said Marc Felgoise, who manages the Philadelphia Israel Network, a campaign fund-raising group, and whose own contributions have shifted to Republicans, though he still supports many Democrats.

The Times’s honesty about the rightwing Jewish donors is possible because the lobby split over Netanyahu, and big Jewish donors are no longer perceived as monolithic. So long as they were perceived as monolithic, this kind of story was regarded as anti-Semitic. But remember that just two years ago the Democrats were indistinguishable from the Republicans, the White House abandoned its opposition to settlements, and when delegates at the Democratic Party convention wanted to come out for a divided Jerusalem, they were shut down by a president who was reportedly “livid” that the platform had failed to include the Netanyahu party line.

Jeremy Ben-Ami of the liberal Zionist group J Street addresses the monolith when he tells Lipton that the rightwing donors “distorted” politicians’ views of the Jewish community. I.e., The pols were afraid to take a step because they thought all American Jews are for the settlements.

The obvious questions that arise from the Times piece are: How supportive of Israel are the Democrats’ big Jewish donors? Will those donors demonstrate greater diversity of opinion than Klarman and Adelson? I believe they will; but the test will take place when Democrats in next year’s primary process are able to run against US aid to Israel (and against the occupation, the settlements, even the two-state solution). They will be able to do so because the Jewish community is openly fracturing over the occupation, and the leftwing view is gaining adherents. We are approaching the time when Ben-Ami will find himself on the right inside the Democratic Party because he will be for continued aid to Israel. While some big Jewish Democratic givers will be against that aid.

It should be clear to readers that I regard all these political changes as flowing from the shifting sociology and attitudes of the American Jewish community, in a nutshell, our rise into the establishment as the Six Day war catalyzed public awareness of the Holocaust. The lobby lived by Jewish sociology, and it will die by it.

About Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is Founder and Co-Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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32 Responses

  1. Krauss
    April 5, 2015, 11:54 am

    Babysteps.

    Note that it was only adressed through the prism of liberal Zionism. We can (barely) talk about this, but only if we cast J Street as the sheriff riding into town to save the day!

    Not a Palestinian quoted anywhere and don’t forget a comforting reminder at the very end that democrats are behind Israel, too!

    Any Israel-criticism is still colored through the suffering of the Anguished Liberal Zionist Soul™.

    Real progress is when the people attacking the racism involved in all of this are non-Zionist and especially Palestinians. When we see that happening, then we can call progress. Real progress.

    • lobewyper
      April 6, 2015, 9:00 am

      Krause,

      I think you’re underestimating the importance of the article. The NYT in the past (e.g., see Jodi Rudoren’s work) has not even come close to calling out the lobby. The article’s link to J Street can be seen–at least in part- as an effort to avoid charges of anti-Semitism. Finally, I don’t understand why you feel Palestinians should have been quoted on this particular subject.

  2. Philip Weiss
    April 5, 2015, 11:59 am

    Well put, Krauss

    • Annie Robbins
      April 5, 2015, 12:34 pm

      About that ben-ami quote phil:

      “But it is dangerous for American politics as too many people do not understand that of the six million American Jews, this is only a handful.”

      the real danger to american politics is not whether people understand that of 6 million jews, those donors only represent a handful. the real danger to american politics, is that too many people do not realize that of 300 million people, the american jewish community represents just a handful.

      the danger to american politics is that where our foreign policy is concerned, it matters little to our politicians what the other 294 million of us think. and considering 60% of our federal budget is spent on defense (foreign policy) that’s rather astounding.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 5, 2015, 12:43 pm

        and on that same note, lipton wrote:

        Republicans currently in the Senate raised more money during the 2014 election cycle in direct, federally regulated campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees deemed pro-Israel than their Democratic counterparts,

        i’m curious tho, what portion of their total campaign contributions does this reflect? because it makes a difference if 20% of republicans money came from pro-Israel contributors vs only 15% for dems. or whether we’re discussing 85% of a politicians funds coming from pro israel contributions vs only 60% for dems.

        in an article about pro israel campaign finance, i find it odd that we’re not informed of how much of our politicians coffers, overall, are filled by these contributors. seems rather relevant wouldn’t you think?

        for example, what was the total amount of contributions cotton brought in? that’s a fair way to gauge the impact of pro israel contributions.

      • hophmi
        April 5, 2015, 2:07 pm

        So you see the American Jewish community and the other 294 million Americans as separate groups? Interesting.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 5, 2015, 3:33 pm

        you have a reading comprehension problem hops. my reference was to all “300 million people”. ben-ami made the distinction of referencing just 6 million, pointing out the few represented a “handful” and that this was a “danger” to american politics. (not considering the whole of the jewish community). i don’t see you assuming ben ami claimed the handful was a “separate group”.

        this was the (obvious) basis for my analysis. it’s fair to asked, where are the other 294 million represented? or do you think it’s fair to say the american jewish community can fairly represent the cross section of all of us? doesn’t mean we are separate.

        anyway, don’t think i didn’t notice the not-so-clever propaganda tactic of placing a question mark at the end of your false statement. interesting.

        people keep acting like israel as well as palestine are a jewish issue here in the US. they are not. they are both american issues. just like netanyahu sticking his face all over american sunday morning political talk shows lecturing us about iran is not a jewish issue, it’s an american issue.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 5, 2015, 3:40 pm

        i take that back, you don’t have a reading comprehension issue hops, you have a point scoring issue and you’re shown time and again your willingness to twist and manipulate someones words to serve your hasbara fix. #FAIL

      • JanetB
        April 5, 2015, 6:50 pm

        Annie,

        I came to the conclusion that most Zionists fit into one of three categories after I was called antisemitic for pointing out that Hezbollah would not have come into existence without the repeated Israeli of Lebanon

        1) hopelessly stupid
        2) hopelessly ignorant
        3) hopelessly racist

        You can take you pick which one Hophmi fits in

      • Keith
        April 5, 2015, 7:48 pm

        ANNIE- “i take that back, you don’t have a reading comprehension issue hops, you have a point scoring issue and you’re shown time and again your willingness to twist and manipulate someones words to serve your hasbara fix.”

        That is exactly correct. Hophmi seems to pattern himself on Israel’s American legal apologist Alan Dershowitz. In “Beyond Chutzpah,” Norman Finkelstein includes a few Dershowitz quotes. I think Hophmi has taken the following advice to heart: “Almost all criminal defendants – including most of my clients – are factually guilty of the crimes they have been charged with. The criminal lawyer’s job, for the most part, is to represent the guilty, and – if possible – to get them off.” (Alan M. Dershowitz, “The Best Defense”) It would appear that ‘Hops’ and the ‘Dersh’ share the same moral and intellectual values.

      • Giles
        April 6, 2015, 11:57 am

        “So you see the American Jewish community and the other 294 million Americans as separate groups”.

        Certainly many Jews do. Non-Jews not so much — we had always seen Jews as just another bunch of white people.

      • Annie Robbins
        April 6, 2015, 12:49 pm

        keith, good pt!

      • Mooser
        April 6, 2015, 1:23 pm

        “That is exactly correct. Hophmi seems to pattern himself on Israel’s American legal apologist Alan Dershowitz.”

        You just made Hophmi the proudest commentor on Mondoweiss! I bet he busts his buttons when he reads that. Finally, somebody noticed!

      • Mooser
        April 6, 2015, 1:41 pm

        “Non-Jews not so much — we had always seen Jews as just another bunch of white people.”

        Well, that’s fine, you can view things any way you want, but I’m a little uncertain whether I should be flattered or insulted! “Just another bunch of white people”? Has it really come to that?
        Wow, you make me feel like I’m starring in “The Emperor’s New Ethnicity”, lording my exotic extraction over the ahoy Polly (they always want a cracker!), and some wise ass kid just yelled “Look- he’s just another white guy” . And then I wake up, screaming, in a cold sweat. But after I put on my bathrobe-of-many-colors and have a drink, I feel better.

  3. Blownaway
    April 5, 2015, 12:07 pm

    The prostitution of the GOP what else do you call money for love?

  4. amigo
    April 5, 2015, 1:51 pm

    Israel taking one hit after another.

    ” A nuclear framework agreement reached between world powers and Iran does not threaten the survival of Israel, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein said on Sunday.

    Feinstein, a leading Democratic voice on foreign affairs as vice chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, was responding to comments by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticizing the deal. Netanyahu has rejected the framework agreement reached on Thursday, saying it risks Israel’s security and would make it easier for Iran to obtain an atomic bomb.

    “This can back backfire on him,” Feinstein said. “I wish that he would contain himself, because he has put out no real alternative. In his speech to the Congress — no real alternative. Since then — no real alternative.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.650590

    and this from BDS efforts.

    ” SodaStream changes labeling to ‘Made in the West Bank’
    The manufacturer of home carbonation systems, which has been the target of anti-Israel boycotts, was accused of misrepresentation in the U.S. state of Oregon.”Haaretz

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/1.650579

    And this from NBC.

    ” But the network called out the prime minister on his contention that “not one centrifuge is destroyed” in the framework agreement.

    “According to the parameters for the deal released by the U.S. State Department,” NBC wrote on its website, “Iran has agreed to reduce installed centrifuges by two-thirds and place the excess in internationally monitored storage.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.650594

    No paywall on these reports.

  5. just
    April 5, 2015, 4:39 pm

    Money, Money, Money.

    • Mooser
      April 5, 2015, 6:25 pm

      Ah, yes, ABBA. You know, I proposed to both Agnetha and Frida. I thought marrying two very attractive women would be big of me.

  6. lysias
    April 5, 2015, 6:24 pm

    Thoughts for Easter Sunday:

    “The love of money is the root of all evil.” 1Ti 6:10.

    “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and Mammon.” Matthew 6:24.

    “And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Matthew 19:24.

    How did American Protestantism come to worship wealth so much, in the face of texts like these, from Paul and Jesus?

    • pabelmont
      April 5, 2015, 7:48 pm

      Some people, biased I’m sure, think you cannot serve another sort of two masters, Israel and USA.

      But the money problem goes WAY beyond AIPAC et al. Think of the ownership of USA’s SecTreas by GoldmanSachs/Citicorp as an instance. Think of all those wars generated and/or supported by Big-Defense and other war-profiteers such as Halliburton and BlackWater.

      And think of the imprisonment of so many people of color under laws boosted (if not sometimes proposed) by Big-PrivatePrisons (including the big immigrant imprisonment program). Even if there were no human rights problem there (there is) the cost to FED and SATTE treasuries of all this imprisonment is enormous adn enriches BigPrivatePrisons which then spend a pittance enriching a few Congressmen and other prostituted politicians.

      • piotr
        April 5, 2015, 10:46 pm

        My theory is that “GoldmanSachs/Citicorp”, i.e. major financial companies, investors and executives, is not opposed to a negotiated settlement with Iran. It is not even directly related to increasing or decreasing the supply of oil, they can prosper in either case, or to the improved trade opportunities in the Iranian market that is largely closed to American companies — not peanuts, but not huge in a global scheme of things. However, proliferation of sanctions — not just on Iran — imposes risks of draconian penalties imposed on banks, insurance companies and so on. A leading French bank was forced to pay 9 billion dollars in fines.

        There are even companies specialized in extorting funds from real and imagined violators of sanctions. This is really not good for business. And if the effects are worse in Europe, that is not a lot of consolation to folks who invest globally. Therefore I do not foresee East Side plutocrats suddenly abandoning Democratic Party out of the dismay how the good poor old Netanyahu got treated. Perhaps to believing and practicing Zionists, Mr. Netanyahu is the embodiment of collective will of those Jews who achieved elevated status and to whom lowly galut should bow. To financial plutocrats, Mr. N. is a personal tchotchke of their obnoxious colleague from Las Vegas, a bumpkin who probably could not tell Verdi from Puccini.

        The reason that there exists a modicum of democracy in United States is that “big money” is not united on all issues. Some hate “Obamacare”, some appreciate. The very form that that step toward universal health coverage has taken is dictated by the need to bestow a boon on some sector of capital, while getting a vehement opposition to another. We see a similar split on Iran. On Palestine — I guess, not yet.

      • Keith
        April 6, 2015, 3:41 pm

        PIOTR- “My theory is that “GoldmanSachs/Citicorp”, i.e. major financial companies, investors and executives, is not opposed to a negotiated settlement with Iran.”

        I think it would depend upon the conditions and in particular how the settlement would effect the petro-dollar and the status of the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. Eventually, the dollar will become one of several reserve currencies, however, timing is everything. A near term abandonment of the dollar would effectively cause a collapse in the global financial system. Preventing this is an important component of imperial geostrategy. In fact, economic warfare is an integral part of imperial hegemony. The global financial system is what makes globalization possible. Some folks are taking a much too narrow view of what is good for business, particularly in view of the financialization of the global economy.

  7. MRW
    April 5, 2015, 8:26 pm

    So long as they were perceived as monolithic, this kind of story was regarded as anti-Semitic.

    So anti-semitism is fungible?

    • Mooser
      April 6, 2015, 1:29 pm

      “So anti-semitism is fungible?”

      MRW, as I understand the meaning of “fungible” I would say: “Very much so”. And can be used for, or be put to varied and even contradictory purposes, yes.

  8. PeaceThroughJustice
    April 5, 2015, 9:24 pm

    BTW, when corporate lawyer Bialkin said, “It was a love fest,” I’m guessing he wasn’t expressing criticism —

    National Chair, Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith (1982-1986)
    Chair, Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (1984-1986)
    President, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York (1989-1992)
    Chair, America-Israel Friendship League (1996-Present)
    President, American Jewish Historical Society (1998-Present)
    Chairman Emeritus, American Jewish Historical Society

    https://www.skadden.com/professionals/kenneth-j-bialkin

  9. PeaceThroughJustice
    April 5, 2015, 10:04 pm

    “The Jewish community is openly fracturing over the occupation, … some big Jewish Democratic givers will be against that aid.”

    I hate to rain on your parade, but common sense suggests that it’s one thing for a few rebellious kids to enjoy making their parents squirm, but it’s quite another for people holding power and responsibility to actually put their money where there mouth is, so to speak. Name me one big Jewish Democratic personality (either political official, financial donor, or media voice) that you can even imagine some day coming out against tribalism. I can’t.

    In fact, when it comes down to it, I forecast there’s going to be a closing of the ranks even against finalizing the Iran deal. Watch which way Hillary turns. She’s no dummy.

  10. Citizen
    April 6, 2015, 3:42 am

    Looks like, for US government, the Israel hobby horse has become the toy store itself. Most Americans can’t even get in the parking lot. They can stay outside the fence, collecting bottles and eating dandelion greens.

  11. lobewyper
    April 6, 2015, 8:50 am

    Phil wrote:

    The New York Times has finally done it: an honest piece about the Israel lobby’s financial influence over Congress. The Republican side of the aisle, anyway. Reporter Eric Lipton explains that the Republican orthodoxy on Israel is a reflection of big money: – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2015/04/addresses-influence-congress#sthash.2WDyhEJ0.dpuf

    This (long overdue) investigative piece about the lobby can be seen as part of a concerted attempt by the Times to support the agreement. It seems to me that the Times may have concluded that Mr. Netanyahu must be jettisoned b/c he threatens middle eastern peace.

  12. Kay24
    April 6, 2015, 9:09 am

    This Israel/zionist influence in our country, and the ugly interference in our politics, especially by buying politicians to be their devoted protectors and supporters, must stop. It is time the American people questioned this sick relationship and control an alien nation has over the people who we vote for and are meant to serve us first. They have become little poodles to the zionist masters, little sock puppets regurgitating Netanyahu’s talking points in the media, and whose main intention is to defy, oppose, and insult their own President. I have never seen such an ugly situation in my life. To think that they take the side of this war mongering PM, who has lied to us before, keeps dragging us to wars, interferes and insults the Presidency of the US so boldly, is detestable, unpatriotic, and unbecoming for US leaders.

  13. pabelmont
    April 6, 2015, 9:51 am

    piotr (above) has an interesting comment here and also on the FASCISM thread (http://mondoweiss.net/2015/04/conservative-revolutionaries-fascism).

    His analysis is entirely reasonable as far as it goes, that neoliberalism (all government support for global and very big capital) explains militarism as (mere) government support for big-defense, one element among many of big-capital. Unhappily there is a momentum of big-defense which has led us into permanent war status, permanent security-scare status, permanent Islamophobia, and (it seems) permanent Philo-Israelism. With the near infinite spread of scope of NSA and other spying on America and the world, one could say that the security-state is here-and-now and fascism well on its way — at least unless and until it steps on the toes of the oligarchs. At that point, if we recognize that point as being reached, we will see if it is militarism (the wehrstaat) or global-neoliberal-capitalism which is boss in the USA.

    Here he suggests, with interesting facts from Europe re: penalties for sanctions-breaking, that sanctions hurt big business and therefore the USA’s oligarchy (except big-Zion) will tend to support the IranDeal. Makes sense. Sadly, if the USA’s (and thus much of the world’s) oligarchs are opposing sanctions, the only tool available to fight the occupation and the settlements will be unavailable or much less available than it is already.

    • Keith
      April 6, 2015, 4:37 pm

      PABELMONT- “Here he suggests, with interesting facts from Europe re: penalties for sanctions-breaking, that sanctions hurt big business and therefore the USA’s oligarchy (except big-Zion) will tend to support the IranDeal. Makes sense.”

      Makes sense? Not to me. If big business is so opposed to sanctions, why would all of these odious “trade” agreements such as TPP utilize sanctions to penalize for non-compliance? US big business has hardly suffered as a consequence of US imperialism. Sure, you can find an incident here and there, but overall? Sanctions and economic warfare are an integral part of administering a global empire, more efficient than traditional warfare. No doubt that some European businesses are chafing under imperial sanctions against Russia. After all, a Russian-German alliance would have permitted a European counterweight to US domination of Europe, therefore, all of these measures are designed to prevent such an alliance. This is how empires maintain discipline among the vassals. When you are dealing with the Godfather, putting your faith in Economics 101 is a poor strategy.

      Getting back to the question of this alleged opposition of big business to empire’s use of sanctions, I find it interesting that so many Mondoweiss commenters feel qualified to act as spokespersons for the needs and desires of big business. What does the business press say? Is the Wall Street Journal, Forbes, The Economist, etc. up in arms over imperial sanctions against Iran? Russia? Etc? As you yourself have said, Peter, the “Bigs” more or less call the shots. And if most of the “Bigs” oppose a policy then that policy is likely to be changed.

  14. broadside
    April 6, 2015, 1:47 pm

    “…the Jewish community is openly fracturing over the occupation ..”

    Wishful thinking, I’m afraid. Overwhelmingly, it appears, American Jews continue not to give a damn.

    As for “the Six Day war catalyzed public awareness of the Holocaust…”

    Interesting way to put it. Just saw an Elvis film, GI Blues, I believe. Pretty good. Took place in Germany, mid-50’s, I think, and was feelgood throughout. Very odd.

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