Mondoweiss

Top donor to Clinton super PAC is Haim Saban

Saban and Clinton, on an earlier occasion

The great news is that Palestine has become the central issue in the looming platform battle between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton forces ahead of the Democratic convention. As the New York Times did a few days ago, the LA Times puts the story on its front page and says the fight could “splinter” the Democratic Party. The article is written from Clinton’s perspective: it quotes mainly Israel supporters shaking their heads over the Sanders insurgents as if they’re possessed.

The establishment just doesn’t get it. This fight is important to Sanders’s base because 1, they believe that the issue is yet more evidence of Clinton deferring to big donors. She needs wealthy rightwing Jews to keep her campaign moving. And because 2, the stakes are huge: Clinton’s hawkish positions are driven by her attachment to Israel. The NY Times has reported that Clinton was “swayed by” Benjamin Netanyahu to oppose the Iran deal, and that if it had been up to her there would be no deal. That Times reporter also said that Clinton’s most grievous mistake, support for the Iraq war, came out of concern for Israel, too.

And below I quote a Clinton State Department email showing that a political ally, said to be James P. Rubin, supported a US intervention in Syria in 2012-2013 “to help Israel,” and help the White House ease its “tension” with Israel. I.e., let’s make nice to the Israel lobby and perform another regime change, believe me it will be very easy.

First, the latest news on Hillary Clinton’s super PAC underlines the view that she’s corrupted on foreign policy: her biggest supporter is Haim Saban, the toymaker who has said, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.”

Forbes reports that  of $76 million her super PAC raised in the first quarter of the year, nearly 15 percent came from Saban and his wife. And Forbes dares to connect that support to Hillary Clinton’s craven speech to AIPAC, the Israel lobby, when she promised she’d invite Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House in her first month as president, and to her pledge to Saban to fight the BDS movement (boycott, divestment and sanctions), which Clinton has said is anti-Semitic.

Haim and Cheryl Saban, who top our list with $10 million in contributions, are longtime supporters of the former Secretary of State. They gave to both her Senate campaigns and donated at least $10 million to the Clinton Foundation. The couple also co-hosted a fundraiser for Clinton this past April with George and Amal Clooney. Tickets started at $33,400 a person….

What Saban, born to a Jewish family in Egypt, and Clinton have in common is their pro-Israel stance. In March, she gave a speech at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee saying, “If I’m fortunate enough to be elected president, the United States will reaffirm we have a strong and enduring national interest in Israel’s security.” Clinton also wrote a letter to Saban in July 2015 asking for the billionaire’s “recommendations on how leaders and communities across America can work together to counter BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions],” a movement aimed to pressure Israel into accommodating Palestine’s demands.

It should be noted that among the other top 20 funders of the super PAC are other Israel supporters, including S. Daniel Abraham, Steven Spielberg ($1 million), Jeffrey Katzenberg ($1 million), Herbert Sandler ($2.5 million), George Soros, who has funded liberal Zionist groups, and Bernard Schwartz ($1 million).

Just how committed is Clinton to Israel as a homegrown political cause that will help her presidential campaign? Look at this State Department email released last year by Wikileaks–which has been going around on leftwing sites, and this Sanders site, as evidence that Clinton stoked the Syrian war. The author’s name was redacted; but Antiwar says that the email was written by Clinton ally James Rubin, who was then serving in the Cuomo administration in New York. Rubin had been on Clinton’s foreign policy team in the 2008 presidential campaign and the email shared the draft of an article he was writing for Foreign Policy. Hillary Clinton then passed the ideas along to unnamed recipients.

The email was evidently written in 2012, before Clinton left the State Department, and makes a strenuous case for regime change in Syria– which was Clinton’s position.

The very first sentence is a bald assertion of Israel’s interest in regime change:

The best way to help Israel deal with Iran’s growing nuclear capability is to help the people of Syria overthrow the regime of Bashar Assad.

Before long Rubin addresses Obama’s Israel problem:

With Assad gone, and Iran no longer able to threaten Israel through its, proxies, it is possible that the United States and Israel can agree on red lines for when Iran’s program has crossed an unacceptable threshold. In short, the White House can ease the tension that has developed with Israel over Iran by doing the right thing in Syria.

This is an obvious reference to the Israel lobby, which was active against Obama as he signaled a more dovish policy with Iran.

John Kerry was already undertaking negotiations with Iran. But the anonymous author of the Clinton email opposed negotiations with Iran, again citing Israel:

Negotiations to limit Iran’s nuclear program will not solve Israel’s security dilemma.

Here is something else very important in the email. Clinton has said during the presidential campaign that Iran is an “existential threat” to Israel. But that’s not the line in this realist email: Iran doesn’t threaten Israel with nuclear destruction, Iran would merely end Israel’s nuclear monopoly. And in order to prevent that outcome, the US and Israel might have to go to war against Iran!

Bringing down Assad would not only be a massive boon to Israel’s security, it would also ease Israel’s understandable fear of losing its nuclear monopoly. Then, Israel and the United States might be able to develop a common view of when the Iranian program is so dangerous that military action could be warranted.

Israel’s security means the threat posed by Hezbollah and Hamas, with backing from Iran and Syria:

Israel’s leadership understands well why defeating Assad is now in its interests. Speaking on CNN’s Amanpour show last week, Defense Minister Ehud Barak argued that “the toppling down of Assad will be a major blow to the radical axis, major blow to Iran…. It’s the only kind of outpost of the Iranian influence in the Arab world…and it will weaken dramatically both Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza.”

Here is more of Rubin’s analysis that the real problem with Iran going nuclear isn’t that it would attack Israel, it would just shift the power balance:

If Iran were to reach the threshold of a nuclear weapons state, Tehran would find it much easier to call on its allies in Syria and Hezbollah to strike Israel, knowing that its nuclear weapons would serve as a deterrent to Israel responding against Iran itself. Back to Syria. It is the strategic relationship between Iran and the regime of Bashar Assad in Syria that makes it possible for Iran to undermine Israel’s security — not through a direct attack, which in the thirty years of hostility between Iran and Israel has never occurred, but through its proxies in Lebanon, like Hezbollah, that are sustained, armed and trained by Iran via Syria. The end of the Assad regime would end this dangerous alliance

And for anyone who wonders why neoconservatives like Hillary Clinton, here is the usual ideological claptrap about war won’t be easy but it will remake the middle east and they will greet us with flowers! And help Israel too. At least here Rubin addresses the Syrian people’s needs:

Victory may not come quickly or easily, but it will come. And the payoff will be substantial. Iran would be strategically isolated, unable to exert its influence in the Middle East. The resulting regime in Syria will see the United States as a friend, not an enemy. Washington would gain substantial recognition as fighting for the people in the Arab world, not the corrupt regimes. For Israel, the rationale for a bolt from the blue attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities would be eased. And a new Syrian regime might well be open to early action on the frozen peace talks with Israel. Hezbollah in Lebanon would be cut off from its Iranian sponsor since Syria would no longer be a transit point for Iranian training, assistance and missiles. All these strategic benefits and the prospect of saving thousands of civilians from murder at the hands of the Assad regime (10,000 have already been killed in this first year of civil war). With the veil of fear lifted from the Syrian people, they seem determine to fight for their freedom. America can and should help them — and by doing so help Israel and help reduce the risk of a wider war.

So Rubin was taking Israel’s side in a regional power struggle, and pledging the U.S. to go to war for that aim. BTW, Jamie Rubin has lately collaborated with neocon Robert Kagan, another Clinton ally, to support more muscular foreign policy.

Three more comments on Clinton’s foreign policy agenda.

Jeffrey Sachs, the Columbia economist who directs the Earth Institute, published an excellent piece on Hillary Clinton’s Syria policy at Huffpo in February, saying Clinton’s misrepresentation of her own record in opposing a ceasefire in 2012 and prolonging the Syrian bloodbath makes her unfit to be president. Here he describes her love for covert military operations:

Clinton herself has never shown the least reservation or scruples in deploying this instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Her record of avid support for US-led regime change includes (but is not limited to) the US bombing of Belgrade in 1999, the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Iraq War in 2003, the Honduran coup in 2009, the killing of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi in 2011, and the CIA-coordinated insurrection against Assad from 2011 until today….

Hillary Clinton has never shown an iota of bravery, or even of comprehension, in facing down the CIA. She has been the CIA’s relentless supporter, and has exulted in showing her toughness by supporting every one of its misguided operations. The failures, of course, are relentlessly hidden from view. Clinton is a danger to global peace

Next, consider that Dennis Ross is sure to be mentioned as a possible secretary of state in a Clinton administration and Ross is a favorite of the Israel lobby (not to mention chair of a “Jewish people” institute based in Jerusalem that opposes intermarriage). Clinton polished up her Israel lobby bona fides by bringing Ross into the Obama administration in 2009– and Ross then argued Israel’s side in the White House for the next two years. Ross covers up for the Israeli nuclear program in his recent work of propaganda on the strength of the Israel-U.S. relationship, Doomed to Succeed.

“After Johnson, American presidents took Israeli nuclear weapons as a given but to be used only as a last resort,” Ross writes. That’s about it. Complete vagueness. This purposeful mystification is why so many on the left and the non-interventionist right want to end the official hypocrisy about Israel’s nuclear program: because we could then debate whether it’s reasonable for Israel to maintain its “nuclear monopoly” as a principal foreign policy goal, and whether the U.S. should go to war for such a policy, as Hillary Clinton’s team recommended.

Lastly, I mentioned that LA Times article on the platform battle that sees the story entirely from Clinton’s side. For instance, it mentions Sanders proxy Cornel West’s view that the 2014 Gaza war was a “massacre” but never even cites the casualty figures, including 500 dead children. Here is a great comment on that article by the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-U.S., on Facebook:

The Los Angeles Times had an important story in its Sunday, May 29, 2016, edition deserving many rebuttals in letters-to-the-editor.

The topic was the impending platform fight at the Democratic convention over US government policy toward Israel. Top of the fold, on page 1. Despite its prominent location and length, the article never mentioned Haim Saban and his ilk financially supporting Hillary Clinton, legal discrimination against Palestinian Israelis and asylum seekers within the Green Line, the occupation and the construction of an apatheid state, Kerry’s failed peace talk initiative and the end of the two state option, Martin Indiyk blaming the Israeli government for the failed peace talks, Israel’s refusal to define its own borders, many ed-op pieces in the LA Times critical of the Israeli government, J Street, JVP, local groups like LA Jews for Peace, 42 US vetoes to protect Israel from sanctions at the UN Security Council, killing of the Goldstone Report, investigations of the IRS tax exempt status for philanthropies supporting settlers and Jewish terrorists, Avidgor Lieberman’s new role as the civilian head of the Israeli Military, and the increased US military sales to Israel totally $3.5 billion, intelligence sharing, and many violations of the Leahy and US Arms Export Acts.

So the Goldstone Report won’t go away, nor all those Gaza killings Clinton supported. Out damn spot.

Update. I revised this article to reflect the fact that Antiwar reported that the author of the State Department email released by Wikileaks was likely James P. Rubin; Rubin was passing along an article he was writing for Foreign Policy a month ahead of publication. The article was significantly less pro-Israel than the draft Rubin shared. Rubin is a Clinton ally, but was not a member of the State Department staff at the time, 2012. The original headline of the piece was “Clinton team pushed Syria war to ‘help Israel,'” which I have revised. Though Rubin appears to reflect Clinton’s ideas on foreign policy, including Syria intervention. Thanks to Scott Horton.