The news that several donors to the Clinton Foundation gained VIP access to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State has raised the question of what these donors got for their money beyond facetime. And one way in which Clinton has evidently been responsive is the Israel issue. Several Foundation donors are strong supporters of Israel and opponents of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). As a presidential candidate, Clinton has been a one-woman campaigner against BDS. She has issued several denunciations of that human rights campaign over the last year, and she injected anti-BDS language into the Democratic Party platform.
Of course, Clinton has long supported Israel, before and after her State Department stint, and she has long had pro-Israel donors. But the anti-BDS list of Foundation donors suggests the new lineaments of the Israel lobby in the age of Clinton, as a right-center-liberal lobby. The State Department under John Kerry has actually made a specific point of not opposing boycott of Israeli settlements.
News articles list several donors who care about Israel who got access to Clinton as secretary. They include Haim and Cheryl Saban, Randi Weingarten of the American Federation of Teachers, Slimfast founder S. Daniel Abraham, and Hollywood executive Casey Wasserman.Hollywood producer Jeff Skoll,
The Sabans donated between $10 and 25 million to the Clinton Foundation, according to the Associated Press. Saban has said his one issue is Israel. He has also funded a campaign against BDS, as Julia Carmel and Max Blumenthal reported:
Seated beside [Sheldon] Adelson on stage at the casino baron’s Las Vegas anti-BDS conference, Saban openly panicked about BDS, warning of “an anti-Semitic tsunami coming at us.”
Saban called for an initiative to punish corporations that refused to work inside Israel or the territories it occupies through military force: “Any company that chooses to boycott business in Israel is going to look at this case, and once we’re done they’re going to think twice whether they want to take on Israel or not,” Saban declared. “Trust me, this is just the beginning.”
Saban has since directed his giving to the Democratic Party, and Hillary Clinton wrote to him a year ago to assure him that she would work with Republicans to fight BDS:
“I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority.”
was granted almost immediate access to then-Secretary of State Clinton, with [Huma] Abedin serving as the facilitator. According to the Clinton Foundation website, Abraham, like the Wasserman Foundation, has given between $5 million and $10 million to the Clinton Foundation.
BDS may hope that pressuring Israel will lead to peace, the truth is that outside forces will not resolve the I P conflict, particularly when anti-semitism is rising throughtout the world, Democrats must condemn efforts to isolate and delegitimze Israel. Delegitimization must stop immediately.
Casey Wasserman, whose foundation gave between $5 and $10 million, is also a strong supporter of Israel. He surely opposes BDS; he co-signed a letter to Hollywood bigs last year with Haim Saban, urging them to support Clinton because she’s behind Israel. Variety:
“She will be an excellent leader for the United States and for our International standing,” they write. “She is and always has been a strong leader and true friend when it comes to the U.S. and Israeli relationship. Trust me we know!”
Under Weingarten, the AFT donated between $1 million and $5 million to the Clinton Foundation and pledged partnership commitments with other interests in four separate Clinton Global Initiative programs. Weingarten had two private meetings with Clinton in 2009 and 2012 and also joined her at a photo shoot in 2010.
Her attack on BDS – the Palestinian-led campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions – and her attempt to associate it with “violence” and “terrorism,” echoes her earlier condemnation of the American Studies Association for endorsing the Palestinian call to boycott Israeli institutions complicit in occupation and human rights violations.
Weingarten is not just an ardent Zionist, but a militant one:
For our ancestors, if we had said: There will be a Jewish state—for the 6 million who died in the Shoah, there is now a homeland where more than 6 million Jews live—they would have said, “Dayenu.” [That is enough] A state with a powerful military. Dayenu. A vigorous economy. Dayenu. A proud democracy. Dayenu.
And yet none of those things alone—the economy, the military, the democracy—is enough to secure that future. Unless we act.
Benjamin Ringel is a developer and Foundation supporter who the New York Post says sought access from then-Secretary Clinton for a far-rightwing Israeli leader:
On June 16, 2009, Ben Ringel wrote to Abedin, “I’m on shuttle w Avigdor Liberman. I called u back yesterday. I want to stop by to see hrc tonite for 10 mins.” Ringel donated between $10,000 and $25,000 to the Clinton Foundation.
It is not clear from the emails whether Ringel got immediate access. The shopping-center developer is surely opposed to BDS. He has had financial difficulties in recent years and in one court case his creditors alleged that he “would potentially flee the country for Israel, where lenders claim he has been spending more time recently.”
Finally, here are two liberal Zionists who gave to the Clinton Foundation and would likely oppose BDS, though there’s no direct evidence on that score. Jeff Skoll, is a pro-peace Jew who has taken part in initiatives to bridge gaps between Israel and Palestine with economic development, women’s empowerment, bridge-building, etc. Jewish Journal:
Skoll has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to organizations such as Common Ground that are working toward better understanding and peace in the Middle East.
Jill and Ken Iscol gave 500,000 to 1 million to the Clinton Foundation, and their friend the entrepreneur Jacqueline Novogratz got an appointment from Clinton, according to the new emails. The Iscols are donors to the liberal Zionist New Israel Fund, which opposes BDS. Jill Iscol wrote that her late father on Long Island, who was pro-Israel, was a model for her as a philanthropist:
My father gave back mainly in an active commitment to Jewish causes, especially those which strengthened and secured Israel. But his generous spirit reached beyond the temple doors.