An email released today by Wikileaks reveals the strong pressure of the Israel lobby inside the Hillary Clinton campaign. A draft of Clinton’s famous letter opposing Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel makes what was actually sent out look almost sweet by comparison. The draft called the BDS movement “odious” and “unconscionable” and an attack on “the legitimacy of Zionism.”
That June 25, 2015 draft also included fulsome praise of Jews:
Jews have led the way on human rights and civil rights, always raising the bar. It is wrong to ignore this tradition and use the tools that were applied to apartheid to undermine the legitimacy of Zionism.
The draft was worked on by Jake Sullivan, Clinton’s foreign policy aide, along with the campaign’s ambassador to the organized Jewish community, Washington lawyer Stu Eizenstat, former deputy treasury secretary under Bill Clinton.
The draft stated that Israel shares US “fundamental values and interests”:
This campaign against Israel, a nation that shares our fundamental values and interests, is unfair and unconscionable.
Clinton’s letter to Haim Saban, dated July 2, 2015 left out “odious” and “unfair and unconsionable,” the shared “fundamental values and interests,” as well as the praise for Jews and the salute to the “legitimacy of Zionism.”
In fact, the letter seems toned down by comparison to its predecessor. The strongest emotional expression was “alarm:” “I am writing to express my alarm over the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement.” Even the word “appalled” in the draft became “concerned”– about efforts to compare Israel to South Africa.
The email shows the in-house pressure on the Clinton campaign to go even further than it did in pandering to the organized Jewish community. Eizenstat talked about Clinton having a big meeting with Jewish leaders over BDS, including many rightwingers and Republicans, maybe even Sheldon Adelson!
But both men expressed the fear that such a meeting would get out of control. They then resolved to send out a letter to 30-plus members of the organized Jewish community. In the end it was sent to just one of them, Saban.
“HRC is now thinking that she can send a letter to a broader group — like all the names you’ve offered and then a few more — RATHER than hold a meeting. She is now worried about how to manage a meeting given competing perspectives and the like.”
I like the idea, since a meeting has to be inclusive, yet this might make it unmanageable, divisive (J Street vs. AIPAC), and lengthy, as everyone will have to be heard.
In that email, too, you will find Eizenstat’s suggested list of recipients. All the heavy hitters of the Israel lobby, including many rightwingers. Eizenstat even notioned inviting Adelson. Though Eizenstat redlined the idealistic young Jews of the Open Hillel movement, calling it “controversial” and siding with the head of Hillel International, Eric Fingerhut. Excerpts:
Eric Fingerhut, President of Hillel (he has had to handle the controversial “Open Hillel” movement on some California campuses and a J Street confrontation).
Jeremy Ben-Ami (J Street)(I do not think he should be excluded)
Ronald Lauder (President of World Jewish Congress)(former US Ambassador to Austria, and a Republican, but must be invited given his position).
Lynn Schusterman, Oklahoma (large funder of Hillel and many other Jewish causes).
Haim Saban (recently teamed with Sheldon Adelson to form anti-BDS group of wealthy donors, but already caused some controversy by excluding left-leaning groups. I do not see how Adelson can be invited because he is such a strident GOP-supporter and would be a potentially disruptive force in a meeting. But you could check with Saban).
Professor Deborah Lipstadt (Emory University).
Dov Zakheim (former senior DOD official in Bush Administration; thoughtful and wise)…
Clinton sent out her letter against BDS as a means of countering her eventual support for the Iran deal inside the Jewish community, as earlier emails disclosed.
Oh, and here is another email showing the pressure of the lobby inside the campaign. Last January, megadonor Haim Saban pushed findings to the Clinton camp that Clinton could change campus perceptions of BDS by speaking out about her anti-BDS letter. Saban wrote to the head of Jewish outreach for the campaign, Sarah Bard:
Sarah we should Talk about how to capitalize on this.I have some ideas and would appreciate your thoughts when we talk next.
Saban attached a note from an employee, Amitai Raziel, titled “HRC’s Anti-BDS Letter / Impact on Campus.”
Hi All – I thought you might find this of interest: the Israel on Campus Coalition held a recent call regarding polling that they conducted this past semester. I’ll send a fuller sum later, but there was one statistic that I think you would appreciate:
* Once informed about Hillary Clinton’s letter opposing BDS, the favorable/unfavorable views held by students regarding pro-BDS arguments shifted 11 points in the right direction.
Just a reflection that she remains a trusted source to students on these issues, and I’m glad to see she is out there conveying this viewpoint.
Sarah Bard wrote back to Saban within the hour:
Haim Thank you for sharing. I look forward to discussing and strategizing on this with you. Alex and I are in touch to schedule tomorrow. Again, thank you. Sarah
Cause that’s how you treat a big donor!
The Democratic Party Platform duly contained opposition to BDS.