Mondoweiss

Three megadonors (who just happen to love Israel) are pushing Trump against Iran deal

Casino mogul and GOP financier Sheldon Adelson. (Photo: Flash90)

You’d think that in Year 15 of the Iraq debacle, neoconservative would be a dirty word in America; but neoconservatives are having a field day! Phil Giraldi’s article blaming American Jews for stoking the “war engine,” followed by Valerie Plame’s retweet of the article, has given neocons (adherents of a hawkish ideology that came out of the Jewish community) an opportunity to grandstand about the supposed anti-semitism of the antiwar community.

Bret Stephens in the New York Times and Jamie Kirchick are using the occasion to paint all critics of the Israel lobby as anti-Semites. So is Israel lobbyist Omri Ceren. 

The righteous outbursts could not be coming at a worse time. Donald Trump seems to be leaning toward decertifying the Iran deal, and the Israel lobby is hard at work to make that happen. Trump is “clearly listening to the hawks on Iran, not the realists,” says Scott McConnell, in the National Interest, and he sees a financial angle in the policy-making. The president

“is I think somewhat more dependent than anyone anticipated on neoconservative donors, because of his and administration’s looming legal bills. In that sense, the liberal push to prosecute Trump for ‘Russia’ might have some very illiberal consequences.”

Eli Clifton at Lobelog backs that suspicion up with reporting on three Jewish Israel-loving megadonors. The piece is titled, “Are Billionaire Donors Driving Trump’s Iran Policy?” and it’s a measure of the Plame effect that Clifton says nothing about Israel or Jewish till way down in the article.

[A] review of the statements and activities of some of Trump’s key donors also helps explain why he is considering reneging on the agreement. A small number of his biggest campaign and legal defense donors have made extreme comments about Iran and, in at least one case, advocated for the use of a nuclear weapon against the Islamic Republic.

The three are Bernard Marcus, Paul Singer, and Sheldon Adelson (whose call for nuking Iran is a story we broke). Marcus, co -founder of Home Depot, is

one of a handful of wealthy donors paying for legal costs incurred by Trump and Donald Trump Jr.’s attorneys as part of the probe into Russian election interference, via a Republican Party account. Marcus contributed $101,700, an amount matched by five other big donors.

Marcus is all about Israel. In fact, his largesse is one reason that neoconservatives have never been swept out of Washington. Clifton reports:

In 2015, his foundation contributed $1 million to the American Israel Education Foundation (AIPAC’s 501c3 wing), $3.5 million to the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), $75,000 to Israel Emergency Alliance, $250,0000 to The Israel Project, $350,000 to the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA), and $250,000 to the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), all groups which actively opposed the JCPOA. [Iran deal]

The American Israel Education Foundation, or AIEF, is the AIPAC offspring that funds congress’s trip to Israel. Below you can see a bunch of Democratic lawmakers who met with Netanyahu last month, half the delegation of 53 Congresspeople who went to Israel on vacation, many on AIEF’s dime.

Netanyahu meets Democratic legislators from the U.S. in August 2017.

Then there’s Paul Singer, a neoconservative donor who also gives to the AIEF:

In 2015, Singer’s foundation made a number of contributions to groups opposed to the Iran deal, including, $2 million to the American Israel Education Foundation, $150,000 to the Israel Emergency Alliance, and $118,982 to JINSA. Singer, according to The Atlantic, was the primary donor to the Foreign Policy Initiative, a small neoconservative think tank with a hawkish foreign policy agenda, before withdrawing his funding last summer.

2011 donor roll from the FDD showed that Singer had contributed at least $3.6 million to the group.

As for Adelson, he said he wished he’d served in the Israeli army not the American one, and he has poured money into the Republican Party to insure that Jerusalem is never divided.

Clifton’s report ought to be on the front page of the New York Times. It shows that however many American Jews oppose these Middle East wars & occupations — and most of us do– a powerful segment of the Jewish establishment is hawkish. That neoconservative culture extends to America’s leading newspaper. The Times hired Bret Stephens last April (joining a stable of writers who get “gooey-eyed” about Israel and whose children serve in the Israeli army and whatnot); and Stephens’s is the second column the paper has run in recent days attacking Valerie Plame and Phil Giraldi. The previous one was from Dennis Ross, who says that American Jews must not advocate for Palestinians, “we need to be advocates for Israel.”

So the New York Times is now part of a mainstream chorus that pooh-poohs the power of the Israel lobby. Omni Ceren:

In 2015 it became mainstream to sell Iran deal by Jew-baiting. Cycles of attacks ran with 1-2 punch from Obama admin then echo chamber

And this:

1st Obama & Kerry said “lobbies” & “donors” pushed ppl to choose Israel over US 2nd Echo chamber players like Plame turned it up to 11

This is pure propaganda. Lobbies and donors WERE and ARE the reason that the Iran deal is threatened from inside the Washington establishment. Obama spoke of the Israel interest baldly in his August 5, 2015, speech, nailing the deal in Congress, when he said that “every nation in the world” has supported the deal, “with the exception of the Israeli government.” And he’d be abrogating his constitutional duty if he listened to Israel.

I recognize that Prime Minister Netanyahu disagrees — disagrees strongly.  I do not doubt his sincerity.  But I believe he is wrong.  I believe the facts support this deal.  I believe they are in America’s interest and Israel’s interest.  And as President of the United States, it would be an abrogation of my constitutional duty to act against my best judgment simply because it causes temporary friction with a dear friend and ally.

Obama was fighting forces in his own party too. Leading east coast senators opposed him, including now-minority leader Chuck Schumer. That’s the reason neoconservatism is still around, because it also has adherents in the Democratic Party. Maybe they call themselves liberal interventionists, but it comes down to the same thing in the end.

When I watch the Vietnam documentary on PBS, it pains me that the first of many donors the filmmakers thank are Jonathan and Jeannie Lavine. The Lavines support many respectable liberal causes and surely lament the folly of the Vietnam war. But Jonathan Lavine (of Bain Capital) joined the board of the Democratic Party thinktank, the Center for American Progress, in the wake of the Iran deal because the Center’s president, Neera Tanden, hosted Benjamin Netanyahu there to trash the Iran deal.

Tanden’s fawning reception for the rightwing leader alienated much of the thinktank’s staff but as she boasted to Clinton campaign chair John Podesta,

 

Jonathan Lavine… Is joining the board. So Netanyahu was worth it :)…

And:

We will never be called anti-Semitic again.

Both Tanden’s statements came out in the wikileaks email dump from the Clinton campaign, not that many journalists have reported them.  Whatever its provenance, that dump documented the influence of big Israel-loving donors on the leadership of the Democratic Party. But saying as much in mainstream circles is saying the emperor has no clothes.

Tanden concern about anti-semitism arose from the fact that good journalists at her thinktank, including Eli Clifton, had directly taken on the Israel lobby back in 2012, attracting harsh criticism from the lobby. Soon Clifton and company were gone; and Tanden determined to undo that legacy of integrity.

Which just shows why neoconservatives have so much traction in Washington. Purging neocons would mean purging everyone else who was wrong about Iraq and Palestine, and there are just too many of those folks with good jobs for that to happen anytime soon.

The mainstream media have ignored this pattern. But you can’t take on an adversary without identifying it precisely. And meantime, the Iran deal is at risk.