Over the weekend, we noted that both the NY Times and MSNBC covered Marco Rubio’s big money guy, Norman Braman, 82, a Florida businessman who is said to have committed at least $10 million to the campaign, with scant reference to his Israel agenda.
In “Billionaire Lifts Marco Rubio, Politically and Personally,” the New York Times said that Braman has “an ardent commitment to Israel and a seemingly limitless bank account,” but left it at that.
Braman is a leader in the Miami Jewish community, and below is a great interview with him about his love for Israel on a Jewish show back in 2011. Braman is Israel-centric. He faults President Obama for his treatment of Israel, and expresses the fear that Israel will disappear within 50 years without U.S. support. And as for the U.S.’s economic struggles?
I worry about that because I really believe that a strong America is the greatest factor which insures a great Israel and a sustaining Israel. A weak America poses a threat to the future of Israel.
The U.S. is key because the rest of the world has lost its “romance” about Israel. The United Nations has “one basic purpose,” discrediting Israel; criticism of Israel is just ancient anti-Semitism in “disguise.”
Braman is a civic leader in other ways, but has a generational pride in Israel. He says Israel transformed the image of Jews worldwide after the Holocaust– “they don’t fight back” — and he’s been to Israel many times. Israel weathered the economic downturn that struck other nations because it has better leadership, he says, and Israel is a stronger country at 60 than the U.S. was.
The interviewer is Richard Peritz, and here are some excerpts.
How do you see the challenges facing Israel and Jewish life? Braman goes right to Obama’s dealings with Israel.
It’s a very unsettling time… for a variety of reasons. The relationship between President Obama and Israel has obviously been a rocky one, certainly probably improved in the last six months or so. The boycott movement throughout the world, the effort to attempt to delegitimize Israel… the young Jews living here who really do not understand how much Israel means to them…. [I remember] what it was to be an American Jew prior to the establishment of the state of Israel…. I try to explain to them what Israel has meant, and I don’t think they understand…. [They have to understand] how important Israel is to them as American Jews and for that matter probably, Jews throughout the world.
How was it important?
I remember all the fields in the United States that were closed to Jews, that there were a limited number of major Jewish law firms, and all the other major law firms had no Jews. There were no Jews in the insurance industry, there were very few Jews in banking, there were very few Jews in investment banking other than Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers and one or two others. Among some of the major corporations in the United States that just would never hire a Jew simply because he was a Jew. And the general lack of respect that existed for Jews. Jews in general always being thought– ‘Well Jews are smart, but they don’t fight back, they don’t do anything,’ and Israel changed all that. I’m convinced Israel changed all that. All the advantages that Jews have today, that generations have had since the establishment of Israel has been augmented by Israel…And I worry that that dedication to Israel and that understanding of how important Israel is to them just hasn’t penetrated.
On the U.N.:
The United Nations is a disgrace. Thank God for the Security Council, thank God for the United States– rather, the consistent support that the United States has provided with the Security Council. But when you get into all the other agencies of the United Nations, you can see that it’s developed into organizations that have one basic purpose, and that is to discredit Israel and actually delegitimize Israel. While I probably believe that we need the United NAtions, I concern myself about how much damage the United Nations and some of these agencies have inflicted on the state of Israel. I’m not a happy person when it comes to everything happening in the world, as you can surmise, today… I worry whether there’s going to be an Israel in the next 50 years from now. I worry about that.
On the peace process:
I’m still back to the fundamental problem, how do you make peace with people who want to destroy you and are dedicated to your destruction?
The majority of Muslims are peaceful and just a minority want to see a world dominated by Islam, Peritz ventures.
I’d like to see the so called silent majority of Moslems, or Arabs, voice themselves in a manner that their leaders and the world can see that they are moderate, and they’re not a group that’s dedicated to the destruction of Israel. That has not been demonstrated. I haven’t seen this majority out in the streets advocating for peac.e I haven’t seen that… The intellectuals seem to be more hostile to peace and relationships with Israel.
Peritz asks about education in Jewish life. Braman answers by talking about Israel.
If you look at the achievements of Israel today, Israel is a technological powerhouse and cyber powerhouse. The dedication to education as far as Jews are concerned are the same as they’ve always been, the same as my family.
He says his parents were both immigrants from eastern Europe. It’s an inspiring story. His father came from Poland and worked as a barber who never earned more than $85 a week in his life and never drove a car. His mother came from Romania at 12 and went to work in a sewing factory. She was functionally illiterate. This is very much like Sheldon Adelson class-wise. His parents were immigrants. His father drove a cab.
Braman brags on Israel’s achievements in 60 years:
All one can compare is where Israel is today to where the United States was 60 years after we became a nation… We were on the brink of a civil war where more Americans died than all the other wars put together… We were destroying ourselves, and here you have a state of Israel, certainly with a very diverse population, as we all know, that is going through a economic windfall today that differs from the problems that are being experienced by every major country in the world who has suffered from this economic downturn. It’s not by accident. It’s the fact that Stanley Fischer… was voted the most outstanding banking executive in the entire world, handling the economy of Israel… And there are reasons for that.
What about challenges to the U.S. economy? 
I worry about that because I really believe that a strong America is the greatest factor which insures a great Israel and a sustaining Israel. A weak America poses a threat to the future of Israel. So I concern myself about the United States, our economy, and the general situation in this country.
About the media war internationally:
We’re not going to win the media war in general. The important place to win the media war is in the United States, and I think we’re winning it here. But being anti Israel which I believe is equivalent to anti-Semitism, is endemic. What’s new? It’s been going on for 1000’s of years. Why would it change now? I mean they’re using Israel just as a disguise for anti-Semitism, that’s exactly what’s occurring today…
On American support:
The romance involving the state of Israel faded a long time ago. And that romance isn’t going to return in the near future, if ever. But again it gets back to the United States.
We are the only world global power, we’re the only world global military power, we’re still the economic engine that is the standard of the world. If all those three fall, it’s a danger to the state of Israel. So I think we have to concentrate ourselves on working to bring the United States back to economic health as quickly as we can and do the best we can to make sure that the United States remains a very strong and vital power in the world. That’s the best guarantee Israel has for its future.
That statement is very reminiscent of the neoconservative founders Norman Podhoretz and Irving Kristol saying they left the Democratic Party in the ’70s because a weak U.S. military posed a direct threat to Israel. That belief is the neoconservative creed, and why they support U.S. wars.
Braman on the waning attachment of young Jews to Israel:
We have to bring more– more American Jews to Israel. We don’t do a good enough job with that…. I’ve been a supporter of Birthright. It’s more than just taking Jews to Israel. We have to get back to what we said at the beginning of the program. We can’t ask someone what they can do for Israel. We have to explain to them what Israel has done for them. And if we are able to achieve that, then we will be successful in reversing this trend.
In their New York Times story, reporters Michael Barbaro and Steve Eder talked to Rubio, who said, “I don’t ever recall Norman Braman ever asking for anything for himself.” Yes, but doesn’t he want something for Israel?
Eli Clifton at Lobelog has reported that Rubio seemed to do another big Israel-loving donor’s bidding re foreign policy:
In yet another overlap between Paul Singer’s money and those critical of Argentina, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) this week introduced a Senate resolution demanding a “swift and transparent” investigation into the prosecutor’s death. It also accuses Kirchner of conspiring “to cover up Iranian involvement in the 1994 terrorist bombing.”
It turns out that Singer’s hedge fund, Elliott Management, was Rubio’s second largest source of campaign contributions between 2009 and 2014, providing the presidential hopeful with $122,620, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.
I urge the media to be frank about matters they all know are operative here. A love for Israel on the part of wealthy, older, conservative Jews who are in a position to influence presidential politics. Just ask Norman Braman.