This has been a remarkable season for talking about pro-Israel Jewish money in the U.S. political process– a conversation about political power. Here are three news stories about Jewish wealth and political influence.
First, Chris Christie attended a press roast in Hamilton, N.J. two nights ago. Bloomberg’s Elise Young reports the media spoofed him in songs:
Another song, “If I Were a Rich Man” from Broadway’s “Fiddler on the Roof,” was reworked: “I’m not Sheldon Adelson’s boy/I’ll tell him I’m another hopeless goy.”
The Forward also mentions Adelson (who wants to nuke Iran, who regretted serving in the American army rather than the Israeli one) in a story called, “Who the Jewish Billionaires Are Backing for 2016″.
A quick look at the list of top political donors for 2014 reveals a striking fact: At least a third of the most generous 50 mega-givers were Jewish. In fact, contributions from Jewish billionaires and multi-millionaires dominated the top 10 spots on the list…
Political activists have known for years that members of the Jewish community are over-represented in the field of political contributions…
[Hillary] Clinton comes with her own rolodex of major Jewish donors, many of whom funded her 2000 Senate race and her unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid.
The list at the Forward includes many Jews for whom Israel is the only thing. Adelson, Saban, Norman Braman, Paul Singer, Bernard Marcus. And it is still the case that Jewish money is perceived as Zionist. President Obama himself quipped that his early supporters were a “cabal”; and they were all liberal Zionists. The Washington Post once estimated that 60 percent of the money in Democratic Party coffers comes from Jews. When I asked Steve Rabinowitz, a campaign consultant, about this, he said that Jewish giving to Democrats was so high that if anyone did a study of it, it would fuel conspiracy theories.
Finally, in this discussion of Israel at a Detroit-area synagogue a few nights ago, Sam Molnar, a grad student in environmental studies at the University of Michigan and member of Jewish Voice for Peace, says that wealthy pro-Israel Jews have fostered a “culture of fear” among Jewish students about discussing the conflict. He related that in 2014, the University of Michigan Hillel invited students who opposed the occupation to host a Sabbath dinner on campus, and the group came up with a dinner called Palestinian solidarity shabbat because “it was our conviction that standing in solidarity with Palestinians against the occupation is a beautiful and vital expression of Jewish identity.”
Money came into the picture.
“We were called into the Hillel offices and for an hour and a half we basically had our identities disparaged. We were told that the words Palestinian solidarity were aggressive…. To be clear, the censorship was never about the interests of students. The president of the Michigan chapter of Hillel said to us point blank the problem was not the students but the major donors of Hillel and the standards of partnership… [Hillel] offered to fund [the Shabbat] if we didn’t tell anyone.”
Molnar said that the students proceeded to have the Shabbat without the funding and drew 80 folks, quite a turnout. He concluded, to applause:
“The 1 percent of wealthy donors should not be allowed to stifle the urgent conversation that the 99 percent of young Jews need to have.”
Max Blumenthal points out that the Forward’s story on Jewish billionaires would be condemned as anti-Semitic if it appeared in the non-Jewish press. I am of course guilty of talking about Jewish wealth publicly. Jews talk about it privately, as a condition of our experience in the U.S. today, and I am of the right-to-know school, because I think pro-Israel Jewish money plays a powerful role in U.S. politics, and Americans have always been able to discuss power. The media seem to agree with me, increasingly. It’s time to have an adult conversation.