One of Time Warner’s top executives moonlights as a speechwriter for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, warning the west about Iran.
Gary Ginsberg, executive vice president of corporate marketing and communications for Time Warner, advised Netanyahu to pull out the famous bomb cartoon at the United Nations General Assembly in 2012 and helped craft such lines as the claim that Iran threatens Israel with “nuclear extinction.”
“When he’s in the United States, he’s a friend of mine, I help him,” Ginsberg told me today. Time Warner is “fully aware” of his unpaid work for the Israeli prime minister, he said, but the company has not disclosed his work to the public.
“No. Why would they do that?” he said. “I do this in my free time as a friend of the prime minister’s. I in no way get paid… This is my free time. This is not as a corporate executive, this is in my personal capacity.”
Ginsberg’s contributions to four Netanyahu’s speeches are disclosed by former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren in his new book Ally: My Journey Across the American-Israeli Divide. The book was published a month ago and has gotten a lot of attention for its negative commentary on President Obama and American Jews. Amazingly, its revelations about a top American media executive pulling all-nighters with the Israeli prime minister in Washington and huddling with him in Jerusalem so as to fine tune and add “music” to his speeches have gone unreported in the press.
Ginsberg is a 52-year-old Jewish lawyer with strong Democratic Party connections to the Clinton and Kennedy families. He has called himself the Time Warner executive “in charge of helping shape the public perception and message of the company to constituencies that we care about. So in my case, it’s the media, potential advertising partners, the not-for-profit world and communities that we serve in that we want to have a better relationship with.”
Ginsberg told me that he has worked on “a lot” of Netanyahu’s speeches but could not specify the latest one. He also said that he did not get involved in editorial decisions at Time Warner about Israel and Iran coverage. “I’m not an editorial employee, I’m a corporate executive,” he said.
The first speech Michael Oren describes Ginsberg shaping was Netanyahu’s address to the UN General Assembly in September 2009. Oren writes:
I was admitted–tentatively, at first–into the room where Ron Dermer [now the Israeli ambassador to the U.S.] and Gary Ginsberg, the shrewd yet good-natured Time Warner executive who volunteered his talents and time, fine-tuned Netanyahu’s address. This, I learned, abounded in Churchillian references and touched on monumental themes: the Bible, the Holocaust, Israel’s right to self-defense. Iran denied all three, the speech next emphasized, and threatened Israel with nuclear extinction. A section on peace with the Palestinians was also de rigeur, with Gary assigned to add ‘music’ to Netanyahu’s hang-tough tone.
(In fact, Ginsberg was at the time a close aide to Rupert Murdoch at News Corp, said to be Murdoch’s connection to the Democratic Party. He joined Time Warner in 2010.)
The next speech that Oren says Ginsberg helped write was Netanyahu’s address to a joint session of Congress in 2011, the one famous for getting 29 standing ovations. Oren writes,
[T]he joint meeting enabled Netanyahu to set out his views on the peace process and Iran, and to highlight the U.S.-Israel alliance. The speech-honing team took up position among the dusty volumes and colonial busts in the Blair House library. Time Warner’s Gary Ginsberg again volunteered to help add ‘music’ to Netanyahu’s remarks. These contained several groundbreaking concessions, including recognition that a peace accord might leave ‘some Israeli settlements… beyond Israel’s borders,’ and that with ‘creativity and goodwill,’ the Jerusalem issue could be solved. But such largesse could easily be lost in bluster. ‘You’re going to get beat up on this stuff at home,’ I advised the prime minister; ‘you might as well emphasize these gestures before Congress.’ The music was still being pumped in twenty-four hours later when, without sleep, we left for Capitol Hill.
The next speech Oren says Ginsberg helped to write was Netanyahu’s speech to the Israel lobby group AIPAC, American Israel Public Affairs Committee, in 2012. That speech was famous for describing the U.S. refusal to bomb the rail lines leading to Auschwitz in 1944– an Oren touch, the author says — and for Netanyahu insisting that Iran is going nuclear because it has all the appearances of doing so: “Ladies and gentlemen, if it looks like a duck, if it walks like a duck, if it quacks like a duck, then what is it? What is it? That’s right, it’s a duck. But this duck is a nuclear duck.”
The duck lines were widely mocked in the media, but Ginsberg was proud of his involvement, Oren says.
Gary Ginsberg, the Time Warner executive who again helped fine-tune the speech, made me a T-shirt emblazoned with a madcap duck bronco-riding a nuclear warhead that evoked the classic film Dr. Strangelove. But the reference to Auschwitz had darker implications….
The next speech Ginsberg helped to craft in Oren’s account was Netanyahu’s speech to the UN General Assembly in September 2012, which featured the cartoon bomb. Oren relates that he visited Netanyahu’s official residence in Jerusalem.
Also present was chief advisor Ron Dermer and Gary Ginsberg, of Time Warner. Together, we sat to draft Netanyahu’s crucial UN General Assembly speech. I knew the subject would once again be Iran, but was unprepared for the angle.
“I’m going to draw a red line around twenty percent enrichment,” Netanyahu explained… Think of that uranium like gunpowder… At the point when the Iranians have enough twenty percent uranium to fill the bomb nearly to the top, that’s where I’ll draw the red line.”
We looked at him quizzically. “Let me show you,” he said. A skilled draftsman from his MIT architecture days, Netanyahu took a piece of paper and a felt-tipped pen and drew a cannonball freestyle….
“Why don’t you show the drawing during your speech?” Gary suggested, but Netanyahu merely smiled.
Later Oren reflects, “Opinions were divided over whether it represented an ingenious attention-grabbing device or a slick PR trick, much like the ‘nuclear duck.'”
Time Warner is the third largest multimedia company, according to Wikipedia. Its subsidiaries include CNN and Turner Broadcasting, leading mainstream news brands.
In his book, Michael Oren scoffs at the theory of the Israel lobby, saying that its description of a loose coalition of Israel supporters that includes media figures is anti-Semitic. But what he reveals in his book about a Democratic-Party-associated media executive’s free service to a rightwing Israeli leader only tends to confirm the truth of the theory.