Donald Trump is supposed to be his own man, but in some regards he defers to one of the richest men in the world: Sheldon Adelson, the casino mogul who says that “Israel is in my heart.” During the campaign Trump’s superPAC got a $25 million cash infusion from Adelson; and Trump “made a 180-degree shift in his position” on Israel/Palestine, from saying he would be neutral between the parties to saying he was on Israel’s side.
It is surely no coincidence that the man being bandied about today as a Trump secretary of state, Newt Gingrich, is an Adelson favorite, whom Adelson supported in his own failed presidential runs. In fact, just last May, Adelson said he and Gingrich share an outlook on the Palestinian people:
I happen to believe what our friend Newt Gingrich said is true, it’s a made up people.
Adelson’s money gets results. Back in 2000, Adelson contributed $300,000 to the Republican Party at the same time that George W. Bush was appointing neoconservatives to high positions in his administration.
Who is Sheldon Adelson? He is the streetsmart 83-year-old son of an immigrant cabdriver and seamstress in Boston who by his own description stumbled accidentally into a casino fortune and has dedicated his life in recent years to sustaining Israel and American Jewish support for it. He has said that the creation of a Palestinian state would pose a potential Holocaust to Israeli Jews.
Adelson is said to be very close to Benjamin Netanyahu, the rightwing prime minister of the country, but he says that he also socializes with liberal Jewish politicians. He held a fundraiser for Mitt Romney in Jerusalem in 2012, and the next year he called on President Obama to nuke Iran. He owns newspapers in Israel and Nevada, and has poured tens of millions into the “Birthright” program, which gives young Jews a free trip to Israel.
One other Adelson achievement: he escapes the spotlight. As Rania Khalek said yesterday: “Adelson funded Trump, bankrolls Netanyahu. U’d think a billionaire w unprecedented influence over 2 heads of state would get more coverage.”
“Why am I so committed to the Jewish people?” Adelson answered his own question: His concern comes out of the European Jewish experience. His father was tormented in a Jewish shtetl in Lithuania before he emigrated to the United States; and Adelson has said that Birthright is a “noble” cause because it aims to get back the six million Jews who died in World War II.
I feel that it is an honor for us to be the stonemason that mixes the cement that connects one generation of Jews to another. Without that… there won’t be any need for anything Jewish because there won’t be any Jews left….
Only 42 percent of Jewish people between the ages of 18 and 26 intend to marry within the religion and/or bring their children up Jewish… But the kids who go on Birthright, that same question, it jumps to 76 percent….
We’ve got to build it up to a point.. that it matures into something. as comprehensive as we can make it. We’ll never get the quantity back. We will some day. But we can’t just turn a switch and have the 6 million Jews who were lost in the Holocaust back with us.
In that same appearance earlier this year, Adelson scorned President Roosevelt because he did “not make the slightest effort to save the Jewish people. It is incomprehensible to me as a human being.”
He told of the influence of his parents:
My parents who were immigrants to this country.. my father escaped the pogroms in Lithuania and left a little shtetl called Zezmer between Kovno and Vilna in 1912, because the Cossaks would come into the town with whips and swords and they’d kill the Jews.
He prayed to God that some day there would be a place that Jewish people would not be subject to the whips and swords of the Cossacks and other bigots.
Adelson said he was committed to the Jewish people because of our oppression, and achievement.
Why am I so committed to the Jewish people? When you think of how many Jews there were during the time of Crhist, there were only 10 million. Today we have only 13.5 million… If you count with the way a lot of secular people count, you may have 17 million. But we are 0.02 percent of the world’s population, and yet the Jews have won 29 percent of all the Nobel prizes, peace prizes, medicine, chemistry, and economy, etc. It seems to me that if one is going to feel good about your own, who you are and what you are… I was brought up to care about the Jewish people. And my father was a very poor person. My mother had to work. She was an expert knitter. She opened up a little store and she would teach other women how to knit and how to connect the arms to the bodies of sweaters.
My father dreamt all his life of a place where the Jews could be first class citizens… The only job he could get during the Second World War when I was growing up was as a taxi-driver….
We barely got along. I grew up in Dorchester, the sectin of Boston split between the South Boston Irish and the Dorchester Jews.
Taking the cue from my father, without him saying I want you to do a, b, c, d, and e. it just came to me automatically. It wasn’t my responsibilty and it wasn’t my obligation, it was an honor, for me to help keep the Jewish people together. We are like stone masons. We mix the cement that connects one generation of Jews to the other. That’s why Birthright is so important to [my wife] Miri and myself. Because without that connection, two or three more generations, there won’t be any Jews left in the United States. I couldn’t live with that… But we’re in a position to do something about it, and that’s why we do a lot… Otherwise we’re all gone.
Adelson was never able to take his father to Israel. By the time he had enough money to do that, his father was too old and sick to go. That is one reason he supports Birthright, for the young.
I don’t want 100,000 Jews that are born every year all around the world to wait till they’re too old and too sick to go. So we want them to go now.
It will be the biggest tragedy in history if Jews disappear
Adelson says that Birthright manages to get nearly half that 100,000 to Israel every year. The trips often enter occupied territories but do little to inform the holidayers of what they are seeing.
In recent years he offered to buy five Iron Dome batteries, at $200 million each, for Israel, and he has thrown himself into fighting what he says is the greatest threat facing Israel today, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, or BDS. “We want modern day Maccabees to faith against the BDS and antisemitism on campus,” Adelson said last May.
Adelson has repeatedly denied the existence of Palestinians as a people– and DNA would show it.
Did anyone ever hear of Southern Syrians? The Sykes-Picot agreement, when that was penned in 1916, they delineated the borders of Lebanon and Syria… Those Arabs that were left in an area then called Palestine called themselves southern Syrians.
For 400 years the Muslim ottoman empire owned the Middle East. They never recognized any group called the Palestinians. And by the way, P is not a letter in Arabic. So they called themselves Falastins. A Roman name…
I happen to believe what our friend Newt Gingrich said is true, it’s a made up people, and who made it up? Yasser Arafat. When? 1964 when he formed the Palestinian liberation organization.
If you took DNA of all the people from that area of the 400 years of Ottoman Rule, you’d find that everybody throughout the Middle East were all the same people, all the Arabs…
You cannot find, I dare anybody to find to look for a book that has the name Palestinians or Falastine or any similar name, before 1964, it doesn’t exist. So in order to protect Israel we have to come back with the truth.
Meantime, Adelson says, Jews lived in Jerusalem continuously for 3000 years.
In that interview he acknowledged that Palestinians in Israel are not first-class citizens:
You can’t say there’s no discrimination in Israel, it’s human nature to be discriminatory.
Here are some other Adelson statements from an October 2013 appearance at Yeshiva University in New York. On trading land for peace:
I think it’s unwise to trade land for peace… It’s more unwise to trade land for peace with a people who are not a people.
On the absurdity of allowing Palestinians to have a state:
Here’s a good compromise… I can imagine a meeting between an Israeli Jew and the Muslims. ‘Muslims, you want to kill 100 percent of the Jews. We don’t want you to kill anybody. So let’s compromise. We’ll surrender half the Jews so you can kill them.
And the other half of the Jews will stay alive. So both of us get a compromise. You can’t get everything you want! But we get some of what we want!’ It’s ridiculous. These people espouse the destruction of the Jewish people worldwide and the state of Israel. When they talk about the little Satan and the big Satan, this is not conjecture… they really mean it.
In their culture and in their religion… why do they say the men who become martyrs go to heaven and they meet up with 72 virgins? I can never figure out what the virgins did to deserve that.
On the similarity between the Holocaust and allowing the Palestinians to have a state:
Nobody believed Hillel Kook when he came to this country and tried to convince Roosevelt that millions of Jews were being gassed. Nobody believed him. So no one believes what they have in mind. So I think to go and allow a Palestinian state is like playing Russian Roulette with yourself. Because one day the bullet’s gong to come out and it’s going to kill you.
They hate us, they don’t want us alive. If they really wanted peace, somewhere, somehow in the last 65 years they would have moved one millimeter toward the Jewish demands.
He said the Japanese were more justified in attacking Pearl Harbor than the Palestinians are in seeking a state:
This is not an issue about a grievance. Like the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor because in the Second World War the US cut off the flow of oil to Japan to punish them for taking over China. This is not a territorial issue. The Arabs have 500 times more land than Israel does.
On the need for better “hasbara,” or propaganda, to save Israel:
We have an NGO for hasbara. [RethinkIsrael.org, launched with the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations,] We’re going to provide information, propaganda if you will. To give you an example of a couple of the items. Israel has passed a law to outlaw thin models. Female fashion models. Can you imagine that?
We want to tell college students and we’re starting out with a target audience of 18-24… [My wife] Miri and I have well-financed this. We also say that we’re cool. The beaches are cool, the clubs are cool… Did you know that there are more museums per capital in Israel than … in any other country in the world? Did you know there’s a television show that dogs watch? We are hoping to diminish the reluctance of both Jewish and non-Jewish college students to look at Israel in a different way.
Two more generations, maybe three, there won’t be any secular Jews left. There won’t be any need for Federations. No need for synagogues, no need for Jewish community centers, no need for Jewish family service agencies. No need for anything Jewish. It won’t be here. The one thing that Jews have been striving for, for thousands of years, acceptance as a first class citizen, to be assimilated into the society and let go, out of the pale of the pale of settlement. We finally got it, and it’s turning out to be our undoing. We don’t do something about it, there won’t be any Jews left.
In 2011 Adelson said that he wished he had served in the Israeli army, not the American one:
I am not Israeli, the uniform that I wore in the military unfortunately was not an Israeli uniform, it was an American uniform, although my wife was in the IDF, and one of my daughters was in the IDF, and my two little boys — our two little boys one of whom will be bar mitzvahed tomorrow… hopefully he’ll come back [to Israel], his hobby is shooting and he’ll come back and be a sniper for the IDF….
All we care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli born, Israel is in my heart.
Thanks to James North.