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‘New Yorker’ profile of Paul Singer plays down Israel and can’t say, ‘neoconservative’

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When Donald Trump tore up the Iran deal earlier this year, it was widely believed that he had deferred to his billionaire donors Sheldon Adelson, Bernard Marcus, and Paul Singer. Trump especially needs Singer and Adelson, who have given generously to the Republican Party, so as to maintain his political firewall against getting impeached.

Paul Singer started out as a Trump opponent. Back in 2015 he supported Marco Rubio, as a foreign policy hawk, and even funded opposition research that turned into the famous Steele dossier on Trump’s Russia connections. But he switched over to Trump in the end. The hedge fund manager rarely opens his mouth, but it’s a safe bet that he cut a deal with Trump on Israel. As CNN put it in 2015:

Singer, 71, is perhaps the [Republican] party’s most prodigious fundraiser, and his giving has been motivated primarily by two causes: protection of Israel and other Jewish causes, and support for the gay rights movement — a position that puts him at odds with many other leading players in the Republican Party.

Singer has funded a lot of neoconservative outfits, notably the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Israel Project, which have argued ardently for undoing the Iran deal.

So this week The New Yorker runs a major profile of Singer by business correspondent Sheelah Kolhatkar, and… Israel is barely mentioned. The word neoconservative, which defines the ideology of Singer’s many foreign policy beneficiaries — support for regime change in the Middle East so as to foster democracies, or chaos, that will improve Israel’s standing — doesn’t appear at all.

The piece reveals how much discomfort the mainstream press still has in even addressing the Israel lobby in our politics. Compare that to The New Yorker’s endless coverage of the dastardly Koch brothers, even though Singer is in bed with Trump, and the Kochs have turned against Trump on tariffs and foreign policy.

Sheelah Kolhatkar, from her twitter feed

In fairness, Kolhatkar’s business in “Doomsday Investor” is telling how Paul Singer took down Athenahealth ceo Jonathan Bush so as to maximize the share price of a company he’d bought a large stake in. The investor comes off as vicious, mean, and underhanded. Kolhatkar does that story well.

But Kolhatkar also tells a political story. Singer is a “powerful influence” on Trump, and a man who “in politics, as in business… is intent on doing whatever it takes to win…” She describes Singer’s “sophisticated” political activities on the right. He cares about two matters, she reports:

Mike Lofgren, a longtime Republican congressional staffer who’s now a critic of the Party, told me that Singer’s conservative politics can be simplified to two issues. “Taxes and regulations, on the one hand,” he said. “And Israel on the other.”

But that’s it. Only one more reference to Israel, in a passage saying that along with Adelson, Singer “reportedly backed the push to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” There’s a lot more than that about Singer’s support for gay rights.

Paul Singer is notoriously opaque; he doesn’t give speeches or interviews, as Sheldon Adelson does, about how much he loves Israel. But the record of his “sophisticated” engagement is very clear.

The Foundation for Defense of Democracies has been the leading thinktank pushing for the destruction of the Iran deal, and clearly has access to the Trump administration. Trump just appointed a senior intelligence aide who worked at FDD. Adelson supports FDD; and so does Singer, per Eli Clifton:

Singer contributed at least $3.6 million to FDD by the end of 2011, making him the group’s second biggest donor after Marcus at the time.

Earlier this year in the New York Times, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson says FDD is pushing war against Iran on Trump the same way we got war with Iraq:

Today, the analysts claiming close ties between Al Qaeda and Iran come from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, which vehemently opposes the Iran nuclear deal and unabashedly calls for regime change in Iran

More than ever the Foundation for Defense of Democracies seems like the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans that pushed falsehoods in support of waging war with Iraq.

But not a word about FDD in The New Yorker.

Nor any description of Singer’s broad neoconservative portfolio. From Rightweb:

Singer is deeply involved in a network of right-wing, “pro-Israel” organizations. He serves on the boards of Commentary magazine, the Republican Jewish Coalition, and the Manhattan Institute, where he chairs the board of trustees. He is a former board member of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, has funded neoconservative research groups like the Middle East Media Research Institute and the Center for Security Policy… He was also connected to the pro-Iraq War advocacy group Freedom’s Watch....

According to tax filings, Singer’s foundation has generously donated to the American Enterprise Institute, the Ethics and Public Policy Center, the Institute for the Study of War, the Claremont Institute, The Israel Project, and the Philanthropy Roundtable…

Just yesterday the Israel Project, Singer’s pet project, celebrated Trump’s defunding of the UN Human Rights Council as an anti-Israel body. Again, it sure looks like Trump and Singer cut a deal on Israel…

Kolhatkar also has nothing to say about Singer’s sponsorship of the Iraq war. Singer did so on an ideological basis, per the New York Times:

As for the war in Iraq, [Singer] said, “America finds itself at an early stage of a drawn-out existential struggle with radical strains of pan-national Islamists.”

Singer beneficiaries, the American Enterprise Institute and JINSA, or the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, had their hands all over the Iraq war. When Colin Powell was asked to explain why the Iraq war happened, he told the Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung it was “the JINSA crowd”‘s neoconservative ideological influence over George W. Bush.

Forget about Palestine, focus on Iraq, JINSA said. From DeYoung’s biography of Powell:

“Bush came to subscribe to the belief long espoused by neoconservatives that Baghdad was a first and necessary stop on the road to peace in Jerusalem….Several countries were candidates for regime change: Syria, Lybia, even Iran…. “I think the JINSA crowd had a lot to say about it,” Powell later reflected on the White House’s attitude toward the peace process. Bush “saw [Ariel] Sharon fighting terrorism, he saw bombs going off in Israel. That affected him deeply. Israel was a democracy! Freedom! And he saw all of these Arab states that were not democracies.”

Lastly, while Kolhatkar’s article goes on at some length about Singer’s successful efforts to turn up the screws on Argentina in international courts because he was an investor in Argentinian debt, it says nothing about his ideological interest in Argentina: pro-Israel groups  were also trying to pressure Argentina because of former President Cristina Kirchner’s protection of Iranians implicated in the 1993 bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires. “Millions of dollars have flowed from Singer’s pockets to the various neoconservative groups whose advocacy of confrontation with Iran has extended to attacking Argentina, in particular over its ties to the Islamic Republic,” Jim Lobe and Charles Davis reported. FDD was involved there too. Rightweb writes: “The Singer-backed Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) has issued numerous reports accusing Argentina of aiding an Iranian cover-up of Hezbollah’s purported role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.”

But even as Kolhatkar moralizes on the dangers to society of Singer’s activist investment, she refuses to anatomize the neoconservative ideology, let alone describe the role of big Israel lobby donors in shaping foreign policy. I noticed the same inhibition at J Street this year. Neoconservative has become the Jewish n-word, at least since Paul Wolfowitz quipped that it means Jewish. But the word is important because it names an actual ideology that animated and still animates a lot of foreign policy thinking: a militant American response to Middle East countries, and support for Israel’s expansionism.

Part of Kolhatkar’s inhibition surely reflects the fear that talking about Jewish donors will spur anti-Semitism. But the more important factor is that in today’s foreign policy establishment, neocons and liberal interventionists are actively partnered, in good measure through the solvent of Israel; and the New Yorker is a member in good standing of that establishment, having pushed the Iraq war, notably with Jeffrey Goldberg’s hollow reporting on Saddam’s possession of weapons of mass destruction and David Remnick’s editorial, presenting Saddam as a nuclear Saladin and offering “the myriad reasons that an aggressive policy toward Iraq now is the least bad of our alternatives.”

Holding Paul Singer accountable for grievous mistakes would mean holding a lot of our good friends accountable, too.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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18 Responses

  1. scott9854958 on August 25, 2018, 12:58 pm

    In fairness to Trump, “tearing up the Iran deal” does not equal starting a war with Iran. It’s a measured step, a political step, more likely to inflame our “European allies” than anyone else. I have no doubt Singer et al would have preferred a much more vigorous strike against Tehran 18 months into the Trump presidency. They’re not getting it. For that we can be grateful.

    • Keith on August 25, 2018, 5:04 pm

      SCOTT9854958- “In fairness to Trump, “tearing up the Iran deal” does not equal starting a war with Iran.”

      The use of soft power, particularly financial power, can be more effective than military attack. Tearing up the Iran deal set the stage for much harsher sanctions which may be part of the empire’s plan to provoke another Asian financial crisis. If so, the potential for profit for currency speculators like Paul Singer and George Soros could be immense. The global financial system has become predatory allowing financial pirates like Soros and Singer to plunder Third World peoples around the globe.

      “As long as those emerging economies were growing, earning export dollars at a rising rate, the debt was manageable. Now all that’s beginning to change. The agent of that change is the world’s most political central bank, the US Federal Reserve, whose new chairman, Jerome Powell, is a former partner of the spooky Carlyle Group. Arguing that the domestic US economy is strong enough that they can return US dollar interest rates to “normal,” the Fed has begun a titanic shift in dollar liquidity to the world economy. Powell and the Fed know very well what they are doing. They are ratcheting up the dollar screws to precipitate a major new economic crisis across the emerging world, most especially from key Eurasian economies such as Iran, Turkey, Russia and China.

      Despite all efforts of Russia, China, Iran and other countries to shift away from US dollar dependence for international trade and finance, the dollar remains still unchallenged as world central bank reserve currency, some 63% of all BIS central bank reserves. Moreover almost 88% of daily foreign currency trades are in US dollars. Most all oil trade, gold and commodity trades are denominated in dollars. Since the Greek crisis in 2011 the Euro has not been a serious rival for reserve currency hegemony. Its share in reserves are about 20% today.
      If Washington succeeds on November 4 in cutting all Iran oil exports, world (dollar) oil prices could soar above 100 dollars, adding dramatically to the developing world dollar shortage. This is war by other means. The Fed dollar strategy is acting now as a “silent weapon” for not so quiet wars. If it continues it could deal a serious setback to the growing independence of Eurasian countries around the China New Silk Road and the Russia-China-Iran alternative to the dollar system. The role of the dollar as lead global reserve currency and the ability of the Federal Reserve to control it, is a weapon of massive destruction and a strategic pillar of American superpower control. Are the nations of Eurasia or even the ECB ready to deal effectively?”
      (F. William Engdahl)

      • Atlantaiconoclast on August 27, 2018, 7:36 pm

        I loathe Obama, but the Iran Deal was the one good thing he did, not that it was needed, but I supported the attempt to quell possible war with Iran with a compromise of sorts. What Trump is doing to Iran is so utterly despicable.

  2. Brewer on August 25, 2018, 3:13 pm

    Mad Hatter’s Tea Party Logic.

    “Billionaire Sheldon Adelson, President Donald Trump’s biggest donor, just secured his role as the GOP’s top 2018 funder with a $25 million contribution to Senate Republicans midterm election efforts. In all likelihood, he also bought himself a direct line to any Republican whose ear he wants to bend.

    Adelson is outspoken about his priorities—a hawkish U.S. policy towards Iran and unwavering U.S. support for Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, and his Likud Party—and House and Senate Republicans, as well as the Trump White House, have largely delivered on Adelson’s foreign policy wish list.

    Adelson, alongside with his wife Miriam, already contributed $30 million to House Republican efforts to maintain a majority, bringing the casino magnate’s direct investment in the GOP’s 2018 House and Senate election efforts to over $55 million.

    Politico did the math and found:

    The Adelsons’ $25 million contribution constituted almost the entire haul of $26 million that the Senate Leadership Fund brought in last month and more than half of the $44 million it’s raised this year. The super PAC had $45.2 million in cash on hand on July 31, according to the most recent filing.”

    “Washington (CNN)The federal government spent nearly $7 million investigating Russian meddling in the presidential election between May and September, the Justice Department announced Tuesday.
    Special counsel Robert Mueller spent $3.2 million over that time.
    Another $3.5 million has separately been spent by law enforcement personnel working on the investigation but who do not directly report to Mueller, DOJ said.

    Mueller was appointed in May to lead the investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election.”

    • Misterioso on August 27, 2018, 10:22 am

      @Brewer, et al

      For the record:
      Jerusalem Post, April 24/18


      “I think it is the right from birth of all Jews to go to Israel”

      “Sheldon Adelson has made the biggest donation to Birthright in its history and given the organization $70 million on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the establishment of the State of Israel.

      “Adelson and his wife Dr. Miriam Adelson have provided massive financial support to the Birthright program, which brings young Jewish adults from the Jewish world to Israel on free educational trips, and now amounts to $410m.”

      “’Before the founding of the State of Israel, my father told me that he always dreamed about a state for Jews and wanted to go to the Land of Israel, but when the time came and I could help him get there he said he was too old and too ill,’ Adelson said during his speech at the event.

      “’I think it is the right from birth of all Jews to go to Israel and I don’t want any young Jewish person in the world say that he is too old or sick to visit Israel.’

      “At the end of the event, Birthright founders Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt presented the Adelsons with Birthright’s ‘Guardians of the Jewish Future’ award for their generosity to the project.”

      • Maghlawatan on August 27, 2018, 2:29 pm

        The Guardians of the Jewish future are people like Btselem .

  3. Keith on August 25, 2018, 4:25 pm

    PHIL- “The investor comes off as vicious, mean, and underhanded. Kolhatkar does that story well.”

    Indeed, a significant part of the Paul Singer story is his role as a “Vulture Capitalist” buying up discounted Third World debt on the cheap, then using the power of empire to squeeze money from the governments of Third World poor to generate profits. This is the equivalent of financial piracy, a practice condoned by our global financial system as established by our private bankers, part of the destructive financialization of the global economy. Guys like Singer don’t produce anything, they extort tribute from the Third World poor. That he should, in essence, steal from the poor to give to Jewish causes and thereby be considered a “philanthropist” says volumes about our corrupt system. Also, Singer can only get away with this with the active support of the imperial establishment. I provide a quote from the article.

    “Newman saw an opportunity in these financial crises: purchase the defaulted debt at a very low price and then try to negotiate for, or sue the country for, full repayment on the original terms. An investor who pursued this strategy came to be known as a “rogue creditor.” The tactic could prove extremely profitable—as long as you had the stomach for it. Newman said that he never sued a country that couldn’t afford to pay, but critics argue that rogue creditors interfere with a country’s ability to return to the financial markets, exacerbating the poverty and suffering of its citizens.

    Singer hired Newman, initially offering him thirty thousand dollars a month and twenty per cent of the profits on investments he recommended. The Republic of Peru had defaulted on its debt in 1984; in 1996, the government initiated a debt exchange, and more than ninety per cent of Peruvian debt holders traded in their old bonds for new ones, taking a fifty-per-cent discount on the original value. Singer purchased eleven million dollars of defaulted Peruvian bonds, and then began a protracted legal battle to force the government to pay back the full value. In 1998, after a trial, a federal court found Elliott to be in violation of the Dickensian-sounding Champerty laws, which prohibit buying debt with the sole purpose of bringing legal action. Elliott appealed the case and won. The company later engaged in an intense lobbying campaign to change the Champerty laws in New York State. It also filed a lawsuit in Brussels, attempting to prevent Peru from paying interest on any of its new bonds until it had paid Elliott. Peru was left with an unpalatable choice: default, again, on its new bonds, or pay what it viewed as a ransom to a New York hedge fund. Peru finally paid Elliott the original value of the bonds plus interest, almost sixty million dollars. The victory set a precedent that had global implications: one wealthy foreign investor could potentially determine whether or not a troubled country would be able to borrow money.” (Sheelah Kolhatkar)

  4. marc b. on August 25, 2018, 4:35 pm

    The bombing was 1994. Like the 1992 bombing of the embassy, the investigation was mobbed up from the beginning. Like the La Belle Discoteque, Pan Am 103, etc. they just seem to trot out a new culprit depending on the political need of the moment, which should lead a reasonable person to question the purpose of the atrocity to begin with. The whole New Yorker piece with a bit of context makes Singer look worse than an anti-Semitic stereotype.

  5. JohnSmith on August 25, 2018, 5:52 pm

    Without even knowing something about this guy, I think I’d hate him on sight. He just looks like a smug, arrogant, entitled jerk. Like Jared Kushner.

  6. JWalters on August 26, 2018, 7:57 pm

    Singer: “My theocracy good, your theocracy bad.”

  7. Marnie on August 27, 2018, 9:07 am

    Wow! But according to MSM it’s Putin and Russia that have a dangerous influence over US policy.

  8. CigarGod on August 27, 2018, 10:13 am

    “…grievous mistakes…”?

    Pretty clever, Phil…and much appreciated.

    It isn’t often a writer will expose how war criminals get their -get out of jail free- card…otherwise known as a -grievous mistake- card.

    Of course, other plotters, planners, bribers, in the last 70 years or so weren’t able to secure a “Mistake Card” so they could escape paying for their -well-intentioned- genocidal mistakes.

  9. Misterioso on August 27, 2018, 11:42 am

    Interesting and revealing news item:

    “Israeli Minister: Israel is investing in Diaspora Jewish education so Jews worldwide will ’embrace Zionism.’”

    “Israeli minister says Israel is the nation state for all Jews around the world… it has invested ‘unprecedented resources into creating an infrastructure’ to keep Jews in other countries connected to Israel and openly embracing Zionism… ‘”

    “By Naftali Bennett, Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs, reposted from JTA article published on April 26, 2018 (images, subheads, and videos added)”

    JERUSALEM (JTA) — “For decades, world Jewry helped Israel. Organizations gathered and sent funds to the feeble, small state; our Air Force and Navy were formed and trained by Jewish volunteers from around the globe.

    “As we celebrate our 70th Independence Day, we should thank the previous generations while shifting to a new era, one in which we reverse the roles and Israel spends more time and resources helping the Jews of the world.

    “Since its inception, Israel has played two roles: First, it is the country of all of its citizens, Jews and non-Jews alike. Second, it is the nation state for all Jews, citizens or not. The Law of Return, which offers immediate citizenship to any Jew interested in living in Israel, is the best example of this idea. As the Jewish homeland, Israel has always felt a sense of responsibility toward the Jews of the world and has acted, often quietly, to safeguard those in need — simply because they are Jews.

    “Greatest danger to Jews is not ‘antisemitism’”
    Sadly, recent events in France and Poland highlight the rise of anti-Semitism and the need to maintain such actions. However, the greatest danger facing the Jewish world in the 21st century is disengagement: Millions of Jews, mainly in North America, are drifting away from Judaism and, as a result, from Israel. Israel cannot ignore this reality. Acting as the home of the Jews, Israel helped Jews in physical danger. Now it is time to help those at risk of losing their connection to Judaism and Israel.”

    • Maghlawatan on August 27, 2018, 12:15 pm

      Waste of time. Israel has milked the diaspora dry. And it is a kip full of racists.

  10. Atlantaiconoclast on August 27, 2018, 7:35 pm

    Sadly, too many liberals and progressives, not to mention non ideological but socially conservative red state people don’t even know what neoconservative means. Drives me nuts when NPR or some other establishment media source brings on a neocon to represent the conservative side.

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