Media Analysis

‘Billions in our community’ — Israel supporters make frank appeals to Jewish wealth and influence

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In the last year, Israel’s supporters in the U.S. have made frank appeals to Jewish wealth and power as weapons to fight Israel’s delegitimization from the left. The Israel lobby used to be more veiled when flexing its monetary muscles. But these calls have gotten pretty explicit, as Josh Block’s program for Jews to use the “billions… at rest in our community” to buy up media properties and turn those publications into tribunes for Israel shows.

Here’s a list of four statements by Israel supporters citing Jewish influence.

A leading funder of neoconservative causes, Roger Hertog spoke of Jewish wealth and influence, and “billionaires,” in the context of the battle over Israel, at the conservative Jewish Leadership Conference last year.

All of us are aware that this has been a remarkable era for American Jews. Our forefathers who came to this country generations ago could never have conceived of what their children, their grandchildren, great grandchildren would accomplish. Not just unparalleled material success, but recognition and influence in the larger society beyond most of what we could ever have thought was possible. Jews today make up ten percent of the Senate and a third of the Supreme Court, 25 percent of the billionaires, not to mention science, medicine, culture, religion, arts, the academy, and yes philanthropy. But this is no ordinary time. Serious struggles do confront us, especially as it relates to what is happening with assimilation, intermarriage, open anti-semitism disguised as anti-Zionism on college campuses and elsewhere. And as the Pew studies show, young American Jews have increasingly become indifferent to Israel.

Hertog is not the only man to cite billionaires. Last week Eli Clifton reported that Josh Block of the rightwing Israel Project (which is funded by Paul Singer and Seth Klarman among others)  issued a challenge to the Jewish Funders Network last March about the power of wealth to “control the media.” Block’s statement has been taken down from that forum, but here’s an extended excerpt:

TIP [the Israel Project] was founded in 2002 based on the recognition that “they who control the media, define the narrative – and they who control the narrative secure the outcomes they desire.”…

There are billions of dollars capital at rest in our community, philanthropic and otherwise.

Jeff Bezos parked $250m of his money to buy the Washington Post. Let’s even say the paper loses $20m a year to operate – some of our community foundation give away multiples of that in tzedkah [charity] annually.

What is the value of defining the topography of truth? Especially at a time when there is a deliberate war being waged by Israel’s adversaries on history and an effort to delegitimize Zionism, Jewish history and, connection to the land of Israel…

Newsweek is for sale yet again, after being bought for $1 and its debt by IAC & Barry Diller, and then sold for an undisclosed sub-$10m sum to a South Korean Christian Cult that is a spin-off of the Moonies.

This presents an opportunity for pro-Israel messaging in the media. What if it were owned by members of our community? Can you name a SINGLE MAINSTREAM magazine or media outlet that is reliably pro-Israel? Any that is not seen as conservative? The WSJ will soon change hands from generation to generation, where the views of the Middle East differ greatly.

There IS so much capital at rest in our community….and so many ways to leverage those sums for altruistic philanthropic aims, through PRIs and other philanthropic and traditional venture funding. There are even ways to profit, and do well while doing good…

Imagine a media investment fund – to acquire brands at a discount, and create new high-value, niche audiences of hundreds of thousands who help us reach billions — as TIP has proven can be done….

Are you interested in taking our destiny in our own hands – or should we let others define who we are and what the place of a Jewish state in the world is?

If you would like to join me in a discussion of the low barriers to entry in building and acquiring media outlets today – and the IMPERATIVE of thinking differently about what is possible with venture philanthropy and benefit corporations to build the media and information infrastructure that the Jewish and pro-Israel community require — please contact me.

During her Rosh Hashanah sermon equating anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, Rabbi Angela Buchdahl of New York’s Central Synagogue was honest about Jewish power.

I want to acknowledge that despite the stories I shared [of rising anti-Semitism] that right now in America is perhaps the best time in our history to be a Jew. We should recognize that sitting in this room– our Jewish community holds extraordinary levels of power.

As we reported last year, Alan Dershowitz spoke of the Jewish contribution to American society and our right to “power” and “influence” on foreign policy as a result, at a Westchester synagogue:

People write a book called the Israel lobby and complain that AIPAC is one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. My response to that is, that’s not good enough. We should be the most powerful lobby in Washington….We are entitled to use our power. We have contributed disproportionately to the success of this country. We have done so much for this country. When you think of how much better this country has become since our grandparents and great grandparents took the risk of coming here, we have not only the right we have the obligation to speak out, and use every piece, every bit of power available in support of Israel…. Look, we are the most affluent successful generation of Jews anywhere in the world, that’s the good news. … We are a very influential community. We deserve our influence.

Having written about Jewish influence myself over the years, and been called an anti-Semite for doing so, it’s fascinating to me to see Israel supporters rallying round that influence. I’ve long stated that Jews of my generation and older believed that we deserved our (astonishing) success in the U.S. because we are smarter than non-Jews, and we had fostered engines of the U.S. economy from entertainment to media to Wall Street. There’s a strong inhibition about discussing this, though, because the Jewish elite social function in Europe was a source of resentment that led to pogroms and genocide; and as a tiny minority we are felt to be equally vulnerable today.

Months ago Nada Elia wrote a piece here about the need for Jews to abandon privilege in order to be effective in pushing Palestinian rights. I essentially agree; though that privilege has a structural character, and these statements support such a view, that the Israel lobby is based on wealth and influence.

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… A leading funder of neoconservative causes, Roger Hertog spoke of Jewish wealth and influence, and “billionaires,” in the context of the battle over Israel, at the conservative Jewish Leadership Conference last year. … Jews today make up ten percent of the Senate and a third of the Supreme Court, 25 percent of the billionaires … Mr. Hertog’s blatant and anti-Semitic “singling out” of American Jews is going to give Jackdaw some serious conniptions. The… Read more »

“these statements support such a view, that the Israel lobby is based on wealth and influence.” Thanks for this excellent article focusing on this central fact. Anyone who delves into the topic of Israel can easily see that the Zionist influence in America is based on extensive financial influence. It is obviously not based on an appeal to justice. To the contrary, it demands that American editorial writers and politicians IGNORE standard norms of justice,… Read more »

“Having written about Jewish influence myself over the years, and been called an anti-Semite for doing so, it’s fascinating to me to see Israel supporters rallying round that influence. ”

Yes. Suggesting that Jews are good at making money and use that money to influence governments for their own advantage is one of those evil tropes, isn’t it? A bit odd to see it proclaimed quite so blatantly.

A lot of this sounds to me like a Protocolesque recipe. The Desrshowitz comments are inane as of course is the man. “When you think of how much better this country has become since our grandparents and great grandparents took the risk of coming here, we have not only the right we have the obligation to speak out, and use every piece, every bit of power available in support of Israel” Screw all you Scots,Irish,English,French,Spanish… Read more »

As he has done before, Phil has the courage and conviction to discuss a topic rarely mentioned in polite circles. It’s an important topic, and relevant to public policy and discourse. At the same time, while there are specific elements that are uniquely Jewish (including the taboo on talking about it) it isn’t unique in our society and system of government. It has long been obvious that our elected officials are exquisitely sensitive to organized… Read more »