New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has pledged $20 million to establish a foundation that will fight anti-Semitism and BDS (the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement). Kraft made the announcement while in Israel accepting The Genesis Prize, a $1 million award that Time Magazine has called “the Jewish Nobel.”
The award was presented by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as the prize is administered in partnership with Israel’s government. Like President Trump, Netanyahu has been friends with Kraft for years. “Robert Kraft fights back,” said Netanyahu, “and he’s committed to fight BDS and the slanders against Israel and to stand up for the state of Israel.”
In his acceptance speech, Kraft explained that the new foundation will focus on social media messaging and target individuals between the ages of 18-35. “When I was awarded The Genesis Prize in January,” said Kraft, “I promised to dedicate myself even more than before to fighting anti-semitism, BDS, and other efforts to delegitimize the state of Israel.”
“My vision is to work to end the violence against Jewish communities, “Kraft explained, “To counter the normalization of anti-Semitic narratives that question Israel’s right to exist, disguised as part of legitimate debate on campuses and in the media. To educate, to inform, and to heal inter-communal relations. In combating the scourge of anti-Semitism, my solemn ambition is to counter all forms of intolerance in the spirit of the ancient Jewish value of tikkun olam – to heal and repair the world.”
Kraft aims to begin the foundation with $50 million and is currently seeking partners. He has already secured a $5 million gift from Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich.
Last year’s ceremony was canceled after the actress Natalie Portman declined to attend the event citing “distressing” events in Israel. Although Portman didn’t specifically detail her motivations, the move was viewed by many as a BDS victory. This year’s selection was initially uncontroversial but shortly after the award announcement, Kraft was charged with two counts of soliciting prostitution in Florida. He has pleaded not guilty.
Kraft has visited Israel more than 100 times. He was accompanied on this trip by a number of former and current NFL players, including Drew Bledsoe, Ty Law, Vince Wilfork, Stephen Gostowski, Nate Ebner and Julian Edelman. He’s traveled with similar delegations throughout the years, including 2017 when he visited the country with football greats Joe Montana, Jim Brown, Roger Staubach and Mike Singletary to open the Kraft Sports Campus in Jerusalem. The campus includes the country’s first full-length football field.
The Patriots aren’t the only professional sports franchise that has generated Israel-related headlines recently. Shortly before the Toronto Raptors won the NBA championship earlier this month, it was reported that team owner Larry Tanenbaum was planning to take the team to Israel if they ended up winning the title. Although there’s been no official announcement regarding the potential trip, the report has already sparked backlash, and activists are pressuring the Raptors to reject the plan.
“Rather than participating in a propaganda trip that will help Israel continue its policies of racism and oppression, we encourage you to travel to the West Bank and meet with Palestinians living under occupation,” reads a statement put out by the antiwar organization CODE PINK.
The news of Kraft’s foundation comes amidst various attempts by U.S. lawmakers to pass anti-BDS legislation that would prohibit individuals from legally boycotting Israel. Although these efforts have failed at the federal level so far, a number of such bills have passed throughout individual states. None of the major Democratic presidential candidates supports BDS, a number of them oppose such legislation on First Amendment grounds.