BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"My political leanings are far to the right....
Attila the Hun was too liberal for me."
- Sheldon Adelson, 2010
By now, most political junkies are familiar with Sheldon Adelson. The casino magnate and Republican Party benefactor - worth $20.5 billion according to Forbes magazine - is fully committed to defeating President Barack Obama, and to that end has pledged to spend as much as $100 million.
Beyond Adelson's anti-Obama advocacy lies a seemingly greater cause; un-wavering support for right wing Israeli politicians and organizations, and urging the US government to take more muscular action against Iran.
In addition to dumping boatloads of money into Republican Party war chests, Adelson has almost single-handedly destroyed what has been a vigorous newspaper culture in Israel.
Interestingly enough, by dropping millions into the coffers of the failed candidacy of Newt Gingrich, Adelson kept the disgraced House Speaker viable long enough for two Israel-related factors to unfold: 1) Gingrich's promotion of extreme pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian views, which moved all the other GOP candidates (except Ron Paul) to the right on Israel; and, 2) the inability of religious right and the Tea Party to settle on one candidate, handed the nomination to Mitt Romney, a longtime friend of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Adelson's influence "has turned the Republican contest into a competition of extreme rhetoric, in which there is no room for compromise or diplomacy, and the only answer to any international problem is unmitigated toughness," Gal Beckerman reported in The Jewish Daily Forward in January of this year. "No one wants to be outflanked by the right when it comes to foreign policy (no one, I should say, besides Ron Paul) and so Gingrich's apparent parroting of Adelson's hardline attitudes about Israel — and, I should add, Iran — means that the whole tone of the race is affected."
Beckerman pointed out that Adelson's "positions [on Israel] are unambiguously right-wing and hawkish to the extreme. When it comes to the Palestinians, there is no one to be trusted."
Beckerman noted that Adelson split with AIPAC (The American Israel Public Affairs Committee) because it "was not far enough to the right for him": "After being a diehard supporter — funding a new building in Washington, D.C. — he split with the group in 2007 when it decided to support a congressional initiative, backed by the Israelis, to increase economic aid to the Palestinians. 'I don't continue to support organizations that help friends committing suicide just because they want to jump,' he said at the time by way of explanation. He had the same reaction when Ehud Olmert, whom Adelson had once befriended, came to the conclusion that he had to pursue negotiations with the Palestinian leadership."
Adelson told The Jewish Week last year that, "The two-state solution is a stepping stone for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people."
Adelson's involvement with Israeli politics is nothing new. In 2007, the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Adelson "has been organizing delegations [to Israel] of Republican congressmen and senators for the past 15 years. 'They all come back Zionists,' Adelson said."
Adelson and his wife, Miriam, are major funders of Birthright, a project that sends young Jews on free trips to Israel. Earlier this year, jta.org reported that over the course of Birthright's 13-year history, the Adelsons had donated more than $140 million to the project.
The casino magnate has also been involved with overt Islamophobic endeavors. AlterNet's Elly Bulkin and Donna Nevel recently reported that Adelson had been distributing copies of the 2007 film Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West (2007) to Birthright participants. The film "demonizes all Muslims, and through explicit statements and rapid-fire images, makes clear the filmmaker's view that there is a direct connection between Nazis and both Palestinians and Muslims,"
Adelson's influence over Israeli politics has grown exponentially since 2007, when he founded a free daily newspaper, Yisrael Hayom (Israel Today), that had "a strikingly pro-Netanyahu line that quickly became Israel's most-read newspaper with nearly 40 per cent of the market," The Globe and Mail recently pointed out.
In many ways, Israel Today closely resembles both the Reverend Sun Myung Moon-owned Washington Times, which since its' founding has essentially functioned as a house organ for conservative politics while losing tens of millions of dollars, and the media properties of Rupert Murdoch.
Since its advent, Israel Today has been unabashedly pro Netanyahu. It gave him a "vital boost in the knife-edge 2009 election when he regained the premiership [and it] .... has helped counter the negative coverage that continues to plague his administration, The Globe and Mail reported. .
According to The Globe and Mail, "Critics say [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu has effectively become part of Mitt Romney's presidential campaign at Adelson's behest, creating a rift with Obama and damaging Israel's ability to work with the United States to stop Iran's nuclear ambitions.
"While Adelson's newspaper is not the only right-leaning media organ, it is helped by its owner's willingness to operate at a loss, a luxury not available to other Israeli media."
The paper "costs Adelson more than $30-million a year, according to a former business partner, Shlomo Ben Zvi."
In 2010, Adelson told a media conference that his "political leanings are far to the right." He then added: "Attila the Hun was too liberal for me."