It is no secret that as part of every American presidential election campaign in recent times, presidential hopefuls seek to court the Jewish vote as part of their coalition. Speeches given by candidates at the usual lobby organizations, such as AIPAC, can typically be summed up like this: “I am the super best friend of Israel, support me!” So far, so good. Support of Israel has been a long-term position of the U.S. which I am generally in favor of. Of course it is a matter of dispute what exactly ‘friendship’ and ‘support’ mean in specific contexts.
This brings us to the long run-up to the 2016 presidential elections
Sin City brings huge GOP campaign donations
Last week, GOP presidential hopefuls traveled to Las Vegas to meet with GOP mega donor Sheldon Adelson, the casino magnate, at the Republican Jewish Coalition—an event inofficially dubbed “the Sheldon primary”.
Among them were Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
Adelson, who is Jewish, has spent “$90 million to political candidates and super PACs in the last election cycle” and is known for his extreme right-wing positions on Israel (more on those below).
As far as reports go, all potential candidates voiced their unconditional support for Israel. So far, so predictable. But then something went wrong. In one of those statements, Chris Christie used the phrase “occupied territories.”
I took a helicopter ride from the occupied territories across and just felt personally how extraordinary that was to understand, the military risk that Israel faces every day.
That phrase has been frequently used by the United Nations Security Council, George W. Bush, by the U.S. government, then-Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and the Israeli Supreme Court —not a bunch of anti-semitic Israel haters in particular. So what is the big deal?
Stuff Sheldon Adelson says
Adelson is part of a tiny ultra-right Zionist fringe (as opposed to less extreme supporters of Israel) that sees any sort of compromise in the Middle East as betrayal. And from time to time, he does and says some truly ignorant and hateful things.
Some examples: In a 2013 speech at Yeshiva University Adelson
- argued for a preemptive U.S. nuclear strike on unpopulated areas of Iran as a negotiating tactic: “Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business.’”
- admitted that he is ignorant of Muslims: “I don’t know the difference between the Shia and the Sunnis.”
- argued that Palestinians as a group do not exist: “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian. Do you know what they are? They call themselves southern Syrians.”
According to the New Republic, Adelson also bankrolled some propaganda movies that sought to cause paranoia about Muslims in general, not just religious extremists, and funded a lobby group that attempted to stop a Muslim Indian American nominee for Superior Court judgeship that had been selected by Chris Christie—supposedly because if that happened, Shariah law would take over New Jersey.
Chris Christie kisses the ring
Because New Jersey Governor Christie (and the others, too) wants Adelson’s campaign dollars, he apologized for the use of the common term occupied territories in connection to Israel a boot-licking, subservient manner that can only be called a disgrace for American democracy. What matters, apparently, is not any diplomatic consensus, any long-standing U.S. foreign policy position, but the will of just one uber-rich donor who happens to be a bigoted hawkish nutjob. Here we see a politician lying prostrate, saying “Buy me, I will do whatever you please!”
Support for Israel can manifest itself in various forms apart from supporting the ultra-right fringe positions that not even the majority of people in Israel endorse. But the 2014 edition of the GOP thinks otherwise.
My two cents
Since unlike the aforementioned politicians I am not dependent on Mr. Adelson’s campaign donations, I am free to tell him what I think of his antics (although I doubt he reads this or would care). Here are a few suggestions: read more books to educate yourself about the Middle East and its inhabitants, stop funding asinine propaganda demonizing all Muslims, and quit your annihilationist fantasies.
Dreaming about mass murder is no better coming from you than when it is coming from djihadists, Nazis, or other unruly figures.
“The Line to Kiss Sheldon Adelson’s Boots.” (David Firestone, NYTimes.com, 2014/03/31)