When writing about Sheldon Adelson, Thomas Friedman gets some things right, and others very wrong.
He's right to see Sheldon Adelson as an overly friendly threat against Israel. Friedman calls him "Iran's Best Friend" in a recent NTY op-ed piece
If anyone currently active threatens the image of the Jew by the way he spends money, it is that poor boy from Boston who made billions from the scurrilous business of gambling, and is using it in a brazen way to buy votes for what he considers to be the best interests of Israel.
His daily give-away Israel Hayom has become the newspaper with the largest circulation. Critics exaggerate by calling it Israel's Pravda, but do not exaggerate by calling it Bibinews or Bibipress. It does what it can to put the Prime Minister in a good light, and downplay the nasty stuff that other media report about Sara. On the other hand, it includes a lot of news and a decent collection of commentators. It is arguably no further to the right than Ha'aretz is to the left on issues concerned with Palestinians. And it provides more detailed news per kilo of paper than its closest competitor in the circulation struggle, Yedioth Aharonoth. Yedioth matches or exceeds Israel Hayom in the range and quality of its commentators, but it reduces the amount and quality of its news content with gigantic headlines, and is the most inclined of Israel's popular media to feature the scuzzy stuff about the country's low life.
Where Adelson is more clearly threatening the quality of Israeli politics is his open-handed, nouveau riche style of bankrolling American politicians who--according to Friedman--he insists on keeping to a simplistic pro-Israel line in exchange for his money.
It is no great task to question the wisdom of Adelson's choices. He is reported to have spent $100 million in the 2012 presidential race in behalf of Newt Gingrich then Mitt Romney, along the way enticing Prime Minister Netanyahu to be more overtly supportive of an American candidate than had been customary for Israeli politicians. The results were predictable in contributing to problems in the Obama-Netanyahu relationship.
The style of politicians' meetings may not add much to what is primarily a matter of interests between the heads of government. But at the least, it is hard to imagine that the $100 million Adelson spent in 2012 helped Israel.
According to Friedman:
"Iran has an ally: Sheldon Adelson — the foolhardy Las Vegas casino magnate and crude right-wing, pro-Israel extremist. Adelson gave away some $100 million in the last presidential campaign to fund Republican candidates, with several priorities in mind: that they delegitimize the Palestinians and that they avoid any reference to the West Bank as “occupied territories” and any notion that the U.S. should pressure Israel to trade land for peace there. Both Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney took the money and played by Sheldon’s rules.
"Adelson personifies everything that is poisoning our democracy and Israel’s today — swaggering oligarchs, using huge sums of money to try to bend each system to their will."
Friedman goes on to describe the latest event in Adelson's shower of cash: the appearance of Republican presidential potentials at his Las Vegas Casino for a pre-convention convention. One of the notable events was the error of Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey to employ the unacceptable label of "occupied territories" for what Israel controls in the West Bank. "Disputed territories" or "Judea and Samaria" are the labels favored by the Israeli right. "West Bank" is barely acceptable. "Occupied territories" is almost as bad as "Conquered territories."
Christie's gaff produced murmurs in the Adelson-friendly audience, an invitation to a private meeting, then an acceptable "explanation" and "apology."
If that is the way to acquire respect from the politicians competing to be the next President of the United States, it doesn't sound that way to Friedman.
Iranians and others who have been relying on Nazi style cartoons and the Protocols of the Elders of Zion can modernize their propaganda by depicting Adelson as an old, overweight Jew with dyed hair, sitting in a wheelchair with an evil look in his eye, spewing cash to non-Jewish looking men in suits, and screeching "the Land is Ours. All Ours."
Where Friedman goes predictably off the rails is in his usual peroration about what settlements are doing to Israel's future.
"I don’t know if Israel has a Palestinian partner for a secure withdrawal from the West Bank, or ever will. But I know this: If Israel wants to remain a Jewish, democratic state, it should be doing everything it can to nurture such a partner or acting unilaterally to get out."
How many do you want to relocate, Tom? The 300,000 or so beyond the borders of Jerusalem that have served the city for almost a half century, or only the 50,000 or so beyond the walls? Or maybe the other 300,000 or so of us living in French Hill and other neighborhoods of Jerusalem that some insist on calling "settlements"?
Have you figured out where to put us? How to induce us to move? How to pay for it all? And how to protect us once we have moved and Palestinians transfer their missile firing zeal from Gaza to their new lands in the West Bank?
And going back to the roots of your thinking, where actually do the settlements serve in the pre-settlement antipathy to Israel that has been widespread in the Palestinian leadership and their Arab allies since the latter part of the 19th century?
Neither Friedman nor Adelson makes an impressive contribution to the discussion of Israel and Palestine. Each of us can decide which of the two does more harm.
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