NOTE: I published a new piece at Mint Press this week: Haaretz Columnists Propose Genocide In Lebanon, Promote Right of ‘Artists’ To Rape Young Girls ‘For Their Art.’ Give it a read.
Excuse the arcane reference in the post title to a revolutionary Dylan song from my youth. But if you did need a weathervane to tell which way Sheldon Adelson was “blowing” in this presidential election, you’d look no farther than Israel HaYom’s front page.
Yesterday, the lead story falsely claimed that the radical left was using a new “weapon” against Trump: violence. The subheader read:
“Many want to see Trump fail; protests have now become violent; Chicago rally crashed…”
The report featured several videos, only one of which shows any violence (and that is one short clip featuring a shoving match between two groups of individuals whose allegiances cannot be identified). The videos show protesters waving placards, they show people shouting at Trump rallies. But they don’t show any violence. But far be it from Bibiton to be held to the same standards as real newspapers.
Today’s lead story offers an interview with New York’s “mythical” (!) ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani, in which he makes such pithy and memorable observations as:
On Trump: “Wise and holds strong views.”
On Clinton: “Her record is one of the worst in history. She’s failed in everything she’d done. Anyone investigated by the FBI is not worthy of being president.”
On Obama: “He’s turned us into weaklings.”
Only in Israel would an interview with a washed up, aging GOP also-ran run on the front page. As if it was real news.
Over the past few months, critics have exposed Sheldon Adelson’s purchase of Nevada’s largest newspaper. They’ve postulated what the deal augurs for the billionaire’s political goals. I’ve argued that if you want to see where Adelson is going you should watch the pages of Bibiton, Israel’s largest newspaper, and one of several he owns there.
In the past week, it has featured at least two glowing lead stories extolling Donald Trump’s candidacy. Only a month or so ago, political pundits were writing that Adelson’s money was riding on Marco Rubio. Apparently, the money of many of the GOP fatcats were on Rubio as well. But a funny thing happened: Rubio stalled and Trump roared.
Nevertheless, Adelson has proven himself nimble in abandoning losers and embracing winners, even if they weren’t his first choice. He did the same in the last presidential election cycle when he had a virtual “love-in” with Newt Gingrich, donating $20-million to his campaign; only to pivot to Mitt Romney when he won the nomination. It clearly wasn’t a warm embrace. Adelson prefers blood and guts political personalities. Romney, a Mormon, was too much of a button-down suit, straight-arrow type.
But Adelson has a problem in Donald Trump: he doesn’t need any money. So the major leverage Adelson has, his billions, don’t work in this instance. As a result, Trump can speak about Israel-Palestine issues as a bit of a loose cannon. Certainly, as far as the gambling mogul is concerned. Though Trump has taken on the personna of a Tea Party hell-raiser, he comes from the stream of moderate New York Republicanism. So his current views are peppered with some of those throwbacks to a bygone era.
That’s how Trump can tell the Republican Jewish Coalition he’s in favor of the U.S. being even-handed regarding Israel-Palestine; and how he can tell them he’s not persuaded the U.S. embassy must move to Jerusalem.
One might think that this would give Adelson pause. One thing he hates is a man who can’t be bought or controlled. And Donald apparently can’t. But he’s a winner, and that’s enough for Adelson.
Before leaving this subject, note the litany of Trump’s far right supporters: we have David Duke of course. And Jean-Marie Le Pen, who recently cheered the real estate baron on. Trump’s call for banning entry to the U.S. of all Muslims echoes the views of only the most far-right Islamophobic leaders, like Geert Wilders. Add Israelis to that list. Anyone who hates Arabs and Muslims as much as they do is viewed as Israel’s friend. Barack Obama? Definitely not. Trump? Why not.
This process of Israel’s ultra-nationalist political majority becoming chummy with the most virulent of European racists has been proceeding for years and I’ve profiled it here. Israel’s romance with Donald Trump is but another step along the way toward the sort of religious hatred and holy war which Trump’s rhetoric stokes. Israel makes its bed with European neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Now add Donald Trump to the list.
Today, he argued that the protester who was tackled at a speech in Ohio was affiliated with ISIS. The only proof was a video in which the man appeared, in which there was no evidence it was made by or supported ISIS. But just as I said that Bibiton never let facts get in the way of a good story; so too Trump thrives on the fact that his lies are swallowed by his followers hook, line and sinker. Even if reporters debunk them within moments of their exiting his mouth; the faithful are programmed to mistrust the truth, given that it’s offered by the “left-wing journalist elites.”
Speaking of Trump’s lies, he’s escalated the usual anti-Sanders invective which smears him a socialist or Marxist. Trump called him a “Communist.” I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that one before. But I guess we can expect much more of that in future.
On a related matter, after hearing that Sanders supporters flooded the Chicago Trump rally, I feared that Trump, not one to turn the other cheek, would sic his own supporters on Sanders rallies. That is precisely what happened. Trump tweeted, in effect, that two can play this game and that he’d be within his rights to direct his own supporters to do just that.
There are a few problems with that: first, Sanders did not direct, or have anything to do with his supporters crashing the Chicago party. They shouted his name in the hall, but he certainly didn’t approve or plan their actions.
I thought Sanders should have made more clear this distinction between his campaign and what his supporters did. He should have said that while he affirms the right to free speech of his supporters, he didn’t necessarily approve of their actions inside the hall (the protest outside was completely kosher). By not setting up such a firewall, he invited Trumpists to turn their sites on his rallies.
But if that happens, I’m certain Sanders’ supporters will not react the same way Trump’s people have. They will not beat anyone up. I would hope there wouldn’t even be any shoving matches. I’d hope they’d let security handle disruptions, if there were any.
My fear is that given Trump’s incitement of violence against his opponents, it’s only a matter of time before a Trump fanatic shoots or seriouly injures a protester. Marco Rubio has even said publicly he worries that someone could get killed. That may be the only thing he’s ever said with which I agreed.
Israeli coverage of American and world politics ranges from poor (say Haaretz) to awful (Yisrael Hayom). The local correspondents and commentators simply don’t have a clue regarding the workings of the foreign system (to give them credit – CNN is very poor regarding coverage of any parliamentary system which doesn’t boil down to a single winner/loser).
While Adelson is quite possibly using Yisrael Hayom to influence Israeli coverage of Israeli affairs, the degree of attention given to other spheres of coverage by Yisrael Hayom by Adelson (and his wife, friends and family) is probably minute.
It is likely that the local writers are covering Trump/US-politics as they envisage Adelson want them to cover this – without any direct or indirect hints in this regards.
Obviously US media (Nevada, etc.) is a whole different ballgame.
Richard Silverstein says
Haaretz’s coverage of U.S. politics is limited by the very misconceptions that most Israelis have about the American political system. The coverage also depends heavily on the quality of their DC correspondent. Most of them have been awful from Shmu Rosner to Chemi Shalev. But generally I’d say Haaretz readers have a decent idea of American politics from its coverage. Not terrific, but passable. The rest of Israeli media is shallow & awful on this subject.
Gee, dya think? You think he spends $40-million a year to improve his golf game? He doesn’t “influence coverage of Israeli affairs,” he maintains the Likud’s grip on political power: a far more important proposition.
As for Adelson’s influence on the pages of Israel HaYom…he is a hands-on manager in everything he does, whether it’s casinos or newspapers. He calls Amos Regev and probably dictates the size of the headline font. On a subject as important as covering Donald Trump, he certainly dictates the coverage.
Coverage of The Donald is of extreme importance for Sheldon in the US (and assorted media holdings of his in the US)….. However I don’t see the importance of The Donald -in Israel- to Sheldon (or anyone else!) at the moment – Yisrael Hayom (as opposed to Haaretz) is seldom (or ever?) quoted abroad, and it’s influence is limited to the Israeli audience (reading material and as a wrapping for fish at the fish monger).
I’m not sure Sheldon (or Mirriam) need to be so hands on in terms of Yisrael Hayom – they could just tell Regev to write whatever Bibi wants him to write (either by indirect assumption, communication via lackey/proxy, or direct contact) as long the Adelsons’ don’t instruct him otherwise. As long as they can change tack (to support someone else) – they don’t need to be anymore hands-on, though they could be.
Sheldon Adelson had more to fear these days than Donald Trump.
Jack Cohen says
Adelson has enough lawyers on retainer to laugh at all these idiotic lawsuits.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Jack Cohen: He’s gonna need them. He’s gonna eventually be sued by the Justice Department. Then there will be the suits from pro Palestine groups. Not to mention Steve Jacobs, which is proceeding quite well. They’ll get him eventually. Unless he dies first.
Kyle Renner says
They’re not “idiotic” lawsuits. Sheldon Adelson is the idiot, and anyone who finds common cause with him is as malicious and stupid as the man himself.
He’s a shriveled up old gnome. His moral bankruptcy and evil statements directed at Palestinians, Lebanese, Arabs and Iranians as general collectives show that he’s as ugly inside as he is on the outside.
And you find common cause with such a person?
Shoded Yam says
Actually it’s been a bone of contention for some time between those who believe that Adelson is a gnome or some other sort of dwarf-like creature and those who assert that he’s nothing more than a piece of wax fruit that somone left out on a steam radiator.
Kyle Renner says
Whatever he is, I just want to see him flushed down the toilet or thrown in the garbage. Or sent back in four pieces to gnomeland.
You know how it is.
Arie Brand says
So Trump called Bernie Sanders a communist.
The last time I heard that accusation in Australian elections was 1983 when the long post war reign of the conservatives (only interrupted for two years) finally came to an end. The conservative PM, Malcolm Fraser, hinted that his labor-opponents were communists and he linked that suggestion to the advice for people to hide their savings under their beds if labor came in. His opponent, Bob Hawke, reacted to that by saying “Under their beds? Isn’t that where the commies are?”
Side comment – the commonplace use of the term “mythical” to describe someone in modern Israeli hebrew i sactually quite common and just means “person who held the post for many years” and not anything more then that. It’s also in wide use to describing ex-girl/boyfriends (with the meaning of the “person previously dated the longest”) so no need to make to much of a deal about the use of the term
Richard Silverstein says
@Shachar: Thanks, I wasn’t aware of this idiom.
Dan Silagi says
This is an excellent piece. The only thing I disagree with is that Trump can’t be bought. He claims to have a net worth of $10 billion; Forbes Magazine says $4 billion, others say much less. Adelson is worth close to $30 billion. I’m sure Trump would much prefer to have Adelson help fund his campaign than for him to shell out several hundred million dollars or more.
I’m a Shmuley Boteach watcher, and a huge critic of “America’s Rabbi.” I’ve noticed that Boteach has been saying very kind things about The Donald in recent days, and very unkind things about those who compare Trump to Hitler. BTW, the comparison is more than apt.
Richard Silverstein says
@ Dan Silagi: Keep in touch regarding Reb Shmuley. I’ve written many posts about him.
Adelson has now overtly endorsed Trump. So of course Shmuley takes his marching order from Reb Sheldon. They’d “all in” on Trump. It’s ironic that Donald’s grandfather got his start in business as a glorified pimp, & Sheldon’s Macau hotels looked the other way at pimpery as well. Birds of a feather…
Trump+ Richard Haass = Trump + CFR .= Trump + Rockefeller.
Rockefeller+Adelson supporting Trump openly will open can of worms of epic proportions.
Could be good ,could be bad.
At least the masks are coming off.
Dan Silagi says
Boteach now has a Facebook post in which he decries Reform rabbis protesting at the upcoming AIPAC conference, saying “Who is worse, Hillary working to give Iran $100 billion which the Iranians will use to kill Jews, or Donald Trump?” Aside from the fact that Hillary has been out of the government for three years, and had little to do with the Iran deal, thus totally invalidating Boteach’s premise, the answer to this should be obvious.
Arie Brand says
Australians can only watch helplessly while this whole thing plays out though their future is at stake as well. The US has some vital facilities on Australian soil and when it comes to a war in this region Australia has no hope in hell to stay out of it. Alas neither Trump nor Clinton look like candidates who will work for peace.
I didn’t like Malcolm Fraser much (to put it mildly) when he was Australia’s Prime Minister but in retirement he turned out to be a remarkably decent human being who finally couldn’t stomach the policies of his own party anymore and gave up his membership. He was particularly upset by the cruel way in which Australia treats refugees (a policy in which labor has been complicit as well).
Fraser (who was Jewish on his mother’s side though she was “only” Jewish on her father’s side) also reversed his stance on Israel dramatically. Isi Leibler had this to say about that in a piece that is remarkable for either its mendacity or its ignorance:
“I retain fond memories of my genuinely warm association with Malcolm Fraser when he was prime minister and I headed the Australian Jewish community. Our relationship was based on shared values and my appreciation for his inestimable assistance on behalf of Soviet Jewry, ensuring that, while I was in Moscow, the Australian embassy provided support for my efforts on behalf of Jewish dissidents.
I also recollect that in those days he was enthralled with Israel and he would spend hours discussing and enthusiastically lauding the achievements of the Jewish state.
In Jewish mystical folklore we relate to a dybbuk – a malevolent spirit capable of dramatically transforming a person’s entire outlook. I am tempted to attribute Malcolm Fraser’s dramatic reversal of attitude to a dybbuk.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/federal-politics/political-opinion/israel-loses-an-old-friend-in-fraser-and-we-long-for-his-return-20111004-1l75t.html#ixzz43JAQbeUD
No dybuk Mr. Leibler – for Fraser just a matter of getting to know the truth behind the lies (as happened with a former Dutch Prime Minister who is now a pro-Palestinian activist, Dries van Agt, as well).
Fraser also reversed his stance on the alliance with the US which he had supported during the Vietnam War. He felt compelled to write a book about it with the tile Dangerous Allies.
“He said although he had expected Australia to distance itself from the US after the Cold War, if anything we were closer to the superpower than ever before.
“We’ve given more control over us to America than they would have had on earlier occasions,” Mr Fraser said.
“The taskforce in Darwin, when fully equipped, it will be an immensely powerful taskforce capable of exercising force anywhere in the Pacific, and if the US wants to use that force they’re not going to ask first; we’ll read about it in the newspapers.”
He said the changes at the Pine Gap satellite tracking station, which is in the Northern Territory and partly run by American agencies, were most concerning.
“Because of changed weapons technology Pine Gap, with other facilities, is integral to the firing of a number of weapons systems,” Mr Fraser said.
He said the increasing closeness of Australia and the US was not due to any one poilcy or government, but was instead an ongoing trend. “Ever since 1991 we’ve become closer. It’s partly been technology but also the policies of government,” he said.
“I believed in the relationship during the Cold War but the contest has changed and we should recognise that.”
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/national/malcolm-fraser-calls-for-an-end-to-the-australianus-alliance-20140512-zragh.html#ixzz43JEp02UQ
Fraser died a few years ago and it is unlikely that his later views on Israel and the US-alliance will influence Australian policy one way or the other. More’s the pity.