Israel’s Calcalist reports that Arthur Dantchik, right-wing pro-Israel billionaire, has stopped funding Israel’s judicial coup. The country’s extremist government has advanced a plan to neuter the judiciary and rule of law, eliminate most powers of the attorney general, and permit a prime minister to continue to serve in the event of a criminal conviction.
The framework for the coup was devised by the Kohelet Forum (“National sovereignty, individual liberty”), a think tank composed of far-right ideologues, all funded by US money. Dantchik was the largest donor followed by the Tikvah Fund. The latter was founded by another right-wing Wall Street tycoon, Roger Hertog.
The Philadelphia-based billionaire co-founded Susquehanna International Group (SIG) with his partner, Jeffrey Yass. Their company is now worth $80-billion. Among their biggest score was investing a few million with a Chinese entrepreneur who founded Bytedance, Tik Tok’s holding company. It’s now worth billions.
Yass is the sixth-largest donor to GOP candidates. Before they entered the financial field, they parleyed their college experience as card sharks and their interest in game theory into highly successful careers as professional poker players. New SIG employees are encouraged to learn the tricks of the trade by playing the card game.
Haaretz reported that Moshe Koppel co-founded Kohelet after the latter brought to Dantchik a stock trading algorithm he’d developed:
…[It] had its gestation as a spontaneous idea during a business meeting. Koppel [the Israel-American co-founder] had developed an algorithm for commercial use in capital market investments. There followed a meeting with a Jewish-American billionaire who had made his fortune in the stock market and showed an interest in the Israeli’s innovation. In a 2019 interview with the religious weekly B’Sheva, Koppel noted that it had emerged in the meeting that he and the businessman had something else in common besides moneymaking algorithms. Indeed, money was perceived as a paltry matter compared to the fate of the Jewish state.
…That was the genesis of the most successful project of the Israeli right in the past decade.
Kohelet became the intellectual architect of the judicial coup. It wrote legislation on behalf of MKs, providing them research, and even writing speeches advancing its political agenda. Its fingerprints are on virtually every major element of the current extremist government’s policies.
The goal of Dantchik and Tikvah is to develop a roadmap toward a free-market, libertarian state and then import it to the US. Though there are already numerous groups in the US marketing this approach including ALEC, the Federalist Society, and Americans for Prosperity, the difference between them and Kohelet is that if it’s imported to the US, it will have a distinctly pro-Israel slant. The funders will be able to boast that Israel offered “proof of concept.” In a similar way, Israel markets its latest weapons systems globally as having been “field-tested” on Palestinians.
American Friends of Kohelet Forum is the primary source of the Israeli group’s funding. Its last IRS 990 from 2019 lists $6.5 million in revenue with a comparable amount of expenditures. It does not account for any of this funding. Presumably, it came from Dantchik and Tikvah Fund. There are no 2020, 2021 or 2022 990 forms filed, which may mean that Kohelet has created a different means of transferring funds to Israel.
Dantchik cuts funding
His decision will devastate Kohelet’s funding. Anyone who dares to fund this enterprise must understand that the Israel putsch against the judiciary is a toxic commodity. Supporting it means supporting Judeo-fascism. Even a far-right ideologue like Dantchik has come to realize this. He released a statement explaining his purported views:
“Throughout my life, I have supported a diverse array of organizations that promote individual liberties and economic freedoms for all people. Nevertheless, when a society becomes dangerously fragmented, people must come together to preserve democracy. I stopped donating to think tanks in Israel, including the Kohelet Policy Forum. I believe what is most critical at this time is for Israel to focus on healing and national unity.”
This is a lie from start to finish. Saying you “support a diverse array of organizations that promote individual liberties and economic freedom” is pathetic. He’s claimed implicitly that supporting libertarian groups will benefit “all people,” by which he means whites and Blacks, rich and poor. But we all know that his program essentially benefits white people and the rich.
As for his realization that Israeli “social has become dangerously fragmented,” one wonders why it took him 31 weeks of protests by millions of Israelis to come to this conclusion. As for “coming together to preserve democracy,” this too is ludicrous. If he really wants to do so, he should invest in the organizations opposing the coup.
The truth is that Dantchik still supports the extremist government’s policies. He just doesn’t want to pay the price for it in lost reputation and lost business opportunities. Just as the current government’s policies are toxic, so are those who fund and support them. In other words, his was a pure business decision masquerading as a principled decision based on democratic values.
Not to mention the repeated protests by Israeli-American pro-democracy activists outside his home and business. They were holding him accountable for destroying their country. He felt the heat and beat a hasty retreat. For now. People like Dantchik don’t just go away. They don’t reform or change their views. They just recalibrate the algorithm and come back stronger than ever. Unfortunately, Israel is likely not done with him. He will come back to haunt it.
Finally, his wish for Israel to “focus on healing and national unity” is an empty slogan. The Israeli far-right uses precisely these terms. They call the country to “come together” and realize that they are “all brothers.” What they don’t say explicitly is that they want to paper over real, critical differences with pablum slogans like national unity. There is no unity. There can be no unity till the government falls and this agenda dies the death it deserves.
Dantchik’s Israeli Fund Buys Up Israeli Court Transcription Companies
Much less well-known, is that Dantchik has bought up companies providing court transcription services in US and UK jurisdictions. He arranged these purchases via his Israeli venture fund, Nili Capital. SIG, whose owners are Yass and Arthur Dantchik, operates through a plethora of subsidiaries and financial vehicles. One of them being Nili Capital Partners. It was formed in 2019, when the principals decided to replace Susquehanna Private Capital’s (SPC) Israeli operation with its new Israeli affiliate.
They may have felt it would be more palatable to Israelis for them to operate via an Israeli company, rather than a US hedge fund. There also may have been regulatory reasons for doing so; or US tax implications for Susquiehanna’s Israeli operations. One clue confirming this is that Nili’s full name is Nili Capital Cayman LTD. The Caymans are a well-known tax-dodge jurisdiction, popular for depositing corporate profits out of the reach of tax authorities in the US or other countries, presumably including Israel.
Among its four major investments are two court transcription service companies. Escriber’s core business is to provide remote transcription services for courtrooms. It was founded by an Israeli who shared Dantchik and Yass’ affinity for poker. It has contracts with various justice departments and other authorities, such as the US Department of Justice, US Tax, and bankruptcy Courts. Since Nili’s 2020 investment, eScriber has purchased three other court transcription companies in the US and UK.
Among its employees is a former Shurat HaDin litigator. The latter is a lawfare organization, founded with the financial support of the Mossad. Shurat HaDin claims its goal is to make “terrorists” and their funders pay through the legal system. In fact, it exploits the courts to promote a pro-Israel, anti-Arab political agenda.
Cornering the market on transcription providers is of enormous benefit to Dantchik and Yass. Knowing the details of DOJ criminal and civil court proceedings allows them to track corporate lawsuits, bankruptcy and tax cases. It offers enormous value to SIG’s trading algorithms. If you are on the prowl for civil or criminal prosecutions of companies and corporate executives; distressed companies; or seek out those which offer lucrative returns, such insider data is gold. For an investment of millions in these two companies–a rounding error in their business dealings–it could reap hundreds of millions in trading profits.
Of course, this investment would offer Nili Capital critical intelligence that its competitors would not have. It enables it to jump ahead of the line of other investors. In the US, such insider information would bring scrutiny and possibly enforcement action from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). In the Wild West of Israeli finance, this will likely pass unnoticed. Except by Nili’s competitors.
Thank you to Matan Rudis, who provided much of the research on Nili and SIG’s Israeli business ventures.