Whenever the news described something troublesome, Grandma would wring her hands and ask God that it not be a Jew who was responsible. Life was placid and protected in Fall River, but that was not the case in Bialystok which still fit somewhere in Grandma's conception of home.
It's been close to 50 years since Grandma has been wringing her hands, and I dare not guess how she would vote in this year's presidential election, but I imagine that she would not be happy about a recent article in the New York Times about Sheldon Adelson. The world's most prominent newspaper that has been owned, managed, and, to a considerable extent, staffed by Jews has highlighted what it calls a Jewish "mogul" being the most prominent source of money in the presidential election, and using his considerable wealth to affect the outcome in a direction to affect an issue that is essentially Jewish.
Adelson may be spending as much as $100 million to push things in a way to benefit Israel. He want American Jews to vote the way Jews generally do not vote, especially in swing states with large Jewish minorities, where they might affect the whole shebang.
It's hard to imagine a better advertisement for the Protocols of the Elders of Zion than Sheldon Adelson. A Jew who is enormously wealthy on the basis of gambling enterprises on the fringes of respectability, who does not shrink from publicity about using his wealth for Jewish causes.
Israelis both kvel and kvetch about the man, and might well be worrying if he loses his most prominent gamble.
The kvelling is associated with his heavy bankrolling of Birthright, a program that for some years now has sent tens of thousands to young people with at least some Jewish family connection to Israel for 10 days of tours, lectures, and yiddishkeit.
The kvetching concerns Israel Hayom, Israel's newest and most widely read daily paper, which Adelson bankrolled. It features free distribution, meant to be self-supporting on the basis of ad revenues. The paper is about as right of center as Ha'aretz is left of center. It is as professionally respectable as Ha'aretz, with decent reportage and writing, and well known columnists. Personable agents in casual uniforms pass out the paper at prominent bus stops, shopping centers, and other points with high pedestrian traffic. There is an Internet edition in English.
While Ha'aretz is sure to feature stories about the suffering of Palestinians and less fortunate Israelis, and seldom finds anything to praise in the activities of Benyamin Netanyahu, Israel Hayom is prominent in its support of Netanyahu, and describes nice things happening in Israel that have no chance of finding mention in Ha'aretz. Left of center critics refer to Israel Hayom as Pravda. Its tilt extends to Sara Netanyahu. A prominent article, with an attractive picture of the woman Ha'aretz is likely to caricature as a harridan, carried the headline, "Lillian Peretz spills my blood in the media." It dealt with a court action brought by a household helper, described in detail Mss Netanyahu's defense, and did not describe the charges claimed by Mss Peretz.
The Israeli (and Jewish?) worry about Adelson is what may come from bankrolling a candidate who is by no means a sure thing. A popular Internet betting site has the odds at 57-40 in favor of Obama. Israeli polls about Obama tend in the opposite direction, but not overwhelmingly so, and change with events. Surveys find that Israelis have a favorable image of him, but do not think he is as supportive of Israeli interests as he should be.
In the event that some of those reading this note ascribe to the Protocols, it is appropriate to note that only a small minority of Israelis are also American citizens who vote as absentees in American elections. I abstain, as a matter of principal, insofar as my greater identity is here. This country provides me enough opportunities to act politically. I do not refrain from expressing myself about the United States, to the anguish of some readers, but that remains my right as a residual American and citizen of a democratic country that respects free expression.
Overseas Jews have no more rights in Israeli politics than overseas individuals who are not Jews. Those who have acquired Israeli citizenship here and then moved away can vote here only if they travel to their home polling place on election day. A few do that in the exercise of what they feel is important.
Is Sheldon Adelson is good for the Jews?
I'll leave to others to argue whether his political donations' fall within American and Israeli regulations.
Adelson fits in the long tradition of court Jews, using their wealth to gain access to whoever is ruling in order to benefit the Jewish community.
Where Adelson differs from Jewish traditions is in making his wealth felt in front of the curtains rather than behind them.
Will Obama punish Israel on account of Adelson's prominent support of Romney? With something like 70 percent of Jews still loyal Democrats that hardly seems likely. No doubt some critics will accuse Jews of seeking undue influence. Publicity about his activities may be unavoidable. Considerable contributions for education and health in his American home towns gain him credit with Gentiles as well as Jews. His support for right of center politicians in the United States and Israel may be kosher, but its extent and prominence justify some concern, and thoughts of hand wringing.
Ira Sharkansky (Emeritus)
Department of Political Science
Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Posted by Ira Sharkansky at July 26, 2012 04:06 AM