Hillary Clinton has openly courted the US Jewish vote - but the consequences could be severe

Whilst Clinton has been decidedly pro-Israeli and anti-boycott throughout her campaign, Sanders has paid a price for saying that US policy in the Middle East should be even-handed

Robert Fisk
Thursday 05 May 2016 14:56 BST
Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl contributed $3 million to the Hillary Clinton Super Political Action Committee
Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl contributed $3 million to the Hillary Clinton Super Political Action Committee

First to Israel, which – unlike the sea-to-shining-sea hinterland of the American media – really can be a “land of the free” for its journalists. Gideon Levy, the deeply inspiring, admired and much hated columnist on Haaretz newspaper, has written an outraged attack on the 83 US senators who urged Obama in this glorious election year to increase yet again Washington’s military aid to Israel – by more than the present $3bn a year. “Ignoramuses,” Levy calls them and adds that their letter to the American president is “a disgrace”.

And when you realise that Gideon Levy is verbally assaulted by the pro-Israel lobby in the US almost as much as he is threatened by Israelis themselves, you know you’re talking about a man whose words will be treated with as much scorn by the present Obama administration as they will be by the next Clinton administration. “Your money, senators, is largely being spent on maintaining a brutal, illegal occupation that your country claims to oppose – but finances,” Levy has told the most powerful forum on the globe. “What do you have over there in the world’s most important legislature? An automatic signing machine for letters supporting Israel? An ATM for the Jewish lobby’s every whim?”

You can almost hear Clinton’s cry of horror because, in just over a week’s time, her ‘Jewish Outreach Director’, Sarah Bard, who worked for Clinton during her unsuccessful attempt at the presidency in 2008, is going to hold a fundraiser in Tel Aviv (tickets start at $45 and run up to more than $2,000). Bard is going to hold a “discussion” which is “in support of Hillary for America”. Clinton, it will be remembered, opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign against Israel. No surprise there. But shortly after she asked the Israeli-American media mogul Haim Saban to advise her on how “we can work together” against the boycott, Saban and his wife Cheryl contributed $3m to the Hillary Clinton Super Political Action Committee. The Sabans have already given more than $10m to the Clinton Foundation – purely a “philanthropic” institution, you understand, nothing to do with La Clinton’s presidential ambitions. Cheryl Saban is on the foundation’s board.

Sanders rallies in Louisville ahead of Kentucky primary

The Sabans’ contribution to the foundation did not go unnoticed at the State Department. Only weeks after Hillary Clinton became secretary of state under Obama, the department’s “ethics adviser” – maybe the UK government could do with one of those – objected to a proposed consultancy arrangement offered to Bill Clinton by Haim Saban on the grounds of conflict of interest, stating in a memo that his objection was “based on the fact that Haim Saban, a founder of this entity, is actively involved in foreign affairs issues, particularly as regards to the Middle East [sic]...”

What is worth noting is that almost all the above information about the financial relationship between the Clintons and Israel’s supporters was dug up and published by Jewish American journalists. Jillian Kay Melchior in the National Review and JJ Goldberg, editor-at-large of Forward, are essential reading during this US election year; for America’s Jewish voters are not as united as Israel might wish, and you can see how Bernie Sanders’ criticism of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and “disproportionate” attacks on Gaza were not necessarily going to doom him in the elections. Sanders “paid a price among Jews, but not a huge one”, according to one analyst, for saying that US policy in the Middle East should be even-handed.

Again, it was a Jewish academic – Norman Finkelstein, another noble soul like Gideon Levy – who has been pointing out that Sanders, the first Jewish presidential candidate in US history, has been “sweeping the Arab vote” in all the primaries and “forged a principled alliance with Arabs and Muslims”. Sanders – “our Corbyn,” as Finkelstein sharply notes – is now going to be the victim of Donald Trump’s Republican candidacy, on the grounds that Clinton is the only Democrat sure to be a presidential winner.

But this means she’s going to show even more subservience to Israel. When Jake Sullivan, her gofer and advisor, was asked last month for Clinton’s views on the Jewish colonisation of Arab land, he responded as follows: “What she said about settlements is that she believes that everybody has to do their part to avoid damaging actions [sic], and that includes with respect to settlements. Secretary Clinton comes out on the partisan tradition on this issue...with respect to her view on the settlement issue.” All that was missing in this verbal falafel was the word ‘Israel’. Sullivan didn’t even want to associate Clinton’s policy with the people actually building these ‘settlements’.

But Trump must now surely put in his bid as Israel’s best friend, outdoing even Clinton’s love-in with the Sabans, her unconditional support for Israel and hatred of the boycott campaign. As for Gideon Levy, he wrote that “only 17 of the 100 senators were courageous enough or bothered to think for a moment before they signed another scandalous venture by [the largest Israeli lobby group] AIPAC and the Israeli embassy.” The senators' action meant that Israel’s “destructive, murderous force will fall again on devastated houses in Gaza, and America will finance it all again.” One of the ‘courageous’ 17 senators, of course, was Bernie Sanders. Now Trump’s going to burn him – and we’ll have Clinton to support the ‘ignoramuses’.

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