In the organized Jewish world, billionaires – no matter how objectionable – are lauded and courted.
Sheldon Adelson is no exception.
His high profile, embarrassing attempts to buy the American electoral process are reviled behind the closed doors of many Jewish federations and Jewish charities. But publicly, Adelson is praised for his donations to Jewish causes. The criticism he so richly deserves is absent, because the federations and the charities want a shot at getting some of Adelson’s money.
Israel has strict laws governing campaign donations from non-Israelis. The law has been skirted in years past. But to do in Israel what he’s done in America, Adelson would have to hold Israeli citizenship.
So the billionaire found another way to shape Israel’s political landscape, and with it the political landscape of Jewish communities worldwide.
He used the Chinese method of illegal trade to legally weaken and in some cases destroy the Israeli media.
The JTA reports:
…The past few months have seen an implosion of the Hebrew press. Maariv, a tabloid founded in 1948 and for its first 20 years Israel’s largest circulation daily, recently was placed in the hands of a court-appointed trustee and could shut down within weeks, leaving 2,000 people jobless. Haaretz, Israel’s leading broadsheet, did not print on Oct. 4 due to a staff protest of 100 proposed layoffs. Israel’s Channel 10 TV is in deep debt to the government and faces possible closure.
Many in Israel blame Israel Hayom, a staunchly conservative, freely distributed paper funded by American casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, for aggravating the crisis in Hebrew media.
The tough environment “is exacerbated by the fact that in Israel we have the most generously funded free newspaper in the world,” said Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz, who before starting the site in February was editor in chief of The Jerusalem Post. “That’s made life hard for all the publications in Israel.”
The boom in English-language media in Israel is due in part to the limited audience for Hebrew-language news: Israel has fewer than eight million citizens, many of whom prefer the Arabic or Russian press to the Hebrew dailies. Editors of English publications here say Israeli media are looking for audiences overseas to sustain their operations, and there appears to be a limitless appetite around the world for news and opinion on Israel.
“There’s an audience for news coming out of the Jewish world,” said David Brinn, managing editor of The Jerusalem Post. And because most news content is free online, people interested in Israel news will visit any number of news sites — so new publications do not necessarily threaten older ones, Brinn said.…
Adelson put out a free daily newspaper to compete with Israel’s established media, a paper with a real (if very politically slanted) reporting staff, a paper that is not ad driven and has no real pressure to make money.
In effect, he gave away free t-shirts, jeans and hoodies at Walmart until most American t-shirt, jeans and hoodie manufacturers went bankrupt, giving Walmart a near monopoly.
But in this case, Walmart is Israel’s political right wing.
Adelson is an oligarch, a man who benefited from shady dealings with foreign governments, dealings that have made Adelson exceedingly wealthy – and many of his competitors and customers exceedingly poor.
Adelson also allegedly has ties with Chinese organized crime and is alleged to have laundered money for them along with promoting prostitution and violating a slew of American laws in the process.
If Adelson’s money turns out to be dirty – and I suspect that will eventually be the case – that would mean Mob money unduly influenced America’s elections and Israel’s social fabric and political landscape.
But even if Adelson’s money is clean, Adelson isn’t. He may not be a criminal under law, but he is still a malevolent actor seeking to buy election results and manipulate public opinion in a country he doesn’t even live in.
Thirty or forty years ago, someone behaving like Sheldon Adelson would have been almost universally ridiculed.
Today Adelson is treated like a king.
Money buys Sheldon Adelson many things.
Lets hope that the US election and the State Israel are not among them.