The stars came out in Hollywood on November 2nd, or at least some of them did. The gala event celebrated the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) and raised funds to support its mission in Israel itself and on the occupied West Bank. The organization being fêted was the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF), which has fourteen regional offices in the United States and operates under the slogan “Their job is to look after Israel. Our job is to look after them.” In attendance were Arnold Schwarzenegger and actor Gerald Butler. Entertainment was provided by the singer Seal.
Hollywood Jewish royalty was thick on the ground, the grub was strictly kosher and billionaires competed to see who could give the most to such a worthy cause. The 1,200 attendees at the Beverly Hilton Hotel donated a record $53.8 million, with Oracle founder Larry Ellison leading the pack with a contribution of $16.6 million. Israeli media mogul Haim Saban, Hillary Clinton’s most generous supporter, served as host of the event and donated $5 million. Two weeks ago, a similar gathering of 1,200 in New York City dubbed “A Night of Heroes,” attended by GOP major donor casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, raised $35 million, $7 million coming from Adelson personally. FIDF reportedly was sitting on $190 million in contributions for the year before the Hollywood and New York events.
Donations to FIDF are tax deductible as the organization is registered with the U.S. Treasury as a 501(c)3 educational and charitable non-profit foundation. One might well ask how it is possible that the American taxpayer should subsidize a foreign military organization that is regularly accused of war crimes in its ongoing brutal and genocidal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem? One might also wonder how an organization that continues a military occupation in opposition to multiple United Nations resolutions that have been endorsed by Washington gets any kind of tax break at all? And finally, one might reasonably ask why an organization that already gets in excess of $3.8 billion annually directly from the U.S. Treasury needs more money to allegedly provide creature comforts for its soldiers?
The answer to all of the above would be that Jewish power in the United States makes it happen. But more particularly, it is Jewish money that does the trick since cash on the table provides access both to the media and to the people that matter in Washington. A tight circle of billionaire oligarchs, including Saban, Ellison and Adelson as well as Paul Singer and Bernard Marcus directly support organizations like FIDF as well as major pro-Israel groups like the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, the America Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, the Anti-Defamation League and the Jewish Institute for National Security of America. The billionaires are not shy about where their loyalty lies, boasting as does Saban, that he is a one issue guy and that issue is Israel. Adelson has stated that he wishes that he had served in the Israeli army instead of the U.S. military and wants his son to grow up to “be a sniper for the IDF.” Both have publicly advocated bombing Iran. In Adelson’s case, the bomb would be nuclear.
Sometimes both the Israel agenda and the financial support is deliberately hidden, as in the case of the recently launched “Christian engagement in the Middle East” anti-Iran Philos Project, which was funded by Singer. The billionaires also directly donate to the campaigns of politicians and support projects that engage in the message management that is used to justify pro-Israel policies in Congress and the media.
Much of the current agitation to “do something” about Iran comes, for example, from these groups and media assets. In truth, American aid to Israel has become virtually untouchable and is something like a goose that keeps on laying golden eggs. The operation of “The Lobby,” generally regarded as the most powerful voice on foreign policy in Washington, led Professors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer to ask, “Why has the U.S. been willing to set aside its own security … in order to advance the interests of another state? [No] explanation can account for the remarkable level of material and diplomatic support that the U.S. provides.” They observed that “Other special interest groups have managed to skew foreign policy, but no lobby has managed to divert it as far from what the national interest would suggest, while simultaneously convincing Americans that U.S. interests and those of the other country—in this case, Israel—are essentially identical.”
The money committed by the Jewish oligarchs on behalf of Israel has turned out to be a good investment, returning billions for millions spent. Since the foundation of the state of Israel in 1948, it has been “the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II,” according to the Congressional Research Service. The United States has provided Israel with $233.7 billion in adjusted for inflation aid between 1948 through the end of 2012, reports Haaretz.
The $38 billion over ten years in military assistance that the Obama recently promised to Israel is far less than what will actually be received from the United States Treasury and from other American sources, including handouts from Congress. To cite only one recent example, in September Congressman Alcee Hastings proposed a legislative amendment that would give $12 million to help settle Israel’s Ethiopian community. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), speaking in the most recent legislative discussion over Israeli aid, stated that the $38 billion should be regarded as a minimum amount, and that Congress should approve additional funds for Israeli defense as needed.
At its most recent meeting in March 2017, AIPAC announced the latest windfall from America, applauding “the U.S. House of Representatives for significantly bolstering its support of U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation in the FY 2017 defense appropriations bill. The House appropriated $600.7 million for U.S.-Israel missile defense programs.” And there is a long history of such special funding for Israeli-connected projects. The Iron Dome missile-defense system was largely funded by the United States, to the tune of more than $1 billion. In the 1980s, the Israeli Lavi jet-fighter development program was funded by Washington, costing $2 billion to the U.S. taxpayer before it was terminated over technical and other problems, part of $5.45 billion in Pentagon funding of various Israeli weapons projects through 2002.
How Israel gets money from the United States Treasury is actually quite complex and not very transparent to the American public, going well beyond the check for $3.8 billion handed over at the beginning of the fiscal year on October 1st. Even that check, uniquely given to aid recipient Israel as one lump sum on the first day of the year, is manipulated to produce extra revenue. It is normally immediately redeposited with the U.S. Treasury, which then, because it operates on a deficit, borrows the money to pay interest on it as the Israelis draw it down. That interest payment costs the American taxpayer an estimated $100 million more per year. Israel has also been adept at using “loan guarantees,” an issue that may have contributed to the downfall of President George H.W. Bush. The reality is that the loans, totaling $42 billion, are never repaid by Israel, meaning that the United States Treasury picks up the tab on principle and interest, a form of additional assistance. The Bush-era loan amounted to $10 billion.
Department of Defense co-production projects, preferential contracting, “scrapping” or “surplusing” of usable equipment that is then turned over to the IDF, as well as the forward deployment of military hardware to an Israeli base, are considerable benefits to Tel Aviv’s bottom line. Much of this assistance is hidden from view.
In September 2012, Israel’s former commander-in-chief, Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, admitted at a conference that between 2009 and 2012 American taxpayers had paid for more of his country’s defense budget than had Israeli taxpayers. Those numbers have been disputed, but the fact remains that a considerable portion of the Israeli military spending comes from the United States. It currently is more than 20 percent of the total $16 billion budget, not counting special appropriations.