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3 Big Romney Donors Enthralled With Israeli Militarism and Occupation

Mitt Romney's Jerusalem fundraiser will capture headlines, but donors who love the expansionist Israeli government have long provided cash to fuel Romney’s presidential run.
 
 
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Sheldon Adelson

 
 
 
 

Mitt Romney is taking his show on the road. After humiliating himself in London, the next stop will be Israel. Romney is scheduled to arrive in the country on July 29, and will waste no time getting down to the business of fundraising for his presidential campaign. 

On the morning of July 30, a fundraiser with Jewish donors will be held at the famous King David hotel in Jerusalem. But while the event will capture headlines for the moment, donors with feelings of love for a militaristic, expansionist Israeli government have long been providing cash to fuel Romney’s presidential ambitions.
 
These donors, some Jewish and others right-wing Christians, are determined to kick President Barack Obama out of the White House for what they see as his hostile policy towards Israel. This,despite the fact that Obama has backed Israel “in a way that could hardly be compared to any previous administration,” according to the Israeli defense minister. But donors are giving money to the Romney camp to ensure that no public criticism of Israeli settlements is voiced and that the Netanyahu government has a free hand to deal with Iran as it pleases. 
 
Here’s a look at three of Romney's donors who are forking over boatloads of cash with Israel in mind.
 
1. Sheldon Adelson
 
Perhaps the most notorious Republican donor of 2012, this casino mogul propped up Newt Gingrich’s ill-fated run in the GOP primaries with millions of dollars in donations to the candidate’s super PAC. When Gingrich foundered in the primaries, Adelson turned to Romney, meeting with the candidate in Las Vegas in May and donating $10 million to the pro-Romney Restore Our Future super PAC in June. Adelson, who is worth $25 billion and is under investigation by the US government for alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, has reportedly pledged to give Romney’s campaign up to $100 million.
 
Adelson lines up with Romney’s pro-business, anti-union line. But in addition to vehemently opposing organized labor, Adelson is a major right-wing Zionist who has given millions of dollars to organizations that reflect his ideology. His devotion to Israel was best summed up in a 2010 speech he gave to an Israeli group, in which he said he wished he served in the Israeli army, rather than the US military. Adelson also said, “All we care about is being good Zionists, being good citizens of Israel, because even though I am not Israeli-born, Israel is in my heart.”
 
In late 2011, Adelson told a group of teenagers in Israel for a Birthright tour that Newt Gingrich was right when he called Palestinians an “invented people,” and went on to urge students to “speak in support of Israel – don’t let Muslim student organizations take over the campuses.” 
 
Adelson has given Birthright, which sends teenagers on free trips to Israel to inculcate a new generation of Israel lovers, tens of millions of dollars over the years. In addition to funding Birthright, Adelson has provided money to the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee, the nation’s premier Israel lobby group (although he broke with AIPAC after it supported economic aid to the Palestinian Authority); the Zionist Organization of America, a far-right group that ardently supports Israel’s illegal West Bank settlement project; One Jerusalem, an advocacy group that supports Israel’s unilateral annexation of the holy city; and the Republican Jewish Coalition. 
 
But perhaps even more importantly, Adelson has made a name for himself in Israeli politics. He is a close ally of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, and founded a free Israeli daily that is close to Netanyahu and the Likud Party. The paper, Israel HaYom, is the most widely read in Israel. Adelson also shares the prime minister’s penchant for demonizing Iran, an editorial line that is often apparent in Adelson’s paper. 
 
2. Foster Friess
 
Friess, an evangelical Christian, made his fortune in finance, and was the money man behind Rick Santorum’s presidential campaign. Friess donated over $1.5 million to Santorum’s super PAC, the Red, White and Blue Fund. But when Santorum dropped out, Friess pledged his support for Romney, and has given the pro-Romney super PAC a “substantial” amount of money--though he won’t disclose how much. 
 
Part of the reason why he bankrolled the Santorum campaign was that candidate’s hawkish support for Israel and enthusiasm for overthrowing the Iranian government. Friess shares those views, which differ little from Romney’s. 
 
In 2008, an anti-Muslim film called Obsession: Radical Islam’s War Against the West, was sent to nearly 30 million households in swing states. The hope was that the film would turn voters against Obama. Put out by the Clarion Fund, a nonprofit with links to Israeli settlers, the film claims to show how “radical Islam” seeks to “bow Western Civilization under the yoke of its values.” It was widely criticized as inflammatory and Islamophobic. But that didn’t matter to Friess. In 2006, he recorded a YouTube video urging people to buy the film. Friess claimed that “radical jihadists” shared four agendas, one of which was to “destroy Israel and kill as many Jews in the process as possible.” 
 
Friess is also particularly focused on Iran, much like the current Israeli government and the Romney campaign. The  Guardian reported that Friess “champions Santorum's controversial Iran Freedom and Support Act, which passed in 2006 and appropriated $10m to be spent supporting groups opposed to the Iranian government.” That bill was strongly supported by AIPAC, which called it “a bipartisan bill that strengthens sanctions against investment in Iran to choke off funds that the Islamic republic could use to build nuclear weapons.” 
 
The financial investor also gave money to Zuhdi Jasser, a Muslim activist who is a darling of the right-wing. Jasser spends his time attacking mainstream Muslim organizations, and was the narrator of the sequel to Obsession, also an Islamophobic flick that posits that Muslim groups in the US have a secret agenda to impose Islamic law. Jasser is also staunchly supportive of Israel. 
 
3. Irving Moskowitz
 
This wealthy gambling mogul made his fortune primarily by buying and selling hospitals, and is the owner of the Hawaiian Gardens bingo parlor. Now, he’s using some of that money to help out the Romney campaign. In April, the Huffington Post reported that Moskowitz gave Karl Rove’s super PAC, American Crossroads, a million dollars. American Crossroads is a Republican-aligned group that raises money on behalf of GOP candidates. 
 
Although Moskowitz has long funded Republican politicians, the price tag of this particular donation was eye-catching. It was, according to the Huffington Post, his “biggest contribution to U.S. electoral politics to date.” 
 
Moskowitz is a key funder of a number of initiatives that aim to strengthen Israel’s settlement project in Jerusalem. Israel captured Jerusalem as part of the Six-Day War in 1967, and officially declared the city as its capital in 1980--a move that has never been recognized by the international community. Following Israel’s capture of Jerusalem, Israeli settlements were built in and around the city, leading to the evictions of many Palestinian residents. Moskowitz has been a major player in this process.
 
Dating back to the 1980s, Moskowitz has purchased land in occupied East Jerusalem to make way for illegal Israeli settlements. Moskowitz is the owner of the historic Shepherd Hotel in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, and began to demolish parts of the landmark in 2011 to make way for a new settlement. International condemnation poured in over Moskowitz’s decision. 
 
Moskowitz has shoveled money into the controversial group Ateret Cohanim, a settler organization that has aggressively bought up property in occupied East Jerusalem and evicted Palestinians living there. The group’s religious ideology is also scary. As the Los Angeles Times reported, “Ateret Cohanim members believe that the rebuilding of the [destroyed Jewish] temple, and the coming of the messiah, are imminent. But that would mean tearing down the third-holiest site in the Islamic world, the Dome of the Rock and Al Aqsa Mosque, built over the temple ruins.” 
 
Yet another group Moskowitz has given money to is the Central Fund of Israel, which the New York Times has described as a multimillion-dollar “vehicle” used to “channel donations” to West Bank settlements. Among the entities the Central Fund has given to is a notorious yeshiva in the West Bank settlement Yitzhar called Od Yosef Chai Shechem. The rabbi of this yeshiva, as the Huffington Post’s Paul Blumenthal writes, “wrote a book justifying the killing of Palestinian babies because of ‘the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.’"
 

Alex Kane is AlterNet's New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.