Election 2016

Controversial Israel Supporter Funneling Millions Into Clinton Campaign

Massive donations from Haim Saban follow Clinton’s pledge to fight BDS.

Haim Saban pictured in 2013.
Photo Credit: State Department / Public Domain

Recent disclosures show media mogul and controversial Israel supporter Haim Saban is pouring millions of dollars into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid.

Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl together contributed $5 million to the Hillary Clinton Super PAC—Priorities USA Action—between 2015 and 2016 alone, according to disclosures available on OpenSecrets.org, affiliated with the Center for Responsive Politics.

While the contributions are not surprising from long-time Clinton-backers, $3 million of them notably poured in after the presidential hopeful authored a letter to Haim Saban in July of 2015, seeking advice on "how we can work together” to defeat the growing movement to Boycott, Divest from, and Sanction (BDS) Israel.

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In the note, Clinton touted her record of defending Israel “at every turn,” including her obstruction of efforts to hold Israel accountable for war crimes. “I have opposed dozens of anti-Israel resolutions at the UN, the Human Rights Council, and other International organizations,” she wrote.

“I condemned the biased Goldstone Report, making it clear that Israel must be allowed to defend itself like any other country,” Clinton continued, referencing a United Nations fact-finding mission into Israel’s December 2008 to January 2009 military assault on Gaza that killed more than 1,400 Palestinians.

"I know you agree that we need to make countering BDS a priority," Clinton continued in the letter, which was released by Saban to the press.

Palestinian civil society organizations issued the call for BDS in 2005, seeking global backing for their efforts to win human rights and self-determination using tactics similar to those employed to transform apartheid South Africa.

The movement’s growing power has attracted fierce blowback, including from Saban, co-owner and chairman of Univision and one of the top donors to the Democratic party under both the Obama and Clinton administrations. The Sabans’ newly-disclosed contributions to Priorities USA Action are nothing new, as the couple has shelled out at least $10 million of their own money to the Clinton Foundation, and Cheryl sits on the institution’s board.

Saban has been open about his singular political motive, telling the New Yorker in 2010, “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel.” He and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson once even weighed the possibility of buying the New York Times, which they dubiously claimed was too hostile to Israel. Saban has funneled his fortune into building up the Democratic National Committee headquarters, as well as the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brooking’s Institute.

As journalist Nora Barrows-Friedman noted in September, Saban joined forces with Sheldon Adelson to pour millions of dollars into pro pro-Israel organizations at U.S. universities  with the “explicit intent of suppressing Palestine rights-based organizing.” Saban has since pulled from the joint campaign with Adelson and redirected his focus to getting Clinton elected, as AlterNet’s Max Blumenthal and Julia Carmel reported in October.

The latest disclosures indicate Saban is sparing no expense in his efforts to secure Clinton the presidency.

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Sarah Lazare was a former staff writer for AlterNet and Common Dreams. She coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.