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Really, Milchan, It Was All for Us?

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Arnon Milchan and Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2005.
Arnon Milchan and Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in 2005.Credit: David Silverman/Getty Images

Arnon Milchan — the intelligence agent who allegedly obtained components for Israel’s nuclear project, and also a Hollywood tycoon who’s worth more than $5 billion — demands respect. Milchan has been producing movies in the United States since the late 1970s, with over 130 to his credit.

“Close associates” of his, in mediaspeak, recently characterized Milchan as “a man who has devoted his life to bolstering Israel’s security and prosperity and used his network of contacts to strengthen discreet political ties with countries and leaders worldwide. ... In recent years, he has become an address for assistance to Israel Defense Forces soldiers, the security services and Jewish and Zionist organizations throughout the world, with an open, generous heart and on an unprecedented scale.”

What does Milchan seek to say through this self-portrait, attributed to “close associates”? That he wants respect and power “on an unprecedented scale.” And why did he buy gifts for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife to the tune of some 700,000 shekels ($180,000)? The assumption is that he wanted access to the decision makers. In other words, a bit more respect and power.

He’s a glutton, just like his friends Netanyahu and Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid; they are hungry for honor and power, and Milchan is the essence of both. And just like them, he portrays himself as a great patriot, who puts the state’s welfare above his personal welfare. Like them, he’s a hypocrite and a fake.

He doesn’t consider it obscene to declare that he “has devoted his life to bolstering Israel’s security and prosperity.” Is that really what his life was devoted to while he was producing films, spending most of his time outside of Israel and amassing huge sums of money?

One feels it’s mere chance that he’s the tycoon and Netanyahu is the politician. It could have been the other way around, and nothing would have been different. As long as they have respect and power, and all Israelis owe their lives to them, all’s right with their world.

As proof, he’s “an address for assistance to Israel Defense Forces soldiers.” Why do they need help? Isn’t there enough money in the gargantuan defense budget? And who asked him to help them? Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot? Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman?

He’s the rich uncle from America. He got rich just so he could become our patron. The pleasures of money are nothing but negligible side effects in his life, which has been devoted to “bolstering Israel’s security and prosperity.”

He can’t bear for you to get the impression that he’s just another miserable wheeler-dealer, like Shmuel Dechner from the Holyland Park corruption trial. He doesn’t crave lucre. He craves Zionism.

Really, Milchan, wasn’t your life devoted to bolstering your own security and prosperity? Did you do it all for us?

Milchan’s self-image fits right in with Naftali Bennett-style nationalism. Israel is the Jews’ state, and therefore, it’s every Jew’s state regardless of where he lives and works. The state belongs to Milchan in Hollywood no less than it does to someone who’s lived here continuously for the last 40 years and raised his children here.

Paradoxically, therefore, Zionism encourages emigration. By defining Israel as the state of the Jews, rather than a state of its citizens, it enables Jews to feel that it belongs to them even when they’re in the Diaspora.

In Bennett’s view, a Jew such as Milchan (and after all, from the standpoint of radical Jewish ultranationalism, he’s a Jew above all else, a Jew first and foremost), who’s making money in the United States, is a source of Israeli and Jewish pride, a representative of the Jewish people. He has no existence as an individual in and of himself.

And Milchan agrees. As evidence, it’s not Netanyahu whom he helped, but Israel. Like many Jews in the United States, he supports it even when, from a moral standpoint, it deserves a good slap.

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