Sheldon Adelsons Culture of Hate

If anyone said about Jews what the American Jewish billionaire says about Palestinians, hed be considered a Jew-hater in the same league as Farrakhan and Ahmadinejad.

Peter Beinart
Peter Beinart
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Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson,
Casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, Credit: AP
Peter Beinart
Peter Beinart

Imagine this. Hillary Clinton, Andrew Cuomo, Elizabeth Warren and multiple lesser Democratic notables travel halfway across the country to kiss the ring of a Palestinian-American billionaire who has shown himself willing to spend tens of millions of dollars subsidizing presidential campaigns.

The billionaire has some provocative views. Six months earlier, he suggested that if Israel does not end its nuclear weapons program, America should drop an atomic weaponin the middle of the [Negev] desert that doesnt hurt a soul. If that doesnt work, America should drop the next onein the middle of Tel Aviv.

The billionaire insists that there is no such thing as the Jewish people. Its a hoax; the Jews have fooled the world very successfully. And he declares that There isnt a Jew alive who wasnt raised on a curriculum of hatred and hostility toward the Palestinians.

Change the words Democrat to Republican, Israel to Iran and Palestinian to Jewish, and thats exactly what just happened. Leading contenders for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination spent last weekend wooing and feting a billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, whose views - if directed at Jews—would put him in the company of Louis Farrakhan and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Think Im exaggerating? Lets check the record. Adelson has called for nuking the Iranian desert (which supposedly wouldnt hurt a soul) and then nuking Tehran unless Iran abandons its nuclear weapons program. Im all for Iran abandoning its nuclear weapons program. But how does threatening Tehran with nuclear annihilation make Adelson any different than those Iranians who have threatened to destroy Israel?

Then theres Adelsons view that the Palestinians are an invented people. Again, flip it around. In 2008, when Tel Aviv Universitys Shlomo Sand published a book called The Invention of the Jewish People, he was widely called anti-Semitic. When Adelson says the same about Palestinians, hes a Republican rock star.

This isnt hawkishness. Its hate. Hawks acknowledge that there are divisions among Palestinians, Arabs and Muslims, but argue that, at this moment in time, the forces of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic militancy have the upper hand. For Adelson, by contrast, there are no distinctions. All Palestinians and all Muslims are detestable killers. Its just who they are. There isnt a Palestinian alive who wasnt raised on a curriculum of hatred and hostility toward the Jews, he told the Jewish Press in 2011. "They dont want the Jews or any other religion to be alive, he said in the same interview. The Muslimswant to kill 100 percent of the Jews, he explained last fall. Not all Islamists are terrorists but all the terrorists are Islamists, he opined in 2012.

The ignorance is painful. At times, Adelson seems to suggest that Palestinians are a religion. (They dont want the Jews or any other religion to be alive.) His claim that all the terrorists are Islamists reveals a lack of familiarity with, among others, Timothy McVeigh, Ted Kaczynski, the Klu Klux Klan, the Irish Republican Army, the Tamil Tigers, the Basque National Liberation Movement, the FARC, and the Jewish Defense League. Adelson is on record as admitting that I dont know the difference between the Shia and the Sunnis.

This is what American democracy has come to. Because billionaires can now spend unlimited sums on political campaigns, a primitive old man, who knows almost nothing about Palestinians and Muslims except that they are all murderous savages, can summon the leading Republican presidential candidates to his casino and make them grovel for his affections. Although there were several hundred people in the audience last weekend in Las Vegas, the Washington Post reported that Ohio Governor John Kasich frequently directed his remarks to Sheldon in his speech, as if he were having a one-on-one chat.

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker volunteered that during Hannukah, he lights a menorah at the governors mansion. New Jersey Governor Chris Christie urged America to be Israels unquestioning friend. Then he slipped up by calling the West Bank the occupied territories (the same term long used by the United States government), before offering Adelson a heartfelt apology.

Luckily, at times like these, we have Jon Stewart, who suggested that instead of Occupied Territories, Adelson would have preferred Israel-in-waiting or Palestinian Terror Emporium. In watching American Jewish politics today, its important to be able to laugh. Otherwise the shame might be too much to bear.

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