Letters to the Editor: The Real News From the Israeli-American Council Conference

Israeli-Americans backed by Adelson talk back about Haaretz coverage of conference

Sheldon and Miriam Adelson at an IAC conference in D.C.
File photo: Sheldon and Miriam Adelson at an IAC conference in D.C. Perry Bindelglass

The real news from IAC conference

In response to “Adelson has hijacked the Israeli-American community for his hard-right agenda,” (Chemi Shalev, Haaretz.com, November 7).

Scanning through the long list of participants at the IAC 4th Annual National Conference, I could not find Chemi Shalev’s name. Perhaps this is why his account of our event depicted an alternate reality from what was actually experienced by more than 2,700 Israeli- and Jewish-Americans, heads of major organizations, thought leaders and social entrepreneurs. His attempt to portray our leaders – and our tens of thousands of community members – as “naïve” is a transparent attack offered without support.

The IAC mission is first and foremost community building. This has always been our core business. It still is.

It has always represented a diversity of political views. If Chemi had attended the conference, he would have easily noticed that the audience passionately supported speakers advocating political views on the left and the right. The members of our community were not surprised, as they know that the IAC’s leaders and community members have views that span the political spectrum. If we choose one perspective over the other, we will destroy the chances for a united, coast-to-coast community.

Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, who have driven the rapid growth of the IAC from a local organization into a nationwide movement, believe strongly in the same notion of bipartisanship. During the conference, Sheldon Adelson said: “Whether we’re to the left, right, center, or whatever, we’re one [Jewish] people. We have one home [Israel] and we advocate for that one home unequivocally.”

Looking out at the large audience in the DC Convention Center, Sheldon compared the IAC’s very quick expansion to the rapid growth of another organization in its early days: AIPAC. This was a compliment to the IAC, not an attack on AIPAC. Any attempt to describe our organizations as rivals is simply ridiculous.

Shoham Nicolet,
CEO, Israeli-American Council

Israeli-Americans think for themselves

Covering the Israeli-American Council (IAC) convention, Chemi Shalev offers an account of the Israeli-Americans as “naive” people, who have been “duped” by the “feisty Las Vegas billionaire” who plans to use us as a “private lobby at his command.” “For cash strapped programs and homesick Israelis seeking a genuine taste of home, the IAC’s galas and activities were irresistible ...” explains Shalev, insultingly.

His piece concludes by misquoting Dr. Miriam Adelson, supposedly referring to the audience as “our soldiers.” What Dr. Miriam Adelson actually did was to offer herself as an example to other Israeli expats looking to make a valuable contribution, comparing her advocacy work to her service in the IDF “as a soldier, defending Israel.”

The Adelsons have not hijacked but rather adopted the community.

Many of us, including in the IAC leadership, may hold opinions which are “diametrically opposed” to theirs, yet we find it uncomplicated to accept their generosity with genuine gratitude. We may or may not agree on the Palestine question, taxation, health care, climate change or Donald Trump, but we share a basic love for the Israeli community in Israel and abroad.

Mr. Shalev’s “hijacking” thesis misses the actual dynamics. For people who are worried about sending their children into American universities to be met by “apartheid wall” displays, the unequivocal friendship of the Adelsons is welcome.

Yoav Gal