Freedom’s Watch and “Strong Supporters of Israel”

In an article that expands our knowledge base about the anything-but-grassroots “Freedom’s Watch” (about which I have posted here and here), Paul Kane and Jonathan Weisman wrote about its ambitions — among other things, to raise $250 million this year to become the right-wing answer to — in the Washington Post Sunday. The article noted that the group, after focusing its initial work on Iraq and Middle East policy, is now running “aggressively negative anti-illegal-immigration ads” on behalf of Republican candidates.

As has been previously reported, the group was conceived at a meeting last March of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) and the Post article tends to confirm the notion that it is a kind of RJC project. But, apart from the article’s substance, what I found most provocative about the article was one particular paragraph toward the end in which the authors wrote: “Many in Freedom [sic] Watch’s donor base — including [multi-billionaire Sheldon] Adelson, the chairman and chief executive of the Last Vegas Sands Corp. [about whom the New York Times published a profile just last week] and [former Amb. Mel] Sembler, the strip-mall magnate from St. Petersburg, Fla. — have always been strong supporters of Israel. The group’s initial ad blitz in defense of Bush’s troops buildup in Iraq came naturally out of those interests.” I found this paragraph compelling for two reasons.

First, the latter sentence makes a connection that the mainstream media has almost entirely ignored and that remains somewhat taboo — the connection between the Iraq War and “support” for Israel . (I have long contended that, along with the kind of global geo-strategic thinking that first came to public attention in the leaked 1992 draft Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) overseen by then-Undersecretary of Defense for Policy, Paul Wolfowitz, and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the main impetus for war — at least, for the neo-conservatives around Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld both inside and outside the administration — was tilting the balance of power in the Middle East decisively in favor of Israel.) Unfortunately, having asserted this very controversial — if rarely voiced — connection, the Post article does not elaborate precisely how Freedom’s Watch’s backing for the “Surge” arose from its “support” for Israel. It’s as if the Post believes that the connection is common knowledge and that no further explanation is needed. Yet the Post, like other mainstream media, has never made clear what the connection between support for Israel and the Iraq War is.

That leads to the second point: the assertion that the Freedom’s Watch’s donor base, including Adelson and Sembler, are “strong supporters of Israel.” I don’t doubt that the group’s donors consider themselves “strong supporters of Israel”, but what precisely is meant by that? If the phrase means supporters of the government of Israel, then it is inaccurate, because the positions of Adelson and other Watch donors on such key questions as Jerusalem, the West Bank — indeed, any territorial compromise — even Annapolis and a two-state solution, are well to the right of the current Israeli government. In fact, Adelson, like most RJC heavyweights, are strong supporters of former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his Likud Party which, the last time I checked, constituted the government’s chief political opposition and is maneuvering to bring it down. So, if they oppose the current government of Israel, in what way are they “strong supporters of Israel?”

This kind of journalistic shorthand — associating neo-conservatives and their organizations like the RJC and Freedom’s Watch — with being ”pro-Israel” or “strong supporters of Israel” — is unfortunately pervasive in the mainstream media. It is not only inaccurate; it is also dangerous. It implies that neo-conservatives have Israel’s best interests at heart, which, as in the case of the Iraq war (and last summer’s conflict with Hezbollah) and in so many other instances, is demonstrably not the case. It also puts those individuals or organizations — particularly in the American Jewish community — that are very concerned about Israel but that believe that the neo-conservatives have actually undermined the country’s security in a kind of political limbo. After all, if Adelson, Freedom’s Watch, and the RJC are considered “pro-Israel” or “strong supporters of Israel,” what does that make Americans for Peace Now or the Israel Policy Forum, both of which consider themselves “pro-Israel” and “strong supporters of Israel” but also believe, contrary to hard-line neo-conservatives, that a two-state solution with major territorial compromises that include East Jerusalem are the only way to ensure Israel’s security and long-term survival?

This kind of lazy journalistic labeling has very real and very unfortunate political consequences.

Jim Lobe

Jim Lobe served for some 30 years as the Washington DC bureau chief for Inter Press Service and is best known for his coverage of U.S. foreign policy and the influence of the neoconservative movement.



  1. Jim,
    Freedom Watch is only another head of the Hydra that is the Zealotry of Israeli-americans, (small “a” intentional), enthralled by Lord Acton’s horribly true dictum about Power. And when the “Power” in question is conned or stolen, the infamous Dictum proves to be even mor applicable. These Zealots will attack Islam to the last coin in the US treasury and to the last drop of American blood and influence. It is the age-old curse of Israel to be ever endangered and destroyed by her Zealots. Real “Friends of Israel” would have forced a two state settlement a generation ago. These fanatics still haven’t got it. Masada wasn’t a victory. As for as anti-Israeli sentiment rising in the US, it’s a little late for that. As more of the perfidy of Israel and Israeli-americans is unearthed, and it surely will be, Israel will surely lose its last friend in the world…a US so angry to have been so conned and looted, that the fate of Israel will become a foregone conclusion…abandoned by her only friend, marginalized in power and Influence in an area where she is universally despised and scorned, sitting on her little pile of stolen nukes, relegated to a fate of internal dissention that will be the laughingstock of the world she so wished to impress, and which she will never, in the foreseeable future, be allowed to join.
    And it could all have been so different. She could have been a “Light unto the Arabs” in ways that the Parsees were to India.
    Alas, the same old story that has always plaqued Israel. Remember, folks. Even in ancient Egypt, the Joseph precedes Moses. Did you ever wonder why the lot of Hebrews worsened in the Pharoah’s court….Just a thought.

  2. Given the horrible and inhumane treatment being dished out to the Palestinians, especially now in the Gaza, one is hard pressed to know what appreciable difference there might be in a restored Likud government and the current government?

    The dismal record of Israel’s occupation proves Israel has no inherent or moral right to exist beyond the borders agreed to in 1948. It is in Israel’s ‘real’ interest to withdraw to these borders.

  3. Supporters of the far-right wing in the US and Israel is how I label them. Supporters of Greater Israel is accurate, but most Americans haven’t thought about the ramifications of US/Israeli far-right wing. Those who have are in favor of it. Everyone knows what the far-right wing is. Most people connect it with fascism and Nazism, which is correct.

  4. I like Basil’s trenchant label. Another formulation might be “supporters of the Israeli hegemon”, or a “…hegemonic Israel”, etc. Truth in advertising, no?

  5. Basil:
    How about, “Enemies of Palestinians”? Or “Jewish Neo-Nazis”?
    No! It’s not supposed to be a silly insult, please have a look at my logic for this statement:
    By pursuing and encouraging the current policies of Apartheid and indiscriminate (and illegal) killings in civilian areas and having the desire for even more violent policies that are even further to the right, they are effectively re-enacting the Nazi-treatment of the Jews. This is not good for Israel (due to for instance ‘losing the moral high ground’ as compared to suicide bombers and most importantly because of the re-enactment of the trauma of the holocaust, while being the ‘bad guy’ this time) nor is this obviously good for the Palestinians. Now, these people will clearly claim that their actions are in the interest of Israel, so the only opinon left is that they are attempting a genocide of the Palestinians. Thus, the only label left for them is one of the two mentioned above.
    Supporters of greater Israel would NOT destroy the international standing of Israel nor force generations and generations of young Israelis into a state of constant war, making killing-machines (animals) out of normal people!
    People with such blind faith has the tendency to ignore the consequences of their actions and assume that the ends justify the means. That is not the kind of friend I would like to have, so I wonder if Israel (and not only the Likud people) is proud of their ‘friendship’.

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