by Eli Clifton
Former Arkansas governor and GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee’s comparison between the Iran deal and the Holocaust brought an avalanche of denunciations from Jewish groups condemning his prediction that President Barack Obama will “take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.”
The Anti-Defamation League, the National Jewish Democratic Council, and the American-Israeli Cooperative Enterprise (AICE) all issued statements criticizing, to varying degrees, his comparison of the Holocaust to the Obama administration’s efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear program. Even Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador to Washington and no close friend of the Obama administration, said Huckabee’s comments were inappropriate. But Huckabee found at least one ally in the Jewish community: the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
The ZOA, which rarely makes headlines and sits well to the right of mainstream Jewish groups, has received a good deal of its funding over the past decade from Miriam and Sheldon Adelson. Adelson is also likely the biggest individual donor to the Republican Party. He is expected to contribute over $100 million toward electing a Republican to the White House in 2016.
Miriam Adelson is listed as the ZOA’s single largest donor, contributing $1,513,870, between 2007 and 2011, according to a “Schedule A” IRS form acquired by LobeLog (viewable here). And the Adelson’s largesse to the ZOA didn’t end in 2011. In 2013, the Adelson’s family foundation contributed $2 million to the ZOA, approximately 40 percent of the ZOA’s 2013 grant revenue.
Last year, ZOA president Morton Klein, emerged as Sheldon Adelson’s de facto spokesman after New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offended Adelson and Klein by referring to the West Bank as the “occupied territories.” This was a dangerous rhetorical misstep to commit in front of Adelson, an ardent supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
New York Magazine reported on the gaffe, leaning heavily on quotes from Klein.
“Sheldon was concerned about the ‘occupied territory’ remark and he expected Christie would make amends and would express support for Israel and it didn’t happen,” said Adelson ally and head of Zionist Organization of America Morton Klein, who said he spoke with Adelson after the event, an awards ceremony organized to honor champions of Jewish values by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach. Klein said he spoke to all the largest donors at the event, which included not only Adelson but fellow billionaire Michael Steinhardt, who funds “birthright Israel” a program that pays for any Jew under age 28 to visit Israel.
Sheldon, like others, “was perplexed and shocked and mystified,” said Klein. Adding his own thoughts, he asked, “Why did Christie do this? This was an insult.”
And if there’s any doubt that Klein, Huckabee, and the Adelsons share a mutual affinity, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson presented Huckabee with the ZOA’s “Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Award for the Defense of Israel” in November 2013. Sheldon Adelson praised Huckabee’s support of Israel “building homes in the territories as rapidly as you can and as much as you can until there’s a real agreement,” and his rejection of “carving [a Palestinian state] out of tiny Israel.”
ZOA, for its part, awarded Sheldon Adelson the “Theodor Herzl Gold Medallion for outstanding achievement in Zionism” in 2009.
Huckabee’s comments comparing the P5+1’s nuclear agreement with Iran to the Holocaust may be out of line with the American Jewish establishment. But there’s every indication that the Republican Party’s biggest donor is aligned with Huckabee’s views when it comes to Israel, Palestinians, and the dangers of a diplomatic resolution to tensions over Iran’s nuclear program.