Stanford University professor David Palumbo-Liu alerted his Salon readers to a “secret” meeting held last weekend in Las Vegas, Nevada:
If you did not know that this weekend some of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world will meet in the Las Vegas desert to plot a massive and well-financed campaign against the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement, it’s not your fault.
Four days after the Salon posting appeared, The New York Times buried two paragraphs about the Vegas meeting inside a longer story which featured the success Israel was enjoying in gaining anti-BDS support in state legislatures in South Carolina and Illinois.
This campaign against American supporters of Palestinian freedom, was prompted by the alarmed awareness among Israeli leaders, and their U.S. allies, that the BDS movement is rapidly gaining ground.
The “secret” Vegas weekend focused on planning for, and funding, a campaign to kill BDS in its academic cradle.
This campaign links Israel, a foreign nation, with its U.S. “fifth column”, a term Wikipedia defines as “any group of people who undermine a larger group—such as a nation or a besieged city—from within.”
Wikipedia adds that “the activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilize openly to assist an external attack.”
The Vegas event took place away from the U.S. mainstream spotlight because U.S. mainstream media chose to ignore it.
With U.S. billionaires both funding and setting up its top down strategy with Israeli-inspired organizations on American campuses, Israel’s successful invasion of U.S. institutions takes another major step toward “occupying” American institutions.
The meeting was held, appropriately enough, in Sheldon Adelson’s luxurious Venetian Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, This gambling center has already become an important stop for Republican presidential aspirants in search of Adelson’s money and backing.
This anti-BDS weekend gathering followed the same call and response strategy as the 2012 and the upcoming 2016 Adelson primaries, to choose a Republican presidential nominee.
More than Adelson’s millions are involved. Adelson is not alone in feeling that, as Forward reported, there are other major conservative billionaires who want in on the action and who want to dictate how their money is used. The Forward reported:
Leading Jewish mega-donors … summoned pro-Israel [anti-BDS] activists for a closed-door meeting in Las Vegas to establish, and fund, successful strategies for countering the wave of anti-Israel activity on college campuses”.
Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson (right) was the host of the gathering which featured financial luminaries such as “Hollywood entertainment mogul Haim Saban, Israeli-born real-estate developer Adam Milstein and Canadian businesswoman Heather Reisman.”
The meeting was not exclusively Republican. Haim Saban, a Los Angeles billionaire, is a major Democratic donor who enjoys what the Forward terms “close ties to the Clintons”.
Those ties include Saban funding for the Clinton Foundation as well as for Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the White House.
Variety, the show business publication, reported that Saban declared his strong support for Clinton in May with a major fund raiser for her in his home.
Saban apparently has no qualms crossing party lines to join forces with Adelson where Israel is concerned. Saban was an early prime mover behind the weekend strategy sessions. Accordimg to Forward:
“[Saban] has been discussing the idea for more than a year, one source with firsthand information of the initiative said. Saban has spoken to Israeli officials, including the former ambassador to Washington Michael Oren and top officials in the Israeli foreign ministry, about setting up a special task force to deal with increased calls on campuses to adopt measures of boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, measures commonly referred to as BDS.”
According to “an official in the Jewish community, it was another California philanthropist of Israeli background, [Adam] Milstein, who put together the initiative. He got mega-donor Adelson and [Heather] Reisman, who in recent years has been increasingly involved in initiatives to support Israel, on board.”
In his second analysis of the weekend’s goals, the Forward’s Nathan Gutman wrote that New Jersey Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has close ties to New Jersey’s two Democratic senators, “will act as the new initiative’s point man”, a further indication that both U.S. political parties have their strong Zionist components.
In contrast to the grassroots beginnings of the BDS movement, the Vegas anti-BDS program is structured from the top down. Participant groups were asked to prepare a 10-minute TED-style presentation to donors. In effect the anti-BDS groups will make their case to the donors, seeking funds for their programs, which will be blessed by the donors who approve of the direction the groups promise to go.
At the end of the conference, the donors were expected to “develop the conceptual framework for the anti-BDS action plan, assign roles and responsibilities to pro-Israel organizations, and create an appropriate command-and-control system to implement it,” again a top to bottom structure.
The donors attending the conference were expected to make a prior commitment for an “average donation of $1M over the next two years”.
David Palumbo-Liu (right) one of the few media voices to report on the Vegas gathering, describes it as a “collusion of conservatives and Clintonites, and U.S. and Israeli state operatives, to heavy-handedly interfere in campus discussions is pernicious and distasteful.”
In keeping with Israel’s practice of naming its numerous wars after biblical events, this new organization will be called “the Maccabees”, a name derived from the Jewish group of “patriots who freed Judea from Seleucid oppression (168-142 bc)”.
Palumbo-Liu traces the more recent history of the BDS movement which began with “the nearly 200 civil organizations in Palestine who put out the call for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions in 2005, and those in the U.S. and elsewhere who have answered that call.
The organizations which heard and acted on the call began with the Association for Asian American Studies, followed by “the American Studies Association and several other academic organizations, progressive Jewish groups such as Jewish Voice for Peace, student organizations throughout the country that have passed divestment resolutions (including the student government body representing the entire University of California system), and now labor unions”.
National U.S. religious organizations are slowly cranking up their peace and justice agendas to focus on the human rights brutality of Israel’s occupation. Mondoweiss continues to be virtually the only media outlet, religious or secular, to report on progress, or lack of progress, toward justice in the American church organizations.
Mondoweiss reported, “last year, the Presbyterian Church USA (PCUSA) and United Methodist Church (UMC) divested from several U.S. companies involved in the occupation. Various Quaker bodies have done the same.”
This month, three more U.S. churches—the Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ (UCC), and the Mennonite Church USA (MCUSA)—will join the growing list of those denominations responding to the Kairos Palestine call and voting to end financial support for Israel’s occupation.
The 78th General Convention of The Episcopal Church will meet from Thursday, June 25 to Friday, July 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
On the Episcopal Convention agenda will be a proposal developed by a new group, the Episcopal Committee for Justice in Israel and Palestine.
The UCC General Synod will meet June 26-30, in Cleveland, Ohio where it will consider a Resolution of Witness which will call for “divesting from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories and for boycotting products produced in such territories by Israeli companies”.
The third national body considering specific action on the issue is the Mennonite Church USA Convention, which will meet June 30-July 5, in Kansas City, Missouri.
Anti-BDS forces, as usual, will arrive at the three assemblies with their Protestant religious allies (delegates who oppose BDS) to campaign against BDS among delegates. Some may even be granted time to speak to groups of delegates.
This may be the last chance for these three major U.S. denominations to fix themselves firmly on the side of justice alongside a growing number of other religious and secular groups who have finally faced the reality of the evil of occupation.
When delegates to the assemblies held by Episcopalians, the UCC, and the Mennonite church vote this summer on BDS resolutions, they will be choosing to endorse or “continue to discuss” the occupation of Palestinians.
Before they vote, these delegates will want to reread Joshua 24:15, where it is recorded that “for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”.
The picture of David Palumbo-Liu is from his website. The picture of Sheldon Adelson is from Bloomberg. The BDS poster is from South Africa.
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