Entertainment mogul Haim Saban reportedly has pulled out of a campus anti-BDS initiative he launched with fellow billionaire Sheldon Adelson.
Saban’s partnership with Adelson on the effort, called the Maccabees, was supposed to show bipartisan support for campus pro-Israel activism. Saban is a major donor to Democrats, while Adelson is a major giver to Republicans. But Saban has withdrawn from the project because of its right-wing tilt, according to the Jewish Daily Forward.
“He didn’t like that Adelson was pushing the group towards funding right-wing groups that are only speaking in a right-wing echo chamber and not towards pushing a message that would actually change hearts and minds,” an unnamed Jewish communal official told the Forward.
Saban has also minimized his role in the Israeli American Council, an Israeli-American organization that he has funded along with Adelson, the Forward reported. Saban will not be at the organization’s conference this month.
The director of the Maccabees, David Brog, denied that Saban has taken issue with the group.
“I can assure you that Haim Saban had no objections to our plans for the Maccabees,” Brog, the executive director of Christians United for Israel, told the Forward. “Whoever claims otherwise simply has no idea what they’re talking about. Instead of chasing the rumors of the uninformed, please just stay calm and watch what we do.”
Saban and Adelson introduced their alliance in June in Las Vegas, where Adelson hosted representatives of some 50 Jewish and pro-Israel organizations to coordinate a strategy for battling anti-Israel boycott efforts.
Speaking to Israel’s Channel 2 at the time, Adelson said his prime focus initially was to reverse the inroads being made by what he called “the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and company… the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic organizations [that] are making a lot of headway on the campuses in the United States.” He said he would encourage Jewish groups to work to have boycott decisions taken by student campus groups reversed.
Saban, seated alongside him, made clear that he intended to fight back against any business groups inclining to boycott Israel, and create a climate in which they were deterred from doing so.
Adelson, a key supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said the weekend summit was designed to get Jewish organizations acting “collaboratively” to fight against “delegitimization and demonization of Israel. “It’s a challenge to get Jewish groups to work together,” he said. “We have to see what they all have to contribute… They need to put boots on the ground.”
Adelson and Saban good-naturedly acknowledged their American political differences: In 2016, “we’re going to vote for a different president,” said Democrat Saban of he and Republican Adelson. But “when it comes to Israel we are absolutely on the same page.”
Adelson said the Israeli government “has a strategic interest in fighting against BDS,” and that his new alliance would “love to” cooperate with Israel as far as possible. “Their intelligence is a lot better than ours is,” he said. “They can tell us probably who’s involved in Europe.”
Saban quoted a statistic to the effect that “10% of Americans are anti-Semites. “That’s 33 million people,” he said. “It is our duty to put Israel’s right image forth to the people so that they see what the real Israel is.”