Mighty morphin power brokers
Mighty Morphin' Power Brokers
By Mazin B. Qumsiyeh*
Unpublished 8/10/2003, updated 9/4/04
California Governor Gray Davis received $100,000 boost from Hollywood Mogul Haim Saban and in return appointed Saban as a regent in the University of California System. Saban donated a record-breaking $7 million to the democratic national committee in 2002 just before rules came into effect regulating some (not all) soft money donations. Saban's donations to Clinton's elections were significant. Clinton appointed him to the US Export Council and Saban and his family came at least once as guests of Clinton at Camp David. Saban donated generously to the Gore/Lieberman campaign and recently gave $5 million to the Clinton Library Foundation (1).
Here are more facts about Saban: he is founder and half-owner of 'Fox Family Worldwide' and founder and owner of Saban Entertainment. The latter is best known for adapting from the Japanese and then marketing 'Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers'. This marketing morphed Saban from an Israeli immigrant with no college degrees to a US billionaire and a highly influential political player. With net assets of $1.7 billion in 2002, he is listed by Forbes Magazine as the 236th richest person on earth,. Saban's programming, the source of his wealth, has often been criticized for promoting violence among children (e.g. in Christian Science Monitor, 9/17/1996, 4/17/1998; NY Times March 17, 1996).
Saban's interest is not limited to US politics. In 2000, he held a fundraiser featuring Ehud Barak, then a Labor Prime Minister running for election against the Likud leader Sharon (2). Saban's donations to the Brookings Institute established the Saban Center for Middle Eastern Studies (3). Martin Indyk was appointed director. Readers will recall that Indyk worked for the Israeli lobby in DC and then was appointed by Clinton as US Ambassador to Israel. Indyk did not have US citizenship but this was quickly corrected with a speeded up process of facilitation, nomination, and approval (all in less than two weeks). It was the first time a lobbyist for a foreign country had been appointed ambassador to that country. Clinton went further by appointing Dennis Ross as US Middle East envoy. Both before and after serving in the Clinton White House, Ross worked for the Israel-linked 'Washington Institute for Near East Policy' (WINEP). It is worthy to read what the respected editor J. J. Goldberg (editor of the Forward, the most prominent Jewish American Magazine) wrote this in his book about WINEP:
'After stepping down as AIPAC (Israeli lobby group) president in 1982, Weinberg devoted himself to creating a new Washington think tank. His goal, he told friends, was to alter the intellectual atmosphere surrounding Middle East policy discussions in the capital. The Washington Institute for Near East Policy opened its doors in 1984 with Weinberg's wife Barbi, herself a formidable power in Jewish community circles, as president. The executive director was Martin Indyk, an Australian Jewish Middle East scholar who had worked with Steven Rosen in the AIPAC research department' (4).
Similar, and in many ways even stronger, relationships between corporate icons, politicians, and DC think-tanks is found on the Republicans side as well. Likud party leaning Zionists in America tended to be Republicans. Some, like house majority leader Tom Delay and influencial evangelicals like Pat Robertson, are known as 'Christian Zionists' who support Israel based on a doomsday scenario. Others, like Richard Perle, Paul Wolfowitz, and the father of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, are Republicans who have certain ideological and personal affinity to Israel. These neo-conservatives now dominate the Republican Party. The latest result of their schemes is the war on Iraq (5).
Senator William Fullbright once wrote: "The fundamental problem for us is that we have lost our freedom of action in the Middle East and are committed to policies that promote neither our own national interest nor the cause of peace. AIPAC (the American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) and its allied organizations have effective working control of the electoral process" (6).
This is not a merely academic excercise in identifying which special interest has the power. If people have the power, we would not have killed one million Iraqis by the sanctions and we would not have funded the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Corporate consolidation of the US media has sacrificed investigative journalism, has shielded the public from the facts, and has instead spread images of violence and fear in order to subdue society while power brokers go about their deadly megabusiness of empire building. This leaves little room for awareness, democracy and human rights and hence the USA PATRIOT ACT and decreasing and anemic voter turn-out the endless wars and increased public and personal debts. Third parties point out that to improve voter turnout requires drastic election reform: public financing and instant runoff. Others also point out the need to address the Israeli power over our capital. In any case, what is clearly needed is a more informed public that can guide a more rational US foreign policy not beholden to special interests. It is time to put American public interests first.
* Qumsiyeh is a cofounder of the Palestine Right to Return Coalition and AcademicsForJustice.org
4. 'Jewish Power: Inside the American Jewish Establishment,'. Chapter 8: Jerusalem on the Potomac, the Rise and Rise of the Israeli Lobby. Addison-Wesley 1996, 220 ff. For a more recent analysis of the positions and influence of WINEP, see the article by Joel Benin, professor of history at Stanford University, published in Le Mond Diplomatique at http://mondediplo.com/2003/07/06beinin
5. See http://www.al-awda.org/thewaroniraq/ and Connecting the Dots: Iraq Palestine for further information and links on this issue.
6. J. William Fulbright, The Price of Empire,1989, Pantheon Books, p. 183.