Sheldon Adelson’s recent comments on the Palestinians and the prospects for Middle East peace would be simply laughable if the gazillionaire mogul did not wield so much power.
Adelson, who spent millions trying to prevent Barack Obama’s re-election, was feted at a tourism industry lunch in Jerusalem last week. The mayor of Jerusalem also bestowed honorary citizenship on the right-wing philanthropist, acknowledging his longstanding generosity to Israeli cultural and charitable institutions.
Addressing 100 guests and well-wishers, Adelson decried John Kerry’s peace initiative, saying Palestinians had no wish for coexistence. Rather, “they teach their children that Jews are descended from swine and apes, pigs and monkeys.”
As the New York Times noted, Adelson’s charges are “staples of the far right” and “deeply offensive to Palestinians.”
They ought to be offensive to Israelis as well, but Adelson is doing his best to spread the message through Israel HaYom (Israel Today), a free tabloid that is the country’s must-read news outlet. Adelson told reporters at the Jerusalem gathering that he does not dictate the newspaper’s coverage or editorials, but that both reflect his point of view and that of his close friend, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In a nation of news junkies, Israel HaYom is trying to steer public opinion to the right. And it’s trouncing the competition. As PBS pointed out earlier this year, Israel HaYom’s competitive tactics—offering free papers and slashing ad costs—have undercut two of Israel’s moderate newspapers.
Was it economics then or politics that shaped the Jerusalem Post’s coverage of the luncheon?
Unlike the New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, both of which highlighted Adelson’s inflammatory descriptions of Palestinians and his attacks on peacemaking efforts, the Jerusalem paper offered a sentimental tribute to a “globally respected tourism icon,” focusing exclusively on Adelson’s business smarts and devotion to Israel. The article’s closer:
A tough businessman and a philanthropist who has given away hundreds of millions of dollars to causes in Israel, the United States and Asia, Adelson—who has been there and done that—was nonetheless sufficiently emotional, when presented with a sculpture of Jerusalem, to wipe a tear from his eye.
And speaking of tears, the best case scenario for Israeli news consumers: Adelson only spoke to American reporters so they had an alternative to the Jerusalem Post’s puff piece. Worst-case scenario? The Israeli press doesn’t deem newsworthy what the owner of their largest newspaper and one of their nation’s biggest benefactors has to say about the most important issue in their country today.