Devastating Article by Israel’s Top Journalist on Casino Mogul Sheldon Adelson

One of Israel’s top journalists and commentators Nahum Barnea writes in his column at Yediot Aharanot today about Sheldon Adelson throwing his political weight around in Israel.

When Sheldon Adelson gave his speech on the podium of the International Convention Center two days ago, I looked at Shimon Peres. I was happy for him. […]

As a citizen of the country, I was less happy. I saw a gambling tycoon from Las Vegas who bought my country’s birthday with three million dollars. I thought with sorrow: Is the country worth so very little? Were the champagne and the wine and the sushi that were given out for free in the lobby, unlike what is conventional for such events, worth the humiliation?

Adelson is a Jew who loves Israel. Like some other Jews who live at a safe distance from here, his love is great, passionate, smothering. It is important to him that he influence the policies, decisions and compositions of Israeli governments. He is not alone in this, eithe … This kowtowing to other people’s wallets-that is the common denominator of Rabin and Peres, Netanyahu, Barak and Olmert. […]

Adelson is like the others, and yet different. He has the gift of authority and the bluntness of someone who made a lot of money quickly. He does not ask. He commands.

“He talks to me as though I were his property,” the director of an important Jewish-American organization, one of the guests at the conference, told me. I heard similar complaints from others, Israelis and Americans, who got scandals from Adelson. […] There is a story about an anti-Arab propaganda film that Adelson heard about. He telephoned the director-general of a Jewish organization, asking him to buy and distribute the film. But the film is distorted, said the man. No one will believe it. So edit it, Adelson commanded. The film is not editable, said the man. All right, Adelson said. I will buy the film at my expense, but you will distribute it. “He would like all the Arabs to disappear,” another activist for a Jewish organization told me. “It seems that he thinks that the Arabs are gambling chips.”

Several months ago, Adelson contacted another Jewish-American millionaire and asked him to donate a large sum of money for a campaign that he was organizing against the current Israeli government. The man politely refused. You know what, Adelson told him, do not donate. Just sign. The man refused again. Adelson accused him of funding anti-Israel research. I do not know what you mean, the man answered. When my man in charge of these things is in Las Vegas, he will come to you. Look into the matter.

The meeting at Adelson’s office, in the Venetian hotel-casino, was a stormy one. Adelson took out a written list of accusations, many of them childish. You hosted (PA prime minister) Salam Fayyad, he said. He is a terrorist with blood on his hands. He is one of the founders of Fatah. Salam Fayyad was never involved in terrorism, his interlocutor said. He is not a member of Fatah. Where did you get these accusations from?

From Steve Emerson, said the billionaire. Emerson is an American Jew who often analyzes terror matters. You work with Olmert’s government, accused Adelson. This is an illegitimate government. It must be thrown out. I thought that Olmert is your friend, said the man. And, indeed, they were friends. Such good friends that Olmert wrote him a letter and asked him to buy mini-bars for his hotels from a company that Talansky represented.

(“This is not something new,” one of the Americans who came to the conference told me. “One day I get a call from an Israeli, a former senior government official. I have a request, he said. Talk to Adelson about buying safes for the rooms in his hotels from a company that I work with. If the deal goes through, your organization will get a donation of USD 1 million.” The man absolutely rejected the request.)

Adelman is convinced that Netanyahu, not Olmert, must be prime minister of Israel. In order to advance this idea, he established a newspaper, which devotes it pages to the fight against Olmert and praises Netanyahu. Allegedly, this investment is the largest election gift given to Israel ever. I do not claim this. Firstly, it is a legal gift, legitimate. Secondly, when Netanyahu is elected prime minister, he will have to act within the constraints of the State of Israel, not take dictates from a patron in Las Vegas.

Adelson, surrounded by guards, was king of the conference. He sat in the first row, with Shimon Peres between him and Olmert. He put his hand out to Olmert. Olmert shook it with a sour face. They did not exchange a single word.

So Adelson is trying to take down the Olmert government because he feels that’s his prerogative.

It was striking seeing Adelson and Bush in the front row of the Jerusalem conference the other day, Israeli president Shimon Peres, the conference host, between them, as if Bush and Adelson were diplomatic-protocal-speaking some sort of equals.

Maybe at some point American conservatives will get as fed up with Adelson trying to run their movement as apparently some Israelis are about Adelson trying to buy the highest levels of poliitical influence so easily in their country. But I doubt it.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot. That's what Mother Jones CEO Monika Bauerlein tackles in her annual December column—"Billionaires Are Not the Answer"—about the state of journalism and our plans for the year ahead.

We can't afford to let independent reporting depend on the goodwill of the superrich: Please help Mother Jones build an alternative to oligarchy that is funded by and answerable to its readers. Please join us with a tax-deductible, year-end donation so we can keep going after the big stories without fear, favor, or false equivalency.


as we head into 2020 is whether politics and media will be a billionaires’ game, or a playing field where the rest of us have a shot.

Please read our annual column about the state of journalism and Mother Jones' plans for the year ahead, and help us build an alternative to oligarchy by supporting our people-powered journalism with a year-end gift today.

We Recommend


Sign up for our newsletters

Subscribe and we'll send Mother Jones straight to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.


Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.


We have a new comment system! We are now using Coral, from Vox Media, for comments on all new articles. We'd love your feedback.