BUT THERE’S AN uglier and tawdrier aspect to this. Just over two weeks after Ellison announced, the largest single funder of both the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign — the Israeli-American billionaire Haim Saban — launched an incredibly toxic attack on Ellison, designed to signal his veto. “He is clearly an anti-Semite and anti-Israel individual,” pronounced Saban about the African-American Muslim congressman, adding: “Keith Ellison would be a disaster for the relationship between the Jewish community and the Democratic Party.”
Saban has a long history not only of fanatical support for Israel — “I’m a one-issue guy, and my issue is Israel,” he told the New York Times in 2004 about himself — but also an ugly track record of animus toward Muslims. As The Forward gently put it, he is prone to “a bit of anti-Muslim bigotry,” including when he said Muslims deserve “more scrutiny” and “also called for profiling and broader surveillance.” In 2014, he teamed up with right-wing billionaire Sheldon Adelson to push a pro-Israel agenda. In that notorious NYT profile, he attacked the ACLU for opposing Bush/Cheney civil liberties assaults and said: “On the issues of security and terrorism I am a total hawk.”
There’s no evidence that Saban’s attack on Ellison is what motivated the White House to recruit an opponent. But one would have to be indescribably naïve about the ways of Washington to believe that such a vicious denunciation by one of the party’s most influential billionaire funders had no effect at all.
The DNC headquarters was built with Saban’s largesse: He donated $7 million to build that building, and he previously served as chairman of the party’s capital-expenditure campaign. Here’s how Mother Jones’s Andy Kroll, in a November profile, described the influence Saban wields within elite Democratic circlesGlenn Greenwald @ The Intercept.
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