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Israel, Big Money and Obama


“Barack Obama has established a strong record as a true friend of Israel, a stalwart defender of Israel’s security, and an effective advocate of strengthening the steadfast U.S.-Israel relationship, publicly stating that Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state should never be challenged.”

– Lester Crown

Lester Crown is a Chicagoan with a net worth of four billion dollars. He owns a large stake in and is a former president and board chairman of defense contractor General Dynamics. He also has held large holdings in Hilton Hotels, Maytag (now Whirlpool), and the Chicago Bulls and New York Yankees.

Crown was an early supporter of Barack Obama’s candidacy first for the U.S. Senate, and then for president. He is one of the first and one of his most prodigious fundraisers. As the Obama presidential campaign website says, the candidate “… systematically built a sophisticated, and in many ways quite conventional, money machine.” The Crowns were an integral part of that machinery. One of Lester Crown’s children, James Crown, personally bundled $500,000 in campaign contributions for Obama and served as chairman of the Illinois fund raising effort. Lester Crown and his wife Renee hosted a fundraiser for Obama in 2007 at their home. The event invitation made it clear; their support for Obama was due to his support of Israel, its “right to exist“ and his willingness to strike militarily against Iran.

Every American president has wealthy individuals and families dedicated to getting them elected. The reliance of candidates for public office on the largesse of the rich may be common and expected, but it is nonetheless extremely dangerous. This corruption insures access for the rich, which guarantees that their interests are at the top of any president’s agenda, usually at the expense of what is good for everyone else.

For Lester Crown the top issue on his agenda is Israel. As he has said himself, “While my involvement in politics is motivated by a variety of issues, there is one issue that is fundamental: My deep commitment to Israel and to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship that strengthens both Israel’s security and its efforts to seek peace.”

According to a recently published article in The Atlantic, Israeli general Amos Yadlin traveled to Chicago in an effort to enlist Crown’s help in convincing the administration to attack Iran. White House visitor logs show that Crown did in fact visit the White House in April of this year to meet with Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu applied “hidden pressure” on Obama which came “from Chicago.”

When asked about this report, Crown denied only that Yadlin traveled to Chicago. He confirmed that the two spoke and were in agreement about wanting the United States to attack Iran. “ ‘I support the president,” Crown said. ‘But I wish [administration officials] were a little more outgoing in the way they have talked. I would feel more comfortable if I knew that they had the will to use military force, as a last resort. You cannot threaten someone as a bluff. There has to be a will to do it.’ ”

Lester Crown’s opinions are not like anyone else’s two cents. He is a defense contractor, meaning he has a personal interest in maintaining the state of permanent war for the United States. He is also a very wealthy man who worked hard to get Barack Obama elected. Crown’s October 1, 2007 fundraiser was directed primarily at Jewish contributors who may have been insufficiently convinced of Obama‘s support for maintaining the status quo in America‘s relations with Israel. The event invitation read in part, “The purpose of the evening is to show Barack how appreciative we are of his steadfast, honest and proud support of Israel.”

Those are the words out of Crown’s own mouth. No one should be squeamish about questioning his actions and his motives and the very fact that a private citizen conducts foreign policy in secret. Lester Crown was not elected to any office, he was not appointed to pursue foreign policy on behalf of the government, he hasn‘t been confirmed by the United States Senate. If congress had even a small amount of courage, Crown would be subpoenaed to testify about his communications with Yadlin and with the president and his advisors.

The story of a presidential campaign contributor’s contacts with a general of a foreign nation’s military ought to be front page news. Sadly, that lack of coverage is not surprising. The corporate controlled media would reveal too much about themselves if they told us the truth about the little bit of democracy we have left. No one becomes a serious presidential contender without first passing muster with the Lester Crowns of the world. All of which means that American style democracy is little more than a sham. Iowans and New Hampshirites don’t determine who will be president. The Crowns and their ilk are the ones who get to choose before anyone pulls a lever in a voting booth.

The story of Lester Crown’s foray into foreign policy will not make headlines as it should. Congress will not question him under oath. Only individuals who are interested enough and savvy enough will know a little of the tale of how a nation’s people gave up their rights so the rich might have their way. The issue at hand for Lester Crown is Israel, but the CEOs and board chairmen of other industries hold sway in their spheres as much as Lester Crown does in his.

There will always be people of great wealth who influence what happens to people in the rest of world. Today Israel, tomorrow big pharma, and big oil the day after that. BP poisons the Gulf of Mexico with impunity and Lester Crown wants to commit a crime of his own. The only crime worse than an attack on Iran is acquiescence in the face of corporate control of our lives.

MARGARET KIMBERLEY is a columnist for the Black Agenda Report. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.

Margaret Kimberley writes the Freedom Rider column for Black Agenda Report, where this essay originally appeared. 

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