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Say what!? Sheldon Adelson is financing the Israeli government?

Of course not. But don’t doubt for a second that the American casino magnate has infinitely more influence and access to Benjamin Netanyahu than any ‘foreign funded’ Israeli human rights organization.

Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and owner of Las Vegas Review-Journal and Israel Hayom. (Photo by Bectrigger/CC)

Sheldon Adelson, casino magnate and owner of Las Vegas Review-Journal and Israel Hayom. (Photo by Bectrigger/CC)

Is Sheldon Adelson funding the Israeli government? You might think the answer was yes if you read the Las Vegas Review-Journal this week.

In a disclosure about the newspaper’s new ownership on Page 3 Sunday, the Review-Journal wrote: “The Adelsons are financial and political supporters of the current Israeli government.”

(My colleague Noa Yachot wrote here about Sheldon Adelson secretly buying the newspaper and the resultant editorial “challenges” — I recommend reading in to understand why the disclosure was necessary in the first place.)

The line, which was only one part of a longer disclosure, was later removed from the online version of the item.

To the best of my knowledge, Sheldon Adelson has not directly donated to the Israeli government, or even to Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent Likud primary campaigns.

The Review-Journal did not respond by press time to my questions about why it initially stated that the Adelsons finance the Israeli government, or what role the Adelsons played in writing the line in question, and in having it removed. Likewise, a query sent to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office asking whether Sheldon Adelson is secretly filling the country’s coffers went predictably unanswered.

More than 90 percent of Netanyahu’s primary funding came from private overseas donors in the latest elections. The Adelsons, it seems, made do supporting Netanyahu with their free newspaper, Israel Hayom, which famously does just that — Israel Hayom is often referred to “Bibi-ton,” a combination of Netanyahu’s nickname and the Hebrew word for newspaper.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah pose for a photo with actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, June 18, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO) When is the last time the prime minister met with an Israeli human rights organization?

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sarah pose for a photo with actors Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones, June 18, 2015. (Haim Zach/GPO) When is the last time the prime minister met with an Israeli human rights organization?

The issue of foreign funding is a hot topic in Israel these days. The Netanyahu government is pursuing a law that would stigmatize and single out certain Israeli non-profit organizations, primarily civil and human rights NGOs, that receive funds from foreign state entities.

Right-wing political and settler NGOs also receive massive amounts of money from overseas but the new law would almost exclusively affect anti-occupation and human rights organizations.

Left-wing and human rights organizations are more likely to receive funding from overseas state entities, however, whereas right-wing causes and organizations tend to receive their funds from private donors.

The new NGO law manages to distinguish between the two (so-called left- and right-wing organizations) by targeting only those NGOs that receive more than 50 percent of their funding from foreign state entities.

The official aim of the legislation — and the private political initiatives popping up to support it — is to promote transparency.

The result, however, will be to stigmatize those individuals and organizations promoting human rights in Israel. By casting human rights NGOs as agents of foreign powers, as a recent campaign did explicitly, what the lawmakers are really saying is that human rights values are alien to Israeli society.

And by casting the human rights agenda as a foreign interest, human rights activists can then be accused of subverting Israel’s own sovereign state interests and its society’s values.

It is highly unlikely that Sheldon Adelson is secretly funding the Israeli government. In fact, I’d venture to declare that he doesn’t. Neither directly nor indirectly.

But don’t doubt, not even for even a moment, that Sheldon Adelson and other wealthy foreigners with agendas like his have the type of access to Israeli politicians that Israeli human rights organizations could only dream of — even with a “left-wing” government, should one ever materialize.

The ownership disclosure published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal on January 10, 2015.

The ownership disclosure published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal on January 10, 2015.

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