Los Angeles gala raises $53.8 Million for Israeli soldiers [videos]

Los Angeles gala raises $53.8 Million for Israeli soldiers [videos]

Western Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces gala at the Beverly Hilton, November 2, 2017. The sold-out gala claims to be “one of Los Angeles’ premier charitable events.” It drew 1,200 supporters from across the country.

Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, which supports Israeli soldiers, hosts fundraising galas all over the U.S. The recent event in Los Angeles, studded with business titans and celebrities, raised over $50 million. As a registered non-profit in the US, contributions are tax deductible, allowing US citizens to write off donations that indirectly support a foreign army. 

By Sara Powell and Alison Weir

One would think that one of the world’s most powerful armies wouldn’t need a fundraiser to support its troops, especially since Israel already gets over $10 million per day from the US. Nevertheless, Hollywood mogul and longtime pro-Israel advocate Haim Saban and his wife Cheryl hosted a gala event in Los Angeles on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017 to do just that. This is just one of such events held across the U.S.

The celebrity-filled event was for Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIFD) a U.S. “charity” that even before the fundraiser had assets of over $190 million. Donations to it are tax-deductible in the United States, although it is unclear why donations to benefit a foreign military (and one that regularly raises concerns about war crimes) should reduce one’s financial obligation to the United States. The gala was held despite the IDF’s record of killing civilians, including children.

An Israeli soldier detains a 12-year-old Palestinian boy with a broken arm during a 2015 demonstration against Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land in the West Bank village of Nabi Saleh. In the first year of the villagers’ unarmed demonstrations, Israeli soldiers wounded 155 of the 500 residents, about 60 of them children; 14-year-old Ihab Barghoutti went into a coma after he was shot in the head.

FIDF National Board Member Haim Saban and his wife, Cheryl, chaired the star-studded gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel for the 11th straight year. Saban is major donor to the Democratic party and has long been particularly close to the Clintons.

Jewish Insider reports that “Guests included prominent business, philanthropic, and political leaders and celebrated names in entertainment, fashion, sports, and technology, including Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg; Dutch LLC CEO Serge Azria and his wife, Florence; Managing Member of R.H. Book LLC and Chairman of Jet Support Services Inc. Robert Book and his wife, Amy; Oracle Co-CEO Safra Catz; GUESS Founders Maurice and Paul Marciano; and Founder and President of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and his wife, Joelle.”

Celebrities included Miss Israel 2013, Gerard Butler, David Foster, Joanna Krupa, Katharine McPhee, Paul Reubens (aka Pee Wee Herman convicted for possessing child pornography), Melissa Rivers (daughter of comedian Joan Rivers), and movie star and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

(From left, back) David Foster; Seal; Arnold Schwarzenegger; Cheryl and Haim Saban; and Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Sam Grundwerg with IDF soldiers at the 2017 Western Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces gala.

There were also 17 members of the IDF, all born and raised in the US, who later made Aliyah (immigration to Israel, considered a birthright for all Jews), flown over for the event.

According to reports, the largest amounts donated were $16.6 million by Oracle co-founder and CTO Larry Ellison, $6 million by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, $5.2 million by GUESS co-founders Paul and Maurice Marciano, and $5 million by host Haim Saban.

FIDF reportedly has more than 150,000 supporters and 20 chapters throughout the United States and Panama.

Previous galas

FIDF2
Actor Robert De Niro, TV host Larry King, and Israeli American megadonor Haim Saban with Israeli soldiers.
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Singer Barbra Streisand with Haim Saban at a 2014 fundraiser for FIDF. Saban is a major donor to the Democratic party, and has been called the Clintons’ “favor billionaire.

Barbra Streisand, Larry King, Sylvester Stallone, and Robert de Niro helped raise money at previous FIDF events, according to Variety and Jerusalem Online. Streisand said at a 2014 fundraiser: “This event is always one of the most inspiring and emotional evenings of the year.”

A few months before, Israeli forces had invaded Gaza, killing 2,000 Palestinians, including at least 521 children. More than 10,000 were injured and nearly 500,000 were displaced from their homes. Over 19,000 homes, hospitals, businesses, schools, and places of worship were destroyed or severely damaged.

GAZA CITY, GAZA–JULY 26, 2014–Man grieves at the site of his home in the Shejaiya neighborhood of Gaza City that has seen some of the heaviest bombardment by Israeli forces. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times)

Some of those performing at this year’s Los Angeles gala were Seal, David Foster and Gene Simmons of Kiss.

David Foster and Gene Simmons (aka Chaim Witz) perform at 2017 FIDF gala.

Such galas are held all over the U.S. Over 1,200 people attended the gala in New York on October 23, 2017, raising over $35 million. The FIDF website reports that Galas are held in the following areas:  Tri-State  |  Los Angeles  |  San Diego  |  SF Bay Area |  Las Vegas | Central Region Pennsylvania & Southern New Jersey  |  Greater Miami  |  Palm Beach
Israel Events and Missions | Michigan  |  New England | Ohio  |  Southeast Region Texas | Seattle | Midatlantic | Panama | Other Regions

FIDF gala at the Hilton Midown Hotel Oct. 2017. Republic billionaire donor Sheldon Adelson pledged $7 million.

Videos

Numerous Hollywood celebrities say they love Israel:


Sara Powell is a contributor to If Americans Knew. Alison Weir is executive director.