Michael Bloomberg is a fervent Israel partisan who has pledged he will “always have Israel’s back.” Now he has given tens of millions of dollars to Democratic candidates around the country… part of a growing network of politicians beholden to him…
By Alison Weir
Michael Bloomberg, media baron, former Presidential candidate and New York Mayor, is the 11th richest person in the world. He is also a passionate Israel partisan, an attachment inculcated in him from his earliest days. In 2020 as a candidate for U.S. President, he pledged he would “always have Israel’s back.”
When Bloomberg received Israel’s top award in 2014, he explained that his parents had instilled in him a commitment to Israel:
“My parents saw in our lives just why Israel had to exist – and why it must always exist – and those lessons were passed on to us. We are as one with this city [Jerusalem] and this country and this people as you can be.”
His mother was a life member of the women’s Zionist organization Hadassah, and Bloomberg grew up attending Hebrew school, known for embedding allegiance to Israel in students.
Bloomberg has made a number of donations to Hadassah in his mother’s name. In 2003, he flew to Israel with his mother to dedicate a new mother and child health center in her name at a medical center in Ein Kerem. (Ein Kerem was originally a Palestinian village whose residents were ethnically cleansed in 1948 during Israel’s founding war.)
Bloomberg paid tribute to his mother, saying: “Her enduring commitment to Hadassah as a Life Member and her devotion to Israel are profound, and she has served as an inspiration to us.” Bloomberg created an endowment for his hometown synagogue, which was renamed for his parents and contains a Hebrew School.
Parade of Israeli visitors to Mayor Bloomberg’s office
When Bloomberg served as Mayor of New York he remained true to Israel. Israel’s consul-general in New York Aryeh Mekel said that while Bloomberg was mayor Mekel would bring “a parade of Israeli visitors to the mayor’s office and residence on a regular basis.”
Bloomberg also initiated a $2 billion high-tech research campus in Manhattan that was a joint venture with Israel’s Technion-Israel Institute of Technology. He personally donated $100 million to the effort.
Bloomberg supports Israeli onslaught against Gaza
During Israel’s massive 2014 invasion of Gaza that leveled entire neighborhoods and killed hundreds of children, Bloomberg flew his private jet to Israel in support. While there he paid a ‘shiva call’ to the family of a Californian of dual U.S.-Israel citizenship who had died while serving with the Israeli Defense Forces in Gaza as a sharpshooter.
Bloomberg also had a photo op of him delivering toys to Israeli children in a hospital in Ashkelon, but showed no concern for the Palestinian children injured by Israeli forces. The UK Guardian reports that 1 Israeli child had been killed and 270 had been injured, while Israeli forces had killed 551 Gazan children and injured 3,436 – 10% of whom suffered permanent disability.
During an appearance on Face the Nation on August 3, 2014, host Norah O’Donnell asked Bloomberg about Israel’s shelling of schools. The most recent attacks had killed 17 children, and since the Israeli offensive against Gaza had begun a month earlier, according to a Brookings report, at least 138 schools had been bombed or damaged, almost 330 children had been killed, and at least 2,000 children had been injured.
Bloomberg defended the attacks by repeating inaccurate Israeli talking points, including the claim that Israel was allegedly “defending itself” against rockets, although in actuality Palestinian rockets from Gaza had only begun after Israeli forces, one of the most powerful militaries in the world, had invaded and killed hundreds of Gazans. (Israeli military might is bolstered by the over $10 million per day of Americans’ tax money that U.S. politicians from both parties give Israel.)
This wasn’t the first time Bloomberg had flown to Israel on his private jet to show support during an invasion of Gaza. In early 2009, he had done the same thing. Mondoweiss reports: “Around the same time that the massacre of the al-Samouni family occurred in Gaza, Mayor Bloomberg flew in to Israel on his private jet.”
In 2020 as a candidate for U.S. President, Bloomberg spoke at the AIPAC national convention. He pledged he would “always have Israel’s back” and called his time at AIPAC “one of the great things of my life.”
In his speech, Bloomberg said his parents had taught him to revere “the miracle that is now the modern state of Israel.” He failed to mention that the “miracle” had been achieved through what an Israeli historian accurately terms was a war of “ethnic cleansing.” (Nor did he mention Israel’s ruthless attack on a U.S. Navy ship.)
Bloomberg is founder and 89% shareholder in Bloomberg LP, a financial software company that owns Bloomberg News. During his run for president, CNBC reported that an internal memo was sent to editorial and research staff prohibited reporters from investigating him:
“We will continue our tradition of not investigating Mike (and his family and foundation ) and we will extend the same policy to his rivals in the Democratic primaries.”
The memo said that Bloomberg News would, however, continue to investigate Donald Trump.
Leaked memos in 2002 similarly revealed political directives by Bloomberg editors about how to cover the news, in this case demanding that its writers sanitize news reporting about Israel/Palestine.
A top 2020 campaign donor to Democrats*
Bloomberg and fellow Israelist Sheldon Adelson were the top two campaign donors in the 2018 midterm elections, and Bloomberg is a top midterm donor again this year. Bloomberg political strategist Howard Wolfson predicted in October: “I expect that once again Mike Bloomberg will the be largest Democratic donor.” (All of his donations are not yet disclosed.)
A Bloomberg spokesperson told Politico that Bloomberg was “heavily invested in maintaining Democratic control of Congress, after helping to flip the House in 2018.” A Politico report elaborated on Bloomberg’s outsized donations:
Advisers to Bloomberg, 80, expect him to again emerge as one of the largest — if not the top — donor to Democrats. In 2020, he spent north of $1 billion on his presidential campaign that lasted just over four months. The cycle prior, when House Democrats recaptured the House, the party won all but three of the roughly two dozen House races that Bloomberg sought to sway with his money — accounting for nearly $60 million of the more than $110 million he spent on Democrats that year.
The latest cash influx in October to House Democrats was not earmarked, so it could be spent in districts where party leaders were desperately trying to hang on. In all, Politico reports that he gave more than $70 million to party candidates and causes during the cycle.*
Politico explained that Bloomberg was deploying a carefully crafted, broader strategy that included targeting races at all levels:
It’s part of a new, broader strategy by one of the world’s wealthiest men to spread around his dollars to battleground races further down the midterm ballot to avert threats from Republicans. So far, he’s directed between $500,000 and $2 million apiece to gubernatorial campaigns in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Colorado, New Mexico and Wisconsin, as well as another $2 million to Democratic secretaries of state.
Donations create a network of politicians beholden to him
Bloomberg has a long history of using his astronomical wealth to support politicians at lower rungs of the political ladder. The New York Times reports that this has paid off well for him.
Bloomberg has established himself — through philanthropic giving, political endorsements and campaign spending — as a singular ally for a large cross-section of American politicians, many of whom feel a deep sense of loyalty in return.
To be specific:
As Mr. Bloomberg traverses the country as a presidential candidate, he is drawing on a vast network of city leaders whom he has funded as a philanthropist or advised as an elder statesman of municipal politics. Bloomberg Philanthropies, which has assets totaling $9 billion, has supported 196 different cities with grants, technical assistance and education programs worth a combined $350 million. Now, leaders in some of those cities are forming the spine of Mr. Bloomberg’s campaign: He has been endorsed so far by eight mayors — from larger cities like San Jose, Calif., and Louisville, Ky., and smaller ones like Gary, Ind., representing a total of more than 2.6 million Americans.
Through the years Bloomberg has assumed various political identities: Republican/Democrat/Independent. In the past he has supported candidates on both sides of the aisle. His donations have focused on supporting diverse causes, in recent years abortion, gun control, climate change, etc.
Underneath these, however – rarely mentioned but always there as a permanent substrate – is one lasting, deeply embedded personal passion: Israel.
There is little doubt that his promise to “always have Israel’s back” is set in concrete.
If a politician is on the wrong side of that issue, there is little likelihood the candidate will get Mike’s money.
And recipients of support from the world’s 11th wealthiest billionaire know it.
*The two additional top billionaire donors to liberal causes were George Soros and Sam Bankman-Fried. Both have been donors to pro-Israel lobby groups; Bankman-Fried to the Democratic Majority for Israel, and Soros to J Street, which calls itself the “The political home of pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans.” (Bankman-fried has now declared bankruptcy; information on Soros’ complicated relationship with Israel is here.)
Alison Weir is executive director of If Americans Knew, president of the Council for the National Interest, and author of Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U.S. Was Used to Create Israel.
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