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September 23, 2014 11:36 am

Israel’s Unspoken Problem: Money, Oil, and Influence

avatar by Albert Wachtel

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Martin Indyk. Photo: Robert D. Ward via Wikimedia Commons.

These days, money doesn’t have to talk in the war of words. It pays others to talk for it.

The most recent example of how that works involves the Brookings Institution’s Martin Indyk, President Obama’s choice to manage the latest doomed peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. As the New York Times pointed out,”Ž Mr. Indyk received a contribution for Brookings from Qatar – which funds Hamas and supports the terrorist Islamic State – in the amount of $14.8 million dollars. That money is to be paid over four years. It was in Hamas’ – and therefore Qatar’s – interest for the peace negotiations Mr. Indyk was “facilitating” to fail. And indeed they did fail, at which point Mr. Indyk blamed Israel.

“Wait,” doubters will say. “It’s good that an oil rich country chose to support a fine American institution like Brookings. Mr. Indyk has recently suggested that governments should consult objective institutions like his about foreign policy.” He has, but can Mr. Indyk and Brookings be objective about issues involving Qatar’s interests? Are strings attached to Qatar’s money?

Explicitly, the answer is no. But there are strings – they are just implicit. Will Qatar’s grant continue to be funded if Mr. Indyk frustrates the Emir? Will there be a next gift from Qatar? If Brookings members strike Qatar as unhelpful, oil money will cease to flow. That “if” clause is not a possibility but a fact.

And Qatar is not alone. Saudi Arabia is a long-term supporter of Jimmy Carter’s foundation, and Carter has been a long-time basher of Israel. Indeed, individuals like Mr. Indyk and Mr. Carter are just the edge of the problem. Universities are beholden too. The University of California at Berkeley and Los Angeles and Columbia University, just to name three, are deeply indebted to Arab oil money. The Middle East faculty they hire and the “independent” positions of those academics are colored by financial gifts. No strings attached, but can it be doubted that future gifts will be determined by the cordiality of university positions and faculty statements to the giver’s vision of events?

The problem is larger still. Saudi Arabia, for example, has huge investments in places like England. It owns Harrods among other ventures. Its royalty attend American, British, and other European universities, pay full tuition and doubtlessly support this program and that. It is in the financial interest of nations in which the oil rich study and play to support their countries.

“Informed” statements, actions, and writings by the donors’ academic beneficiaries and the official positions of beholden government representatives influence vast numbers of people who are not themselves investigators. They hear and read what covert propagandists have to say and become opponents of Israel. Israel frustrated Hamas, and is responsible for the Arab people Hamas killed with misdirected mortar shots and misfired rockets that were not intercepted. Israel is also responsible for Hamas’ mass executions of Palestinian Arabs. Such statements would be too obviously satiric if they weren’t sincere.

Such is Israel’s problem in the world of warped public opinion. The response to it must be investigations of links among public agitators and their financial supporters. The informed must continue to point out the lies, highlight distortions, and name the financial backers of those leading the carping against Israel. Meanwhile, the State of Israel has to go on doing the necessary, the conceptually ingenius, and the good wherever possible. Good does not always win out in the end. But, properly led and supported, it can.

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