How Western Corruption Helps Fuel Radical Islam
What do the big money and cushy lifestyles of Bill and Hillary Clinton, as well as Mideast leaders like Shimon Peres, Hosni Mubarak, Ehud Barak, and the late Shah of Iran, have to do with Middle East security and Islamic terror?
Consider two points:
- A big enticement for radical Islamic movements is that “pure Islam” rolls back the “corruption” – fasaad in Arabic -of the West and pro-Western Arab regimes. Corrupt Leaders like Mubarak and the Shah of Iran were pushed aside because their high-handedness and high-living became so offensive.
- The big money pay-offs and the close ties with people making the pay-offs have become trademarks for certain pro-Western regimes and some notable Western politicians.
The Clintons made millions of dollars from private firms and governments when Mrs. Clinton was still in office as Secretary of State (and presumed to be on the road to being president.) In 2011 alone, Bill Clinton earned more than $13 million dollars in lecture fees. Foreign government gave millions more in foundation donations.
Bill Clinton expected to collect a huge lecture fee (later a donation) for speaking at a birthday celebration for then-Israeli President Shimon Peres, who himself now collects $360,000 a year for advising an Israeli bank: Bank HaPoalim.
Bill Clinton may be a good speaker and Shimon Peres may have accrued much experience in his long lifetime, but is there something else going on here?
Is it just a coincidence that many of the really big Bill Clinton speaking-fees came after Mrs. Clinton became Secretary of State?
Is it Mr. Peres’s economic sagacity that interests Israel’s largest private bank, or is the bank making an investment in someone who was Israel’s longest-serving politician – someone who knows how to ease the government-corporate regulatory frictions?
Is it also a coincidence that Mr. Peres continued to nurture his foundation, and to boost its income, like the Clintons did with their foundation, while still in office? And is it just a coincidence that nobody really investigated this strange situation?
Hillary Clinton famously claimed that she and her husband were bankrupt when they left the White House in 2001, but in the next decade, they earned well over $100 million dollars in income, as well as tens of millions more for their foundation.
A similar rags-to-riches story describes former Israeli Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who also earned millions in speaking and consulting fees, especially dealing with security and strategic questions, often paid by non-Israelis.
Anyone who has heard Mr. Barak speak in anything but Hebrew may well conclude that Barak is being paid for his knowledge, but certainly not for his oratorical ability.
But the real question concerns the possibility or the appearance of the possibility that former Prime Minister Barak – or former President Peres – may be cashing-in on privileged information or the ability to contact and sway the actions of present officials.
Clinton money-raising practices also illustrate something that should concern Israelis: the ability of one member of the family to earn big bucks in the private market or from overseas ties while another member of the family is still in government.
In the case of the late Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli courts have confirmed that Sharon’s sons (Gilad and Omri) lived with their father on his ranch (bought with money from friends) while getting illicit funds and trading on their father’s connections.
Similar questions were raised about artist Aliza Olmert’s ability to command huge art fees from people who may have wanted favors from her husband, Ehud Olmert. Or maybe it’s a coincidence.
Westerners and Israelis often scoff at the “primitive” and authoritarian societies in the Middle East, but such societies have often despised leaders for this very same corruption. (Of course, it’s also true that many of the regimes that replaced these exiled leaders were also corrupt.)
When Western leaders preach to the Middle East about the virtues of democracy and the dangers of radical Islam, it would be a good idea to look in the mirror to see if there is not a lurking shadow of corruption.
UPDATE: Facing tremendous public criticism, Shimon Peres announced he was cancelling his contract with Bank HapPoalim in order to squelch “loose lips,” but he has not changed any of his policies or returned any funds at his Peres Foundation – which he continued to run while serving as Israel’s president.
Dr. Michael Widlanski is the author of Battle for Our Minds: Western Elites and the Terror Threat, published by Threshold/ Simon and Schuster. He teaches at Bar-Ilan University , was strategic affairs advisor in Israel ‘s Ministry of Public Security, and was the Schusterman visiting professor at University of California, Irvine for 2013-14.