Middle East Monitor / March 12, 2021
The biggest donors of Republican politicians who have been denounced for trying to overturn the US Constitution on the day of the storming of Congress building in January are also the biggest backers of an Israeli lobby group that is pushing far-right policies within the Zionist state, Haaretz has reported. The Jewish American tycoons behind the right-wing Kohelet Policy Forum have been exposed by the Israeli newspaper in an extended article headlined “The US billionaires secretly funding the right-wing effort to reshape Israel”. Not all wealthy Jewish Americans are involved in such activities.
Since it was founded in 2012, Kohelet has lobbied successfully to translate far-right religious Zionism into law and underpinned legislation to bolster Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. One major success was the racist 2018 Nation State Law. The law defines Israel as a Jewish state where only Jews have the right to self-determination.
“I don’t want to sound arrogant, but in some sense we’re the brains of the Israeli right wing,” Moshe Koppel, Kohelet’s chairman is reported as saying. “Most of the things that go on in the Israeli right come out of our… school of thought.” According to Haaretz, the Nation State Law was based on an original draft written by Koppel almost twenty years ago.
Kohelet’s objectives are on its official website: “The Kohelet Policy Forum strives to secure Israel’s future as the nation-state of the Jewish people, to strengthen representative democracy, and to broaden individual liberty and free-market principles in Israel.” Its work usually passes unnoticed, rather amazingly given that the size of its research staff is said to be comparable to that of the largest academic college in Israel. Kohelet’s researchers, though, are not engaged in research for its own sake; they want to wield influence; they want to transform the country.
This influence apparently includes drafting laws and position papers for right-wing members of the Israeli Knesset as well as US officials advancing the Zionist state’s settler colonial ambitions. It was Kohelet, for example, that is said to have provided the then US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with the legal grounds for his unprecedented announcement of America’s recognition of the alleged legality of the settlements in 2019, revealed Haaretz. Pompeo publicly acknowledged the support of the organisation.
Haaretz said that Kohelet’s principal financial backers are two Jewish American billionaires, Jeffrey Yass and Arthur Dantchik. Both men guard their privacy zealously, but are said to be active within the Republican Party funding right-wing politicians and a whole network of conservative and libertarian research centres that provide legislators with the information to weaken the case for public health insurance, prevent the expansion of public transportation and block restrictions on buying weapons, including in supermarkets.
As in Israel, their role within the Republican Party largely went unnoticed until the 6 January storming of the Congress Building by far-right supporters of the then US President Donald Trump. “The riots sparked criticism of Donald Trump’s loyalists in Congress, particularly Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley,” said Haaretz. “Afterward, the criticism was extended to Trumpist donors, especially Yass, who is ranked sixth on the list compiled by Opensecrets.org of the major donors to all Republican candidates in 2020.”
Despite efforts to keep the donations totalling “tens of millions of dollars” a secret, the newspaper uncovered the “convoluted” money trail connecting certain Jewish American tycoons with far-right movements.