WhatsApp co-founder donates $2m to pro-Israel Super PAC

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  July 21, 2022

Billionaire Jan Koum donated to the United Democracy Project Super PAC, an AIPAC-linked group pouring tens of millions of dollars into US primaries.

The co-founder of WhatsApp donated $2m to an AIPAC-aligned Super PAC in June, which poured tens of millions of dollars into American primary elections in support of pro-Israel candidates, federal election commission data has revealed.

Jan Koum’s donation to the AIPAC-aligned United Democracy Project (UDP) Super PAC was among the largest the organization has ever received, far exceeding contributions from billionaires Paul Singer and Bernie Marcus, as well as Israeli-American Democratic donor, Haim Saban.

The news of Koum’s donation comes following the success of AIPAC’s spending during the primary elections in Maryland.

AIPAC-backed Glenn Ivey defeated former congresswoman Donna Edwards after AIPAC and allied groups waded into the race. Ivey claimed victory late on Wednesday after an Associated Press tally said he had clinched 51.2 percent of the votes, compared to Edwards’ 35.2 percent, with 68 percent of the votes tallied.

UDP spent $6m in support of Ivey and quickly claimed victory in the election, saying it proudly helped candidates “defeat their anti-Israel opponents”.

UDP has now spent nearly $21m, exclusively on Democratic primaries, with $12.1 million of those funds being spent on attack ads. Since January, the group has raised more than $27m, according to federal election commission data.

AIPAC launched the UDP in December, alongside the AIPAC PAC, giving the group the ability to donate to political campaigns.

Koum, a 46-year-old retired entrepreneur, sold the messaging platform WhatsApp to Facebook for $19bn in 2014. With an estimated net worth of between $9.8bn and $13.7bn, he is considered one of the richest people in the world.

His family foundation has quietly but actively increased its giving to Jewish and Israel-related causes over the past several years, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

From 2019 to 2020, Koum’s foundation has donated $140m in gifts to about 70 Jewish charities working in the US, Eastern Europe and Israel. Among the donations include $6m to Friends of Ir David, the US fundraising arm of Elad, a right-wing Israeli settler organization dedicated to “strengthening Israel’s current and historic connection to Jerusalem”.

The organization has been responsible for scores of Palestinian evictions and has in some cases fought several expensive, decades-long legal battles to do so, particularly in Silwan, a town annexed by Israel in 1967 that houses some 55,000 Palestinians. 

The family foundation also gave $175,000 to the Central Fund of Israel, a tax-exempt, US-based non-profit that has funded initiatives that support the forced evictions of Palestinian families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood.