Lester Crown

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Lester Crown on his emotional attachment with Israel

Lester Crown (born 7 June 1925) is a Chicago tycoon who has been on the Forbes 400 list since 1982. He is one of leading donors to pro-Israel causes, and a key backer of Barack Obama. He is a member of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the American Committee for the Weizmann Institute of Science and of the Tel Aviv University's Board of Governors. He established the Crown Center for Middle East Studies at Brandeis University with an initial gift of $10 million in 2005. He and his family also fund the Crown Fellows program in American History at Brandeis. His foundation funds Counterterrorism & Security Education and Research Foundation, a front for Steven Emerson's Investigative Project on Terrorism.[1] Political Scientist has listed Crown as one of what he calls the 'new Afrikaners', Jews 'who will support Israel even if it is an apartheid state.'[2]

Contents

Crowning Obama

Lester Crown was one of Barack Obama's earliest and most steadfast supporters. He provided seed money for the Obama campaign, and his son James Crown was the co-chair of Obama's Illinois fundraising effort. In 2007 he and his wife Renee Crown hosted a fundraiser for Obama in which they highlighted that their support for the candidate was predicated on his support of Israel and his willingness to take militarily action against Iran.[3][4]

Defending Obama's record on Israel

In 2008, when Barack Obama was under attack from Zionist Jews for being insufficiently supportive of Israel, Lester Crown sent out a mass email defending Obama. The contents of the email were obtained by Brent Gardner-Smith of the Aspen Daily News:

"While my involvement in politics is motivated by a variety of issues,there is one issue that is fundamental: My deep commitment to Israel and to a strong U.S.-Israel relationship that strengthens both Israel's security and its efforts to seek peace," Crown wrote. "I am writing to share with you my confidence that Senator Barack Obama's stellar record on Israel gives me great comfort that, as President, he will be the friend to Israel that we all want to see in the White House - stalwart in his defense of Israel's security, and committed to helping Israel achieve peace with its neighbors."
"I have been honored to know Barack Obama for years, and I am proud to say that he is unyielding in defending Israel's security," Crown wrote."His conviction holds fast whether the threat comes from Gaza or Tehran.
"He has been a leader in calling for toughening sanctions against Iran as part of a comprehensive diplomatic effort to prevent the development and deployment of Iranian nuclear weapons. And he has stated clearly that, as President, he will make a personal commitment to help achieve a two-state solution, with Israel and a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace and security - with the full understanding that Israel's security cannot be compromised." [...]
"I have every confidence that, as you get to know Barack Obama's record on Israel, you will share my excitement about the possibility his candidacy represents and my comfort that he will advocate and support a solution in the Middle East that is consistent with values which we hold dear."

Gardner-Smith noted that the content of the email were 'consistent with Obama's stated positions on Israel and said to have been forwarded by the Obama campaign.'[5]

Hidden Pressure

On 8 July, Ari Shavit of Haaretz reported how Netanyahu was able to bring Obama, who had been trying to restrain Israel, to heel. He notes:

After 18 wasted months during which Obama was the president who exerted pressure, he has become the president who embraces. Obama is embracing the State of Israel and the prime minister of Israel. What happened?
Three things have happened. On one level, Netanyahu waged a struggle. And the statesman who is depicted as susceptible to pressure did not succumb to the American pressure of this past spring. He fought back. The price for what Netanyahu did was felt by Obama in Chicago. The Israeli leader applied hidden pressure to the American leader, which made it perfectly clear to him: No more.[6]

According to journalist Philip Weiss, the 'hidden pressure' Shavit alluded to came from Crown.[7]

Target Iran

According to Jeffrey Goldberg of the Atlantic, Israel tried to use Crown's influence with Obama to press the US toward a more aggressive posture. Goldberg writes:

Not long ago, the chief of Israeli military intelligence, Major General Amos Yadlin, paid a secret visit to Chicago to meet with Lester Crown, the billionaire whose family owns a significant portion of General Dynamics, the military contractor. Crown is one of Israel’s most prominent backers in the American Jewish community, and was one of Barack Obama’s earliest and most steadfast supporters. According to sources in America and Israel, General Yadlin asked Crown to communicate Israel’s existential worries directly to President Obama. When I reached Crown by phone, he confirmed that he had met with Yadlin, but denied that the general traveled to Chicago to deliver this message. “Maybe he has a cousin in Chicago or something,” Crown said. But he did say that Yadlin discussed with him the “Iranian clock”—the time remaining before Iran reached nuclear capability—and that he agreed with Yadlin that the United States must stop Iran before it goes nuclear. “I share with the Israelis the feeling that we certainly have the military capability and that we have to have the will to use it. The rise of Iran is not in the best interest of the U.S.
“I support the president,” Crown said. “But I wish [administration officials] were a little more outgoing in the way they have talked. I would feel more comfortable if I knew that they had the will to use military force, as a last resort. You cannot threaten someone as a bluff. There has to be a will to do it.”[8][9]

Affiliations

Resources

Notes

  1. Eli Clifton, More Insights Into Steven Emerson’s Tangled Funding Web, Lobelog.com, 4 November 2010
  2. John J. Mearsheimer, The Future of Palestine: Righteous Jews vs. the New Afrikaners, The Jerusalem Fund, 29 April 2010
  3. Margaret Kimberley, Mr. Crown and the President: Israel, Big Money and Obama, Counterpunch.org, August 20 - 22, 2010
  4. Jennifer Siegel, Barack Obama Steps Up Bid for Jewish Backing, Forward, 9 March 2007
  5. Brent Gardner-Smith, Lester Crown defends Obama in mass e-mail, Aspen Daily News, 22 January 2008
  6. Ari Shavit, King for a Day, Haaretz, 8 July 2010
  7. Philip Weiss, Did billionaire Lester Crown get to Obama on Israel?, Mondoweiss, 10 August 2010
  8. Justin Elliot, Did top Obama donor carry Israeli message to W.H.?, Salon, 12 August 2010
  9. Jeffrey Goldberg, "The Point of No Return", The Atlantic, September 2010
  10. Jane Ammeson, The Busy Life of Billionaire Lester Crown, Chicago Life Magazine, 8 February 2008
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