Haim Saban

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Haim Saban

Born in Egypt and raised in Israel,[1] Haim Saban is an Israeli-American media-mogul, billionaire[2] and one of the greatest contributors to the campaigns of pro-Israel politicans in the US.[3] [4][5] Described by the New York Times as a "tireless cheerleader for Israel,"[3] he has also founded various centers and institutions focused on producing policy research favorable to Israel. Saban is a financial donor and founder of the Saban Institute for the Study of the American Political System at the University of Tel Aviv. He is a board member and national executive committee member of the Friends of the Israel Defence Forces (FIDF). [6] He is a member of the Board of Trustees at the Brookings Institution. In 2002 he pledged $13 million to found the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution.[3] In 2004 Saban told a New York Times reporter: "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel."[3]

Citizen Saban

Saban is the founder of Saban Entertainment and Fox Family Worldwide. More recently, he has made significant new gains. In 2003 he bought ProSiebenSat.1, Germany's largest privately-owned television network.[7] In 2006, he acquired Univision Communications, the largest Spanish-broadcasting television company in the US for the price of USD 12.3 billion.[8]

According to the Economist:

At a broadcasting-industry conference last month in Cambridge, [Saban] not only expressed interest in acquiring ITV, but then went on to accuse the BBC and Sky News, a British satellite-channel owned by Rupert Murdoch, of putting out biased, overly pro-Arab coverage of the Middle East... His audience was left with the impression that this was “a man motivated by editorial concerns, not a businessman,” as one broadcasting executive put it. Officials at Ofcom, Britain's new media regulator, were amazed by what one called his “pig-ignorant” behaviour.[7]

After Israel's Telecommunications monopoly Bezeq was privatized in 2005, Saban acquired a 30% controlling stake in the company.[9]

Buying Influence

In an interview with the New Yorker 's Connie Bruck, Saban elaborated on the 'three ways to be influential in American politics,' which according to Bruck were: 'make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.'[10] Bruck notes that in "targeting media properties, Saban frankly acknowledges his political agenda and reportedly tried to buy the Los Angeles Times, because he considered it pro-Palestinian.[10]


According to Bruck:

In 2002, he contributed seven million dollars toward the cost of a new building for the Democratic National Committee—one of the largest known donations ever made to an American political party...In 2002, Saban donated five million dollars to Bill Clinton’s Presidential library, and he has given more than five million dollars to the Clinton Foundation.

Saban was one of the major contributors to the former California governor Gray Davis, and in return Davis appointed him to the board of regents of the University of California. However, more recently, Saban, along with Steven Spielberg, have shifted their loyalties to Arnold Schwarzenegger after the new California governor's unequivocal support for Israel's latest invasion of Lebanon.[11]

Earlier, similar contributions had earned Saban rewards from the Clinton administration:

Last September [1999], the Federal Trade Commission issued a report concluding that broadcasters were targeting violent content to kids, and Al Gore pledged to regulate children's programming unless the industry policed itself. Fox Broadcasting, which has been negotiating to buy out Saban's share of Fox Family Worldwide, joined several companies in agreeing to stop marketing adult-rated movies during TV shows aimed at young viewers. The month the report was released, Saban co-hosted a $3.5 million fundraiser for the Democrats with producer-director Rob Reiner (No. 371, $161,300), Warner Brothers President Alan Horn (No. 139, $290,750), and grocery magnate Ron Burkle (No. 102, $330,000). George W. Bush blasted his opponent for accepting contributions from an industry he had criticized; Gore insisted he was willing to take a stand against his financial supporters. Saban's generosity did not go unrewarded. During the Bill Clinton administration, the entertainment executive served on the President's Export Council, advising the White House on trade issues. He also took an unusual pride in being a top contributor. When Saban learned that another donor had topped his contributions to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee by a quarter-million dollars, he immediately sent the DCCC a check for $250,000, with a $1 bill attached to it. 'I hope this guy doesn't find out,' Saban told the Washington Post. 'He may send another two dollars.'

Saban's "own" Think Tank

Saban informed a New York Times reporter about his own views about how the conflict in Israel-Palestine would be resolved in 2004: "I'm going to make a very controversial statement and I hope to God that I am proven totally wrong: I think that any resolution will have to go both on the Palestinian side and Israeli side to some form of civil war. It's not going to be without spilling blood."[3] These views did not stop Saban from creating his "own" think tank in 2002 (called Saban Center for Middle East Policy) at the Brookings Institution with former AIPAC staffer Martin Indyk as its head. He explained: 'I want my own [think tank].’ Connie Bruck writes:

Not all of the Brookings board members supported the idea...Brookings is a non-ideological public-policy institute, dedicated to nurturing American democracy. Saban is unabashedly pro-Israel and, according to people who work with him, harbors a wariness of Arabs that may stem from growing up as a Jew in Egypt; he first returned to an Arab country in 2004, when he went to Qatar with Bill Clinton and the Secret Service. But Saban’s gift was then the largest in Brookings’s history: thirteen million dollars, distributed over seven years. And so, in 2002, the Saban Center for Middle East Policy was established.[10]

Ha'aretz reports:

Since he lost the hold he had in the White House through his good friends Bill and Hillary Clinton, the Saban Center at the Brookings Institution and the Saban Forum have become his levers of influence on political Washington and on Jerusalem...the ability of the colorful Israeli-American billionaire to bring together Ariel Sharon and Bill Clinton, Shimon Peres and Henry Kissinger, Tzipi Livni and Condoleezza Rice has become one of the achievements of which he is proud.[12]


According to prominent scholars John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt, the Saban Center harbors undeniable pro-Israel biases:

It is hard to imagine that a research institute funded by Saban and directed by Indyk is going to be anything but pro-Israel. To be sure, the Saban Centre occasionally hosts Arab scholars and exhibits some diversity of opinion. Saban Center fellows – like Indyk himself – often endorse the idea of a two-state settlement between Israel and the Palestinians. But Saban Center publications never question US support for Israel and rarely, if ever, offer significant criticism of key Israeli policies. Moreover, individuals who stray from the Center’s line do not remain for long, as former NSC official Flynt Leverett’s brief tenure there illustrates.[13]

Moreover, the Brookings Institution's work on the Middle East has degraded since it was transferred to the Saban Center:

Take the Brookings Institution. For many years, its senior expert on the Middle East was William B. Quandt, a former National Security Council official with a well-deserved reputation for even-handedness. Today, Brookings’s coverage is conducted through the Saban Center for Middle East Policy, which is financed by Haim Saban, an Israeli-American businessman and ardent Zionist. The centre’s director is the ubiquitous Martin Indyk. What was once a non-partisan policy institute is now part of the pro-Israel chorus."[14]

Israel Espionage Scandal

US Congress woman Jane Harman had been under FBI and Justice Department investigations after an NSA wiretap caught her coordinating with an Israeli agent so she could intervene in an AIPAC espionage case to reduce charges against Steve J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, the two officials indicted for spying. In exchange, according to Time, AIPAC would lobby then-House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi to appoint Harman as chair of the House Intelligence Committee if the Democrats captured the House after the 2006 elections.[15] The New York Times later reported on the arrangement which named Saban as a key influencer:

In return, the caller promised her that a wealthy California donor — the media mogul Haim Saban — would threaten to withhold campaign contributions to Representative Nancy Pelosi, the California Democrat who was expected to become House speaker after the 2006 election, if she did not select Ms. Harman for the intelligence post.[16]

Steven Rosen/AIPAC's Benefactor

During his defamation suit against AIPAC, Steven Rosen named Saban among several other prominent Jewish-Americans who while financially supporting AIPAC, also acted as his personal benefactor following his dismissal from AIPAC:

Indeed, many of the dozen benefactors Rosen named, including entertainment mogul Haim Saban and Slim-Fast billionaire Daniel Abraham, are also major donors to AIPAC, which fired him after the Justice Department charged him with illegally giving classified information to Washington Post reporter Glenn Kessler and an Israeli Embassy official...Saban gave $100,000 to him, his wife and children.[17]

Saban and the Obama Administration

Saban reportedly "remains concerned that Obama is not fully committed to Israel"[10] and it is for this reason that Obama did not receive financial backing during his Democrat party nomination bid or during his presidency campaign.

After Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton for the Democrat presidential nomination, Saban was reportedly contacted by Obama for campaign donations, but Obama's unwillingness to respond to Saban's demands in the way that Clinton did resulted in Saban refusing to donate to Obama's campaign:

For example, Saban continued, “Obama was asked the same question Hillary was asked—‘If Iran nukes Israel, what would be your reaction?’ Hillary said, ‘We will obliterate them.’ We . . . will . . . obliterate . . . them. Four words, it’s simple to understand. Obama said only three words. He would ‘take appropriate action.’ I don’t know what that means. A rogue state that is supporting killing our men and women in Iraq; that is a supporter of Hezbollah, which killed more Americans than any other terrorist organization; that is a supporter of Hamas, which shot twelve thousand rockets at Israel—that rogue state nukes a member of the United Nations, and we’re going to ‘take appropriate action’! ” His voice grew louder. “I need to understand what that means. So I had a list of questions like that. And Chicago”—Obama campaign headquarters—“could not organize that meeting. ‘Schedule, heavy schedule.’ I was ready and willing to be helpful, but ‘helpful’ is not to write a check for two thousand three hundred dollars. It’s to raise millions, which I am fully capable of doing. But Chicago wasn’t able to deliver the meeting, so I couldn’t get on board.”[10]

At a March 2010 meeting at Joe Biden's home Saban attempted to pressure Biden into getting the Obama Administration to further pledge allegiance to Israel by claiming that it was in the US's interest to do so.

In the meeting, Saban said that the Administration “may want to consider the fact that their relationship with their Israeli wife is more valuable than their newfound relationship with their Arab mistresses.”[10]

Friends in High Places

Ariel Sharon

Sharon on Saban:

"To me he will always be a dear personal friend. Haim Saban is a great American citizen and a man who always stood by Israel and the Jewish people in times of need. His contribution to strengthening ties between Israel and American political leaders from all parties has been quite remarkable and outstanding."[3]

Saban on Sharon:

"Sharon was a terrific prime minister. First of all as a human being. He's a sweetheart. I would phone him and he would get back to me in five minutes."

Bill Clinton

According to Bruck,

When Bill Clinton was President and Ehud Barak was Israel’s Prime Minister, Saban, who was close to both men, says that occasionally he provided a back channel for communications.[10]

According to the New York Times:[3]

He and his wife, Cheryl…, slept in the White House several times during President Clinton’s two terms.[3]
Mr. Saban has not been shy about calling on his political friends to help sell advertising, too. This year, he invited Germany’s most prominent advertising executives to his home in Los Angeles for dinner with Mr. Clinton. The executives, he said, were stunned…

Clinton had the following to Say about Saban:

"Haim Saban has been a very good friend, supporter and adviser to me,” Mr. Clinton said in an e-mail message. “I am grateful for his commitment to Israel, to a just and lasting peace in the Middle East and to my foundation’s work, particularly on reconciliation issues."[3]

As for Saban's vision for a "just and lasting peace":

"I think that any resolution will have to go both on the Palestinian side and Israeli side to some form of civil war. It’s not going to be without spilling blood."

The relationship is odd enough to make even Saban wonder:

Sometimes I tell myself that there's something a bit nutty here. He's the president of the United States. I sell cartoons. So he is going to serve me and ask if I want regular or fizzy water?"[12]

Hillary Clinton

Bruck notes that the Clinton's have been "essential" to Saban's "acquisition of social and political power."[10] Saban was an ardent supporter of Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid, even building a funding campaign before she made the official announcement:

Saban said that he begged Hillary to run for President in 2004, and that he began making lists of prospective donors even before she declared her candidacy, in 2007. “I was so committed to Hillary becoming President, with my whole neshamah,” Saban said. “I put my heart and soul into this campaign.”[10]

While Saban refused to support Obama throughout his presidency campaign and later during most of his actual term in office, he has remained devoted to Clinton:

Hillary Clinton, in her role as Secretary of State, has taken a stern line “condemning” the construction plans, and upbraiding Netanyahu. But Saban—who likes to describe Hillary as a “team player”—remains protective of her. Before Hillary addressed the AIPAC conference on March 22nd, he urged the organization’s leaders to be sure that the convention crowd treated Hillary well.[10]

Angela Merkel

Saban tells Ha'aretz:

But I do not belittle the fact that I can go to Angela Merkel in the Chancellory and say, 'Hi, Angela, how are you?' And she replies, 'Haim, nice to see you.' I don't minimize that. That's a great pleasure.[12]

Shimon Peres

According to Connie Bruck of the New Yorker Shimon Peres, the President of Israel, has been a close friend of Saban’s for more than twenty years.[10]

Arnold Schwarzenegger

While Saban has always described himself as a Democrat, he publicly supported pro-Israel celebrity and Republican, Arnold Schwarzenegger, during Schwarzenegger's governor re-election campaign in 2006,[18] and Schwarzenegger was a featured speaker at the 2009 Saban Forum.

Saban and Israel

Born in Egypt and raised in Israel[1] where he served with the IDF,[10], Saban declared in 2004: "I'm a one-issue guy and my issue is Israel".[3]

Connie Bruck reports:

Although Saban has lived in the United States for nearly thirty years, he remains deeply connected to Israel. He watches Israeli news shows, via satellite, throughout the day, and is a devout fan of the Ha’gashash Ha’chiver (Pale Pathfinder), a popular Israeli comedy troupe that performed for decades. “He knows every sketch of theirs by heart, and he uses their language very often when he speaks Hebrew,” his friend Dan Gillerman, the former Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations, said. His hundred-year-old mother and his brother live in Israel, and Saban travels there frequently. Through the years, one of his closest advisers has always been an Israeli and, in business meetings with others on his team, the two would occasionally slip into a side conversation in Hebrew.[10]

According to Saban his "greatest concern" is

to protect Israel, by strengthening the United States-Israel relationship. At a conference last fall in Israel, Saban described his formula. His “three ways to be influential in American politics,” he said, were: make donations to political parties, establish think tanks, and control media outlets.[10]

Tax Evasion Charges

In 2006 Saban was implicated in tax evasion charges led by the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations. Saban claimed he had never knowingly engaged in illegal activities and alleged that his financial advisor, Matt Krane, had misled him.[10]

On US Civil Rights

While Saban claims to have opposed some of George W. Bush's policies, he whole-heartedly supported the "anti-terror" laws that were enhanced and introduced during his presidency.

"On the issues of security and terrorism I am a total hawk," he said. "I'm a Democrat for the reinforcement of the Patriot Act. It's not strong enough. The A.C.L.U. can eat their heart out, but they are living in the 1970's. We should all have ID's. You betcha. What do you have to hide? Some friends of mine on the left side think I'm crazy."[3]


Related Articles


  1. 1.0 1.1 Chris Reed, "Hollywood writes charity out of script", The Guardian, 29 June 2003
  2. Forbes, "#287 Haim Saban", Forbes, 10 March 2010
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 Andrew Ross Sorkin, "Schlepping to Moguldom", New York Times, 5 September 2004 Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "ARS" defined multiple times with different content
  4. Mother Jones, Haim Saban (with Cheryl), Mother Jones, accessed on 18 September 2010
  5. Wikipedia, Haim Saban Democratic Party, Wikipedia, accessed on 18 September 2010
  6. 'Our Board', "Friends of the Israel Defence Forces Website", accessed 17 September 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 Barbarian at the gates?, The Economist, October 2, 2003
  8. Nimrod Avraham, Saban buys US TV company, YNet, June 29, 2006
  9. Saban gets Israel telecoms stake, BBC, May 9, 2005
  10. 10.00 10.01 10.02 10.03 10.04 10.05 10.06 10.07 10.08 10.09 10.10 10.11 10.12 10.13 10.14 Connie Bruck, 'The Influencer,' New Yorker, 10 May 2010
  11. Tom Chorneau, Is Angelides running out of time, money? Clinton brings in $1 million, but it may not be enough, San Francisco Chronicle, August 11, 2006
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Ari Shavit, 'You made it big, you jerk!', Ha'aretz, December 8, 2006
  13. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, (Penguin 2007) p. 177
  14. John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt, The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy, (Penguin 2007) p. 176
  15. Timothy J. Burger, Exclusive: Feds Probe a Top Democrat's Relationship with AIPAC, Time, 20 October 2006
  16. Neil A. Lewis and Mark Mazzetti, Lawmaker Is Said to Have Agreed to Aid Lobbyists, New York Times, 21 April 2009
  17. Jeff Stein, "Ex-AIPAC official got at least $670,000 from donors", Washington Post, 19 November 2010
  18. Michael Carmichael, "Israel Lobbyists Saban & Spielberg desert the Democrats", SpinWatch Website, 27 August 2006