Bucks Help Sharon Steal Israeli Elections?
by Scott Thompson and Jeffrey Steinberg
A small group of American and Canadian
mega-billionaires, tied to organized crime and right-wing Zionist causes,
has joined in the effort to steal the Jan. 28 Israeli elections, on behalf
of Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, who is committed to drowning any
Israel-Palestine peace process in a sea of blood. The Mega Group, founded
in 1991 by Charles and Edgar Bronfman, Michael Steinhardt, Max Fisher, and
several dozen other multi-billionaires, meets secretly twice a year, and,
since its founding, has sought to impose its top-down control over the
"alphabet soup" of pro-Israel political action committees,
self-styled civil rights organizations, and tax-exempt charities. Among
the Mega Group's institutional power bases are the World Jewish Congress,
the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish American Organizations, and
the United Jewish Fund—a recent merger of the major American and
Canadian Jewish charities, disbursing annual gross contributions of nearly
According to one Israeli source, the group has expanded
in recent years, and now is made up of over 50 American and Canadian
super-rich Zionist activists. The dominant figures in the group—the
Bronfman brothers, Steinhardt, and Fisher—all have longstanding personal
and family organized-crime pedigrees, tracing back to the Meyer Lansky
National Crime Syndicate. The Canada-based Bronfman gang, headed by Edgar
and Charles' father Sam, and by Max Fisher, got their start as bootleggers
during Prohibition. Fisher was a leader of the Detroit-based Purple Gang,
which, in collusion with Moe Dalitz's Cleveland-centered "Jewish
Navy," smuggled Bronfman's illegal booze across the Great Lakes from
Canada into the Midwest. The Bronfman family motto, which applies to most
of the Mega Group, is: "From rags, to rackets, to riches, to
Michael Steinhardt, like Edgar and Charles Bronfman, is
the son of a Meyer Lansky lieutenant, "Red" Steinhardt, who was
the National Crime Syndicate's number-one jewel fence. "Red"
Steinhardt was also a partner with Lansky in the Havana casinos prior to
Castro's takeover, and was also affiliated with the Genovese
organized-crime family. According to Michael Steinhardt's autobiography,
it was his father's ill-gotten gains that put him through the University
of Pennsylvania Wharton School of Business; and it was syndicate loot that
started him on a successful career as a Wall Street speculator and
For the past 15 years, Steinhardt has been one of
Presidential wanna-be Sen. Joseph Lieberman's (D-Conn.) biggest boosters,
having founded the neo-conservative Democratic Leadership Council (DLC),
and promoted Lieberman as the group's poster boy.
Steinhardt grabbed headlines in January 2001, when he
played a pivotal role in conning President Bill Clinton into granting a
Presidential pardon to Russian Mafiya "Godfather" Marc Rich, one
of Steinhardt's longtime business partners. Rich was a fugitive from U.S.
Justice Department indictments for tax evasion and trading with the enemy
(Iran). As EIR reported on Jan. 10, Rich is another source of dirty money
flows into the Sharon camp, through his secret Russian Mafiya partner,
Grigori Loutchansky, among others.
Mafiya Damage Control
In a Jan. 15 interview with a Washington, D.C.-based
journalist, Steinhardt boasted about his recent intervention to sabotage
the electoral campaign of Israeli Labor Party Chairman Amram Mitzna, which
was also intended to control the damage being done by the spreading
scandal over the Likud party's ties to organized crime, into which
Steinhardt and the whole Mega Group could be swept.
On Jan. 12, Steinhardt said, he had had a private dinner
with Ariel Sharon. While claiming that he does not support either major
party in Israel, Steinhardt did insist, that the Jan. 28 elections must
produce another "national unity government," along the lines of
the coalition that Sharon formed in 2001, in which Labor Party leaders
Shimon Peres and Binyamin Ben-Eliezer held the Foreign and Defense
portfolios. Their participation with serial war-criminal Sharon, gave him
and and his right-wing thug allies, 20 months in which they could tear
apart the entire Oslo peace process, brutally exterminate much of the
Palestinian Authority, and achieve Sharon's ultimate goal: the
"ethnic cleansing" to remove all Palestinians from the West Bank
Mitzna has repeatedly stated that he will not join a
national unity government with the mobbed-up murderers of Likud, and will
press for Israeli authorities to get to the bottom of the Sharon-Likud-Mafiya
election theft scandals. Whatever the outcome on Jan. 28, it is widely
acknowledged inside Israel, that the scandals have denied Sharon the
landslide victory he was hoping for. Mitzna, in rejecting the national
unity scheme, is paving the way for a near-term political victory,
uncontaminated by compromise with Sharon. The organized-crime/Likud
scandal has become too big to bury, and any Sharon government—minus
Labor—would likely be short-lived and paralyzed by scandals.
This is something that the Mega Group—in particular
Steinhardt and Rich—cannot tolerate.
Steinhardt and Rich
Steinhardt also admitted to the Washington journalist,
that while in Israel, he met with Marc Rich, where they joined in
promoting the Mega Group's favorite "charity," Birthright
Israel, to which, he acknowledged, Rich is a major donor. Birthright
Israel, founded by Steinhardt, and co-chaired by Charles Bronfman, is a
U.S.-based charity, with "501(c)3" tax-exempt status, which
sends Jewish youths, between 16 and 26, to Israel for indoctrination, to
convince them to "make aliya"—i.e., to take up permanent
But a closer look by EIR investigators at Birthright
Israel raises some important questions about what the "charity"
is actually all about. Among the most disturbing pieces of the picture is
its close links to an Israeli-based "charity," the Mikhail
Chernoy Foundation, a tax-exempt front, set up by one of the most
notorious of the Russian Mafiya figures residing in Israel. The website of
the Chernoy Foundation boasts that it is involved in joint projects with
Mikhail Chernoy is a major figure in the Russian Mafiya,
whose "business" activities have been associated with Benya
Stilitz's attempted takeover of Alpha Bank in Russia, and earlier Mafiya
moves to corner the Russian aluminum sector, in league with none other
than Marc Rich.
Stilitz is particularly close with Russian Mafiya don
Grigori Lerner (a.k.a. Zvi Ben-Ari), who is scrutinized in Jeffrey
Robinson's The Merger: The Conglomeration of International Organized Crime
(New York: The Overlook Press, 2000). According to Robinson, after Lerner
spent 18 months in jail in Russia for fraud, following a most unusual
extradition from Switzerland, Lerner, in 1995, was permitted by the
Israelis to found the Israeli-Russian Finance Co., accused of having been
involved in laundering foreign funds.
Robinson reports that Lerner set up a string of shell
companies around the globe, including in Panama, the Caribbean, Mauritius,
Luxembourg, and Cyprus. Lerner became a major money launderer with the
permission of the Israeli government, where there are no laws against
money laundering. Lerner is also known to have given the former Israeli
Minister of Trade and Industry Natan Sharansky, $100,000; through
Sharansky, Lerner made approaches with his largesse to the Likud and other
Mikhail Chernoy's Foundation was created in June 1,
2001, and is seen by Israeli investigators as a public relations ruse.
Chernoy claims that it was created after the terrorist bombing of the
Dolphinarium Disco in Tel Aviv, to aid the 150 survivors and families of
the 20 dead, mostly Russian immigrants. The foundation website boasts that
American youths whom Birthright Israel brings to Israel, have met with
these bombing victims. One item on the Chernoy Foundation website
reported: "The emotional meeting [between the Birthright Israel
youths and the Dolphinarium survivors] was moderated by representatives of
the Mikhail Chernoy Foundation, which has been assisting Dolphinarium
victims from the very first night of the attack. The Foundation financed a
book and is producing a movie."
Mikhail Chernoy's brother Lev has been a prime target of
the Swiss investigation into the Russian Mafiya since he attempted to take
over the Russian aluminum industry—allegedly with the assistance of Marc
Rich. Also, according to Robinson, Swiss investigators believe that Lev
Chernoy has ties with the Mega-linked "Russian oligarch" Boris
Berezovsky, who is accused of siphoning $200 million in hard currency out
of Aeroflot accounts and into Switzerland. Both Chernoy and Berezovsky are
suspected of involvement with the Bank of New York, which laundered
billions of dollars in hard currency and state assets out of the Soviet
Union during the early 1990s. According to Robinson, the person behind
many of these murky deals was Likud campaign contributor Grigori
Loutchansky. A recent international law enforcement probe of the Bank of
New York operations has turned up evidence that Marc Rich was a silent
partner of Loutchansky's in the Nordex operations, which started out as a
KGB money-laundering front in the late 1980s.
According to the book by the late Robert I. Friedman,
Red Mafiya: How the Russian Mob Has Invaded America (Boston: Little, Brown
& Co., 2000), Natan Sharansky, the former Soviet refusenik, head of
the Russian emigré party Yisrael B'Aliyah, and a Sharon Cabinet minister,
took millions of dollars from Loutchansky. Sharansky then introduced
Loutchansky to former Likud Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is now
Sharon's Foreign Minister. The Israeli press reported at the time, that
Netanyahu took $1.5-5 million from Loutchansky, and the contributions to
the Likud are never known to have stopped.
In 1994, new Israeli election laws were passed, making
it a crime to accept foreign campaign contributions.
Show Me the Money
With Steinhardt and Rich running around Israel,
promoting a pre-election revolt against Labor Party Chairman and lead
candidate Mitzna, over his refusal to entertain the idea of a unity
government with Sharon—the only thing that would save the Likud thug
from a near-term political fall—another question must be asked: Is
Birthright Israel, like so many other U.S.-based tax-exempt charities,
serving as an illegal siphon into Sharon's and Likud's coffers on the eve
of the election?
This is a matter that urgently needs to be taken up by
Israeli and American prosecutors. While there is no "smoking
gun" document, proving that Birthright Israel is funneling cash into
the right wing, a careful review of the fund's U.S. 990 Internal Revenue
Service filings poses some disturbing questions. According to the most
recent filing available, covering the year 2000, in that year alone,
Birthright Israel, with U.S. status as a 501(c)3 tax-exempt charity, took
in nearly $50 million in contributions, from an undisclosed number of
donors. In the same year, its total expenses—including sending U.S.
students to Israel—cost under $5 million, leaving an unaccounted-for
balance of $45 million!
The 990 forms also revealed that Birthright Israel, more
than any other "charitable" agency, is dominated by the Mega
Group's known members. Of the 12 names listed in the IRS filing as board
members of Birthright Israel, at least 8 are publicly identified members
of the Mega Group (based on a lone published profile of the group, that
appeared in the Wall Street Journal in 1998). There is no reason to
believe that the other four directors are not members as well, but this
has not been confirmed, and most members of the super-secret steering
committee are chary about discussing their affiliation, or anything else
Who's Who in the Birthright Israel Foundation
The two co-chairmen of Birthright Israel are Mega
co-founder and booze baron Charles R. Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt.
Other board members include:
Leonard Abramson, the founder of the health maintenance
organization, U.S. Healthcare, which he sold to Aetna Insurance, pocketing
$990 million on the deal. One Mega project that Abramson formed—at the
Ariel Sharon's suggestion after his 2001 election as Israeli Prime
Minister—was a group euphemistically called "Emet" (Hebrew for
"Truth"). In a March 13, 2001 dispatch, the Jewish Telegraph
Agency reported that Sharon wanted to launch a propaganda campaign to
overturn the peace process, and the result was Emet. This black propaganda
outfit for a "Greater Israel" has dismayed the Israeli peace
lobby, because of its support for hard-line policies, such as those backed
by Morton Klein and his Zionist Organization of America. Emet has both
sent students to be indoctrinated at Tel Aviv University, and has worked
with Birthright Israel International students.
Edgar Bronfman, Sr.. The brother of Charles R. Bronfman
is also a member of Mega. Their father, Sam Bronfman, was a leading figure
in the "Jewish Navy," which brought high-ticket booze from
Canada into the U.S. during Prohibition, before "going legit,"
by building a second fortune in distilling, among other activities. Edgar
Bronfman took over the World Jewish Congress (WJC) following the death of
Nahum Goldmann, and transformed the international organization into a
political dirty tricks agency, which complemented his personal efforts to
prop up the dying Communist regimes of Eastern Europe, especially East
Germany. Bronfman's Seagrams Liquor had negotiated lucrative business
deals with the Communist Party bosses of East Germany and the Soviet
Union. Bronfman had also promoted what syndicated columnists Rowland Evans
and Robert Novak labeled the "grain for Jews" deal between
Moscow and Israel, which steered hundreds of thousands of Soviet Jewish
emigrés into Israel (including a hefty percentage of Russian Mafiya
Ronald S. Lauder, heir to the Estée Lauder fortune.
Lauder has used his millions to fund right-wing projects in the United
States and Israel. According to a feature in the Jan. 29, 1996 issue of
Jewish Week, based on a special investigation by reporters from Jewish
Week and the Israeli daily Ha'aretz, Lauder had contributed both funds and
other support to the Likud, when Netanyahu was running for Prime Minister
(see "A Bigger Scandal: Illegal U.S. Funding of Sharon's Likud,"
EIR, Jan. 24). Among these illicit funding channels, was the
Jerusalem-based Shalem Center, which Lauder has various founded, funded,
and chaired; another Lauder conduit was the short-lived Israel Research
Foundation. Lauder has been associated with Russian oligarch Berezovsky,
who is one of the chief middlemen between "Godfather" Marc Rich
and the Russian Mafiya dons. The Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, which
dispurses some $10 million a year, has received sufficient contributions
from the family cosmetics fortune to maintain a slush fund of around $20
Marc Rich, remains in Zug, Switzerland, despite his
pardon. Rich's ties to the Russian Mafiya pre-date his flight from U.S.
law enforcement. It was Rich who sponsored the original Russian Mafiya
immigration to Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, shortly after the U.S. Congress
passed the Jackson-Vanik Amendment in 1974, linking all U.S.-Soviet trade
to Moscow's treatment of Soviet Jewry, including emigration.
Leslie Wexner, another co-founder of Mega with Charles
Bronfman. Among his several businesses, the best known is Victoria's
Secret lingerie. Wexner is a board member of Lord Conrad Black's Hollinger
International, Inc. media empire, which turned Israel's main
English-language daily, the Jerusalem Post, into a mouthpiece for Sharon.
Through Hollinger, Wexner rubs elbows with former British Prime Minister
Lady Margaret Thatcher, Sir Henry Kissinger, and U.S. Defense Policy Board
Chairman Richard Perle (a.k.a. "The Prince of Darkness"), who
loudly advocates a "Clash of Civilizations."
Gary Winnick is the founder of the telecom firm, Global
Crossing, whose Jan. 28, 2002 bankruptcy was the fourth largest in U.S.
history, with $12 billion in debt. Before this crash, Winnick, who was
described in Fortune magazine as having "spent like a Roman
emperor," dumped his own holdings in the firm and ended up with an
estimated $250-500 million. According to a Feb. 11, 2002 BBC News wire on
Winnick: "Global Crossing's ... main Congress beneficiary, Sen. John
McCain (R-Ariz.) asked the Federal Communications Commission to encourage
the development of undersea cables"—undersea fiber optic cables was
Global Crossing's main asset.
Lew Wasserman is the former head of the Hollywood
entertainment conglomerate Music Corporation of America (MCA), one of the
Lansky National Crime Syndicate's first forays into the mass entertainment
business. Wasserman was closely linked to Chicago-based crime syndicate
lawyer Sidney Korshak, who was credited with consolidating the marriage
between the mob and Hollywood.
Other Mega-linked Birthright Israel board members
include: S. Daniel Abraham, Bonnie Lipton, Marlene Post, Arthur J. Samburg,
and Lynn Schusterman.
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