Open Zion

05.18.12

The Greatest Israel Prize

Surprise, surprise, Irving Moskowitz, 83-year-old bingo tycoon, is giving $1 million to Karl Rove’s SuperPAC, “American Crossroads.”  Of course he is.

Moskowitz is a “Whole Land of Israel” guy, an Obama birther and an Islamophobe. He puts his money where it’s likely to buy a maximum of Palestinian-owned Judea and Samaria.  According to Paul Blumenthal, Moskowitz’s foundations have given upwards of $15 million to the settlement cause since 2008.

But what is less obvious and perhaps more troubling is one of Moskowitz’s projects that didn’t make the news this week. No, not his donations to Obama-is-a-secret-Muslim conspiracy theorist Frank Gaffney’s Center for Security Policy, nor his gifts to birther Joseph Farah’s World Net Daily, or even his contributions to the Hebron Fund or Ateret Cohanim which work to build settlements in East Jerusalem among other places.

I’m talking about a 5-year-old yearly award called the “Moskowitz Prize for Zionism,” bestowed upon three worthy activists who are “fulfilling Zionism in Israeli society today,” whatever that means.

What’s alarming is not that Moskowitz is handing out cash for Zionism, but who sits on his Prize Committee. Nestled among the predictable cast of Yoram Ettingers (who also advises Gaffney’s Clarion fund) and Pesach Lerners (founding funder of an organization which fights to keep Jerusalem united under Jewish sovereignty) and even former ambassador Moshe Arens, is Avigdor Kahalani.  

Kahalani’s name on that list is startling.  He's a former Labor MK who broke with the party over their stance on withdrawal from the Golan Heights to form the now-defunct Third Way party.  He now chairs the Association for the Wellbeing of Israel’s Soldiers.

Kahalani sounds like a more or less typical, middle-of-the road career army man-turned-politician. But when asked for his thoughts this year's awardees, Kahalani said that awardee Zvi Slonim—whose project, the Land Redemption Fund, fancies itself an mini-JNF and buys up Palestinian land bordering the settlements in Judea and Samaria—"personifies the beautiful Land of Israel" and "continues to serve as a model for emulation for those following in his footsteps." Moskowitz’s prize makes Kahalani sound like a settler.

A prize for “furthering Zionism” would be great if it weren’t aimed so directly at honoring the settlers who actively work against a two-state solution. The prize is cash: $150,000 divided among three awardees. Recipients have included settlers like Noam Arnon (awardee 2009) and Chanan Porat (2011) both of whom have founded some of the most prickly settlements in the West Bank (Arnon—Hebron; Porat—Elon Moreh, which sandwiches Nablus to the East, among others).  Zvi Slonim, one of this year's honorees, cavorted with Porat in the 1980s when settlement building was easy, and founded an institute in Kedumim (which sandwiches Nablus to the West) called the Eretz Yisrael Academy.  The Academy, on its English homepage, lists four main areas of education: Jewish identity and its roots in Eretz Yisrael, the current role of Zionism, Jewish history and Israel advocacy (Hasbara).  Yes, this is the man whom a former Labor MK now “salutes” for having “fought alone in the struggle to establish institutions and settlements in our Land.”

Moskowitz may hand out cash to whomever wins his personal bingo, but when former Labor MKs laud the settlement enterprise, something other than money has been squandered.