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Meet the American Hedge Fund Billionaire Who Could Start a ‘Holy War’ in the Middle East

23 December 2013 No Comment Email This Post Email This Post
A young boy standing next to a model of the Second Temple at the Temple Insititute in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

A young boy standing next to a model of the Second Temple at the Temple Insititute in Jerusalem. (photo credit: Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Meet the American Hedge Fund Billionaire Who Could Start a ‘Holy War’ in the Middle East

Rising Islamophobia is not merely a spontaneous outgrowth of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

An astonishing assortment of billionaires have channeled their resources into spreading fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims. It’s no coincidence that many of the key players are also fanatical Zionists.

Pitting “the West” against Islam not only gives Israel broader latitude colonizing what remains of Palestinian land, but also provides a pretext for waging war against Muslim-majority countries that challenge Israel’s hegemony in the region.

Largely through influential neoconservative political apparatus, wealthy backers of “Greater Israel” have pitted Israel and “the West” against Islam in a political zero sum game. This phenomenon is not confined to a handful of wealthy zealots.

In fact, Professor Juan Cole has concluded the rabidly pro-Israel/anti-Muslim neoconservatives have, “perhaps half of America’s 400 billionaires on their side.” Even at half that estimate, the number is astonishing. Yet only a few of the key players have been highlighted in the mainstream media.

Bingo and casino king Irving Moskowitz has briefly made the mainstream news, and has become fairly well known for his contributions to illegal Israeli settlements, questionable archaeological projects, and widespread land purchases in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Moskowitz has also funded noeconservative efforts to promote Islamophobia. He gave $1 million to a Karl Rove-linked super PAC, and:

Moskowitz also provided $100,000 to the Center for Security Policy, a nonprofit warning of the imminent danger of radical Islam in America. The center’s founder and president is Frank Gaffney, a neoconservative who has publicly questioned whether the president was born in the U.S. and stated that Obama, in his 2008 campaign, was seeking “the Jihadist vote.”

Another casino billionaire, Sheldon Adelson, is also a staunch supporter of Israel who has garnered some mainstream media coverage. Adelson, who counts “Bibi” Netanyahu among his personal friends, advocates a preemptive nuclear strike against Iran, says the Palestinians don’t exist, and likens the two-state solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict to a game of Russian roulette. Like Moskowitz, Adelson is also deeply involved in right wing politics and a sponsor of both the neoconservatives and “Greater Israel.”

Joyce and Aubrey Chernick are also key backers of various neoconservative, pro-Israel, and anti-Muslim causes. This couple was a driving force behind the highly successful “Ground Zero mosque” controversy, deliberately manufactured a few years ago. They have continued to use their wealth to fuel the spread of Islamophobia ever since:

Meet the Chernicks

Though it was not listed on the public tax reports filed by Horowitz’s Freedom Center, POLITICO has confirmed that the lion’s share of the $920,000 it provided over the past three years to Jihad Watch came from Chernick, whose husband, Aubrey Chernick, has a net worth of $750 million, as a result of his 2004 sale to IBM of a software company he created, and a security consulting firm he now owns.

A onetime trustee of the hawkish Washington Institute for Near East Policy, Aubrey Chernick led the effort to pull together $3.5 million in venture capital to start Pajamas Media, a conservative blog network that made its name partly with hawkish pro-Israel commentary and of late has kept up a steady stream of anti-mosque postings, including one rebutting attacks by CAIR against Spencer — who Pajamas CEO Roger Simon called “one of the ideological point men in the global war on terror.”..

Read the rest here.

Until now, the role of another key billionaire backer has largely escaped the media spotlight. Henry Swieca shares the same nefarious agenda as Moskowitz, Adeslon, and the Chernicks, but with a potentially dangerous Temple Mount twist.

Meet the American Hedge Fund Billionaire Who Could Start a ‘Holy War’ in the Middle East

by Alex KaneAlternet

Henry Swieca is a money man. The New York-based billionaire made his fortune by co-founding Highbridge Capital Corp., a hedge fund that boasted clients like the American International Group.

In 2009, the banking giant JP Morgan Chase, another client of Highbridge, fully took over the flagship hedge fund. Swieca went on to play a role at two more hedge funds: Talpion Fund Management, which he launched, and Clearline Capital, which Swieca joined as a startup investor in February 2013.

Swieca, whose net worth is $1.2 billion as of September 2013, is well-known as a financial guru.His every move is covered by the financial press. But he’s less known for what his foundation pours money into: right-wing, pro-Israel causes. Along with a host of charitable groups and domestic Jewish centers, the Swieca Family Foundation, which he runs with his Israeli-American wife Estee, has poured tons of cash into pro-Israel groups–including to religious extremist groups that operate in the most sensitive of holy places. Swieca did not return requests for comment on his donations.

According to tax records reviewed by AlterNet, Swieca, an Orthodox Jew, has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to the American Israel Education Foundation, the non-profit offshoot of the powerful lobbying group called the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He’s also handed over cash to groups like the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces; the right-wing, anti-Muslim David Horowitz Freedom Center; and the Hebron Fund, a Brooklyn-based organization that funnels American money into illegal Israeli settlements in Hebron, a big city in the West Bank that has the most intense regime of settler violence and enforced segregation in the occupied Palestinian territories.

But perhaps most alarmingly is Swieca’s funding of the Temple Institute, an organization that promotes the building of the Third Temple on the third most holy site for Muslims. In early December, the Washington Post disclosed that Swieca and his wife funded the Jerusalem-based Temple Institute’s move to “to a large, renovated space in the Old City’s Jewish Quarter, overlooking the Western Wall.” The move put the institute just a short walk away from the place where they hope the Third Temple arises.

The religious extremists who run the Temple Institute have their sights set on the Haram al-Sharif, or the Noble Sanctuary in English, which is also the Temple Mount for Jews.

“Our short-term goal is to rekindle the flame of the Holy Temple in the hearts of mankind through education,” the Temple Institute says on their website. “Our long-term goal is to do all in our limited power to bring about the building of the Holy Temple in our time.”

In the middle of the Noble Sanctuary sits the Dome of the Rock, a shrine whose gold dome is a fixture on the Jerusalem skyline. The Noble Sanctuary is home to the Al Aqsa Mosque, thought to be the place where the Prophet Muhammad was transported to from Mecca and is the third holiest site to Muslims around the world. At the same time, it is a site deeply revered by Jews, since it is the place thought to be where the First and Second Temples stood. The Second Temple was famously destroyed in A.D. 70 by the Romans, who then sent Jews into exile. The Temple Institute says that

“the Temple Mount has to be cleared of the Dome of the Rock and the mosques which are presently located upon it before the physical rebuilding of the Holy Temple can begin.”

Both Judaism and Islam have competing claims to the site, making it the most contested piece of real estate on earth. In 2000, a provocative visit by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the Noble Sanctuary set off clashes that many say sparked the Second Intifada. It continues to be a frequent site of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli authorities.

Religious extremists on both sides frequently fan the flames of hatred around these holy sites, and any brash move could easily spark sectarian conflict in a combustible region. The Temple Institute, funded by Swieca and other private Jewish philanthropists, is one such Jewish extremist group that many say is acting dangerously. And despite being funded by the Israeli government to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years, the Temple Institute has encouraged Israeli Jews to publicly challenge the prevailing legal arrangements that govern prayer on the Temple site, thoughthe Israeli government seems to be slowly coming around to agreeing with the organization’s goals.

This month, Israel reportedly asked Jordan, which administers the holy site, to consider allowing some level of Jewish worship, feeding into Palestinian fears that Israel wants to control all of Jerusalem forever instead of ceding the eastern half of it to a Palestinian state. Jordan rejected the request, with the director of the trust that controls the site saying that granting the request would spark “bloodshed.”

Founded in 1984, the Temple Institute has been hard at work on a number of activities: recreating ritual objects to be used for a Third Temple; hosting conferences on research about the temple; educating the public and Israeli soldiers about its history; and lobbying for changes to the status quo that prohibits Israeli Jews from praying openly on the Noble Sanctuary’s/Temple Mount’s grounds. The organization, founded by a far-right religious zealot named Rabbi Israel Ariel, is also bolstered by the support of evangelical Christians, who provide the organization with much of their income through buying entrance tickets and museum shop items. Christian Zionists fully support the aims of the Temple Institute. They believe that the building of a Third Jewish Temple is a prerequisite to the coming of the Messiah and the apocalypse…

Read the rest here.


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