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Adelson Will Host Anti-BDS Summit in Vegas

The billionaire takes aim at anti-Israel activities on college campuses

Jas Chana
June 02, 2015
Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas, October 1, 2014. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Sheldon Adelson in Las Vegas, October 1, 2014. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

This weekend, some of the wealthiest Jewish business moguls in North America will come together for an emergency conference to discuss strategies in combating anti-Israel activities that have recently flared up on college campuses. On Monday, The Forward revealed that casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson will host the summit at the opulent Venetian, a hotel resort that he owns along the Las Vegas strip.

The billionaire organized the event with “several other top Jewish funders, including Hollywood entertainment mogul Haim Saban, Israeli-born real-estate developer Adam Milstein and Canadian businesswoman Heather Reisman,” reported The Forward. Adelson and Co. have also recruited a number of Jewish groups to join them at the summit, including the Anti-Defamation League, and campus-orientated organizations like Hillel and StandWithUs.

But there is a degree of mystery surrounding the summit. A source told The Forward that the leaders of the invited groups “were not quite certain what the goal of the Vegas summit is,” though one can be sure that discussions will center on the BDS movement, which has become “a staple on American university agendas,” writes Ruth Wisse in Mosaic. BDS has swept across college campuses as a non-violent method of defending Palestinian rights in the Israeli-occupied territories. But for many, the problem with BDS is that the language of the movement conceals its underlying anti-Semitic agenda.

The Forward reports that according to “an official of one of the groups invited,” the purpose of the summit is “to ‘find the best strategies’ for countering campus anti-Israel campaigns and to ‘make sure there is funding’ for those programs.” But “groups were not asked to prepare a pitch to present to the panel of Jewish mega-donors.”

J Street U, the campus branch of the pro-Israel, pro-peace political lobbying group, was not invited to Adelson’s summit, though this came as no surprise to Benjamin Cannon, the national board president of J Street U. He commented that the summit’s leadership raises a number of “red flags,” arguing that BDS should be dealt with on campuses by finding alternative ways of criticizing Israeli policy through dialogue with progressive American college-goers.

That’s something that Adelson and his friends in the Venetian don’t seem to be prepared to do.

Jas Chana is a former intern at Tablet.