WashPo: Wealthy Jewish Donors Pushed NYC Mayor to Launch NYPD Crackdown on Columbia Protesters

Chris Menahan
May. 17, 2024

Over a dozen Jewish billionaires working secretly in concert with the Israeli government were part of a private WhatsApp group chat which conspired to push New York City Mayor Eric Adams to crackdown on pro-Palestine protests at Columbia University, according to bombshell leaked chatlogs obtained by the Washington Post.

The Post's shocking report reveals how many of the most prominent Jewish billionaires and multimillionaires in America worked together in secret to advance Israeli interests on multiple fronts, suppress Americans' free speech rights, reward politicians who do their bidding with donations and hide their connections with the Israeli government.

From Washington Post, "Business titans privately urged NYC mayor to use police on Columbia protesters, chats show" (Archive):
A group of billionaires and business titans working to shape U.S. public opinion of the war in Gaza privately pressed New York City's mayor last month to send police to disperse pro-Palestinian protests at Columbia University, according to communications obtained by The Washington Post and people familiar with the group.

Business executives including Kind snack company founder Daniel Lubetzky, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, billionaire Len Blavatnik and real estate investor Joseph Sitt held a Zoom video call on April 26 with Mayor Eric Adams (D), about a week after the mayor first sent New York police to Columbia's campus, a log of chat messages shows. During the call, some attendees discussed making political donations to Adams, as well as how the chat group's members could pressure Columbia's president and trustees to permit the mayor to send police to the campus to handle protesters, according to chat messages summarizing the conversation.

One member of the WhatsApp chat group told The Post he donated $2,100, the maximum legal limit, to Adams that month. Some members also offered to pay for private investigators to assist New York police in handling the protests, the chat log shows — an offer a member of the group reported in the chat that Adams accepted.
The New York Police Department is not using and has not used private investigators to help manage protests, a spokeswoman for City Hall said.

The messages describing the call with Adams were among thousands logged in a WhatsApp chat among some of the nation's most prominent business leaders and financiers, including former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and Joshua Kushner, founder of Thrive Capital and brother of Jared Kushner, former president Donald Trump's son-in-law.

People with direct access to the chat log's contents supplied them to The Post. They shared the information on the condition of anonymity because the chat's contents were meant to stay private. Members of the group verified the chat's existence and their comments.

The chat was initiated by a staffer for billionaire and real estate magnate Barry Sternlicht — who never joined directly, instead communicating through the staffer, according to chat messages and a person close to Sternlicht. In an Oct. 12 message, one of the first sent in the group, the staffer posting on behalf of Sternlicht told the others the goal of the group was to "change the narrative" in favor of Israel, partly by conveying "the atrocities committed by Hamas ... to all Americans."

[...] The chat group formed shortly after the Oct. 7 attack, and its activism has stretched beyond New York, touching the highest levels of the Israeli government, the U.S. business world and elite universities. Titled "Israel Current Events," the chat eventually expanded to about 100 members, the chat log shows. More than a dozen members of the group appear on Forbes's annual list of billionaires; others work in real estate, finance and communications.

Overall, the messages offer a window into how some prominent individuals have wielded their money and power in an effort to shape American views of the Gaza war, as well as the actions of academic, business and political leaders — including New York's mayor.

"He's open to any ideas we have," chat member Sitt, founder of the retail chain Ashley Stewart and the global real estate company Thor Equities, wrote April 27, the day after the group's Zoom call with Adams. "As you saw he's ok if we hire private investigators to then have his police force intel team work with them."

[...] Four days after chat members held the video call with Adams, student protesters occupied a campus building and Columbia's president invited police back to campus to clear the building. Officers removed and arrested dozens of protesters, pushing, striking and dragging students in the process, The Post reported. One officer accidentally fired his gun.

Months before the protests at Columbia this spring, some chat members attended private briefings with former Israeli prime minister Naftali Bennett; Benny Gantz, a member of the Israeli war cabinet; and Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Herzog, according to chat records.

Members of the group also worked with the Israeli government to screen a roughly 40-minute film showing footage compiled by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) — titled "Bearing Witness to the October 7 Massacre" — to audiences in New York City. The film portrays killings committed by Hamas. A chat member asked for help from other members to show the film at universities; it was later screened at Harvard, a showing chat member Ackman helped facilitate, attended and promoted publicly.

[...] On Oct. 12, a staffer for Sternlicht relayed a message from his boss outlining the group's mission: While Israel worked to "win the physical war," the chat group's members would "help win the war" of U.S. public opinion by funding an information campaign against Hamas. The campaign was referred to in the chat as "Facts for Peace."

[...] the staffer for Sternlicht wrote in one of the first chat messages that his boss was proud of his Jewish heritage and wanted to support Israel [...]

The staffer wrote that Sternlicht understood if other members felt similarly and promised that all contributions to the media campaign would remain anonymous. "I'm sensitive to concerns about being less effective if it appears that this is a Jewish initiative," the staffer wrote, speaking for Sternlicht.

From the start of the chat, members sought guidance and information from officials in the Israeli government.

Some of the WhatsApp chat members said in the chat they attended private briefings about the Gaza war with Israeli war cabinet member Gantz, former prime minister Bennett and Herzog, the ambassador. The chat log shows Zoom invites for these meetings.

"Most appreciative for the behind the scenes briefing by Naftali Bennett," Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, wrote to the group on Oct. 16. "Quite extraordinary!"

Bennett did not respond to a request for comment. Gantz could not be reached for comment. A spokesperson for the Israeli Embassy in Washington said the briefing Herzog gave chat members was "one of dozens" the ambassador delivered that month, adding that "communities here in the U.S. understandably wanted to learn more about what was happening on the ground in Israel."

A spokesperson for Schultz confirmed in a statement that he attended the briefing with Bennett, but said Schultz "did not participate in, or contribute financially to, any of the group's work." Schultz was neither involved in discussions about Adams and the Columbia protests nor screenings of the film, according to a spokesman.

In late October, the chat records show, chat members appear to have suggested to Israeli officials that they should hold a private New York City screening for media members of "Bearing Witness," the IDF film featuring graphic footage recorded by Hamas gunmen on body cameras and cellphones as they attacked Israel. Sitt wrote in a message to the group Oct. 27 that Israeli officials wanted to thank them "for coming up with the concept of the press event in NYC."

The next month, the group showed the film in New York, records show. Sitt wrote on Nov. 10 that the Israeli government "arranged for us" to screen the film in Gotham Hall on Nov. 17, adding in a later message the showing "will be listed as a IDF event not affiliated to Facts for Peace to keep them separate."
Read their full report.

This may be the most important piece of journalism the Post has done in decades.

The Post was immediately accused of "antisemitism" by the Jewish Insider for publishing the report:

If our government wasn't completely captured this report would kickstart multiple criminal investigations.

If a group of Chinese billionaires were conspiring in secret to take away Americans' right to protest to advance China's interests and rewarding politicians who do their bidding with donations, Attorney General Merrick Garland would already be issuing arrest warrants!

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