Haim Saban, Ehud Barak's overfundraiser
Telegraph journalists are concerned to know what Saban wants from the titles. They are anxious about his lack of experience in the newspaper industry - and about potential editorial interference by a man who recently identified a "pro-Arab bias" in the British media.While I never really thought much of his resume in animation, one thing is clear: Saban's positions, whether clear or not, are certainly dismaying. And while one might be able to agree with him on his feelings about BBC and Sky's coverage of Israel, his ambiguous positions on the Israeli-Arab conflict give reason for concern.
"The problem is that not many people here know much about him," says Charlie Methven, in charge of drawing up the Telegraph journalists' response to the takeover. "Most of the bidders have track records in the business, but Saban doesn't. He obviously wants The Jerusalem Post, but it's not clear which other parts of the empire he'd be interested in."
Saban's interest in the Middle East is well established. He spent $3.3 million creating the Saban Centre for Middle East Policy in Washington, and founded the Saban Institute for the Study of the American Political System at the University of Tel Aviv. His views of British media coverage became clear at the Royal Television Society convention last September, when he berated the BBC and Sky for what he said was hostile reporting from Israel.
Saban - who would not be interviewed for this article - has called himself "someone who has an abiding interest in promoting Arab-Israeli peace and preserving American interests in the Middle East". But even in Israel some see his political involvement, in support of the Labour party, as excessively intrusive.
Before the last Israeli election, he organised a fundraising dinner in Los Angeles for Ehud Barak's campaign, raising a six-figure sum. He has also been a substantial donor to the US Democrat s. A $7 million gift before the 2002 midterm elections was the largest single donation outside a presidential election. Bill Clinton, who calls Saban "my great friend", made him an adviser on trade issues.
He also seems very self-important, as evidenced by this topic from FunctionalAmbivalent:
Take, for example, Haim Saban, who contributed this complete entry to The Huffington Post, somehow thinking it adds value to people's lives:As the blogmaster says:
"What is happening in Iraq is much more an issue of Sunni and Shiite conflict than it is about America. Decade-long conflicts have been reawakened. Whether we should act like a police state is a legitimate question for us to ask. If we don't build military bases, and we leave Iraq, what kind of chaos would ensue? This is no longer about whether we should have gone to war or not, it’s about what’s the right thing to do now that we are there."
Uh, great, Haim, but, uh, the first part of your posting is factually wrong -- the Sunni/Shi-ite thing goes back way further than a decade -- and the second part is pretty much the point half the blogworld has been making for about the last 18 months. So it's not interesting, really, except that it's being said by Haim Saban, who thinks he's interesting because no one tells him he's not. Certainly, Ariana Huffington isn't going to tell him, since her business plan is dependent on keeping famous people like Haim Saban on board. So Haim Saban, who really must have better things to do with his time, opines a few banalities about Iraq and Huffington gratefully posts them.Well said. Saban had best stick to [honest] business.
Unfortuantely for Saban, out here in blogworld, removed from the context of his 3,000 square-foot corner office, his private jets and his access to elite restaurants, banality enjoys no camouflage. What he wrote doesn't seem interesting or insightful at all, and there are lots of kibbitzing nobodies like me who are perfectly willing to say so.
Here's some more on Saban:
Front Page Magazine
Women in Green
Oh, and if it matters, Saban is also a supporter of Ariel Sharon in this way or that. It's kinda scary, isn't it, how money makes the world go around.