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article The Israeli economy is booming, with the country’s gross domestic product growing by 9.2 per cent in the second quarter of this year.
It’s been the fastest growing in the world.
But the question is: which Australian Jew should be paying more attention?
Some of those Israeli Jewish donors might be in the wrong.
“Some of them are in the right, I don’t think,” says Steven Waddell, professor of political science at the University of New South Wales.
“But they may have a better understanding of what the Israelis are doing and the kind of issues they are trying to deal with.”
One of those donors is billionaire businessman Sheldon Adelson, whose Las Vegas casino empire has become the most valuable company in the US.
“We have a problem when people are interested in the Israeli economy and they are willing to spend $200 million on it, but they don’t care about Israel as an economic and cultural centre,” says Waddill.
“They’re interested in it as a political battleground.”
Another billionaire donor, philanthropist Paul Singer, is a vocal supporter of Israel.
Singer has been an enthusiastic supporter of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government in the last few years, and he’s given more than $2.6 million to Israel’s political parties in the past two decades.
But there’s a difference between donating to Israel and being a supporter of it.
“There’s a distinction,” says Professor Waddel.
“You have to be willing to put money into a political organisation to influence what that organisation does.”
One key difference is that in Israel, a lot of the money that’s raised goes to the government.
The government collects taxes on the profits that people give to the Israel Charitable Foundation, which it uses to support projects.
But some of those donations are also used to help the Israeli military with its ongoing operation in the West Bank.
In the last year, the Israel Defence Forces has made a total of $1.4 billion.
But that’s only a fraction of the Israeli army’s revenue.
“Israel’s military expenditure is about 20 per cent of its gross domestic products,” says Prof Waddl.
“That means the Israeli public gets about half of the cost of the occupation.”
And that’s not counting the huge amount of money that the Israeli government spends on its welfare programs.
The US government also has a role in Israel’s military budget, but its involvement is relatively small.
For example, Israel spends less on welfare programs than the US does, and Israel spends more on its defence.
“It’s actually a very small percentage of what Israel spends,” says Dr Waddlen.
“So I don to think that there’s much interest in it in the American public.
I think there is a lot that’s in Israeli society that’s interested in that sort of thing.”
The US is the biggest single donor to Israel, with $3.4bn in the form of military aid.
“The United States has always been a very important donor,” says Rabbi Abraham Cooper, president of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“Its a really important donor because they’re helping to fund the Israeli state, which is one of the key reasons why they’ve got such a successful economy.”
But there are also a lot more Australians who don’t like Israel, or even know what Israel is.
“I don’t know if it’s the Israeli people or the people of Australia that have an anti-Semitic attitude,” says Michael McBeth, who heads the anti-racism organisation ACT’s Jewish Leadership Council.
“In the past, Australians were more likely to support Israel’s actions.
Now, the Australians are increasingly opposed to Israel.”
The issue has been highlighted by Australia’s new Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, who’s promised to bring a halt to Israeli settlement building in the occupied West Bank, a move that would include East Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and would also include the city of Hebron, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War.
“Australia’s a very different country from Israel,” says McBes.
“People have different opinions and beliefs.”
But McBess believes that Australia has been a good friend to Israel.
“For the most part, I think the Australians have been very supportive of Israel in terms of the policies they’ve pursued,” he says.
“And I think that Israel is going through a period of its own development where they’ve seen a lot less support from the Australian community, especially from Jews.”
But the issue is far from over.
The Israeli government says it will continue to build settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the West bank and it has been pressing for an international consensus on the Palestinian issue, including recognition of the State of Palestine as the state of Israel, as well as international recognition of Israel’s right to exist.
“As a result of this policy, we have to deal specifically with the issue of East Jerusalem,” said Netanyahu in a speech to the UN