How the Jews raised $14 million to help the Palestinians....
This is from the New York Times - an article on teh 18th of August by Andy Newman...one of the rare times I have reproduced a whole article...
It was perhaps an odd request to make of a man noted for his commitment to Israeli causes and his fierce criticism of the Palestinian Authority.
Please raise $14 million to help buy the Jewish settlers' lucrative greenhouses in the Gaza Strip so that the Palestinians can take them over when the settlers are gone. Oh, and can you get it done by the weekend, before the pullout starts? If not, the settlers will destroy the greenhouses on their way out of Gaza to keep them out of Arab hands.
Last Wednesday, though, Mortimer B. Zuckerman, real estate magnate and publisher of The Daily News, received just such a pitch from his friend James D. Wolfensohn, the former president of the World Bank, current Middle East envoy for the White House and would-be broker of the deal.
Mr. Zuckerman, who is also former head of the American-Israel Friendship League, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, and the Soviet Jewish Zionist Forum, said he thought about the ironies. But not for too long.
"Despite my skepticism," Mr. Zuckerman said in an interview on Tuesday, "I thought to myself, 'This is perhaps the only illustration or symbol of what could be the benefits of a co-operational, rather than a confrontational attitude.' "
So he in turn picked up the phone and called a few of his friends and fellow billionaires, who also happened to be prominent Jewish philanthropists.
Not all of them shared his enthusiasm. "Some people said, 'Well, if these people are so anti-Semitic, why should we do anything to help them?' " Mr. Zuckerman said.
But Lester Crown of Chicago, whose family owns General Dynamics, said yes. Leonard Stern, the chairman of the Hartz Mountain real estate empire and former owner of The Village Voice, called Mr. Zuckerman back from a cruise ship in the Mediterranean and said yes. A foundation that prefers to remain anonymous said yes.
Within 48 hours, Mr. Zuckerman said, he had his $14 million. And the Palestinians had a shot at inheriting relatively intact the greenhouses whose vegetables and flowers have been a major source of Israeli export income, and, not incidentally, about 3,500 desperately needed Palestinian jobs.
When the deal was announced Friday, the donors were anonymous, apart from Mr. Wolfensohn, who put up $500,000 of his own. But word about these things tends to leak out, and yesterday morning, Mr. Stern said he got a call at his beach house in the Hamptons from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
"She said that she wanted to let me know that myself and every member of the group that helped make this possible had made a very positive contribution to the peace," he said. Mr. Stern, 67, was asked the last time he received a call from Ms. Rice. "Before my bar mitzvah," he joked, before answering, "Never."
The purchase of the greenhouses had been months in the making. The Israeli government is giving the settlers $55 million for the greenhouses themselves, but Israeli law allows compensation only for buildings and land, not for movables like the greenhouses' computerized irrigation systems.
Without those, the Palestinians would not be able to make a go of running the greenhouses, Mr. Zuckerman said. It was those, the greenhouse guts, that carried the $14 million price tag.
The United States Agency for International Development was willing to put up the money, but could not give it directly to the Israelis because Israel does not qualify for the agency's help, Mr. Zuckerman and Mr. Stern said.
The simple way around that obstacle would have been for the agency to give the money to the Palestinian Authority to hand over to the settlers. But there, Mr. Zuckerman said, "The attitude was, 'We are not going to put our fingerprints on anything that helps the Jews.' "
The donors arranged to funnel their money to the Aspen Institute, a private advocacy group that has been working on investments in the Palestinian areas, and a private Israeli group helped broker the deal with the settlers.
Mr. Stern said he was not used to writing a seven-figure check to a cause he had not had time to research himself.
"But when you know people and you know they're passionate, and you have a great respect for their judgment," he said of Mr. Zuckerman, "I listened to him, and I asked him one question. 'Are you contributing?' He said yes. I said 'Well, O.K., then I will.' "
Mr. Zuckerman is hardly naïve about the prospects for peace in the Middle East.
On Monday in U.S. News & World Report, which he also publishes, he wrote an editorial excoriating both the Palestinian Authority's leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and his more violent, increasingly powerful rivals in Hamas.
"The sad fact," Mr. Zuckerman wrote, "is that everything is going wrong."
But some hope, he said, is better than no hope.
"It's not an easy thing to be up against," Mr. Zuckerman yesterday, "when someone is swearing and yelling at you, and you're saying, 'O.K., well, I'm going to give you $14 million so that you can do better.' But this is the one thing that might be seen as a constructive effort."