Saudi Arabia’s Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud and Israel’s Sheldon Adelson have one thing in common. They both have billions. But there is a clear difference between the sinister Adelson who uses his money to undermine peace and justice in the Middle East and Alwaleed who has committed his riches to philanthropy. Sometimes, I wish there was no difference.
By Ray Hanania
It always makes me sick to hear about Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire with both Israeli and American citizenship, who uses the money he gained through the exploitation of the unfulfilled hopes and dreams of the poor at his Las Vegas casino to block peace and fan the flames of intolerance and hatred.
And when I hear the name of the Saudi Prince Alwaleed, it gives me hope that one day, an Arab with money will wake up to the power of their wealth and, instead of using it like Adelson to promote hatred and political conflict, will use it to strengthen the image of Arabs and push the world to a better place through strategic communications, and investments in creative strategies to strengthen peace and undermine Adelson-like hatred.
So it is worth comparing Adelson, who in the last American election gave more than $150 million of his money to support extremist politicians, to Alwaleed who this week announced he was pledging his billions to philanthropy. Adelson continues to pour his money into conflict: a good example is that Adelson once donated $1 million to support the political candidacy of Shmuley Boteach, the anti-peace Palestinian-hating Rabbi and writer who ran unsuccessfully for Congress in New Jersey.
Adelson has been out there using his money to shore up his political agenda, which strengthen’s Israeli extremism, bullies down moderate voices in the Jewish communities in Israel and in America, and cuddles up to rightwing politicians who beat the drums of intolerance and divisiveness.
Adelson has much more influence on the world than Alwaleed. Adelson has more than $29.9 billion at his disposal to reek havoc in the Middle East and stoke the flames of fear and hatred through his costly free newspaper, Israel Hayom, which is considered the largest newspaper in Israel.
Ironically, Alwaleed has more than Adelson, $32 billion. He’s a player in this world, but he just doesn’t know it yet. Americans know a lot about Adelson and see the fruits of his investments, which really represent such a minuscule amount when you look at it, a fraction of Adelson’s billions. Most Americans only know about Alwaleed through his self-serving press releases, which are hardly read by Americans, or from the media propaganda and lies, such as the claim that he owns a diamond-crusted Mercedes Benz worth millions.
And with all of Alwaleed’s riches, he hasn’t been able to influence truth or weaken the power of public perception. Alwaleed doesn’t own the diamond crusted Mercedes Benz that was unveiled back in 2010 and valued at between $1 million and $4 million. He denied it in a press release that his company Kingdom Holdings issued, that very few read.
It’s a lesson that Adelson understands and that Alwaleed doesn’t, even if Alwaleed has more money, much of it inherited from his wealthy Saudi family. Facts never get in the way of a highly funded, powerful public relations message. Alwaleed doesn’t own the diamond crusted Mercedes and never did. The images were used to slander Saudi Sheiks and Arabs in general as spending excessively on narcissistic behavior and outlandish things, using profits from oil sales to Americans.
(The Mercedes is actually owned by an American Company, GARSON USA. But the image of the car is used to falsely libel Arabs in general, focusing on the stereotype of the narcissistic sheik who wastes money at casinos and uses money squeezed from the pockets of hardworking Americans through Arab Oil Money.)
But no one will ever really know that this is not true because Alwaleed’s money flitters away with little impact.
Alwaleed may have more money than Adelson, but Adelson knows how to use his money to have impact.
It’s the literal difference between Israel and the Palestinians. Israel pours millions into public relations while the Palestinians bicker over thousands. One Palestinian diplomat wanted to hire me once back in 2011 to help him do PR but although we agreed on a cheap price to help his efforts, he couldn’t even pay the fee. Instead, he was forced to write a check from his personal account for the paltry sum and that’s when I realized I was wasting my time.
How do you teach Arabs about the power of strategic public relations and communications when they have never experienced it?
Alwaleed is doing great things with his philanthropy, but it gets washed away in stereotypes, racist hatred driven by Adelson, and by growing American animosity against Arabs and Muslims. None of his money is being used to change how the world views Arabs and Muslims, specifically how Americans, who drive worldly stereotypes and mis-perceptions of Arabs and Muslims, view Arabs and Muslims.
That needs to change. Adelson understands the problem. Alwaleed does not.
Adelson comes from the West which worships public relations. America is the religious center of strategic communications. In contrast, the Middle East is a “PR dead zone.” Arabs have been taught to cower from the media, which was controlled by the dictators and tyrants and used to brutalize their own people. That’s why most Arabs who immigrate to America and the West want their children to become doctors, engineers and lawyers. Even a grocery store owner rather than to disgrace them by becoming a purveyor of journalism.
You can count the number of professional Palestinian journalists in America on one hand. And what often passes for journalism in the Middle East is really a desperate attempt to push back against Israel’s overwhelming lock on the communications field.
Palestinians and Arabs who have great ideas to change the dynamics o the pro-Israel American and Western political systems, find themselves digging deep into their nearly empty pockets for a few bucks. Meanwhile, Adelson and the millions that Israel pours into communications allows Israel to freely manipulate the U.S. Congress, as if they literally controlled it, and to direct the actions of numerous state legislators into adopting laws that undermine one of the most fundamental concepts of the U.S. Constitution. Free Speech. It is illegal to criticize and boycott Israel in Illinois for example. If you do, you risk being blacklisted from receiving state investment funds that can be used for anything including cultural education.
Isn’t there one Arab who can stand up to the onslaught of the Israeli propaganda in a professional way and counter the lies and libel that is funded by people like Adelson?
Alwaleed could be that person. But, unlike Adelson, Alwaleed has a good heart. He gives huge amounts of funds to needy charities and causes, but little to politics.
Alwaleed to buy the New York Times, and force the newspaper to be more objective about the Middle East. The New Yorks Times, by the way, is the least anti-Arab of the 10,000 newspapers that bludgeon the minds of Americans with pro-Israel garbage. Or, he could launch a live 24-7 Television channel in America that not only covers the news professionally, but that counters the ugly pro-Israel BS and free the American public from the headlock that Israel’s rightwing fanatics have put most Americans.
Americans are so influenced by pro-Israel extremists that they are afraid to speak up about what is right. They love civil rights, and the underdog, but are silenced by Israel when it massacres 500 children during a war that Israel launched in 2014 in the Gaza Strip.
The headlock that Israel’s fanatic activists have on the American mind, thanks to people like Adelson, is so tight, the grip is suffocating.
Israel Hayom hits the streets of Israel every day in Hebrew, stoking the flames of extremism and beating down moderates with hyperbole and ugly racist rhetoric. It only costs Adelson $20 million a year.
The Arabs don’t spend $20 a year on the news media.
Adelson has dumped hundreds of millions to help pr-Israel politicians run for public office. And even when they don’t win, the help define the public debate to reflect the dark and sinister agenda of the Israeli racist right against peace.
The Arabs don’t spend anything on American politicians, let alone supporting American Arabs running for office.
Yet, the Arabs are wealthy enough to block Israel from fomenting the most racist stereotypes of Arabs in the American media through Hollywood movies, the mainstream news media, television, theater and even on the Internet where free speech isn’t really free at all. It’s carefully managed by people who know the power of money. But the Arabs don’t.
Instead, they put out worthless press releases they have been told by consultants will help boost their positive image, like this press releases below which was issued this week (July 1, 2015).
Alwaleed is such a good person, so good that he is naive, ineffective and a convenient symbol for the pro-Israel activists of what Americans should fear rather than know. No wonder the Arabs are losing the fight for justice and public perceptions.
Don’t get me wrong. Press Releases can be effective. PR News Wire is one of the best systems that most Arabs don’t even use but that pro-Israel activists use all the time as a part of their sophisticated and highly funded communications strategies.
But it’s NOT what you say. It is HOW you say it.
I could give you a laundry list of what the Arab World could do with a measly $1 million to change the perceptions of the American public and put Israel on the defensive, but, who would listen?
I can tell you for a fact, very few people will read this press release, and even fewer will be moved by it to do anything good from it.
Prince Alwaleed Pledges His Wealth to Philanthropy
$32 Billion, a Groundbreaking Gift Dedicated to Philanthropy
RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, July 1, 2015 /PRNewswire/ –HRH Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Alwaleed Philanthropies, today announced his intention to donate all of his wealth to philanthropy over the coming years to help build a “better world of tolerance, acceptance, equality and opportunity for all.” This $32 billion philanthropic pledge will help build bridges to foster cultural understanding, develop communities, empower women, enable youth, provide vital disaster relief and create a more tolerant and accepting world. “It is a commitment without boundaries. A commitment to all humankind,” says Prince Alwaleed.
In his announcement, Prince Alwaleed stated:
“Based on my dedication and passion for philanthropic work for the past 35 years, I now pledge to donate my entire wealth to the Alwaleed Philanthropies, which work in the main fields of intercultural understanding, supporting needy communities, through health promotion, eradication of diseases, provision of electric power to remote villages and hamlets, building orphanages and schools, and much more, as well as providing disaster relief and empowering women, youth and poverty alleviation. This donation will be allocated according to a well-devised plan throughout the coming years. It will be based on a strategy that is supervised and managed by a board of trustees headed by me to ensure that it will be used after my death for humanitarian projects and initiatives.”
Prince Alwaleed has supported philanthropy for more than 35 years, donating $3.5 billion thus far through the Alwaleed Philanthropies. One of the leading philanthropic foundations in the Arab world, the Alwaleed Philanthropies serves millions of people across the globe. Prince Alwaleed has formed a board of trustees to oversee this gift, which will focus on finding impactful solutions to some of the most pressing humanitarian issues of our time, without regard to gender, race or religious affiliation.
“Philanthropy is a personal responsibility, which I embarked upon more than three decades ago and is an intrinsic part of my Islamic faith. With this pledge, I am honoring my life-long commitment to what matters most – helping to build a more peaceful, equitable and sustainable world for generations to come,” says Prince Alwaleed.
Through this historic gift, the Alwaleed Philanthropies, which have supported thousands of projects in more than 92 countries worldwide, will continue to partner with a range of philanthropic, government and educational organizations to support impactful programs. The Alwaleed Philanthropies believe that the answers to many of today’s most pressing global issues lie in the hands of youth. They are the leaders of tomorrow.
The Alwaleed Philanthropies have partnered with a wide range of global institutions including The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Carter Center, and the Weill Cornell Medical College to strengthen health care and control epidemics. On this occasion, Mr. Bill Gates, Co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, commented: “Prince Alwaleed’s generous commitment promises to significantly extend the great work that his foundation is already doing. His gift is an inspiration to all of us working in philanthropy around the world.”
In Saudi Arabia, they have worked on promoting more sustainable communities, through the Housing Initiative, which allows hundreds of thousands of eligible Saudi citizens to receive housing units, or through the Lighting Up Villages in Saudi Arabia Initiative.
Alwaleed Philanthropies also works in the area of women and youth empowerment, by supporting women in the local government field, for example, by providing courses for women to run for Municipal Council elections. Moreover, through the Turquoise Mountain organization, Alwaleed Philanthropies had helped Afghani women by advocating literacy.
As disaster relief providers, Alwaleed Philanthropies has extended a helping hand by its partners in many countries that have suffered from earthquakes and floods, like in Egypt, Jeddah, Nepal and Turkey, in addition to supporting those who had been affected by the Tsunami.
Building bridges between cultures and civilizations is one of the Alwaleed Philanthropies main areas of focus, its work supports six existing centers in the most prominent international universities (Georgetown, Harvard,Edinburgh, Cambridge and the American University of Beirut and the American University in Cairo) in addition to the Islamic Hall at the Louvre in Paris.
Prince Alwaleed’s passion for humanitarian work, sustainability and change plays a vital role in the creation, mission and vision of the Alwaleed Philanthropies. The wide spectrum of global philanthropic projects undertaken by the Alwaleed Philanthropies are distinguished by their dedication to “building bridges for a better world” – without boundaries – and, regardless of gender, race, or religion.
For more informationon Alwaleed, click here.