On Monday, January 11, 2021, Jewish casino mogul Sheldon Adelson died at 87 years old after suffering from non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Adelson was a colorful character indeed, what with the power of the money he administered, his influence on U.S. politics, the funds and political investments he made in Israel, and a myriad of scandals. To put it in his very own words, he acted with the philosophy that “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing” and “I don’t listen to the comments of those who aren’t rich.” Adelson, who shot to fame with the words, “If they’re so clever, why aren’t they rich?,” left behind a complex and highly controversial legacy.
Sheldon Gary Adelson was born on August 4, 1933, to poor parents in Boston, U.S.: His father was a cab driver, and his mother a seamstress. When he was 12 years old, he took a 200-dollar loan from his uncle to start selling newspapers on the streets of Boston, hence he had ventured into business. He made many business initiatives until the 1970s; at times he won, and at times he lost. Adelson, who started rising in 1979 by investing in computer technology, entered the gambling and gaming industry in the process that followed. With his investments, he transformed the town of Las Vegas into a gamboling hub; and he expanded his casino and hotel chain to China after its special administrative region of Macau opened its entertainment sector to foreign investors in 2001. When Steve Jacobs, who was running Adelson’s Macau operations, filed a case in 2010, it was revealed that the billionaire mogul owed the astronomical increase in his wealth to illegal dealings. Jacobs, who presented the evidence to court that Adelson's facilities also served as prostitution centers, also revealed photographs of top figures who visited these places were taken and that they were being blackmailed. The six-year lawsuit was finally dropped when Adelson paid hush money comprising of $ 75 million to Jacobs.
For most of his career, Adelson followed an apolitical line and didn’t care much for politics, however this all changed when he married an Israeli doctor named Miriam Farbstein in 1991. Under the influence of his wife, a fanatic Zionist and anti-Arab, Adelson, who had only visited Israel a handful of times before he married, turned into one of Zionism’s biggest financiers. On the one hand, the ranks were tightened with the Jewish lobbies in the U.S.; on the other, intense funding was provided for Israel's occupation in East Jerusalem and the West Bank.
During the same time they entered the political scene, they released Hebrew newspaper “Israel Hayom” in Tel Aviv in 2007. The Israel Hayom, which was distributed free-of-charge across the entire country, was known for its open support for Bibi. As a matter of fact, after the 2009 elections, former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert would attribute the election of Netanyahu, whose party was in second place, to the aggressive publications of Israel Hayom. The reports by Israel Hayom were not limited to Israel’s internal affairs alone. The paper would further become known for its belligerent titles that often appeared against Turkey and President Erdogan.
While Adelson provided significant funds to the George Bush campaign in 2004, showing his prominence in the Republican Party, he openly opposed the election of Barack Obama in 2008. He spent exactly 98 million dollars in 2012 to prevent Obama’s re-election with negative advertisements and field studies. He showed the same generosity for Trump in 2016, this time in his favor the Adelsons spent 82 million dollars for his election campaign alone. Furthermore, they made history when they donated a whopping 5 million dollars more for his inauguration ceremony.
When Trump made good on his election promise to move the U.S. embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel on May 14, 2018, it was revealed that the Adelson couple was once more behind this step, which no American president had ever deigned to take. Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam took their place next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the ceremony, which was represented by Trump, his daughter Ivanka and her Jewish husband, Jared Kushner.
In his final days, while Donald Trump was occupied with the close of the final curtain of his political career following the riot at Congress, Adelson was battling cancer. Netanyahu, for his part, was struggling to stay afloat and alive on the political stage of Israel, which is rife with crises. With Adelson’s death, it seems that Trump and Netanyahu have lost their most important allies and sponsors; however, it is highly likely that the damage these three men have wreaked on the Middle East in the last few years will not be repaired any time soon.