Las Vegas summit 'raises $20m' to fight anti-Israel boycotts

A number of high-profile Jewish philanthropists who attended a closed-door summit in Las Vegas, USA last weekend, are believed to have pledged at least $20m (€17.5m) in order to fight anti-Israel boycotts and anti-Israel activity, specifically on college campuses.

More than 50 Jewish organisations and around 20 pro-Israel Jewish funders were invited to attend the conference. Among those in attendance were Hollywood entertainment tycoon Haim Saban, real-estate Israeli developer Adam Milstein and Canadian businesswoman Heather Reisman.

Although participants declined to discuss any of the financial pledges made by the various donors, invites to the conferences were restricted to donors willing to pledge at least $1m (€890,000) and thus it is expected that the conference has raised at least $20m (€17.7m).

The two-day conference, organised by multibillionaire Republican party donor Sheldon Adelson, was held at his Venetian luxury hotel on the Las Vegas strip. Funds raised at the conference will go towards combating the "boycott, divest from and sanction Israel" movement also known as the BDS movement which encompasses economic, political and cultural campaigns seeking to cut ties with the Israeli state and Israeli corporations.

Speaking to Channel 2 news in the US, Andelson told journalists that the conference aimed to prevent anti-semitism by putting "boots on the ground," sending pro-Israel actors onto college campuses where he believes the boycott movements often begin and anti-Israel sentiment is rife.

The two day meeting comes amid growing calls for an international boycott of Israel due to its continued construction of settlements on occupied lands on the West Bank. The sentiment has also been heightened by prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's new government's anti-Palestinian rhetoric.

According to new guidelines being drawn up by the European Union, Israel will soon be required to label all products produced in West Bank settlements.

The CEO of French telecoms company Orange, Stephane Richard, also announced last week that he would terminate his company's ties with Orange's "tomorrow" if he could, due to the partner company's operations in settlements on the West bank. "We want to be one of the trustful partners of all Arab countries," Richards said in a news conference. He has since retracted his comments, reportedly calling Israel's deputy prime minister Silvan Shalom to apologise.

Netanyahu has described the global movement for boycotts of Israel, as a "major strategic threat to Israel."

Speaking to journalists after the conference in Las Vegas, Adelson, a prominent supporter of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, said "our interest is to take care of Israel's interest in the United States," and get all "Jewish groups working together."