The phenomenon of leftist billionaires funding anti-capitalist activism seems on the surface to be a contradiction. How could those who should understand the way individual freedom and initiative creates wealth with the power to do good seek the destruction of the system that produces this wealth? The answer is a complex one, although for those who inherited wealth, rather than making their own fortune, guilt clearly plays a role. This seems to be the case with billionaire former sports mogul George Gund III. He used to own the San Jose Sharks and Cleveland Cavaliers. Today he’s the co-founder of two foundations which provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to dozens of radical causes.
In a rare public interview, Gund has commented on his admiration for those who led lives that challenged the established cultural order, like Zen artists. This affinity for the “outsider” has driven Gund to bankroll the films and activism of Iara Lee, his Korean-Brazilian wife 27 years his junior. Since 2003, Lee has globe-hopped throughout the Middle East, filming sequences for a documentary she and Gund released this spring as “Cultures of Resistance.” Last year she rose to prominence after releasing footage she shot on the Mavi Marmara during a clash between jihadist IHH activists and Israeli commandos during the “flotilla” confrontation.
In spite of their supposed sympathy for outsiders, the couple chooses to focus most of their activist money against the most tolerant Middle Eastern state. Israel is their primary target. The couple is completely indifferent to the reality that the rights of gays, women and religious minorities are protected more diligently in this supposedly “apartheid” state than in Hamas-controlled Gaza. Thus, the Iara Lee and George Gund III Foundation (ILGGF) (founded 2004) and the Caipirinha Foundation (founded 2006) have funneled more than half a million dollars to activist groups committed to demonizing Israel and supporting Hamas.
The most troubling of Lee and Gund’s anti-Israel donations has been the Caipirinha Foundation’s grant to the The Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) which sponsors flotillas that seek to disrupt Israel’s military blockade of Gaza. The IHH also has ties to Hamas, Al Qaeda, and the Muslim Brotherhood, a fact which prevented the IHH from participating in the next flotilla scheduled for the end of this month. Lee has defended the IHH in a video and blog post at The Huffington Post.
The dollar amount of Caipirinha’s grant is not yet available. The donation was likely made in 2010 as it does not appear on the organization’s 2007, 2008, or 2009 records. Caipirinha used the Zakat Foundation of America as a “fiscal sponsor.—that is, as a non-profit intermediary to funnel tax-exempt donations to another organization that’s too openly radical to qualify for 501©3 status, the progressive non-profit world’s version of money laundering.
In 2009 the ILGGF gave $50,000 to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a George Soros-sponsored non-profit which disproportionately targets its Human Rights concerns on Israel. In both 2008 and 2007 the ILGGF made donations of $60,000 to HRW, making their three-year total $170,000.
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