Pro-Israel billionaires urged New York crackdown on Gaza protests: Report | Israel War on Gaza News

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Pro-Israel billionaires urged New York crackdown on Gaza protests: Report | Israel War on Gaza News

WhatsApp leaks reveal group of business leaders discussed ways to pressure officials to clear pro-Palestine protesters.

A handful of powerful businessmen pushed New York City Mayor Eric Adams to use police to crack down on pro-Palestinian student protesters at Columbia University, donating to the politician and offering to pay for private investigators to help break up the demonstrations, the Washington Post has reported, based on leaked WhatsApp conversations.

The story, published on Thursday, says that several billionaires seeking to influence public perception of Israel’s war in Gaza discussed means of pushing the mayor and the university’s president to end the protests, which were eventually cleared last month amid criticism of the police’s heavy-handed response.

“One member of the WhatsApp chat group told The Post he donated $2,100, the maximum legal limit, to Adams that month,” the story reads.

“Some members also offered to pay for private investigators to assist New York police in handling the protests, the chat log shows — an offer a member of the group reported in the chat that Adams accepted.” The story states that city authorities denied that private investigators were used to help manage the protests.

The report comes as universities across the country continue to employ force against pro-Palestine activism, raising concerns over the repression of political expression. A number of universities have successfully negotiated with student encampments, which have called for divestment from companies involved in Israel’s war in Gaza and boycotts of Israeli institutions.

The WhatsApp chat cited by the Washington Post included prominent businessmen such as former CEO of Starbucks Howard Schultz, Dell founder and CEO Michael Dell, hedge fund manager Bill Ackman and Joshua Kushner, brother of former President Donald Trump’s son-in-law and adviser on Middle East issues, Jared Kushner.

Other leaders, such as snack company founder Daniel Lubetzky, hedge fund manager Daniel Loeb, billionaire Len Blavatnik and real estate investor Joseph Sitt also said that they held a video meeting with Mayor Adams on April 26.

Sending in the police has done little to dampen the spirits of pro-Palestine protesters, and in some cases, has led to heightened support from faculty and fellow students.

While supporters of the crackdowns say they are necessary to ensure the safety of Jewish students, some of whom say they have felt discomforted by anti-Israel rhetoric at the protests, pro-Palestine students – many of them Jewish – have faced the brunt of the violence at protests across the country, with few expressions of concern from authorities.

Earlier this week, a union representing about 48,000 graduate student workers in California, authorised a strike over the treatment of student protesters at universities such as the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA), where a pro-Israel mob attacked a pro-Palestine encampment with metal pipes and mace while police stood by. Several pro-Palestine activists were hospitalised.

The following day, police moved in to clear the pro-Palestine encampment.