Prior to former Samson Investment Company of Tulsa CEO Charles Schusterman’s death in late 2000, the World Union for Progressive Judaism news website (www.wupj.org) posted the following reference to Schusterman’s special corporate interests: “Schusterman is a partner in the consortium which recently purchased a major interest in Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, and has extensive interests in oil, real estate, banking and shipping in the US.”
The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (www.jta.org) also noted in a January 1, 2001 article that Schusterman “made his money in the oil business”, “founded the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation” in 1987, and “was a supporter of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the pro-Israel lobby.” The same article reported that “Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak wrote that Schusterman ‘was zealous in his…advocacy for a vital U.S.-Israel relationship.’” According to the JTS article, Schusterman “was known for applying a business principle — seeking a good investment on his money — to his philanthropic activity.”
The surplus oil industry wealth of the now-deceased former Samson Investment Company CEO is apparently being used to help subsidize the activity of the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) and its affiliated David Project. In 2004, for instance, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation — with assets of $100 million — gave a $1,050,000 grant to Hillel to support the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC) project, according to its website at www.schusterman.org. An article by Scott Sherman, entitled “The Mideast Comes To Columbia” in the 4 April 2005 issue of The Nation magazine explained the ICC’s connection to the David Project:
In March 2002 a network of national Jewish organizations met to evaluate what they saw as an alarming rise in anti-Israel activity on campus. From those meetings emerged the Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), which is a partnership of Hillel and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. (The three organizations share a building in Washington.) According to a 2002 article for the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, a Jewish-oriented news service, top-flight talent was brought in to advise the ICC and assemble a battle plan. “Pro-Israel professionals from the elite consulting firm McKinsey & Company offered pro-bono services,” the article noted. Those professionals created a document for the ICC arguing that “the primary goal for this year should be to ‘take back the campus’ by influencing public opinion through lectures, the Internet and coalitions.”
The ICC has a single ‘affiliate member’: the David Project… The ICC’s website lists a number of ‘regional ICCs’ that receive ‘strategic advice and guidance’ from the Washington headquarters. The regional ICC representative in New York is none other than Rachel Fish, the director of the David Project’s New York office… In October 2003, the David Project met with Columbia students and agreed to provide funding for a film that would give voice to their complaints…
Founded in 1971, the Schusterman family’s privately-owned Samson Investment is “an independent oil and gas entity with exploration, development and production activities in Canada, Russia, the US (18 states) and Venezuela” which “operates more than 3,000 producing wells and has stakes in more than 10,000 wells,” according to the www.hoovers.com website. The Schusterman family’s firm also makes money from the oil and natural gas industry by selling “tools and equipment to oil field supply companies.” In 2001, the current Samson Investment Co-CEO/Co-Chairperson (Charles Schusterman’s daughter, Stacy Schusterman) was also the wife of former AIPAC President Melvin Dow’s son, Stephen, according to the 1 January 2001 JTA article.
Along with the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation, Inc., the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation also sponsored an “Israel Advocacy Day” in Orlando, Florida in August 2002, which was attended by fifty-six US or Candadian students from 46 different universities. An August 12, 2002 press release of the Alpha Epsilon Pi Foundation (www.aepi.org) described what happened at this event:
“Elan Carr, a member of Alpha Epsilon Pi International’s board, opened the event with an overview of the history of the Middle East and US-Israel relations. Carr’s session demystified many media buzzwords such as occupation, refugees, and UN Resolution 242. AIPAC’s Political Leadership Development Director Jonathan Kessler demonstrated that issues involving Israel are bigger than what is happening on individual campuses. Kessler said college campuses are being targeted because future policymakers and tomorrow’s influential leaders are today’s students. Political and media strategist Dan Schnur’s seminar Stand and Deliver instructed the students how to craft a pro-Israel message and keep that message at the forefront of the debate. The Schusterman Foundation was represented by Pamela Dubin, who concluded the event by suggesting ways students can bring the pro-Israel position to light on campus.”
The special corporate interests of Samson Investment and Bank Hapoalim may be served by a Schusterman Foundation-sponsored ICC/David Project attempt to use film to promote the denial of academic freedom for U.S. professors at universities like Columbia. But most U.S. anti-war/anti-corporate activists believe it undemocratic for pro-Israeli establishment pressure groups and foundations to use surplus U.S. petrodollars or Israeli banking industry profits to attempt to exercise a special anti-Palestinian political influence on U.S. university campuses.
Bob Feldman is an anti-war Movement writer and activist, and an occasional contributor to EI.