The manager of U2, a rock band well known for human rights campaigning, has taken part in fundraising activities for an organization that supports Israel’s war crimes.
Guy Oseary, who also manages Madonna, attended a 2014 fundraising gala in Los Angeles, California, for Friends of the IDF.
The event – which reportedly brought in $33 million to the organization’s coffers – was held just a few months after Israel’s 51-day bombardment of Gaza that year.
Although photographs of Oseary attending the event were posted on the Internet, his participation has not drawn any criticism before now.
His participation can only be interpreted as an endorsement of the Israeli military and its activities. Friends of the IDF helps recruit for the Israeli military. It does so by sponsoring “lone soldiers” – Israeli troops with family living abroad – for the entire duration of their service.
The gala that Oseary attended featured a tribute to soldiers who had attacked Gaza earlier in 2014. Friends of the IDF assisted that offensive by supplying mobile showers, snacks, underwear and cell phone chargers to troops invading Gaza.
By giving that aid, Friends of the IDF can pose as a charity that is providing comfort to Israeli soldiers. The group has stretched the concept of “humanitarian” activities to its limit. Genuine humanitarians would be more concerned with helping the victims of Israeli aggression than meeting the personal hygiene requirements of the aggressors.
Friends of the IDF can count on support from the most powerful political and business figures in the US. Donald Trump, the president-elect, has pledged money to the group in the past – although it has been reported that someone else actually made the $250,000 donation that he promised.
Oseary did not respond to multiple requests asking how much he has donated to Friends of the IDF. The organization itself also did not reply to a request for comment.
Organizing galas is one of Friends of the IDF’s preferred methods of fundraising. Tickets for one such gala – scheduled to take place in Boston next month – are priced at $3,600 for a table of 12.
The gala which Oseary attended was hosted by Haim Saban, an entrepreneur who helped finance Hillary Clinton’s failed campaign for the presidential election.
Oseary’s support for Friends of the IDF is at odds with U2’s professed concern for human rights.
Since the 1980s, U2 has been vocal in its support for human rights group Amnesty International. Amnesty has accused Israeli troops of displaying “callous indifference to the carnage” they caused while attacking Gaza in 2014. According to the group, Israel’s violence against civilian homes “brazenly flouted the laws of war.”
Amnesty International issued a brief statement when asked if the organization was concerned about Oseary’s support for Friends of the IDF.
“We are not in a position to comment on a private donation made by an individual who is not a staff member or official representative of Amnesty International and would urge you to contact U2 or their representatives directly,” the group stated. “U2 are prominent supporters of Amnesty International’s work and have regularly sought to raise awareness of human rights issues.”
The band and its then manager Paul McGuinness were given Amnesty’s annual “ambassador of conscience” award in 2005.
Oseary replaced McGuinness as U2’s manager in 2013. Born in Jerusalem – though based in the US for most of his life – Oseary combines his music industry activities with investments in Israel’s technology industry.
Band of hypocrites
Sound Ventures, a firm which Oseary established with the actor Ashton Kutcher, is part owner of Meerkat, an Israeli app maker. U2 heavily promoted Meerkat’s livestreaming service during its world tour last year, using the app to broadcast clips from the band’s concerts.
While that streaming service is no longer available, the company behind Meerkat is still active and has recently launched a new video chat application called Houseparty.
Meerkat exemplifies the cozy relationship between the military and the Israeli technology industry. As part of efforts to build up Israel as a leading manufacturer of weapons and surveillance equipment, the Israeli military has devoted considerable resources to developing the computer skills of its soldiers. One of Meerkat’s founders, Roi Tirosh, is a former instructor in the Israeli military.
Oseary’s Sound Ventures has also provided funding to Moovit, the Israeli firm that boasts of inventing the world’s most popular public transport app. Moovit’s CEO, Nir Erez, is a graduate of the computer science academy run by the Israeli military.
U2 – and, especially its lead singer Bono – have long displayed double standards.
Bono has defended and personally benefited from tax exemptions for the super rich, while masquerading as a campaigner against poverty. And despite writing “Bullet the Blue Sky” – a protest song against militarism and the arms industry – Bono has lavished praise on Shimon Peres, the recently deceased Israeli politician who helped introduce nuclear weapons to the Middle East and who ordered massacres in Lebanon.
Bono and U2 are not credible advocates of human rights. Amnesty should have realized that ages ago.
The clear proof that the band’s manager has supported Israel’s war crimes means that Amnesty no longer has any excuses. It is past time for Amnesty to publicly disown U2, a band of hypocrites.
•First published by The Electronic Intifada, 14 November 2016.