Hollywood mega-donor Haim Saban slams Biden's decision to halt weapons shipment to Israel

Haim Saban speaks at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures' Unveiling of the Saban Building event at the Petersen Automotive Museum on Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP)
Media mogul Haim Saban, shown in 2018, criticized President Biden's decision to put a weapons shipment to Israel on hold. (Willy Sanjuan / Invision)

Democratic mega-donor and Hollywood media mogul Haim Saban slammed President Biden’s decision to put a shipment of weapons to Israel on hold because they could be used in an offensive against a densely populated city in southern Gaza.

"Let's not forget there are more Jewish voters who care about Israel than Muslim voters who care about Hamas," Saban wrote in an email to senior Biden aides Steve Ricchetti and Anita Dunn, Axios reported Thursday.

The comments drew condemnation from Muslim American leaders, who described Saban’s email as “unhinged, hateful and petulant” and “virulently anti-Muslim.”

“The White House should reject Mr. Saban’s threatening email, condemn his hateful message and cut ties with him,” said Edward Ahmed Mitchell, the deputy executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations. “Mega-donors like Haim Saban should have no more access to policymakers or influence over public policy than the average American.”

Read more: Biden says U.S. won't supply weapons for Israel to attack Rafah, in warning to ally

Biden on Wednesday told CNN that while the United States would continue to support Israel’s defense, as it has historically done, it would not supply bombs and artillery shells that the Middle East nation could use in an assault on Rafah in the Gaza Strip. More than 1 million civilians are sheltering in the southern Gaza city, which is the last major stronghold of Hamas, the militant group that carried out the deadly Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

The Biden campaign did not respond to a request for comment. But White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reiterated the president’s stance Thursday.

“What the president made clear on CNN is that we do not want to provide material support to such an operation,” she told reporters aboard Air Force One. “We have held a shipment of high payload, unguided munition and we discussed with Israel all concerns about their use in dense urban environments.”

The debate over the weapons shipment reflects a broader, growing rift between the Biden administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attack and attempt to defeat Hamas amid demands that it limit civilian casualties in Gaza.

It is unfolding during an election year when Biden is in a tight contest with former President Trump. Jewish Americans and Muslim Americans are parts of the Democratic coalition Biden needs to keep intact to win reelection, particularly in states such as Michigan.

Read more: Biden, at a Los Angeles fundraiser, says 2024 election offers a stark choice

Saban, an Israeli American billionaire who hosted the last fundraiser Biden held in Southern California at his sprawling Beverly Park estate in February, reacted to Biden’s comments by urging Dunn and Ricchetti to forward his message to the president.

In his email, Saban wrote that Biden's decision to stop sending munitions to Israel "sends a terrible message to our allies in the region" and shows that the U.S. "can flip from doing the right [thing] to bending to political pressure."

He urged the president to reconsider his decision, which he called "bad ... on all levels," and closed with "Thank You. With respect."

Saban did not respond to a request for comment.

Get the L.A. Times Politics newsletter. Deeply reported insights into legislation, politics and policy from Sacramento, Washington and beyond, in your inbox three times per week.

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.