Officials at MoMA and Harvard are disciplined due to Epstein connection — and Israel support goes unmentioned

When Jeffrey Epstein, the financier and socialite, was charged with sex trafficking in July 2019 (and before he died in a federal jail a month later), I published a post showing how central Israel was in Epstein’s circle. Those Israel supporters included Epstein’s patron the business mogul Leslie Wexner, who granted Epstein “sweeping powers over his finances, philanthropy and private life;” Epstein’s lawyer, Alan Dershowitz; former Israeli PM Ehud Barak, who got a million-dollar investment by Epstein in a reported security business; and the man at whose offices I met Epstein when I covered the story years ago, p.r. man Howard Rubenstein.

Last week, the Epstein scandals continued to play out with shocks to two other friends’ careers– at Harvard and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Both these men were also advocates for Israel.

I focus on these stories to show that the press once again avoids the Israel angle, even though high-stakes networking is a vital component of the Israel lobby in the United States. Of course, you’ve heard the theory that Epstein and his friend Ghislaine Maxwell, also charged in sex trafficking, operated a sex ring on behalf of Israeli intelligence to compromise politicians with underage women. But I’m not getting into that here. The scandal no one raises an eyebrow about is that Epstein’s friend Wexner funds a program at Harvard’s government school to provide training to Israeli public officials, including bringing them to meet American Jewish organizations. That’s the Israel lobby hard at work inside a prestige institution.

One of the Epstein-blowback stories from last week also involves Harvard. The school disciplined mathematician Martin Nowak and closed a research program he started because of the unseemly degree of access that Nowak extended to Epstein in exchange for millions of dollars in funding, according to news reports. The Boston Globe related some of the unseemly conduct: Even after being imprisoned on sex charges Epstein had his own room at Nowak’s program’s offices in Harvard Square, with keys and security cards, and came and went, “routinely with young women who acted as his assistants,” even as other staff complained.

The Israel angle here– unmentioned in the coverage — is that Epstein also dictated at least one academic choice to Nowak. Nowak reportedly rescinded an invitation to a renowned biologist after Alan Dershowitz complained to Epstein, because of Israel.

The story was related by J. Lorand Matory, an anthropology professor then at Harvard, in the Harvard Crimson. In 2007, Matory said, Nowak

invited Rutgers biologist Robert L. Trivers to speak on the occasion of his receipt of the prestigious Crafoord Prize in biosciences from the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Hours before the scheduled speech and party, according to Trivers, Nowak abruptly rescinded the invitation and said that he was doing so under the orders of someone he would not identify. Also according to Trivers, Jeffrey Epstein later admitted ordering the cancellation and said that he had done so under pressure from Dershowitz. Epstein, a legal client of Dershowitz, had donated the funds used to establish [Nowak’s Program for Evolutionary Dynamics] PED, which, according to other sources, depends for its future effectiveness on further funding from him.

Dershowitz, who is also a Faculty Affiliate of PED, had complained of a letter to the Wall Street Journal in which Trivers described Israel’s attacks on Lebanese civilians during the 2006 invasion as “butchery.” He also called Dershowitz a “Nazi-like apologist” for justifying it, and told Dershowitz to “look forward to a visit” from him if his public justifications continued. Trivers denied any intent to threaten or harm Dershowitz physically. 

Nowak moved from Princeton to Harvard after Epstein pledged $25 million to the school, according to Vanity Fair. At that time, Harvard’s president was Larry Summers, another advocate for Israel who himself had a “long, disquieting” friendship with Epstein, from whom Summers solicited many gifts to the school. As for Dershowitz, he is of course among Israel’s leading advocates in the U.S.– and he visited Epstein’s “mansions in New York and Palm Beach and occasionally accompanied him on his private plane” and has been accused of having sex with women Epstein trafficked, a charge Dershowitz denies.

Harvard’s president has said, the case raises questions about how the school vets donors; while the school paper laments that between 2010 and 2018, even as a convicted sex offender, “Epstein enjoyed a privileged position at Harvard.” You have to wonder whether Israel support played a role in his impunity.

The second name in the news last week has far more social weight than Martin Nowak. Leon Black said he would not stand for reelection as chair of the Museum of Modern Art and stepped down from the chairmanship of Apollo, what the Wall Street Journal calls a “behemoth” of a private investment firm, following a controversy over lavish payments he had made to Epstein years after Epstein’s 2008 conviction on sex charges.

The figures are astronomical. Black “paid $158 million to Mr. Epstein for tax and estate advisory services…. [and] he also lent Mr. Epstein $30 million,” according to the New York Times. The Wall Street Journal says that an outside investigation found no evidence that Black was engaged in Epstein’s criminal activities; but Black stated that the “relentless public attention and media scrutiny concerning my relationship with Jeffrey Epstein… have taken a toll on my health.”

Again, the press doesn’t go into it, but Epstein and Black shared a love for Israel. The Leon Black Family Foundation gave $1,000,000 to Birthright, the Zionist indoctrination program, in 2016in 2017. And another $100,000 to the Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces. The Black Foundation also gave $250,000 to Birthright in 2009.

The Black Foundation’s gifts to Israel organizations are right alongside sizeable gifts to many very acceptable institutions: Columbia University, the Clinton Foundation, Rockefeller University, Memorial Sloan Kettering, a charter school in Harlem, the Park Avenue Synagogue, and the Roundabout Theatre among others. Indeed, last week when Black said that he would not run again for the MoMA chairmanship, one source in the New York Times expressed concern that the museum would lose out on gifts of art or money because of Black’s absence. Even though 150 artists signed a statement demanding his removal.

Sadly, there are not public campaigns for a leading financier to step down from nonprofit institutions over gifts to the Israeli army. And Leslie Wexner’s program at Harvard’s school of government to educate Israeli officials about American Jewish institutions is just business as usual. That is never the scandal.

Maybe that will change, but one positive of the Epstein scandals is they reveal how leading American institutions, in Democratic Party strongholds, are closely tied to pro-Israel funding.

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