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WhatsApp inventor makes $2 million donation to AIPAC

Jan Koum, who has also donated to groups settling Jews in East Jerusalem and combatting anti-Israel sentiment on campus, doubled the previous highest donation to AIPAC's campaign on Democratic primaries

This article originally appeared on Haaretz, and was reprinted here with permission. Sign up here to get Haaretz’s free Daily Brief newsletter delivered to your inbox.

Jan Koum, the Ukrainian-born Jewish inventor of WhatsApp, donated a record-high $2 million to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s campaign on the Democratic primaries in June.

Koum, whose net worth is estimated at between $9.8 billion and $13.7 billion, is considered among the richest people in the world. His gift doubles the previous high donations to AIPAC’s United Democracy Project Super PAC from mega-donors Haim Saban, Paul Singer and Bernard Marcus.

The 46-year-old retired entrepreneur, who sold his messaging app to Facebook for $19 billion in 2014, was born in Ukraine and immigrated to the U.S. when he was 16-years-old. His family foundation has quietly but actively increased its giving to Jewish and Israel-related causes over the past several years, report the Jewish Telegraph Agency and journalist Teddy Schleifer.

From 2019 to 2020, Koum has donated $140 million in gifts to about 70 Jewish charities working in the United States, Eastern Europe and Israel. As JTA notes, “that’s on par with the rate of giving by the biggest and best-known donors in the Jewish world.”

Among Koum’s donations include $6 million to Friends of Ir David, the U.S. fundraising arm of Elad, a right-wing NGO focused on settling Jews in Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and running tourist and excavation sites. He has also donated $600,000 to the Maccabee Task Force Foundation, a group founded by Sheldon Adelson aiming to combat anti-Israel sentiment on college campuses. Koum similarly donated $175,000 to The Central Fund of Israel, an organization that serves as a funnel between the U.S. and non-profits in Israel, many of which operate in the settlements.

Koum’s only previous political donations were to Derrick Anderson’s 2022 Republican primary bid for a Virginia Congressional district via WinRed, a Republican National Committee-endorsed fundraising platform.

United Democracy Project has now spent nearly $21 million, exclusively on Democratic primaries, with $12.1 million of those funds being spent on attack ads. It recently successfully invested a record-high $6 million in a Maryland Congressional primary aimed at defeating former Rep. Donna Edwards, whom it dismissed as “anti-Israel.” The super PAC has come under criticism for receiving significant donations from major Republican donors while only involving itself in Democratic primaries.

“When voters have a choice between a pro-Israel candidate and an anti-Israel candidate,” UDP Spokesperson Patrick Dorton said. “They are consistently choosing the pro-Israel option. It’s a fact that the majority of progressive Democrats in America are pro-Israel. We’re exercising our democratic and first amendment rights by being active in these elections.”

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