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New Yorkers Ask Why

By Chippy Dee, Photos © by Bud Korotzer

New Yorkers Ask Why

Why are American taxpayers subsidizing the violent actions of Israeli settlers in the heart of a Palestinian city?

© DesertPeace.wordpress.com

“We’ll make a pastrami sandwich of them. We’ll insert a strip of Jewish settlement, in between the Palestinians, and then another strip of Jewish settlement, right across the West Bank, so that in 25 years time, neither the United Nations nor the United States, nobody, will be able to tear it apart.” Ariel Sharon to a British journalist at Israel’s National Press Club in 1973

On March 24th, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No, and Brooklyn for Peace sponsored a meeting held at the GLBT Center in Greenwich Village. The subject of the meeting was put in the form of a question: Why are American taxpayers subsidizing the violent actions of Israeli settlers in the heart of a Palestinian city? The city referred to is Hebron, but the same situation exists in other parts of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Money raised through 5013C (non-profits) allows organizations that fund illegal settlements to raise millions of dollars from American donors, which is tax deductible to the donors, thereby encouraging giving. Since 2001 there has been over $190 million transferred from American non-profits to settlements (see settlementsinPalestine.org/funding/spenders.pdf , quoted by JVP). These American contributors are changing the political reality in the area by facilitating the taking of land for Jews-only housing and contributing to the misery that has become part of Palestinian life on the West Bank in an effort to drive the Palestinians out.

The Hebron Fund, a non-profit in New York, supports the violent Jewish colony in Hebron that has turned the lives of the 150,000 Palestinian residents into a living hell. The Israeli human rights group, B’tselem, calls the Hebron colony an ongoing war crime (btselem.org/English/Hebron/).

The first speaker was Adam Horowitz, co-editor of Mondoweiss.net. He said that Mondoweiss has been covering the issue of this fundraising in the US since 2008. He became interested in the subject when he read an article about an event that had just taken place on the West Bank. The Israeli military evacuated 250 religious Jews from the Ar-Rajbi House which had become known as the “House of Contention” in Hebron. Rather than fight the Israeli military, the Jewish colonists attacked Palestinians.

Horowitz described a group of 12 masked Jews surrounding a Palestinian home seeking to lynch the 20 people inside – 3 men, the rest being women and children. First they set the laundry in the courtyard on fire and then tried to set the house on fire. The family in the house called for help but their neighbors were too frightened of the settlement security guards to intervene. Journalists recording the event were cursed by the vigilantes.

Horowitz called it a pogrom. A few days after reading this account he got an e-mail from a woman in the pro-settler women’s group, Women in Green, which had occupied the house of contention, and was asking for donations. She asked that money be sent to them through the Central Fund for Israel and gave a New York address. He Goggled the address and found that it was a fabric store owned by Arthur and Hadassah Marcus.

When Phil Weiss, the other editor of Mondoweiss, called them they were very open. Their son lived in Hebron and worked for the Hebron Fund. Although they didn’t actively fundraise, in 2005 they raised and sent $8 million to Hebron.

Horowitz explained that while the funds are collected with one stated purpose, once on the scene it can be used for anything the group wants. Money sent to Women in Green actually pays for “early response teams” – they are the Israeli trained militias that are supposed to guard the colonies.

The organizations in the US that are getting tax free and tax deductible contributions from Americans are paying for Israeli expansion. The donors include many notable and upstanding members of the New York Jewish community such as James Tisch, CEO of the Loew’s Corp., Alan Greenberg, CEO of Bear Sterns, the Kirk Douglas Foundation, and Michael Milken, financier.

A short and very disturbing video was then played which showed a female Hebron settler physically and verbally attacking a Palestinian woman who was able to get away and escape into the wire cage that she had built to completely enclose her home on all sides.

From inside this cage she could see her young child attempting to come home while being harassed and attacked. She cried, called to him, and tried to get out to help him but was stopped from doing so by someone in uniform.

The following speaker was Abed Ayoub, the Legal Director of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC). He too started by raising a question: Why does Israel get to live by different rules than the ones that govern our relations with other countries? If an individual or an organization was sending money to what they claimed was a humanitarian group in Iraq, but instead it was going to buy bullet-proof vests for a militia it would not be tolerated. Yet thousands of organizations are doing exactly that. The ADC is not going after organizations for funding settlements, they are going after them for deceptive funding. It is being approached as a domestic tax issue. It has cost the IRS millions in lost tax revenue because contributions to these groups are tax deductible but, in actuality, shouldn’t be. The IRS is very interested.

The ADC also provides guidance for people who want to challenge the non-profits through the IRS’s complaint process. They explain that a substantial portion of the money that goes into these funds, which may total billions of dollars, is funneled into pro-Israel organizations that work with partners in Israel, or affiliates which operate in both Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. That includes the Jewish Agency ($460-$570 million a year), the Jewish National Fund ($35-$45 million a year), United Jewish Appeal ($250-$380 million a year), and the International Fellowship of Christians & Jews ($70-$80 million a year). Some non-profits are set up to specifically support settlements or a particular settlement. The Hebron Fund supports the growth of the colony in Hebron. Friends of Ir David supports the growth of Silwan in East Jerusalem. From 2004 to 2006 Friends of Ir David contributed over $10 million to fraudulent home purchases and ideological archeological excavations that became a pretext for demolishing Palestinian homes. (Eldar, Akiva, “The Very Eye of the Storm,” Haaretz, 4/10/09) Or, the non-profit could support an institution in a settlement. The Central Fund, also based in New York, contributed over $27,000 to the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus. Rabbi Yitzhac Shapira of that yeshiva said it was permissible to kill non-Jewish babies because of “the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.” He also permits killing anyone “who through his remarks and so forth weakens our kingdom.” (Eldar, Akiva, “US Tax Dollars Fund Rabbi Who Excused Killing of Gentile Babies,” Haaretz, 12/15/09) Violence from Yitzhar has been so excessive that former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described it as “pogroms against non-Jews.” (“Yitzhar Settlers Rampage Caught on Camera,” Haaretz, 9/15/08)

There are several legal bases for challenging the tax free and tax deductible status of these groups: the settlements are racially exclusive and discriminate, they increase tensions, they violate human rights, they are against the declared policy of the US, they violate international law, they violate property rights since they encroach on privately owned Palestinian land, and the non-profit engages in deceptive fundraising practices because it claims that the beneficiaries are residents of Israel but they are actually residents of the Occupied Palestinian Territory who are primarily involved in settlement activity including purchasing military hardware for paramilitary groups.

Dedicated international solidarity activists from all over the world have been working with the Palestinian resistance to slow down and stop the Israeli land grab on the West Bank. Some of the internationals, like Rachel Corrie, have been murdered. Many, many more Palestinian men, women, and children, have been murdered. And others are being tortured in Israeli prisons. Now American human rights activists have found a unique, non-violent, creative and positive way to contribute to this struggle.

© Bud Korotzer

© DesertPeace.wordpress.com

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