The US cash behind extremist settlers

The US cash behind extremist settlers

Last month, a Brooklyn-based non-profit organisation called the Hebron Fund, which supports Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied city of Hebron, held a fundraiser at the New York Mets’ stadium, Citi Field.

The fundraiser went forward despite calls for its cancellation from grassroots human rights organisations from the US, Palestine and Israel. The fact that the Hebron Fund likely raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for extremist Israeli settlers at a major US venue with little public scrutiny is a troubling sign for those who hope that the US can play a constructive role in achieving a just peace in the Middle East.

Perhaps more worryingly, according to Washington Post columnist David Ignatius: “A search of IRS records identified 28 US charitable groups that made a total of $33.4m in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organisations between 2004 and 2007.” Some of the larger organisations, including Friends of the Ateret Cohanim and Friends of Ir David, both leading the Jewish settler takeover of Palestinian East Jerusalem, are based in New York City.

Israeli settlements violate the Geneva convention’s prohibition against an occupying power transferring its population into occupied territory, and Israeli settlement expansion directly contradicts the US call for a settlement freeze. [continued…]

How does the U.S. help fund pro-settler IDF troops?

The Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land, the organization that offered every soldier refusing to evacuate a settlement, and the Kfir Brigade soldiers who publicly demonstrated their opposition to evacuation, NIS 1,000 for every day they spend in military prison, is a registered non-profit organization and has a license to operate.

The group receives donations from a U.S. based group that are tax exempt. No comment was available from the organization.

The Global Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land, established in 2003 and rising to fame during the disengagement from the Gaza Strip, melds positions of the extreme right wing and the messianic Hassidic Chabad sect. The group is headed by Rabbi Shalom Dov Wolpe, a Chabad Hassid of the messianic stream, who lives in Kiryat Gat. In recent years the group began offering monetary rewards to soldiers and civilians. Among the rewards it has given was NIS 20,000 to each soldier who lifted a sign of “The Shimshon Battalion does not evict from Homesh” at the Western Wall a month ago, and gave NIS 1,800 to the soldier Tzach Kortz, who shot a terrorist in Kiryat Arba last week. [continued…]

Peace Now and J Street should join the battle against tax breaks for the West Bank colonists

In a sign that the discourse is changing and taboo subjects are coming inside, The Atlantic considers the case for ending the special relationship of US and Israel, and picks up an important piece in the Guardian by Andrew Kadi and Aaron Levitt about the U.S. tax subsidies extended to the Hebron colonists. Kadi and Levitt focus on the Hebron Fund’s fundraiser at the Mets ballpark last month:
“Until the public, advocacy groups, media and the US government scrutinise and rein in settlement non-profits like the Hebron Fund, policy statements about peace in the Middle East will do nothing to stop the daily violence and dispossession suffered by Palestinians.”

My question: Where are Jeremy Ben-Ami of J Street and Michael Walzer of Americans for Peace Now? This is actually an issue we can all do business on. Ben-Ami says that he is trying to end the colonization of the West Bank. Well, focusing on the Hebron Fund and its tax break is one real and significant way to apply pressure. Earlier this year my old professor, Walzer, wrote bravely that the United States must put heavy pressure on Israel to defeat the settler movement (and save the 2-state solution)! Walzer is on the board of Americans for Peace Now. So are Dan Fleshler and Richard Dreyfuss. [continued…]

Israeli minister says settlers’ resistance ‘natural’

As Jewish settlers step up their resistance to a temporary and partial settlement construction freeze ordered last month by the Israeli government, Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister, yesterday said the opposition was “legitimate” and “natural”.

While Mr Lieberman, himself a settler, did not condone the kind of action that has seen settlers try to block access roads to Jerusalem or prevent government officials from reaching settlements to implement the construction freeze order, his comments indicate that the order has struck a nerve with settlers and consequently the reaction will have a political fallout.

Over the past few days, settlers stepped up their action against the order, evident in incidents of vandalism on Palestinians’ properties, their efforts to disrupt the lives of Israelis and target government officials with protests outside their homes. The well-orchestrated campaign seems to have taken the Israeli government by surprise. [continued…]

Who will save Gaza’s children?

Among all the complex and long-term solutions being sought in Copenhagen for averting environmental catastrophe across the world, there is one place where the catastrophe has already happened, but could be immediately ameliorated with one simple political act.

In Gaza there is now no uncontaminated water; of the 40,000 or so newborn babies, at least half are at immediate risk of nitrate poisoning – incidence of “blue baby syndrome”, methaemoglobinaemia, is exceptionally high; an unprecedented number of people have been exposed to nitrate poisoning over 10 years; in some places the nitrate content in water is 300 times World Health Organisation standards; the agricultural economy is dying from the contamination and salinated water; the underground aquifer is stressed to the point of collapse; and sewage and waste water flows into public spaces and the aquifer.

The blockade of Gaza has gone on for nearly four years, and the vital water and sanitation infrastructure went past creaking to virtual collapse during the three-week assault on the territory almost a year ago. [continued…]

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