Americans Funding the Expansion of Illegal Israeli Settlements

In the wake of the Chas Freeman brouhaha, I think it's noteworthy that David Ignatius is writing columns like this:


A Tax Break Fuels Middle East Friction

For many years, the United States has had a policy against spending aid money to fund Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which successive administrations have regarded as an obstacle to peace. Yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes.

Interesting weasel-construct: "successive administrations have regarded" the ever-expanding settlements "as an obstacle to peace." Not that Ignatius is making such an outrageous claim himself. (And no mention of the settlements' illegality, as it is understood by the international community.)

There's nothing illegal about the charitable contributions to pro-settlement organizations, which are documented in filings with the Internal Revenue Service. They're similar to tax-exempt donations made to thousands of foreign organizations around the world through groups that are often described as "American friends of" the recipient.

He's right, of course, but I think there's an important bit of context missing: in the post-9/11 era, criminalizing Islamic charities on the flimsiest kind of guilt-by-association has become par for the course in the U.S. As IPS News reported:

In the months following the terrorist attacks of Sep. 11, 2001 ... the government opened up [a front] against charitable organizations it suspected of providing financial or other material assistance to groups the government designates as "terrorist." While the campaign applies to all domestic nonprofit organizations, the lion's share of scrutiny, suspicion, and preemptive action has fallen on groups that support Muslim causes.

Since 9/11, there has been an exponential increase in government surveillance of the financial practices of charities serving Muslim communities both in the U.S. and abroad. Numerous charities have been shut down, their records seized and their assets frozen - all with virtually no due process.

One such organzation - the Holy Land Foundation - has been brought to trial. That trial ended in the exoneration of one of the defendants and a hung jury on the fate of the other defendants. The government is about to re-try the case.

And make no mistake, the settlers' movement is not a peaceful one. The Israeli human rights monitor B'Tselem -- a group no doubt staffed by self-loathing Jews -- notes the double-standard that greets the violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers and Palestinian militants:

When Palestinians attack Israelis, the authorities invoke all means at their disposal – including some that are incompatible with international law and constitute gross violations of human rights – to arrest the suspects and bring them to trial. Defendants convicted by military courts can expect harsh sentences.

In contrast, when Israeli civilians attack Palestinians, the Israeli authorities employ an undeclared policy of leniency and compromise toward the perpetrators. This policy is reflected in the actions of officials in charge of law enforcement – the Israel Defense Force (IDF) and the Israel Police Force (IPF) – which do not do enough to prevent harm to the life and property of Palestinians, and to stop the violent attacks by settlers while they are taking place. All law enforcement agencies and judicial authorities demonstrate little interest in uncovering the substantial violence that Israeli civilians commit against Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.

Back to Ignatius:

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