Appearing on Walla! TV in Israel, Yuli Novak, the Executive Director of Breaking the Silence lays out, in a clear manner, the case Breaking the Silence is making. She takes on the tough questions of why the group speaks abroad and its attitude toward BDS, and shreds the opposition’s arguments about Breaking the Silence’s EU funding.
It’s worth praising Walla! as well. This is the sort of TV journalism we do not see in the United States. The interviewer asks the tough questions in a respectful manner, and neither party shies away from the issues. Yes, the voices are raised, but anyone who has been to Israel knows this is standard fare.
The interview is in Hebrew, but the accompanying English subtitles are very good. Yuli Novak, and the rest of Breaking the Silence are the best of Israel. It says a great deal not only about radical rightists like Im Tirzu, but also about the Netanyahu government itself that they are hostile toward or ashamed of Breaking the Silence. They should, instead, be treated like the patriotic heroes they are.
Recently, the right wing Israeli group Im Tirtzu created a highly inflammatory video singling out leaders of four leading Israeli human rights groups as “plants” by foreign powers seeking to undermine the State of Israel and supporting terror attacks. The video has been widely condemned as incitement to violence against these individuals and their organizations. The Foundation for Middle East Peace quickly moved to support our Israeli colleagues, as did many other organizations.
Still from Im Tirtzu’s video showing mock “files” on Israeli human rights leaders
The groups – B’Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Hamoked, and the Public Committee Against Torture In Israel – are among the many peace and human rights NGOs that are increasingly targeted by hateful rhetoric and even by anti-democratic legislation in the Knesset, much of which has been spurred by Im Tirtzu and their allies in the Likud and Jewish Home parties, the two largest parties in Israel’s governing coalition.
Defenses of these human rights workers and condemnations of Im Tirtzu have come not only from the Israeli left and its supporters, but also from key officials in the Israeli government, military and intelligence communities. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog
Many of you might have heard about the incident where a meeting that had been set between Joint List Chair, MK Ayman Odeh and the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations (COPJ) fell through at the last minute. The issue was that Ayman was unaware, prior to his arrival, that the COPJ offices were in the same place as those of the Jewish Agency.
Not surprisingly, Ayman had a problem holding a meeting in the offices of the Jewish Agency, which has done so much to help in the dispossession of Palestinians over the years, and continues to do so to this day.
I’ll be writing more about this in the coming days. But for now, the full story of what happened here (and there is already a good deal of misinformation out there) was reported by Lisa Goldman at +972 Magazine. I have been able to corroborate Lisa’s story with people who were there. It differs in important ways from the story COPJ Vice President Malcolm Hoenlein put out almost immediately. Crucially, it also reflects the hubristic attitude of the so-called “mainstream Jewish community.”
Hoenlein says that Ayman’s problem was that the Jewish Agency is a “Zionist” organization. This is, of course, absurd. Ayman has been meeting with a variety of Jewish groups during his trip to the United States, and most of them are Zionist groups. Indeed, COPJ itself, far from encouraging the “open discussion” that Hoenlein claims, has barred J Street, a very distinctly Zionist group, form its table because, by COPJ’s standards, J Street is not “Zionist enough.” Yet Ayman was prepared to meet with COPJ.
As Josh Nathan Kazis wrote in The Forward, “The cancellation…highlighted the ideological distance between even the most moderate Israeli Arab politicians and the American Jewish mainstream.”
A great deal of support for Israeli settlements comes from the United States in the form of tax-deductible contributions from private donors. The Obama administration, like all administrations before it, opposes Israeli settlement in the West Bank and considers it an obstacle to peace. Yet, at the same time, the United States government effectively incentivizes support for the settlements by allowing American charities to disburse millions of tax-deductible dollars in support for them.
This problem has not gone unnoticed, even though it continues unimpeded at this point. The Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, is publishing a series of reports and data uncovered by journalist Uri Blau detailing the extent of private American support for the settlements.
This investigation by Blau pushes forward efforts that a number of US-based groups have made in the past. Most recently, T’Ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights brought attention to this issue by filing a complaint against one such group, Honenu, in New York. Earlier in 2015, the group Avaaz petitioned the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of The Hebron Fund, which directly supports the flashpoint Israeli settlement in that Palestinian city.
As we wrote in September, “It is no secret that American charities send tax-deductible donations to Israeli settlements. And, while supporting settlements may be contrary to the stated policy of the United States, sending such donations is neither illegal nor a violation of IRS regulations governing tax-deductible charitable donations…[But] Stigmatizing such organizations can have a significant impact.”
This Ha’aretz investigation is bringing important information to light, but if it is to become more than an interesting series of articles, it will be crucial for Americans who recognize the settlements as a problem to bring greater attention to how the US tax code being used to entrench Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. In order to facilitate that discussion, FMEP has assembled the resources below. Read more at FMEP’s web site
**Note: The FMEP page will be updated as more information is published or brought to our attention**