Rev. Dr. Mae Elise Cannon of Churches for Middle East Peace hosts Jim Zogby of the Arab American Institute, Lara Friedman of Americans for Peace Now and myself for this discussion about the end of the Obama era and the prospects of a Trump administration for Israel and Palestine.
On Sunday the Israeli cabinet unanimously passed a bill that would legalize settlement outposts in the occupied West Bank that were built on privately owned
Banner reads “Every house that is demolished is a victory for Hamas.” This refers only to Jewish-owned houses in settlements.
Palestinian land. If passed by the Knesset, the law could potentially be used to raise the status of many outposts all over the West Bank to those of settlements that are legal under Israeli law. That would be a tremendous setback to the already dimming prospects of an Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank, and to the two-state solution. Read more at FMEP’s blog, Facts on the Ground
On Wednesday, in the wake of Israel’s announcement of hundreds of more units in West Bank settlements, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs posted a page on its website articulating its view that building in the occupied West Bank is legal under international law and is not, as many critics claim, an impediment to peace. The fact that the MFA felt the need to make such a case indicates that rising international criticism, particularly from the U.S., is having an impact, and that case bears an examination of its key claims. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” the Foundation for Middle East Peace’s blog.
The recent decision by the European Union to label products from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank has elicited loud cries of protest from Israel and from the Netanyahu government’s supporters in Washington. Critics have claimed that Israel is being treated unfairly, that the EU is trying to pressure Israel into concessions outside of the framework of bilateral negotiations, and that these measures are a part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement whose real aim, critics claim, is to de-legitimize Israel.
In fact, the EU measures simply represent an effort to more faithfully implement a longstanding policy, backed by a strong international consensus, of differentiating between the State of Israel within the pre-1967 line, often referred to as the Green Line, and Israeli settlements built in the territories occupied in the 1967 war.
The effort to oppose this differentiation is often based on partial or misleading information, which we address below. It is important to recognize, however, that the unimpeded growth of settlements will eventually foreclose the option of a two-state solution, if it hasn’t already done so, as it will eliminate any possibility of contiguous and economically viable Palestinian state. It is therefore imperative that anyone hoping for a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians understand the facts about the settlements, EU labeling and the goal of differentiation. Read more at Facts on the Ground, FMEP’s blog.
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**
During his meeting with Secretary of State John Kerry two weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu offered “a package of meaningful measures in the West Bank.” Although Netanyahu was apparently vague about what those measures would be, an anonymous Israeli official told a reporter for Israel’s Ha’aretz, “The prime minister made it clear that we want American recognition of the settlement blocs and of the fact that we can build there.”
Most observers have long recognized that any workable two-state agreement between Israel and the Palestinians is likely to include Israel keeping the large settlement blocs of Gush Etzion, Ariel and Ma’ale Adumim. A key question had been if, and when, U.S. policy should shift to acknowledge this, either tacitly or explicitly. Read more at “Facts on the Ground,” FMEP’s blog.
This video was produced by T’Ruah: The Rabbinic Call For Human Rights, and it is one that should be shared far and wide.
It is thoroughly unacceptable that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) is funding projects outside the Green Line. As with any other organization that uses charitable donations, it should not be allowed to maintain its tax exempt status and fund settlement projects.
But that’s a bigger fight. No doubt, many donors to the JNF are very comfortable with, or even enthusiastic supporters of funding settlements. But many others are simply responding to very familiar, innocuous-looking and, one would even say, traditional JNF call to “plant tress in Israel.” If nothing else, the JNF is morally obliged to let people know that their donations might not be funding projects in Israel, but could also be funding projects in the settlements.
If the JNF won’t do the right thing and make this clear (and they won’t–in fact, they go to considerable effort to keep it quiet, as the video points out), then it is up to Jews of conscience to do it for them. Please share this video, let people know it’s worth a minute or two to watch it. And after you do, please take action here.