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**
Uri Blau is the Ha’aretz report who received information from IDF reservidt Anat Kamm. You can read about that case here and you can find more in-depth background here and here.
Blau may or may not be prosecuted, but, particularly in light of the massive WikiLeaks and Palestine Papers revelations, this sort of reporting has to be protected. It’s not just an Israeli issue–if Blau faces prosecution, this could have implications for journalism around the world.
Dimi Reider at 972 magazine offers analysis and background, but more importantly, includes a petition for journalists, bloggers and other writers to sign. If this fits you, please do add your name; instructions for doing so are also included in Dimi’s piece. Even if it does not, please spread word of this petition around. In the realm of ideas, free speech and the spirit of investigative journalism, there isn’t a more important issue today.
Dimi Reider, over at +972Mag, alerts us to some disturbing developments in Israel regarding freedom of the press.
In summary, this is a continuation of the Anat Kamm case. Kamm was convicted in February for passing classified documents on to Ha’aretz reporter, Uri Blau. As Reider explains, it seems that the target of the state’s efforts was not Kamm, primarily, but the reporter, Blau, she passed the material to, and Ha’aretz, the Israeli newspaper which, more than any other media source in Israel, is the reason Israel has a reputation for open media and a vibrant discussion of issues often considered difficult or even taboo in the United States.
I urge my readers to look not only at Reider’s excellent piece at 972, but also Richard Silverstein’s piece from last month regarding Kamm’s plea bargain as well as his original reporting on the Kamm affair. The work they’ve done is outstanding, and I’m not going to cover ground here that they’ve already done so well.
I’ll focus on two main points here. The first is the use to which the Kamm-Blau Affair is being put.
As Reider points out, virtually any reporter, Israeli or otherwise, has probably come into possession of classified documents at some point. We certainly know this to be the case in the United States, and the important uses this can be put to. We can also see not only what might have happened to Daniel Ellsberg and his exposing of the Pentagon Papers, but also the implications today for such groundbreaking incidents as Wikileaks and the Palestine Papers.
Israel is trying to cast a major chill on such investigative reporting. They are trying to put Uri Blau in jail for years for doing his job. The implications for investigative journalism, as well as independent blogging are enormous. Moreover, while the state declined to file any charges against Ha’aretz, it’s very clear that the desire is to send the paper a message about exposing Israeli crimes. The loss to Israel and the world if Ha’aretz is intimidated would be incalculable. Continue reading