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Issue #1436      18 November 2009

Stop US tax money flowing to settlers

Israeli peace organisation Gush Shalom approached the National Lawyers’ Guild in the US, requesting NLG members to act against American organisations supporting Israeli settlers in the Occupied Territories and get the tax authorities to remove the tax exempt status presently given to donations to the settlers. The National Lawyers’ Guild broke away from the American Bar Association at a time when the ABA supported racial segregation. Members of the NLG have been involved in various campaigns for peace and human rights, and some of its members have already indicated their willingness to approach the US tax authorities in the present case.

Gush Shalom activists holding a roadside rally in Tel Aviv.

The approach to the American lawyers is part of the campaign conducted by Gush Shalom in coordination with American peace activists – many of them Jewish – who are maintaining campaigns of their own of this kind. For example, activists in California have for years been campaigning against the support of Irving Moskowitz and his son David Moskowitz for settlers taking over Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem. As part of this campaign a considerable amount of information was collected in recent months about the American settler-support organisations.

“It turns out that there are dozens of such organisations, some supporting all the settlers but most of them affiliated to one particular settlement and energetically collecting donations on its behalf”, say the Gush Shalom activists.

“They register with the federal tax authorities as ‘charities’, ‘educational institutes’ and the like. Of course, none of these organisations have seen fit to mention that their activity is of a clearly political character, that the settlements are designed to dispossess the Palestinians and prevent the creation of a Palestinian state. This would also prevent any chance of peace between Israelis and Palestinians, that in the West Bank there are two separate legal systems – one for the settlers and a completely different one for the Palestinians.

“Also that by manipulation of leftover Ottoman laws the land of Palestinian villagers is declared to be ‘state land’ and passed over to the settlers, and that the settlers on whose behalf the money is collected are going about armed, often forming militias, assaulting their Palestinian neighbours and setting fields and olive groves on fire.

“At this stage we are not publishing the detailed information which, together with our American partners, we have collected about the settler support organisations, their locations and methods of operation. We intend to keep the advantage of surprise and not divulge in advance what we know about them. They will only find this out when the US tax authorities launch an investigation and address them with uncomfortable questions about the disparity between their proclaimed aims and the true use made of the donations which they are collecting”.

The Gush Shalom activists note that a tax exempt status in the US is tantamount to aid from the United States government. “The money flowing to the settlers is money that should have reached the treasury in Washington, to be used for the benefit of American citizens. There is no reason why this money should instead go to the Occupied Palestinian Territories and be used for the strengthening and extension of settlements, acts to which the government of the United States has expressed its opposition in the clearest and strongest terms, at the highest level”.

Gush Shalom

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