by Adam Keller
New York, NY, November 16 – 120 New Yorkers silently picketed at the entrance to Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers this evening to protest against the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund’s fundraising event to expand Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Hebron. The protesters held signs saying “End the Siege of Hebron,” “Remove the Settlers,” “Return the Land,” “Hebron is in Palestine,” “US Dollars Feed Israeli War Crimes,” and other signs with large photos depicting violence by Israeli settlers and soldiers against Palestinian residents of Hebron. The protest was endorsed by sixteen US human rights and peace groups, three of which are Jewish (see groups below).
About forty people held a separate protest organized by J Street U also at Chelsea Piers criticizing the Hebron Fund fundraising event and Israeli settlements. Some Hebron Fund attendees were forced to walk past the two protests in order to reach the Hebron Fund event.
Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY commented, “On top of the US government’s $3 billion in annual aid to the Israeli government, the Hebron Fund is in New York City raising tax-free money to support some of the most violent and racist Israeli settlers. All Israeli settlements violate international law. We need to end the use of US tax dollars to support Israeli human rights abuses, and stop groups like the Hebron Fund.”
The fundraising dinner for Israeli settlements came as the Obama Administration is pushing the Israeli government to commit to a temporary freeze of the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In Hebron, a West Bank city with over 160,000 Palestinian residents, around 600 Jewish settlers, guarded by thousands of Israeli soldiers, regularly employ violence to expand their control over the city by taking over Palestinian homes and shops, and driving out Palestinian residents, according to the Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.
The Hebron Fund event was organized as a Hudson River cruise and entitled the “Hebron Aid Flotilla” in an apparent attempt to mock the international Freedom Flotilla that sailed last spring to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Israeli military attacked the flotilla in international waters, killing nine passengers, including an American citizen, and injuring an additional 58 passengers. The Hebron Fund announcement for the event stated that “settlements are legal,” and claimed that “the tax deductible status of the meager donations to Hebron’s Jews comes under repeated scrutiny - for no good reason except for racism and anti-Semitism.” The Hebron Fund’s keynote speaker, Caroline Glick, a former adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, has written in the Jerusalem Post that President Obama is “treating Israel like an enemy.”
According to all major human rights organizations, the UN, the International Court of Justice, and governments worldwide, all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. In 1979, the US State Department’s legal adviser also issued a legal opinion that has never been revised stating that the establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories "is inconsistent with international law," according to The Washington Post.
This is the third consecutive year in which the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund’s annual fundraising dinner in New York has faced protests. The Hebron Fund is one of a number of US nonprofits that fund Israeli settlements. Others include Friends of Ir David, American Friends of the Ateret Cohanim, and The Central Fund for Israel. According to the Washington Post, “A search of IRS records identified 28 U.S. charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007.” A recent New York Times report on these US settlement nonprofits quoted a senior US State Department official saying, “It’s a problem. It’s unhelpful to the efforts that we’re trying to make.”
In 2007, Hebron Fund Executive Director Yossi Baumol told The American Prospect that "[d]emocracy is poison to Arabs," "Israel must not give Arabs a say in how the country is run," and "[y]ou'll never get the truth out of an Arab." Noam Arnon, a 2009 Hebron Fund fundraiser honoree, called Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein “an extraordinary person'' in 1995, according to the Associated Press. In 1994 Goldstein massacred 29 unarmed Palestinians who were praying in a Hebron mosque, and wounded over 100 more.
For Downloadable Protest Photos See: http://adalahny.org/photo-galleries/demo-against-the-hebron-fund-nov-16-2010
Protest Endorsers: Adalah-NY: The New York Campaign for the Boycott of Israel, Al-Awda NY, American Jews for a Just Peace, Brooklyn For Peace, Code Pink, Columbia University Students for Justice in Palestine, Delaware Valley Veterans for Peace, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions-USA, Jewish Voice for Peace, Jews Say No!, Middle East Crisis Response, Siege Busters working group, War Resisters League, WESPAC, Women in Black – Union Square, Women of a Certain Age, Woodstock Veterans for Peace