The deadly conflict between Israel and the partially recognized State of Palestine in the as hot as suggestive lands of the Middle East has been raging for over 50 years, if one wants to identify the start of the feud in the controversial proclamation of the birth of Israel by David Ben Gurion. After all these years, it is possible to define the inertia of the above as a pendulum swinging from recurrent all out wars to international attempts at mediation between the two sides, though the latter have been far less effective than the former.
Something that not many people know is that the responsibility of the United States of America in the military-political clash is impressively huge, to the point that it is not a heresy to say that we Americans have Palestinian blood on our hands. Of course, the U.S. military is not directly involved in the conflict (yet?), but our inaction as well as the use of influence speaks volumes about the intentions of some of us with a guilty conscience.
After Israel’s striking victory in the Six-Day War of 1967 against Egypt, Syria and Jordan, began its lust for land by starting occupying vast swathes of territory among the area known as the West Bank, a landlocked territory on the west bank of the Jordan River.
Since 1967 Jerusalem has been de facto using the West Bank as a “land for room to grow”, a horrifying idea possibly resembling 1930’s Nazi Germany which does not exactly play in the hands of the so-called Jewish state, especially before the international community. In order to expand into disputed Palestinian areas with brand new settlements, crops, trees and homes are destroyed with apparently no mercy for things and people.
Such settlements have always been a bone of contention, but in the last two decades the confrontations are getting more numerous and more violent as Palestinians try to preserve their fragile borders, or rather the land they have left. This is also why, since 2005, 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations and many individuals around the world (including myself) have joined the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, trying to make Israel pay a price for the occupation of Palestinian territories.
The settlements are where this post begins, because this is where we Americans have blood, Palestinian blood, on our hands.
A new study by Oxford University scholar Sara Hirschhorn on the makeup of settlers in the occupied West Bank has revealed what she described as a “strikingly over-represented” number of American settlers. Some 60,000 Americans are settlers, fully 15% of the overall settlement population. (Antiwar)
But how do Americans manage to get their hands on Palestinian land?
In spite of US government statements about its displeasure with the expansion of Israeli settlements, US-based organizations are abusing the 501(C)3 section of US tax codes to provide billions in subsidies to do exactly that. There are hundreds of these tax-exempt, so-called charities funneling money to illegal Israeli settlements, often with the names no more creative than “American Friends of name an Israeli settlement.” One such organization, American Friends of Ariel Inc., paints a picture of how these US-based front groups collect tax-deductible donations, and use them to build and expand illegal Israeli settlements, and in some cases, purchase weapons for the settlers within them. In many cases, including that of American Friends of Ariel Inc., the organization does not make substantial efforts to disguise the fact that the US-based tax exempt entity is nothing more than a shell organization being used to transfer money abroad. For example, the president of American Friends of Ariel, Ron Nachman, also happens to be the longtime mayor of Ariel. The sole programmatic function of American Friends of Ariel is to transfer funds to a non-exempt organization based in Ariel called the Ariel Development Fund, also controlled by Nachman, which describes itself simply as the “fundraising arm of the city of Ariel.” Under Ron Nachman’s leadership, American Friends of Ariel transferred more than $5 million to the Ariel Development Fund over the last several years. (The Electronic Intifada)
In case someone is still not sure what all this means or, as the saying goes, “there is none so deaf as he who will not hear”, I will make it simplified: some U.S. citizens are using the tax code to their advantage in the theft of Palestinian land. And to make it more disgusting and socially reprehensible, these people use ‘charities’ as a cover for their disgraceful operations.
According to the United Nations, the International Court of Justice and the international law, Israeli settlements are illegal. The White House, too, declares them to be illegitimate. Israeli human rights group B’Tselem (Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, reflecting the fact that denouncing some of Israel’s inhumane behaviors against Palestinian civilians is not intended to support Hamas dangerous extremism nor to question the entire state with all its citizens) estimates that there are nearly 125 government-sanctioned settlements, in addition to roughly 100 settlement outposts not recognized by the government, scattered across the West Bank.
Mike Coogan of Virginians For Middle East Peace writes:
In 1983, the Supreme Court ruled that the IRS had the authority to revoke the tax-exempt status of Bob Jones University because they openly discriminated against interracially married individuals. The court ruled that such behavior was “wholly incompatible with the concepts underlying tax exemption,” and clarified by stating that “whatever may be the rationale for such private schools’ policies, racial discrimination in education is contrary to public policy.” Fundamental human rights like equality are not confined by jurisdiction, and organizations operating abroad are similarly bound to respect and uphold them. The numerous and flagrant violations of the tax-exempt purposes set forth by the IRS and Treasury department should be reason enough to revoke the tax-exempt status of these organizations. It is hard to imagine the US playing any constructive role as an “honest broker” when in addition to providing $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel, Americans are also being forced to subsidize the construction and expansion of the same illegal settlements that our government is politely telling Israel are very unhelpful. Because of the US government’s unwillingness to equally enforce the law, or use the proverbial stick instead of just carrots, money that would otherwise be going into our national treasury to pay down the debt or build affordable housing in the US, is instead being used to construct and defend Jewish-only colonies in the occupied West Bank. (The Electronic Intifada)
In all honesty, these settlements are an attempt to fragment the Palestinian hold on the West Bank in an effort to prevent Ramallah from becoming an internationally recognized State of Palestine and the homeland the real inhabitants are searching for so desperately. No matter how one tries to trivialize this, it is land theft and is illegal under international law.
Frankly speaking, the US government, while it may be accused of many things concerning its conduct in Western Asia, can’t be really blamed for this one, too, as the matter mainly regards some of its more despicable citizens. It is time for us Americans to start practicing the ideals that we preach. It’s hard for the world to take our liberal statements as fact when we decide to look the other way and allow such a theft of Palestinian land by Americans. It’s not just a matter of conscience, our international credibility is at stake.
Day in day out we demand other countries to observe human rights and international law while we ignore those same precepts. It’s hard for the world to take us seriously and that is definitely time for a change. We either enforce human rights and international law the same way we want others to do or we become one of those countries that we say we despise.
My guess? It’s on the later…