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Israeli left begins to fight the settlers – in the US

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Welcoming new settlers from the US. (Photo: Mairav Zonszein)

Israeli peace organizations are taking the lead on a campaign that should really be coming from Jewish organizations in the US – cutting off the funding for the settlements coming from the US. The Jerusalem Post reports that Gush Shalom is taking up the cause partly in response to the Israeli government’s attempts to cut off European funding to Israeli peace organizatons:

"The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Avigdor Lieberman, in a grossly undemocratic move and in close coordination with a number of purportedly independent organizations such as NGO Monitor, has decided to actively target the operations of Israeli human rights organizations active in the Occupied Territories by pressuring the government of friendly nations to cease critical financial support for them."

According to Gush Shalom, in criticizing the Dutch embassy in Israel for giving a grant of almost €20,000 to Breaking the Silence for its controversial report on alleged IDF human rights and war crime violations during Operation Cast Lead, the government acknowledged that the organization’s actions were legal and legitimate but allegedly said they were politically incorrect.

On the other hand, "many of the activities of the organizations targeted by our campaign are illegitimate and/or illegal under international, US and EU law." In the first phase of its campaign, Gush Shalom will pressure the US to halt tax exemptions to Israeli organizations and NGOs which "directly and openly support the development and operation of illegal outposts.

It’s a story that we’ve been following for a while here on the site, and hopefully Gush Shalom will find allies here in the US who want to help them. One of the early targets of the campaign is going to be Shuva Israel which looks to be an evangelical Christian organization that supports Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Interestingly the campaign is going to move on to hit some cornerstones of Jewish philanthropy including Nefesh B’Nefesh, the Jewish National Fund and the World Zionist Organization.

Why target Nefesh B’Nefesh? Mondoweiss contributor Mairav Zonszein helps answer that question in a great new article on theNation.com. Zonszein builds on a story that was posted here about Nefesh b’Nefesh promoting North American immigation into Israeli settlements. Zonszein explains:

NBN clearly does not differentiate between destinations on either side of the Green Line. One need look no further than its website to see that settlements throughout the West Bank figure prominently as ideal destinations. "It is hard to imagine a more hospitable place for religious Olim than Gush Etzion," NBN proclaims. "Kedumim’s residents feel very connected to the area’s historical roots and are actively working to increase the community’s size. They are making a special effort to reach out to North American olim."

When asked about the political implications of NBN’s support for Americans moving to the West Bank–where construction is considered by both the international community and the US State Department to be a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention– [NBN PR and communications manager Renana] Levine responded that where the immigrants move to is "up to them. We do not promote one location over the other. We are an apolitical organization." But how can a US-based nonprofit that works in conjunction with the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency, and does not differentiate between the West Bank and Israel, possibly consider itself to be "apolitical"?

Zonszein makes a great point. Even if these organizations are just supporting humanitarian needs in the settlements they are still helping them to grow and thrive, and thus helping colonize the West Bank.

Adam Horowitz

Adam Horowitz is Executive Editor of Mondoweiss.net.

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