Tax day is annoying for Americans, and hell for Palestinians

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Tax Day can be aggravating for those of us who file and pay taxes without benefit of lawyers, accountants, family foundations or secret offshore accounts.  For opponents of illegal Israeli settlements, apartheid and population removal generally, it is also a day of outrage.  Palestinians may legitimately feel terror and despair at what this day signifies for them.

For Tax Day is the day that pro-Zionist Americans get to take off their 2015 contributions to any of the US pro-Israel charities that everyone, including the US Treasury, knows are funneling money to establish and support illegal Jewish settlements and consequently the terror inflicted upon Palestinians by armed and violent settlers. (Of course, it is also the day that each of us contributes our tax dollars to funding the weapons used to enforce Israel’s occupation, estimated by End the Occupation to average $23.02 per taxpayer–the equivalent of 57 bullets each for the Israeli military in 2015.)

Charitable contributions are deductible if made to 501(c)(3) organizations which by law are limited to activities for any of the following purposes: charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering amateur sports. Contributions that fund eviction, theft and the terrorizing of Palestinians unfortunate enough to own homes in occupied territories coveted by Jewish settlers, many of them encouraged to immigrate to Israel and displace half a million of the indigenous non-Jewish population, are distinctly not in the spirit of that law.

Nevertheless, if the past is any guide US taxpayers will take deductions this year for contributions to Israeli NGOs in excess of a staggering $1 billion, some not insignificant portion of which will be used for just these purposes. (See references below.)

So, how do we know that the US Treasury knows and is complicit in these transfers of substantial American assets at taxpayer expense to fund population removal in Israeli occupied territories?  We know because they are bloody well being sued for it.

As reported by Alex Kane in Mondoweiss  this past December, the law firm of Martin McMahon & Associates filed a lawsuit, Abulhawa, et al v. US Treasury,  case 1:15-cv-02186, in federal district court (DC) on behalf of twenty-six plaintiffs, including  Susan Abulhawa, the Palestinian-American author and activist, which seeks a court order forcing the US Treasury to do its job by investigating and putting a stop to this egregious money funnel by, among other things:

(a) initiating an investigation into the financial sponsorship of and commission of the violent activities which are extensively described in the complaint  (as well as all US tax-exempt entities based in America that transmit in excess of a certain amount ($20,000) to any country in the world) and, where appropriate, revoking the entity’s tax-exempt status;

(b) referring all tax fraud and money laundering findings to the IRS and/or U.S. Department of Justice for criminal prosecution;

(c) ordering Treasury’s money laundering unit, FinCEN, to investigate money laundering activities also described in the complaint; and

(d) initiating a long-overdue investigation of all of U.S. tax-exempt entities, their donors,  the Israel Defense Forces and a pernicious creepy looking US “security” outfit called US/G4S, managed and staffed no doubt by people having serious reality and/or values issues.

Tax-exempt entities at issue include a rancid collection of organizations such as the Hebron Fund, the Gush Etzion Foundation, American Friends of Ariel and Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces.

I encourage readers wanting to know more about the suit and these issues generally to read Alex Kane’s MW report and/or the complaint itself which along with related material is available through the McMahon law firm’s website. The complaint is a remarkable 81-page document with damning accusations backed by extensive research and citations.  From it you will learn that American donors and Israel’s state and extra-judicial military forces with help from big business (e.g., Hewett Packard, Motorola and Bank Leumi) have contributed to the displacement of 400,000 to 500,000 Palestinians in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem and their replacement by 750,000 settlers and why it’s not unreasonable to assume that $1 billion dollars is being funneled annually through 140 pro-settlement US tax exempt entities for just these purposes and the attendant violence against Palestinians (pp. 23-24).

Last month plaintiff  Susan Abulhawa (author of Mornings in Jenin and The Blue Between Sky and Water and founder of Playgrounds for Palestine) spoke at the “Israel’s Influence: Good or Bad for America” conference in Washington DC, sponsored by the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs/ Institute for Research: Middle Eastern Policy (IRmep), and explained her reasons for becoming a plaintiff.  She stunned audience members with a matter of fact description of the horror of settler violence against Palestinians unfortunate enough to be in the path of these illegal encroachments, eliciting audible gasps. She also catalogued the shameful role of US so-called charities in funding it all.  Rather than paraphrase, here is a link to a Youtube video of her full remarks. (The entire conference, is also available Youtube.)

I spoke to Martin McMahon, an accomplished DC litigator who, along with his partner William Fox, conceived and executed this excellent lawsuit. McMahon told me that the US Treasury has, as anticipated, filed its motion to dismiss the case on the grounds of the plaintiffs not having standing (suffered no direct harm by US Treasury’s non-action) and the court not having jurisdiction (government agency can’t be compelled to act where it has discretion to decide whether or not to act). He was sanguine about the plaintiffs prevailing on the motion for a couple of reasons. Without delving at all into legal technicalities of standing, there is plenty of harm alleged, especially by named plaintiffs who are at real risk of losing their land (and their lives) to settlers flush with money supplied from US donors, if the US Treasury continues to fail to act.  McMahon pointed to plaintiff Linda Kateeb, who immediately after being informed that she had inherited family property in the West Bank also discovered that without any notice to or consent by her, two of her  parcels were already inhabited by Jewish settlers who claimed to have purchased them from violent settlers who had set up outposts on her land. The other four parcels remain very much at risk.

As for jurisdiction, notwithstanding the deference to administrative agencies that have discretion as to whether or when to act, there are limits to non-action and good case law to that effect. McMahon believes that the US Treasury’s inaction has exceeded any allowable discretion and a court may well decide to tell them to do their job.

Nowhere in the U.S Treasury motion, I believe, does it dispute the damning allegations in the complaint about the outrageous conduct by the direct participants in population removal such as donors, charities, banks and the Israelis themselves.

I also learned that as a taxpayer I too can become a plaintiff in Abulhawa, et al v, US Treasury and so can you.  Seriously. Individuals interested in becoming plaintiffs should contact [email protected]  Total cost: $150 to cover administrative fees. Why do we have standing? Because Treasury’s non-action over a period of forty years flies in the face US condemnation of settlements and promotes ethnic cleansing at taxpayer expense to the tune of billions of dollars. That’s a good reason to complain.

The Martin firm also just filed on March 7th a second suit, Tamimi v. Adelson, case no.16-445, in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia, this time directed not at the US Treasury but rather at the individuals and organizations who fund and money launder for Israeli terrorist and settlers at the expense of US taxpayers.  The 187 page complaint took a year to draft.  Some of the people and entities named are Sheldon Adelson, Irving Moskowitz, Elliott Abrams, and John Hagee; American tax-exempt entities like Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund and Friends of the Israeli Army; and various banks and corporations that have profited mightily from the illegal settlement process such as Bank Leumi, Hewlett Packard, Motorola (security systems and software), G4S and RE/MAX realty.

Desire for profit, McMahon said to me, is perhaps the most intractable force behind the illegal settlement process. As described in the McMahon firm’s summary of this second action:

“The Plaintiffs are asking for an award of $34.5 billion based on the following categories of damages: (a) back rent owed by [Bank Leumi], the conglomerates, and the settlements; (b) loss of loved ones including spouse, siblings and/or children; (c) loss of factories, retail markets, hotels, travel agencies, etc. …; (d) infrastructure improvements destroyed in Gaza; (e) infrastructure destroyed in the [occupied Palestinian territories; (f) theft of 8,750 acres in connection with the separation wall and the construction of 794 miles of bypass roads;52 (g) counseling services for thousands of traumatized Palestinian children; (h) destruction of fertile agricultural properties (e.g., 900,000 olive trees); and (i) destruction of 49,000 homes, which in some cases had been lived in for centuries by the families of Palestinian farmers (footnotes omitted.).”

I asked McMahon what he thought the chances were of one or both of these lawsuits succeeding; understanding the outcome of litigation is frequently hard to predict.  The part of his response I remember is: “Chink, chink, chink.”

A “chink” is a narrow opening or crack, typically one that admits light. Like in a curtain or in armour.

In sum, I plan to spend Tax Day 2016 getting my IRS filing extension, checking my offshore account statements (just kidding), reading some of the documents in these two lawsuits, offsetting my share of the price of weapons to be used Palestinians by contributing to End the Occupation, and, last but not least, joining Susan Abulhawa, et al v. US Treasury as a plaintiff.