Israeli Extremists Are Making a Comeback—With the Help of US Tax Dollars

American nonprofits have funneled money to Meir Kahane’s followers, who now have a chance to enter the Knesset

Israeli ExtremistsBenzion Gopstein (left), leader of the far-right Israeli group Lehava, gathers with fellow activists in Jerusalem on December 25, 2014. (Reuters/Nir Elias)

Mairav Zonszein, The Nation, 2/26/19

As Israel’s April 9 election approaches, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has paved the way for a Jewish-supremacist party—which some are dubbing the Jewish KKK—to enter the next Israeli Knesset. He encouraged the merger of three small far-right parties, Jewish Home, National Union, and Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit in Hebrew), since each of them separately was not expected to receive enough votes to make the minimum Knesset threshold. If Netanyahu is reelected, the new far-right party, assuming it receives enough votes to make the minimum, would then help him secure a governing coalition of at least 61 seats.

All three parties are nationalist, anti-Arab, and homophobic; however, Jewish Power stands out because its platform and leaders are inspired by the violent legacy of Meir Kahane and his Kach party, which was barred from running in the Knesset in 1988 on grounds of racism, and then outlawed in 1994 on grounds of incitement to terrorism after Baruch Goldstein, who was active in Kach, murdered 29 Palestinians in Hebron exactly 25 years ago Monday. The US State Department followed suit and listed Kach and an offshoot, Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives), as a foreign terrorist group in 1997. One of Jewish Power’s leaders, Michael Ben-Ari, who served in the Knesset from 2009 to 2013, was barred from entering the United States in 2012 because of his affiliation with a “terrorist organization.”

In the 20-plus years since Kach was banned, Kahane’s disciples have found ways to continue pushing a racist, anti-Arab, and antidemocratic agenda—and to fund it. A new investigation carried out in coordination with the Democratic Bloc, an Israeli nonprofit organization founded in 2018 to research and monitor antidemocratic trends in Israel, reveals a web of interconnected groups, individuals, and websites in Israel and the United States—including several American nonprofit foundations that appear to have been founded for the purpose of funneling tax-exempt dollars to Kahanist causes, some of which are directly linked to Jewish terrorist groups. “If in the past, they relied on political mechanisms for fundraising and recruiting activists, today we are talking about a network of organizations disguised as charity groups and social causes that are raising money from the State of Israel and abroad in order to continue inciting and undermining the foundations of democracy,” said Ran Cohen, one of the founders of the Democratic Bloc.

At the center of this web is Kahane protégé and Jewish Power member Benzion Gopstein, who runs Lehava, an openly racist, anti-miscegenation gang active for at least a decade. Its mission is to “save” Jewish women from assimilation. Lehava activists are notorious for violently attacking and harassing Palestinians in the streets of Jerusalem just for being Palestinian. Three activists affiliated with Lehava were convicted of setting fire to an Arab-Jewish bilingual school in Jerusalem in 2014. The next year then–Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon tried—unsuccessfully—to get Israel’s internal-security service to designate Lehava as a terrorist group. Gopstein has been arrested several times, including on suspicion of murdering an Arab couple in 1990, but has never been convicted. He has openly called for the burning of churches and has incited violence against Palestinians. He said in 2014 of Yigal Amir, the Israeli who in 1995 assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, “Rabin left him no choice.”

The Nation

The Israel Religious Action Center has been documenting Lehava’s activities for the past seven years. In 2017, IRAC, along with several other civil-society groups, petitioned Israel’s Supreme Court alleging that Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit was dragging his feet by not indicting Gopstein on various charges, including incitement to violence and terrorism. They also seek to classify Lehava as a criminal organization, which is difficult because a lot of what Gopstein says falls under free-speech protections. According to IRAC director Noa Sattath, “The thuggish activity of the Lehava militia has gone on uninterrupted in Jerusalem since 2009. The Lehava organization carries out physical violence and racial incitement against Arabs in downtown Jerusalem and around the country—with the goal of demonizing Arabs and terrorizing them. Lehava’s activity is racist, antidemocratic, immoral, and goes directly against Jewish values.”

Lehava is not a registered nonprofit in Israel, and it’s unclear how and from whom it receives its funding. A Haaretz investigation in 2011 found that Lehava activists are closely linked to a registered Israeli nonprofit, Chemla (sometimes spelled Hemla), whose mission includes helping needy families and, until 2014, supporting settler youth. Chemla, which receives significant Israeli state funds, is a key organization in this web of Kahanist cronies. Gopstein is one of the founders of Chemla, as is Rabbi Yehuda Kroizer, who also serves as head of a yeshiva in Jerusalem founded by Kahane in 1987 called the Jewish Idea (HaRaayon Hayehudi in Hebrew). The Jewish Idea Yeshiva is classified as a foreign terrorist organization by the US State and Treasury departments, listed as one of the groups affiliated with or synonymous with Kach and Kahane Chai. The list also includes several variations on that name, “Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea,” and “Friends of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva.”

Between 2002 and 2005, Gopstein received annual grant money from the Jewish Idea Yeshiva totaling nearly $25,000, and he has lectured there on several occasions, as recently as 2013. (The group stopped reporting on grants after 2005.) Elyakim Neiman, who served as director of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva in Jerusalem in 2017, also served as a board member and authorized signatory of Chemla, at one point even serving as its chairman.

Between 2012 and 2015 the Jewish Idea Yeshiva received amounts ranging from $44,000 to $136,000 from an American 501(c)(3) nonprofit called American Friends of Yeshivat Haraayon (which translates to “the Idea Yeshiva”). The US nonprofit—whose sole grantee is the Jewish Idea Yeshiva—was registered in 1988; its mission, according to its IRS tax statement, is “to produce Jewish leaders capable of acting and reacting Jewishly to the problems and challenges facing the state of Israel and the Jewish people.” The American Friends’ 990 tax form lists the Hebrew phonetic spelling of its grantee, the Jewish Idea Yeshiva, as “Yeshivat Harayon Hayehudi,” (sic) and lists as well the Jewish Idea Yeshiva’s Jerusalem address. Giving material support to a US government-classified foreign terrorist group is a criminal offense in violation of three different legal prohibitions, says Shayana Kadidal, senior managing attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights, based in New York. Kadidal says, “On its face this looks like a very straightforward case: an American nonprofit passing money along to a group that Google says has the same address and the same name in translation as a designated terrorist organization, and telling the IRS about it to boot.”

Michael Ben-Ari, who is the member of Jewish Power likely to enter the Knesset if the united list gets at least five seats, is a member of the audit committee of the Jewish Idea Yeshiva. Continue reading

Caves in the south Hebron Hills bring villages back to life

Ahmad Al-Bazz and Anne Paq, Mondoweiss, February 11, 2019

Anne Paq presented Intimate Portraits of Gaza’s Lost at the 2017 Madison-Rafah Rachel Corrie Commemoration. Based on the #ObliteratedFamilies project by Paq and Palestinian-Polish journalist Ala Qandil, the project profiled the annihilation of Gaza families during the Israeli bombardment in 2014.


Mahmoud Abu Arram, 72 (left) and his family stand in front of a renovated cave in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez in the South Hebron Hills. (Photo: Activestills.org)

For weeks under the cloak of night Palestinians secretly renovated four caves and built a tin-roofed house in the West Bank hamlet of Ar-Rakeez where only a handful of residents live. Last week they opened the homes in a “bringing life back” ceremony.

The event was not announced in advance as to avoid any potential disruption by the Israeli army, locals said.

The caves were refurbished by Palestinians from the southern West Bank villages of Susiya, Masafer Yatta and At-Tuwani who are part of the Protection and Sumud Committee, a local group that seeks to prevent home demolitions, and with support from the Palestinian Authority.

Because of rigid Israeli planning restrictions and frequent settler harassment, most of Ar-Rakeez’s villagers moved to the nearby city of Yatta over the last 20 years. Four families said they will move into the fixed up caves, joining the three families who already live there.

Palestinian youth take shifts maintaining a presence in a cave they renovated. “We want to create life and encourage people to come back,” explains Sami, 21, one of the activists of the “Youth of Sumud” group, Sarura. (Photo: Activestills.org)

South Hebron Hills Update

Expulsion by a thousand cuts

Dear Friends,

The last weeks have been busy and challenging in the South Hebron Hills. Young Palestinians, with international and Israeli peace activists, have planted hundreds of trees. But this is also a difficult time. Soldiers and settlers have repeatedly forced shepherds off of Palestinian grazing land located near settlements and outposts, settlers have harassed schoolchildren and shepherds, and just last night Settlers uprooted more than 20 young olive trees.


christadelphia.org

The creativity, resilience and commitment to nonviolent resistance is more amazing here each year.

Here are a few recent events and photos.

On the night of February 4 Israeli settlers from the illegal outpost of Havat Ma’on uprooted 23 olive trees on Palestinian land near Tuwani in Humra Valley. The trees have were recently planted during a nonviolent demonstration of Palestinians and Israeli and International activists.

On January 23 Israeli army and civil authorities used a bulldozer to destroy an agricultural field in the Palestinian village of Khalaya Al-Moghrabi. The farmer was already unable to work his land because Israeli authorities had confiscated his tractor.


The Palestinian road to Jinbah and the villages of Massafer Yatta

On January 31 the Israeli army used a bulldozer to destroy two sections of the road that connects the city of Yatta to Jimba village and the other villages of Massafer Yatta, making access to school, health care, commerce and other services even more difficult for the families living in the villages located inside the area claimed by Israel as Firing Zone 918.


School in Khallet Athaba

On January 30 The Israeli Civil Administration (DCO) issued demolition orders for the school and two private family houses in the Palestinian village of Khallet Athaba and a stop work order for a house in the village of Tuba.


Palestinian child from Tuba

Israeli authorities delivered a stop work order for the home of this child’s family in the village of Tuba. It is impossible for families to get building permits. And stop work orders are often followed by demolition orders.

As West Bank Violence Surges, Israel Is Silent on Attacks by Jews

Israel’s right-wing government has remained silent, wary of alienating settlers in an election year


The funeral last Sunday for Hamdy Naasan, who was killed in a melee involving Jewish settlers. The Israeli government has been reluctant to address a rise in attacks by settlers. (Mohamad Torokman/Reuters)

Isabel Kershner, New York Times, Feb. 2, 2019

AL MUGHAYIR, West Bank — A gang of a dozen or so armed Jewish settlers descended from a hilltop outpost to the Palestinian village below and opened fire, witnesses said. Israeli soldiers arrived, and instead of stopping the settlers, the witnesses said, they either stood by or clashed with the villagers.

In the melee, Hamdy Naasan, 38, a Palestinian father of four, was shot and killed.

The killing last Saturday was the latest in a wave of settler violence. Attacks by settlers on Palestinians, their property and Israeli security forces increased by 50 percent last year and have threatened to ignite the West Bank, Israeli security officials say.

Days earlier, the Israeli authorities charged a 16-year-old yeshiva student from another Jewish settlement with manslaughter and terrorism, accusing him of hurling a four-pound rock that killed Aisha al-Rabi, a Palestinian mother of eight, one night in October as she rode in her family car along a nearby highway.

While Palestinian and United Nations officials have condemned the violence — Nickolay E. Mladenov, the United Nations envoy to the Middle East, described the shooting in Al Mughayir as “shocking and unacceptable” — Israel’s right-wing government has remained conspicuously silent, wary of alienating settlers and other potential supporters in an election year.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is seeking a fifth term, is vying with other right-wing rivals for the settlers’ support. He is facing bribery investigations and his strongest political challenge in years.

“Thou shalt not murder?” Tamar Zandberg, leader of the left-wing party Meretz, wrote in a Facebook post, noting the resounding lack of condemnation from government officials. “Silence. Everyone sees the election on the horizon, and the settler lobby is stronger than any moral standard.”


The settler outpost Adei Ad sits on a hill overlooking the Palestinian village of Al Mughayir in the West Bank. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

By contrast, after a Palestinian home in the village of Duma was firebombed in 2015, killing a toddler and his parents, Mr. Netanyahu and right-wing leaders issued strong condemnations and said Jewish terrorism would not be tolerated.

This time the loudest voices have risen to the defense of the Jewish suspects. Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, has found itself on the defensive, accused by right-wing organizations of trampling on the rights of those suspected in the stoning.

Continue reading

DESTINATION: OCCUPATION
by Amnesty International

DIGITAL TOURISM AND ISRAEL’S ILLEGAL SETTLEMENTS IN THE OCCUPIED PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Allowing some properties and attractions to be listed as being in “Israel”, as Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor do, not only deceives users, but also helps conceal information that can help reveal the illegal nature of the settlements.

In this report Amnesty International exposes how four leading online tourism companies and global brands — TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Expedia and Airbnb — are listing places to stay or things to do in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

They are promoting these listings, and profiting from them, despite knowing that these Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and are at the root of a wide range of human rights violations suffered by Palestinian communities.

Amnesty International is calling on these companies to stop providing these listings, and on governments around the world to take regulatory action to prevent companies such as these from doing business in or with Israel’s illegal settlements.

Amnesty Intl MDE1594902019ENGLISH

Airbnb Stops Listing in Illegal West Bank Settlements

CodePINK, November 19, 2018

This is a huge victory! Moments ago, Airbnb announced they will no longer list vacation rentals in illegal Jewish-only West Bank settlements. It’s been exactly two years since we took the stage at Airbnb Open to confront actor Ashton Kutcher. “Airbnb is profiting off the displacement of Palestinians and human rights abuses.”

It might seem sometimes that we are speaking into the wind, but we know that when we are persistent, our work pays off. In celebration of successfully getting Airbnb to end support for Israeli apartheid, join our next campaign for Palestinian rights: Tell pop superstar Ed Sheeran to support Palestinian rights by refusing to perform in Israel. Share our Ed Sheeran petition with your friends and colleagues and on social media. Help us tell him how important it is to support Palestinian rights.

The Airbnb campaign showed that when we work together, WE WIN. The Stolen Homes coalition that formed over two years ago to work on getting Airbnb out of the settlements, included us, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Sum of Us and more. Together we protested, wrote articles and took to social media. Today our persistence paid off. Every single person who supported this campaign deserves credit and that means you!

We won’t stop campaigning until Palestine is free. So, take a moment to toast this success and then get busy working on our next win: Tell pop superstar Ed Sheeran not to perform in Israel.

Mabrouk (congratulations) to us all,
Ariel and Ursula and the entire CODEPINK team: Ann, Brienne, Carley, Caroline, Farida, Jodie, Katie, Kelly, Kirsten, Lily, Mark, Maya, Medea, Nancy, Paki, Ryan, Sarah, and Tighe