I am on trial in Germany for peacefully protesting Israeli apartheid

BDS activist Majed Abusalama shares a court statement he delivered after being tried for protesting an Israeli MK’s talk in Berlin
'It is my civil duty to speak up for my Palestinian community' (AFP)

‘It is my civil duty to speak up for my Palestinian community’ (AFP)

I am in the midst of a nightmare because I dared to call for equality, justice, freedom and dignity for Palestinians. My activism in Germany as part of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement has landed me before the court.

Last month, charges were levied against me and my two Jewish comrades, Ronnie Barkan and Stavit Sinai. Together, we are known as the #humboldt3, because we peacefully protested a talk at Humboldt University in Berlin by Knesset member Aliza Lavie, who supported Israel’s 2014 war on the besieged Gaza Strip.

I have been deeply touched by the international support we have received throughout this ordeal. However, we still need all human rights defenders and friends of Palestine to stand with us, since we are going through a re-trial following Israeli pressure to convict us.

Many have told me that I will overcome – but what they might not know is that as a three-decade survivor of the Israeli occupation, the experience of violence, oppression and collective punishment has taught me to keep fighting for life.

In the courtroom, sitting as a criminal, I gave the following statement.

Shared humanity

I am standing here on trial as a criminal defendant, along with my comrades, as a result of us daring to speak up publicly against Israel’s crimes against humanity in my beloved Palestine. It came out of my responsibility as a humanist, and as a Palestinian, to respond to Aliza Lavie, who was in the coalition that decided to slaughter, displace, bombard, torture, imprison and obliterate my beloved people in 2014.

It was my moral duty to call her out for her crimes against humanity. Throughout the event, I was silent, only listening in pain as Lavie spoke. I saw her speaking with joy about her so-called democratic country – but in reality, she was rejoicing at the blood of my people, without any shame.

There was one image that I saw in my mind and felt in my heart: that of my friends who lost their limbs while protesting peacefully

There was one image that I saw in my mind and felt in my heart: that of my friends who lost their limbs while protesting peacefully for justice and freedom inside the Gaza ghetto.

I thought of all my family and friends living a brutal, horrific life under Israeli apartheid, imprisoned and illegally collectively punished.

I saw tens of thousands of homes destroyed in Israeli massacres. Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been rendered homeless as a result of the 2014 Gaza massacre and other Israeli onslaughts.

Your honour, if you were in my place – and you will not be, because you will never understand the feeling of waiting for a bomb to fall on your family’s or your neighbour’s home – you would understand how hard it is to live in this continuous horror.

Collective duty

I was shot in the leg with a live bullet while protesting peacefully – planting olive trees – at the Gaza fence in 2014. Lavie, who has been in the Knesset since 2013, is among those who bear responsibility for the bullet that disabled me for months, and damaged me for a lifetime.

Our actions at Humboldt University should be honoured, as it is the moral duty of every humanist to speak up against criminals, especially those complicit in crimes against humanity. As activists for human rights, this is our collective duty – not only in Israel, but also in Europe and specifically Germany, where we live.

We, human rights advocates, think it is our duty collectively to confront any criminal, not only in Israel, but also in Europe.

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We, the Palestinians and Jews who escaped apartheid in Israel, are here in Germany to fulfill our civil and moral duty to fight for transnational solidarity, equality and justice – to rally all communities together around our shared humanity.

I came to live in Germany as a citizen of this world, hoping that I would no longer suffer under the confinement of Israeli apartheid. But I have discovered that Israeli apartheid is spreading to Germany.

Fear of speaking out

The thousands of Muslims and Palestinians in Germany do not feel safe to speak up. They feel they could be persecuted at any time, simply for shouting “Free Palestine” or dreaming to return freely to their homes, in accordance with the UN-mandated right of return. They fear persecution for calling for equality, dignity, freedom and justice in Gaza.

It is my civil duty to speak up for my Palestinian community

Your honour, for days, I was unable to sleep after encountering the fabrication of us being criminals for speaking up against Israeli apartheid. Yet I realise it is my duty as a future citizen of this country to change the discourse in Germany around Israel’s crimes.

It is my civil duty to speak up for my Palestinian community and for the implementation of international law in our land – and for our freedom to express ourselves and to protest in Germany.

I am standing in front of you today to demand justice, not only for myself and my comrades, but for all those pursuing justice and equality in Germany and Palestine.

The above statement has been edited for length and clarity.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Majed Abusalama
Majed Abusalama is a human rights defender, scholar and independent journalist who hails from Jabalia Refugee Camp in Gaza. He has been worked with International and Palestinian non-profit organisations on the intersections of sustainability, reforming aid, entrepreneurship, and organic conflict transformation. He tweets@MajedAbusalama.
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Norman Finkelstein: Israel is An Apartheid State, Netanyahu is an Obnoxious, Racist, Jewish Supremacist

Norman Finkelstein Interview, March 20, 2019.
Transcript:
Jimmy Dore: Hi everybody! Welcome to the Jimmy Dore Show.
We have a special guest today. Norman Finkelstein is an American political scientist, activist, Professor and author. His primary fields of research are the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the politics of the Holocaust, an interest motivated by the experiences of his parents who were Jewish Holocaust survivors. He’s a graduate of Binghamton University and received his PhD in Political Science from Princeton University.

Welcome, Norman Finkelstein. Thanks for being our guest.

Norman Finkelstein: Thank you for having me.

Jimmy Dore: You know, you’re an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and I just wanted to… You know, most people don’t really know the cause of the conflict, they just know that there is a conflict and that the United States is friendly to Israel because they’re a democracy and they’re the only democracy in the Middle East, as people like to say.

So how would you explain this conflict to people who don’t really know much about it, which is most of the people in the United States, and they certainly don’t know much about it if they watch the TV news. So I don’t think your average person knows anything really about it. So how do you inform people about that conflict, well, how it started and what it’s about?

Norman Finkelstein: I think the most effective way to inform people is by way of analogy. Effectively, what happened to the Palestinian people over the past century is pretty close to what happened to the Native American population in the United States. If you take for example the fate of the Cherokee Indians, who originally resided in the Eastern coast of the United States, and they were gradually pushed, pushed, pushed, until they were ended up in Arkansas. And then they were pushed into a portion of Arkansas, which then, once all White settlers crowded in that portion, became Oklahoma. And so the Cherokee were effectively the victims of a policy of expulsion, “transfer” as you want to call it in the Israeli vernacular. And basically there are obviously differences, and one doesn’t want to pretend as if there are no differences, but to look at the big picture, the big picture I would say, it is not fundamentally different than what happened to the Native population in the US.

Jimmy Dore: Wow! I’ve never heard it described that way before. And you know, ironically, you know, most Americans aren’t too aware of how horrible that’s a chapter in our history either. So the United States gives aid and billions of dollars in funding to Israel every year, and people say that Israel is running an Apartheid State, and that Gaza is an open-air prison. Now are those two things true, and how could that be? How could that be if we’re supporting them?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, I think both are true. Israel both benefits from two facts. Number one: they benefit in the fact that there’s a convergence of interests between US ruling elites and Israel on many basic occasions. So for example, right now, there’s a convergence of interests between the US and Israel in strengthening Saudi Arabia, strengthening the Gulf and trying to contain Iran. That’s a fundamental convergence of interests, and that in part, probably in the most significant part, it explains US support for Israel.

But there is also another factor, and one shouldn’t pretend as if that other factor doesn’t exist, which is to say there’s a very powerful Israel lobby operating in the United States, not unlike the Gun lobby, the Cuba lobby, etc. The Israel lobby is another lobby, very effective, probably one of the most, if not the most effective lobbies operating in Washington. And its core component is a very powerful, articulate and organized American Jewish community, though even there you have to enter qualifications because among younger Jews, there’s certainly a diminishing of support for Israel. But the big picture is, both because of a convergence of interests and because of a powerful, articulate, organized, strategically placed lobby, a lobby that has a lot of influence in the media, a lot of influence in publishing, a lot of influence in journals of opinion, a lot of influence on Hollywood, that lobby has been a major factor in determining aspects of US policy towards Israel.

Now on the second point, I don’t really think it’s any longer controversial whether or not Israel is an Apartheid state. I don’t say this as a polemicist, I’m trying to be objective and dispassionate about the situation. Between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, now, you could say there are roughly about 12 or 13 million people, roughly. Now that includes the West Bank, it includes East Jerusalem, it includes Gaza. And Israel has controlled the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, it’s controlled it now for more than a half-century. And the Israeli government has made clear it has no intention whatsoever of returning to the borders from the June 1967 war, that is pre-controlling West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. So we can’t any longer talk about an occupation, we have to be talking about an annexation. The territories have been de facto annexed. After a half-century, that seems to me to be the reasonable conclusion, there has been a de facto annexation.

So of all that population that stretches from the Mediterranean to the Jordan River, roughly, roughly speaking, about half has either second-class status or overwhelmingly no rights whatsoever within the State: no voting rights, and then from there down they don’t even have rights to property, property can be confiscated overnight and at whim, with the support of the  [Israeli] Courts. So it seems to me, again trying to be rational, trying to be objective and trying to be dispassionate, there’s no other term to describe a situation in which close to half the population, close to half the population either has second-class rights (that would be within Israel proper), or no rights whatsoever (which would be the West Bank and Gaza). That’s an Apartheid situation.

But again that shouldn’t shock us. You have to remember, I don’t know how old you are, but I have a vivid recollection during the last days of the [South African] Apartheid, Ronald Reagan supported the Apartheid regime, as did Margaret Thatcher. They were calling till the very end, you’re recalling, Nelson Mandela and the ANC, the African National Congress, a terrorist organization. So if our government was until the very end, the end of Apartheid, if our government was supporting South Africa, because it’s sort of a bastion of Western-called, you know, Western civilization, whatever you want to call it, in Africa, so for the same reason, they support Israel in the Middle East.

Jimmy Dore: So you think it’s without… Because I you know you say it’s without question that Israel is an Apartheid State, which I agree with. But there are people who question it, people very loudly push back against that and they quote the numbers of Palestinians… Well they say there’s an Arab political party, that’s the third largest party in Israel, and all day they quote numbers of Palestinians who are allowed to vote… What do you say to those arguments?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, first of all, I’m glad you asked the questions, because there’s no effective, no more effective way to have a discussion. And if someone of us has to play the devil’s advocate, in this case it should be you.

First of all, I tried to be clear, I said there’s a gradation of rights in the case of Israel. The Palestinians have second-class rights. Israel has now officially declared that it declared Israel as the Nation-State of the Jewish people. So I for example am Jewish, and if the United States were declared the Nation-State of the Christian people, I would certainly experience that declaration, especially once it becomes enacted in laws, I would certainly experience that as me being a second-class citizen, that is to say I don’t belong here. It’s the State of the Christian people, it’s not my State.

But having said that, let’s keep in mind that it’s not only one component of the Palestinian population that’s under Israeli control or has been effectively annexed by Israel. The West Bank, people in the West Bank, they don’t vote in Israeli elections, they’re not represented in the Israeli Knesset. The people in Gaza, they don’t vote in Israeli  elections, they’re not represented in the Israeli Parliament, the Israeli Knesset. So far, the vast, the vast preponderance of Palestinians currently annexed to the Israeli State, they have no rights whatsoever.

Jimmy Dore: Okay, alright.

Norman Finkelstein: The only way you can get around that is by saying that well, there’s a peace process. But the Israeli government has already made clear, you’d have to be blinder than King Lear not to see that the Israeli government has said we’re not returning to the old Wars [pre-67 borders]. Once you’ve made that Statement, it’s a Declaration of annexation, and if it’s annexation, then you have to accept that when deciding whether or not Israel is an Apartheid State. It can’t be limited to Israel and its pre-67 border: it’s the whole area, including the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, including Gaza.

Jimmy Dore: You know, I’ve heard people say that the majority of the Jewish people don’t support the policy of the Israeli government when it comes to Palestine, Gaza and the West Bank. How could that be? And can you speak about the Likud party, which is like the extremist party, a right-wing party in Israel: what would you say is the percentage of support they actually have in the population inside of Israel and out?

Norman Finkelstein: Well, we should be clear that number one, Benjamin Netanyahu, the Prime Minister of the State of Israel, he’s been the head of State now for about a decade, and he’s gone through many elections. And even though he’s surrounded by what scandal after another, none of these scandals have actually made a big dent in his popularity. And the reason for that, I think, is pretty straightforward, it’s pretty uncontroversial at any rate in my opinion. That is to say Benjamin Netanyahu is an obnoxious, racist, Jewish supremacist. And on all of those descriptives: obnoxious, racist, Jewish supremacist, he’s wholly representative of the Israeli population. And the reason they keep reelecting him despite the scandals, which are always said to be imminently going to bring him down, despite the scandals that never bring him down, it’s because when they look at Benjamin Netanyahu, most of the Israeli population, they see themselves. And they vote for him because in his mental outlook, I wouldn’t really call it values because I don’t think people like Mr. Netanyahu have any values per se, but in terms of mental outlook, contempt for Arabs, contempt for Muslims… Actually, with all due respect to you, Mr. Dore, and to all your listeners, unless they’re Jewish, he has contempt for all of you. These are Jewish supremacists.

But he also happens to be in a separate category a racist, and now even though I don’t like to use the terminology, because it’s too simple and too sloganeering, it happens to be, I think, in these particular circumstances, it’s illuminating. Why do Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Trump get along so well? Why is Mr. Netanyahu Mr. Trump’s biggest cheerleader in the world? Well, the answer is simple: they both like walls. Mr. Trump wants to build a wall to keep out Mexicans, Mr. Netanyahu wants to build a wall to keep out Arabs.

They both hate Black people. Mr. Netanyahu, when President Obama, the Head of State in the United States, Mr. Netanyahu, he didn’t see it at all amiss, he didn’t see it at all awry for him to come barging in the United States, barging into the Capitol building and instructing, telling Obama what American policy should be towards Iran. I dare say, and of course you’re free to contradict me, it’s inconceivable, it’s inconceivable, had there been a White Head of State, had it been George Bush or even a Jimmy Carter, had it been even a Jimmy Carter, Mr. Netanyahu would not have dared carry on the way he did with Obama. He’s a racist.

And just like Mr. Trump the racist loathes Muslims, so Mr. Netanyahu loathes Black people, which is why he made it a part of his policy to expel the Arab migrants [from Erythrea, Soudan…], about 30,000, who were fleeing a war situation, fleeing very serious, life challenging situations, and came as refugees to Israel. And he ruled it because you have to remember, Mr. Netanyahu he grew up, a large part of his life was spent in the United States. His father was a professor at Cornell University, and they hated Black people, the Schwartzs, the Schwartzs as it’s called, the Black people, they loathe them. And so now, for Mr. Netanyahu to have to face the prospect that the Schwartzs are invading Israel [is unbearable], so they have to go.

And so it’s that same mindset. It’s not values, it’s a mindset. You can choose what descriptive you want for that mindset: some people would say it’s a Nazi mindset, some people would say it’s a fascist mindset, some people would call it a right-wing racist White supremacist mindset, whatever you want to call it. And they have it, and that’s these ruling people.

It’s a sorry thing to have to say, but I’m not one of those people who in the name of political correctness recoil at generalizations. If you could say most White people in the American South, in the pre-Civil Rights era, if you could say most of them were mean, White racist supremacists, very few people would take issue with that quote-unquote “generalization”. But the moment you use exactly those same terms to describe Israel or Israelis, it suddenly becomes politically incorrect. I disagree. If you want to understand the Israeli mentality, these are the Palestinians or Arabs or Muslims, it’s very easy for an American to understand: just look at Alabama, Mississippi and all the other southern States in the pre-Civil Rights era. That’s the mentality. That’s the Israeli mentality. And Mr. Netanyahu, in his mindset, he’s not very much different from a George Wallace or a Lester Maddox, with those who remember that era.

Jimmy Dore: So let me ask you: the Jewish people or the people of Israel, do they not see the tremendous irony that’s actually being played out right now, that the Israeli State was invented as a safe haven for the Jewish people because they’ve been persecuted, and now they turn around, and for the last couple of decades they’ve been doing the exact same thing or a very horrible thing, not the exact same thing, but a very similar thing to the Palestinian people, you know, making them be second-class citizens, stripping them of rights, controlling their movements in and out of wherever they go, and also having economic blockades and medical blockades… And you know, like we’ve said, it’s an open-air prison. Do they really miss the irony of that? Do they not see that?

Norman Finkelstein: Yes, I do think they don’t see it. I do think they miss the irony. First of all, remember that a large portion of Europeans who came to the United States, the Pilgrims, the Puritans, they were fleeing religious persecution. And then they proceeded to inflict a really quite grotesque crimes on the indigenous population when they came here. The fact of the matter is just as the European settlers, White settlers who came here, the Euro-Americans, they couldn’t conceive the domestic population, the indigenous population, they couldn’t conceive them as being human beings of the same order as themselves. They were savages. And in the same way, the Israeli people can’t conceive Arabs or Muslims as being on the same moral order as themselves. They’re terrorists or they’re savages. So I think it’s correct to say that they don’t see anything awry in the way they’re carrying on.

In fact, if you read most of the testimonies of Israelis on the situation there, most Israelis haven’t the slightest of interest in what goes on in the West Bank and Gaza. They live very good lives, they have a very high standard of living, they travel a lot, but for them, the West Bank and Gaza are far-off distant, almost exotic places for Israelis. I know that might come as a surprise, but remember, for example, when I was growing up living in New York City, it’s a compact city as I suppose you know, 99% of White New Yorkers talked about Harlem, were terrified of Harlem, but had never stepped foot in Harlem. They had never seen it, let alone physically placed themselves there. And there was a funny thing back then, when Europeans came over, visitors, you know, young people, you’d ask them where do you live, and they would all say “Harlem, of course”, [Laughter], yeah, because Harlem was exciting, you know, it was clubs, it was jazz… But for White New Yorkers, Harlem was some sight of terror. “Harlem?! You live in Harlem?! Oh my God!”

And I remember when I first went over to the Occupied Territories in 1988, I lived with some families in the West Bank, and when I told Israelis “You know, I went to the West Bank”, they’d say “You went to the West Bank?!” I mean their eyes buldged.  It’s a foreign place to them.

Jimmy Dore: That’s a fascinating… I mean it’s amazing these analogies you’re making, they’re very helpful actually.

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Outlaws openly running in israel’s (apartheid state) election

OUTLAWS OPENLY RUNNING IN ISRAEL’S ELECTION

Former MK Michael Ben-Ari, who heads Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) and could return to Knesset thanks to a Netanyahu-blessed union with Jewish Home, has ties to non-governmental organizations linked to Meir Kahane’s Kach Movement, outlawed in Israel and on US Treasury and State Department blacklists; to make matters worse, some of these NGOs get their funding from US Jews.

The Otzma Yehudit Party, including (L-R): Itamar Ben-Gvir, Michael Ben-Ari, Benzi Gopstein and Baruch Marzel (Photo: Avi Mualem)

The tangled web of Israel’s extreme right, American Jewry and the US terror blacklist

Yehuda Shohat

There were quite a few smiles in the Jewish Home party, the most moderate of the right-wing religious-Zionist factions, after most of its members voted in favor of teaming up with Ozma Yehudit (Jewish Power) in the upcoming April 9 elections. And thus in an almost off-hand manner, these politicians de facto joined forces with former members of Kach—a racist movement outlawed in Israel and featured on the list of terror organizations at both the US State Department and the US Treasury.

US Jews were quick to express their shock and outrage over the union and the involvement of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who put a lot of pressure on both sides and even made concessions of his own to make it happen.

Over the weekend, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and American Jewish Committee (AJC) issued harsh condemnation of the move, perhaps unaware that some of the funding for the organizations that succeeded Kach — with former members now directly linked to Otzma Yehudit —comes from US Jews, seemingly in violation of American anti-terror laws.

The Kach Movement, which was established by Rabbi Meir Kahane, and its younger sister organization Kahane Chai (Kahane Lives), which was founded after Kahane’s murder, were both outlawed in Israel following a terror attack carried out by Kach member Baruch Goldstein exactly 25 years ago, when he murdered 29 Palestinians at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron.

But since then, members of Kach have continued operating in different NGOs and organizations, in seemingly legitimate ways, and recently also returned to the political field in the form of Otzma Yehudit.

One of the key players in this story is Ben-Zion “Benzi” Gopstein, the head of the anti-assimilation Lehava organization (which is not a registered organization). Behind Lehava hides a network of other organizations, in which Gopstein allegedly has or had direct involvement.

Under Gopstein’s leadership, Lahava leads a racist and inciting line against Israeli minorities. Four years ago, when he was serving as defense minister, Moshe Ya’alon considered declaring Lehava a terror organization. In November 2017, the State Prosecutor’s Office recommended charging Gopstein with incitement, and the case is now awaiting a decision by Attorney General Avichai Mandelblit.

The first organization with which Gopstein’s name is linked is “Hemla” (Compassion)—an NGO that purports to aid young women from broken homes who are “at risk of assimilation,” a euphemism for marrying Arab men. Shortly after Gopstein became involved with the organization, it started receiving a regular budget of hundreds of thousands of shekels from the Welfare Ministry, which the NGO uses to operate a hostel in Jerusalem for “at-risk” women and teenage girls.

A 2014 investigative report already found many connections between Hemla and former Kahane activists. For example, Baruch Ben-Yosef, who founded an association seeking to remove Kach from the terror organizations list, received funding from Hemla. A member of Hemla’s committee, Elyakim Neiman, also serves as the chairman of Yeshiva HaRaayon HaYehudi, a Jerusalem seminary founded by Meir Kahane that is still considered a terror organization by the United States. Neiman is also among the founders of The Fund to Save the People of Israel, and when we sought to donate to Lehava, we were directed by Gopstein himself to The Fund to Save the People of Israel.

Gopstein was a paid employee of Hemla, working as a “lead PR in Israel”; he was also an authorized signatory at the NGO, alongside Elyakim Neiman. According to the NGO’s records, Gopstein was fired (although he says he quit), but it was nevertheless decided to “continue employing him for his assistance in raising funds for a probationary period,” which has since ended.

Who funds Hemla? Other than the Welfare Ministry, which in 2016 transferred over NIS 1 million to the NGO, we were able to uncover several other financers, such as the estate of the late Miriam Orin, the Love of Israel Fund, the “Your People’s Poor Fund,” and the Central Fund of Israel—an American fund headed by Jay Marcus.

The Central Fund of Israel, which doesn’t make its list of beneficiaries public, donated almost NIS 100,000 to Hemla in 2015, and tens of thousands of shekels in 2014. Many of the Americans who donated to the fund—both directly and indirectly—don’t know where the money eventually goes.

Another American organization that gives money to Hemla is the Traditional Fund, which also donates to a variety of right-wing organizations in Israel.

The Jewish idea

The second organization in the massive network is Yeshiva HaRaayon HaYehudi (the Jewish Idea Yeshiva), which is listed as an NGO and was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1987 to spread his teachings. In addition to Kahane himself, other founders include Moshe Neiman, Michael Ben-Ari, Tiran Pollack, Gad Struman, Yekutiel (Mike) Ben-Yaakov and Baruch Marzel. The president of the yeshiva is Yehuda Kroizer and the CEO is Elyakim Neiman.

According to records from June 2018, Ben-Ari was a member of the audit committee of the NGO, which to this day remains on the US terror organizations list. In other words, it is illegal to donate to the organization, and Michael Ben-Ari, who could become a member of Israel’s parliament, is allegedly a member of an NGO on the US terror list.

From 2002 to 2005, the NGO reported the grants it gave out, with one of the main beneficiaries being Benzi Gopstein, whose wife Anat was a paid employee of the organization. In 2002, Gopstein got NIS 24,000 from the NGO, in 2004 the sum went up to NIS 26,000 and in 2005 it went back to NIS 24,000.

According to official records, Yeshiva HaRaayon HaYehudi is funded by different American donors, among them two US organizations. The first is Charity of Light, a tax-exempt NGO that was first registered in New Jersey in 2001. Five years later, it became the Charity of Light – Hemla Fund. At the time, the NGO’s chairman was Levi Hazan, a known Kahanist who was sentenced to prison for his part in a 1984 shooting of a bus north of Ramallah, which left six Palestinians wounded.

The very same Hazan also appeared in the Israeli NGO Hemla’s records as a PR employee working abroad. Among the donors who gave money to this charity over the years is the Charitable Foundation of the IDT Corporation, an American telecommunications company founded by known Likud and Netanyahu donor Howard Jonas.

The second US donor organization is the American Friends of Yeshivat HaRaayon, an NGO registered in 1991 in Skokie, Illinois, which raises funds for Yeshiva HaRaayon HaYehudi, despite the fact that the latter is on the US terror list. A possible loophole allowing donations is the NGO’s use of the yeshiva’s Hebrew name, rather than the English translation that appears in the US terror lists.

As of 2015, Levi Hazan was this NGO’s director as well. According to the NGO’s records, from 2011 the organization donated to Yeshiva HaRaayon HaYehudi sums ranging between $44,000 and $136,000 every year. This too is seemingly a criminal offense violating three different prohibitions on funding for terror organizations.

“There are different definitions within the State Department’s list of terror organizations,” says David Saperstein, a former senior State Department official. “The leaders of the organizations on the list are subject to all of the limitations of the law. Donors to these organizations are breaking the law and are subject to criminal sanctions, even if they don’t know where the money they donated went to.”

‘Price tag’ situation room

The next organization is Chasdei Meir, which is headed by Gopstein himself, according to different reports. Our investigation found no evidence the organization is registered in Israel, only in the United States. When we called the phone number the organization lists for donations, the woman who answered the phone gave us the bank account number and PO box belonging to the NGO “Hemla – Aid for the Needy.” Later, we learned we could also donate to the organization through Hemla’s donations center.

This isn’t a trivial matter. Unlike Hemla, which seemingly only aids needy women, Chasdei Meir is an organization that aids “residents of the hilltops.” According to past reports, Chasdei Meir was part of the “price tag” vandalism situation room, which was established in 2011 to avenge the demolition of structures in the illegal West Bank outpost of Havat Gilad. The organization’s activity includes fundraising for the Hilltop Youth organization of extremist settlers, as well as planting trees near settlements and hills in the West Bank.

In 2010, Gopstein himself was quoted by Haaretz, saying “We have a group called the Chasdei Meir Charity Fund, which helps the outposts.” In a video Gopstein posted online in the past, he called for donations for Chasdei Meir to benefit activities in the West Bank.

The Chasdei Meir website was registered by Levi Hazan, and an examination of the organization’s funding sources found it raises tax-exempt funds in the US through Charity of Light. Conversely, the PO box and fax number on Chasdei Meir’s website belong to the HaRaayon HaYehudi NGO. An older version of the site included an address in the US, which is the same as the address listed for HaRaayon HaYehudi and Charity of Light.

The next NGO, The Fund to Save the People of Israel, was registered in 2011. Its declared objectives include the “fight against the phenomenon of assimilation; activity to benefit the victims of infiltrators and illegal migrant workers; activity and humanitarian aid; strengthening the settlement enterprise and the hold on the Land of Israel; legal assistance.”

The NGO’s founders are Elyakim Neiman, Yaron Adler, Israel Diskind, Ayala Ben-Gvir (Itamar Ben-Gvir’s wife), Benzi Gopstein, Levi Hazan and Matilda Harutz. According to its general assembly’s records from May 2018, Gopstein is an authorized signatory in the organization and is defined as the “NGO’s operator,” grossing NIS 66,764 annually.

The NGO’s email address is the same one that appeared in Chasdei Meir’s website—Gopstein’s personal email. One of the fund’s audit committee members was Yitzhak Gabbai, who was convicted and imprisoned for three years for his part in the arson attack at the Jewish-Arab school in Jerusalem.

As of 2016, the NGO’s incoming donations stood at some NIS 260,000 a year; among its donors over the years we found the Eretz Yisrael Shelanu Party (a far-right religious party founded by Baruch Marzel and Shalom Dov Wolpo), as well as the Segal Foundation for Israel, which was criticized by Israel’s Registrar of Associations for failing to do anything to reach its objectives.

‘Our fight is legal’

“Since the Kach Movement was outlawed, Kahane’s ideological successors have developed new systems to operate and get funding,” says Ran Cohen, one of the founders of the Democratic Bloc organization. “If they previously relied on political mechanisms, today they are using a network of NGOs that pose as charity and social organizations. In reality, they raise funds—both in Israel and abroad—to continue to incite and undermine the foundations of democracy. Money transferred from the state to such organizations is only one example of the way the government whitewashes Kahanism. The biggest example recently was the fact Netanyahu worked to ensure Gopstein and Marzel’s (Otzma Yehudit) party, which has Kahanist characteristics, gets into the Knesset.”

Benzi Gopstein offered the following response to the report: “These are lies. The goal of this report is to once again try to bring down the right-wing rule and prevent Otzma Yehudit from getting into the next Knesset. This won’t help; I will continue with the legal fight against assimilation in the Holy Land.”

Michael Ben-Ari offered the following response: “This is a collection of fabrications that have already been published and disproven years ago. But when the goal is to bring down the right-wing rule, journalistic ethics are being trampled.”

In an interesting coincidence, when we turned to the Hemla NGO for a response, we were directed to the Yeshiva HaRaayon HaYehudi call center.

Later, Hemla offered the following response: “For nearly 20 years, the NGO has been operating a hostel for at-risk Haredi teenage girls, who went through serious abuse (and you should know all about this topic), and with God’s help we are able to rehabilitate them and reintegrate them into society. The NGO deals with the social and rehabilitative field and has no ties to any political body.

“Benzi Gopstein finished working for the NGO in October 2014, and since then there have been no ties between him and Hemla – Aid for the Needy. Anat Gopstein finished working for the NGO in April 2015, and since then there have been no ties between her and the NGO. Unfortunately, the media has already slammed the holy work our dedicated staff does at the hostel several times, and we demand an end to dealing with this matter, which has been behind us for many years.”

The Welfare Ministry offered the following response: “Hemla won a tender to operate a hostel for at-risk teenage girls from the Haredi sector, who are directed to social services in local authorities. The funding given to the NGO is for the operation of the hostel only.”

Mairav Zonszein contributed to this story.

Iran urges immediate action to stop ‘racist’ israeli (apartheid state) regime

Iran urges immediate action to stop ‘racist’ Israel

Israeli forces patrol near an entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem al-Quds. (Photo by AFP)Israeli forces patrol near an entrance to the Al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem al-Quds. (Photo by AFP)

Tehran has condemned Israel’s recent move to shut down al-Aqsa Mosque, calling on Muslim countries and the international community to take “immediate” action and stop the “racist” regime.

Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi on Thursday said Israel’s actions are a violation of the sanctity of al-Aqsa Mosque, which is the third holiest site to Muslims.

“The process of the massacre and ethnic-religious cleansing (of Palestinians) in al-Quds has been underway incessantly and in a systematic way since the occupation of Palestine (in 1948),” he added.

Qassemi further censured the “deadly silence” of the regional states in the face of such violations of Palestine’s historic and Islamic sites, calling on the international community, the UN in particular, to take “immediate” actions and stop the “racist” regime.

He hailed the Palestinian people’s resistance against the Israeli regime.

On Monday, Israeli soldiers placed locks and metal chains on the al-Rahma gate of the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in the Old City of occupied East Jerusalem al-Quds and prevented hundreds of Palestinian worshipers from entering the site, while several were arrested inside the holy site.

Local sources, requesting not to be named, told the Arabic-language Palestine al-Aan news agency that 10 Palestinians sustained injuries on Tuesday evening after Israeli troops assaulted them at Bab al-Rahma (Gate of Mercy).

Qassemi also took a swipe at certain regional states for participating in a recent US-organized Warsaw conference, noting that their participation and attempts to normalize ties with Israel have emboldened the occupying regime to commit such acts of aggression and violations.

The international gathering took place in the Polish capital from February 13 to 14.

The Palestinians, who boycotted the conference, strongly denounced the summit and the participation of Arab ministers.

Nabil Shaath, an adviser to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, wrote in a column published by Israel’s Haaretz newspaper that the Warsaw conference lacked credibility as aimed to “normalize” the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

“By fully siding with the Israeli government, (the Americans) have tried to normalize the Israeli occupation and the systematic denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination,” he said.

Saeb Erekat, the secretary-general of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Executive Committee, called it “an attempt to bypass” the Arab Peace Initiative

israel (apartheid state) steps up attacks on Palestinian schools

Israel Steps Up Attacks on Palestinian Schools

Maureen Clare Murphy

Israeli forces shutter a school in the West Bank city of Nablus in October 2018.

Shadi Jarar’ah APA images

When Israeli occupation forces shot three secondary school students, critically injuring two of them, last week, it was hardly an isolated incident.

The students were injured after soldiers raided Tuqu village near the West Bank city of Bethlehem, surrounding a high school. The military fired tear gas and live ammunition after being confronted by youths.

The frequency of such violence in or near Palestinian schools in the West Bank has increased during the current academic year.

“Incidents of interference in schools by Israeli forces” include “threats of demolition, clashes on the way to school between students and security forces, teachers stopped at checkpoints, and the violent actions of Israeli forces and settlers on some occasions,” according to a statement by United Nations officials.

The bulk of the 111 “interferences to education” in the West Bank documented by the UN in 2018 took place in the last four months of the year.

“More than half of the verified incidents involved live ammunition, tear gas and stun grenades fired into or near schools by Israeli forces, impacting the delivery of education or injuring students,” according to the UN officials.

Israeli forces demolished or seized five Palestinian schools in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, last year, and 50 more are under threat of demolition.

“Orief secondary school for boys near Nablus has also been forced closed twice due to settler violence, and children from this school have been hospitalized with multiple injuries, including from gunshots,” the UN officials add.

Regular violence in Hebron

In the H2 area of Hebron, where Palestinians live in close proximity to hostile Israeli settlers, “tear gas is regularly used around schools, and new measures are being applied at checkpoints that expose students and teachers to violence – at one particularly affected H2 school, more than 20 such incidents were documented in 2018.”

Video published by the human rights group B’Tselem shows heavily armed Israeli Border Police forces apprehending students in Hebron’s city center as they were leaving school in December:

Two of the students detained by the Israeli officers were under the age of 12.

One of the boys, 13 years old, was taken to a police station, where he was “interrogated with no parent or other adult acting on his behalf present.”

He was held overnight without being given food or drink until the morning. He was released that afternoon after his father posted bail at a military court, deposited by the soldiers far away from his home.

Soldiers drove the boy to the entrance to al-Arroub refugee camp and removed his handcuffs. One of the soldiers punched the child on the head, causing him to fall to the ground, before they drove off.

Demolitions on permit pretext

Human Rights Watch also emphasizes Israel’s violations of Palestinian children’s right to education in its shadow report to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights review of Israel.

Israeli forces have demolished or confiscated Palestinian school buildings or property in the West Bank at least 16 times since the beginning of this decade, according to the rights group.

“Israeli authorities have justified the destruction or damage to schools on the basis that they lacked building permits from the Israeli military, but the military almost never grants Palestinians building permits in Area C, the 60 percent of the West Bank where it exercises exclusive control,” Human Rights Watch states.

More than a third of Palestinian communities in Area C do not have primary schools and some 1,700 children are forced to walk five or more kilometers to school due to road closures and lack of infrastructure.

“The long distances and fear of harassment by settlers or the military lead some parents to take their children out of school,” Human Rights Watch adds.

Gaza schools attacked

The Israeli military also disrupts Palestinian children’s education in Gaza.

Schools in both Gaza and southern Israel were closed for at least one day during a three-day military escalation in the coastal enclave last November and some incurred severe damage.

More than half of Gaza’s schools were damaged during Israel’s 51-day assault on the territory in summer 2014.

“Israeli restrictions on the delivery of construction materials to Gaza and a lack of funding have impeded reconstruction of damaged or destroyed facilities,” Human Rights Watch notes.

During that military offensive, Israel hit three schools administered by UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, being used as shelters, killing 45, including 17 children.

“The Israeli military alleged that Palestinian fighters were operating near the school, or had fired mortars ‘from the vicinity’ of it, but it has offered no information or evidence to support that claim,” Human Rights Watch adds.

One rocket fired from Gaza during that offensive hit a building used as a daycare in southern Israel, but caused no casualties.

 

OCHA: 10% increase in israeli (apartheid state) demolition of Palestinian structures in 2018

OSCHA: 10% increase in Israeli demolition of Palestinian structures in 2018

Ma’an – January 20, 2019

BETHLEHEM – During 2018, Israel demolished or seized 460 Palestinian-owned structures in the West Bank, a 10% increase compared to 2017, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in the occupied Palestinian territory confirmed in a new report.

The OCHA report stated, “While in Area C, which makes over 60% of the area of the West Bank that is under full Israeli military control, the number of structures targeted in both years was approximately the same and stood at 270, occupied East Jerusalem recorded a 25% increase compared to 2017. Of all structures targeted during 2018, 56 were donor-funded humanitarian aid structures, representing a 46% decline, compared to 2017 figures.”

In December, said OCHA’s monthly report on West Bank demolitions and displacement, “39 Palestinian-owned structures were demolished or seized by the Israeli authorities, the same as the 2018 monthly average, displacing 56 people and affecting over 270 others.”

OCHA added that two of this month’s demolitions were on punitive grounds and the rest were due to the lack of the difficult-to-obtain Israeli building permits.

The report confirmed that “about 70% of the structures targeted this month were in Area C. The largest incident took place on December 4th in the Beit Hanina – al-Marwaha neighborhood, a community on the ‘Jerusalem side’ of the wall barrier, where eight commercial structures were demolished and goods were confiscated.”

“Five families, who reported a financial loss of almost 1.5 million Israeli shekels (. $400,000), were affected. In another incident, the livelihoods of 70 people were affected by the demolition of a leather store on the margins of al-Bireh City near the Ramallah district.”

On December 5th, the Israeli authorities dismantled and seized two structures in the Hebron district to be used as a school for 45 students. Three tents erected subsequently by the Palestinian Ministry of Education to replace the targeted structures were also seized.

OCHA mentioned that this is the seventh case during 2018 where educational structures were targeted under the pretext of “lack of building permits.” It is estimated that 50 West Bank schools, 42 in Area C and eight in East Jerusalem, have pending demolition orders against all or part of their facilities, according to the Education Cluster.

“In East Jerusalem, nine structures were targeted during December, nearly half the monthly average during the rest of 2018.”

“In one incident, Palestinians were forced to demolish a 20 year-old building home to two families, comprising 14 people. The families reported that since the start of the legal proceedings, they have paid the municipality 160,000 shekels ($43,382) in fines, in addition to 25,000 shekels ($6,778) they spent on the demolition itself.”

“During the month, the Israeli military carried out two punitive demolitions, bringing the total in 2018 to six, compared to nine in 2017.”

In addition, the report mentioned that in al-Amari refugee camp in the Ramallah district, Israeli forces blew up and destroyed a four-story building and severely damaged two adjacent buildings, displacing 23 people, including six children. The targeted building was home to the family of a man who reportedly killed an Israeli soldier with a brick during a search operation in the camp in May 2018.

Campaign to revoke Jewish National Fund charitable status important

Source

By Yves Engler · January 11, 2019

Last week the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), under pressure from Palestine solidarity activists, began an audit of the Jewish National Fund.

The audit is significant. Beyond weakening the oldest Israel-focused charity in the country, it will put other Israeli charities in Canada on notice and reflects the growth of Palestine solidarity activism.

Fulfilling the time-consuming audit will be a bureaucratic headache for a group that has eleven offices across Canada and has raised $100 million over the past five years. Already, the credibility of the second most powerful Israel-oriented charity in Canada has taken a hit with the CBC exposé headlined “Canadian charity  used donations to fund projects linked to Israeli military” and related  stories. If the CRA revokes the JNF’s charitable status it would be devastating for fundraising and deter politicians/celebrities from attending their events.

Similar to the JNF, other registered charities support the Israeli military in direct contravention of CRA rules. Additionally, some of these organizations — like the JNF — fund projects supporting West Bank settlements, which Global Affairs Canada considers in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

At a broader level, critical attention on the JNF could lead to questioning of why Canadian taxpayers subsidize hundreds of millions of dollars in donations to a wealthy country. Despite a GDP per capita greater than Spain or Italy (and equal to Japan), hundreds of registered Canadian charities deliver hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Israel. How many Canadian charities funnel money to Spain or Japan?

If the CRA revoked JNF’s charitable status it would boost Stop the JNF campaigns elsewhere. In England they convinced former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to withdraw as patron of the JNF (Theresa May seems to have also stayed away), and 68 members of parliament endorsed a bill to revoke the organization’s charitable status because “the JNF’s constitution is explicitly discriminatory by stating that land and property will never be rented, leased or sold to non-Jews.”

The CRA audit of a charity that’s found favour with numerous Canadian prime ministers is long in the making and reflects the growth of Palestinian solidarity consciousness. Born in a West Bank village demolished to make way for the JNF’s Canada Park, Ismail Zayid has been complaining to the CRA about its charitable status for 40 years. Lebanese Canadian Ron Saba “has been indefatigable over the years in writing to various Canadian government departments and officials, corporations, and media to rescind tax exemption status and endorsement of” what he calls the “racist JNF tax fraud”. During the Liberal party convention in 2006 Saba was widely smeared for drawing attention to leadership candidate Bob Rae’s ties to the JNF. Saba has put in multiple Access to Information requests regarding the JNF, demonstrating government spying of its critics and long-standing knowledge of the organization’s dubious practices. Under the headline “Event you may want to monitor,” Foreign Affairs spokesperson Caitlin Workman sent the CRA a communication about a 2011 Independent Jewish Voices event in Ottawa stating: “author of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, will give a talk on Canada and the Jewish National Fund.”

Former Independent Jewish Voices coordinator Tyler Levitan was smeared for working diligently on the issue. In addition to important organizing, he discovered that the Ottawa Citizen sponsored JNF galas they covered and, suggesting a formal financial relationship, ran an ad for the JNF’s 2013 Ottawa Gala the day after the event.

At the Green Party convention in 2016 Corey Levine pushed a resolution to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because it practices “institutional  discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel.” The effort brought the issue into the mainstream though she, IJV and the entire Green  Party were smeared  as “hard core  Jew haters” for even considering the resolution.

Fifteen months ago IJV and four individuals filed a detailed complaint to the CRA and Minister of National Revenue over the JNF. For a number of years IJV has run a “Stop the JNF” campaign and for more than a decade activists across the country have picketed local JNF fundraising galas. These efforts have benefited from many in Palestine/Israel, notably the work of Uri Davies and Adalah.

As I have written before, the campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is important beyond winning the specific demand. It draws attention to the racism intrinsic to Zionism and highlights Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

The CRA is undoubtedly facing significant behind-the-scenes pressure to let the JNF off with little more than a slap on the wrists. So, it’s important that people send their MP  the CBC exposé and add their name to Independent Jewish Voices’ campaign  to revoke the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status.

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