It only took them three years since bloggers like Phil Weiss and I first covered this issue and wrote about it intensively, but you’ve got to give credit to the NY Times. They’ve finally discovered that the funding network among pro-settler American Jews who abuse U.S. tax law in order to funnel hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli settlements, poses a very serious obstacle to Israeli Palestinian peace. Even more importantly, the Times published this piece a day before the White House meeting of Bibi Netanyahu and Barack Obama. It gives them a little mood music, though certainly not the mood that either one of them was likely to have preferred for this meeting.
Honestly, I don’t know whether to feel proud or annoyed. On the one hand, the Times reporters have exploited ideas and research many of us have developed painstakingly over that period of time. And they did so without acknowledging any of the work. It’s as if the Times has to pretend that the issue was first discovered by them. God forbid, that they should acknowledge even peripherally that some bloggers pioneered the issue before they came along.
Because of this artificial division they created, they did not use some of the best material that’s already been published–for example, Phil Weiss’ post offering an audiotape of Women in Green’s Nadia Matar telling a Manhattan synagogue audience that she advocated assassinating Mahmoud Abbas.
I don’t mean to imply either that Phil and I were the only ones: Akiva Eldar, David Ignatius and Josh Nathan-Kazis published terrific research and reporting on the subject as well, in Haaretz, the Washington Post and Jewish Forward. But none of this is credited.
I suppose I should feel vindicated that the arbiter of American journalism has finally weighed in on a subject I begged the American media to write about for the past two years at least. Further, the fact that the Times has done so, and in a convincing and commanding way, will add infinitely more to the impact this issue will have than anything I could ever have written. Them’s the facts.
In fact, I would expect that the IRS is holding meetings about this as I write and trying to come up with a response to the decades of laissez-faire oversight that allowed, according to the Times estimates, far-right American Jews to pump $200-million (at a minimum) into the settler enterprise in the past ten years.
My readers will note Ethan Bronner’s byline on this story. Undoubtedly, he and his Israel-based reporters did a good deal of the legwork checking out the settlements and interviewing settler leaders like David Ha-Ivri. But there are a few objectionable elements in this story that he clearly had a hand in introducing. The main one is this:
Of course, groups in the pro-settler camp are not the only ones benefiting from tax breaks. For example, the Free Gaza Movement, which organized the flotilla seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, says on its Web site that supporters can make tax-deductible donations to it through the American Educational Trust, publisher of an Arab-oriented journal. Israeli civil and human rights groups like Peace Now, which are often accused of having a blatant political agenda, also benefit from tax-deductible donations.
What the hell does “having a blatant political agenda” mean?? Does Bronner, who clearly wrote this passage, equate settlement funding which supports purchase of security gear, weapons, K-9 attack dogs, etc. with supporting Israeli-Palestinian co-existence, human rights and Israeli democracy?
On the bright side, I was pleased to see in this story interviews with sources Bronner usually ignores in his Israeli reporting: Palestinians. I’d be willing to bet that his co-writers insisted on incorporating their point of view into the story and it benefits from this.
Returning to the masterful timing of this article, the Jerusalem Post churlishly complains about B’Tselem’s report issued today which attacks the Israeli rationale for settlements by claiming that 21% of the built-up areas in settlements are on privately owned Palestinian land. According to the Post, the human rights group deliberately (!) released the report in order to embarrass the country’s prime minister on the eve of his White House coming out ceremony. How absolutely nasty and anti-Israel of B’Tselem!
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.