Last week, Pres. Biden issues an Executive Order sanctioning any individual, NGO or financial institution engaging in or facilitating settler terrorism against Palestinians. Media reports focused only on four specific settler leaders who were explicitly named as targets. But there was no reporting on the broad terms of the Order, which announced it was targeting all of the above players who provide the physical, political and financial muscle behind acts of settler genocide.
Here are a few excerpts which convey the comprehensiveness of the policy:
I [Pres. Biden] find the situation in the West Bank — in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction — has reached intolerable levels and constitutes a serious threat to the peace, security, and stability of the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, and the broader Middle East region. These actions undermine the foreign policy objectives of the United States, including the viability of a two-state solution…They also…have the potential to lead to broader regional destabilization across the Middle East, threatening United States personnel and interests…These actions constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the United States. I hereby declare a national emergency to deal with that threat.
It further targets anyone engaged in:
…Directing, enacting, implementing, enforcing, or failing to enforce policies — that threaten the peace, security, or stability of the West Bank; or planning, ordering, otherwise directing, or participating in any of the following actions affecting the West Bank:
(1) an act of violence or threat of violence targeting civilians;
(2) efforts to place civilians in reasonable fear of violence with the purpose or effect of necessitating a change of residence to avoid such violence…
ii) to be or have been a leader or official of:
(A) an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in, or whose members have engaged in, any of the activities described in subsections (a) or (b) of this section related to the leader’s or official’s tenure; or
(B) an entity whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order as a result of activities relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure;
(iii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any person blocked pursuant to this order…
Though the Order targets individuals directly, it casts a wide net to encompass anyone or anything which in any way facilitates their activities. If it is applied to a major swath of the settler terrorist infrastructure including settlements themselves, those living in them, those building them, those financing or constructing them–it could have a huge impact. If new more prominent targets like Itamar Ben Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich are named, then we will know that this is not window-dressing; but rather a new policy with teeth.
It should target settler NGOs like Honenu, which provides legal representation to settler murderers; Lehava, which campaigns against miscegenation and advocates boycotts of businesses which employ Israeli Palestinians; Regavim, whose mission is to undermine Palestinian property rights; Elad, which engages in fraudulent real estate deals which steal Palestinian homes from those who’ve lived in them for generations. Ir David which organizes archaeological excavations threatening Muslim holy places in Jerusalem.
By rights, US NGOs like the Hebron Fund–which provides weapons and other security equipment to settlements should face sanctions; along with the Central Fund of Israel, which offers tens of millions for similar projects. Together, these two groups have funneled hundreds of millions into the settler enterprise and its violence against Palestinians. Ateret Cohanim and Aish HaTorah also fund projects to rid Jerusalem of a Palestinian presence and replace them with settler residents and and homes.
US donors to pro-settler groups could be sanctioned as well. These includes billionaire families like the Falics, Adelsons, Moskowitzes, all of whom provide millions in donations to pro-settler groups. If they are targeted they would be unable to continue that financial support who settler terrorism.
Then there are Israeli ministries who facilitate expropriation of Palestinian land for new settlements. They include the finance and housing ministries. Israeli banks finance much of the construction of settlements and mortgages for residents. Human Rights Watch notes:
Israel’s largest banks are providing services that help support, maintain, and expand unlawful settlements by financing their construction in the occupied West Bank, including partnering with developers to build homes on land unlawfully seized from Palestinians.
They too could face sanctions for maintaining bank accounts for settlers who are targets; and for maintaining accounts for settlers guilty of land theft and violence. These financial institutions have already taken action against the individuals targeted in the Executive Order. But they certainly are looking at all their accounts to determine who and what could fall if the net is widened to include some of the NGOs listed above.
US Treasury financial alert
On the same day the EO was issued, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network issued a FINCEN alert which specified the financial scope of the Order. If it is enforced it will decimate the entire financing structure of settlements. It:
…Is issuing this alert to financial institutions1 related to the financing of Israeli extremist settler violence against Palestinians in the West Bank. This alert provides select red flags to assist financial institutions in identifying and reporting suspicious activity that finances such violence…
As the U.S. Department of State (State) noted, the U.S. Government “will continue to seek accountability and justice for all acts of violence against civilians in the West Bank, regardless of the perpetrator or the victim.
Here it notes the Alert targets:
Payments to any organizations or groups, including nonprofit organizations (NPO) that are now or have been previously linked to violent extremist groups in the West Bank or lists an officer, founder, or director that is currently or has been previously linked to Israeli violent extremist groups in the West Bank…
Transactions…linked to NPOs [non-profit organizations] active in supporting violent extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank, particularly if the NPO has advocated for, or solicited donations on social media in support of, Israeli violent extremist groups or campaigns.
This provision applies to the Hebron Fund and Central Fund of Israel. It sanctions:
Purchases of tactical military gear for resale overseas and destined for non-government Israeli end-users in the West Bank, particularly if the end-users are currently or have been previously linked to Israeli violent extremist groups.
The major question is whether these actions have teeth. Will they be enforced? Will their scope be expanded to include more powerful settler leaders and their political mentors? Ministers? Will it include US funders of settler thuggery?
Judging by Biden’s lassitude and his unwavering support for genocide in Gaza, the odds are against him. If enforcement is lax, then we will know that Biden is engaged in cosmetic, rather than substantive policies. And that his motive is solely to regain support he’s lost from the anti-war and Arab-American communities, especially those in the crucial swing-state of Michigan. If he loses Michigan, he loses everything.