BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) — The US Court of Appeals in New York has rejected an appeal from a group of 13 Palestinians seeking damages for alleged “terrorist attacks” by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank, Israeli media reported Friday.The complaint was filed against US-based charities that financially support settlements, alleging that such support leads to terrorist activity and is in violation of US anti-terrorism laws, reported Israeli news source Jewish Telegraphic Agency.The USA Patriot Act enacted in October 2001 prohibits citizens from “knowingly providing material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization.” Plaintiffs in the case argued that charities were financially supporting terrorist activity by funding settlers who have carried out acts of violence against Palestinians and their land, and desecrated houses of prayer.Charities accused in the case included Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund, Central Fund of Israel, One Israel Fund and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim.After District Judge Jesse Furman initially rejected the case last year, the appeal was rejected again this week by a panel of appellate judges.”American federal judges recognize the difference between the financing of murder and violence… and legitimate bona fide financial support of the daily needs of peaceful Israeli settlements over the Green Line,” Israeli Haaretz quoted attorney Nathan Lewin, who represented the charities in the trials.
Privately funded violence
The dismissal of the case is a setback for those fighting to shed light on private US funding that is currently helping to sustain illegal settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, as well as the violence that results from it.While the U.S. government has condemned ongoing settlement expansion, its citizens have been able to freely donate millions to the illegal enclaves.The New York Times identified at least 40 American groups in 2010 that had collected over $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank over the last decade.Israeli watchdog Americans for Peace Now have long fought against tax-exempt donations to settlements.
Among other criticisms, the groups point out that IRS regulations exempting charities from tax deduction define a charitable organization as one that “includes relief of the poor and distressed or of the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening of the burdens of government; promotion of social welfare.”Such a definition does not extend to charities funneling funds to the Jewish-only settlements of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the group argues, and such donations should not be tax-exempt.The court ruling on the 13 Palestinians’ appeal is only the latest example of a number of cases in which Israeli settlers have gained legal backing from the US government for illegal practices.Attacks carried out with impunityHuman rights groups in Israel and the Palestinian Territories have long fought for effective Israeli law enforcement against the type of violent acts committed by Israeli settlers that the 13 Palestinians were drawing attention to.Such acts are often termed “price-tag attacks,” and are carried out to retaliate perceived pressure from both Israeli and foreign governments against settlements, most often with Palestinian civilians as their victims.
They are nearly always carried out with impunity from the law.Following price-tag attacks on Vatican-owned offices in occupied East Jerusalem in May 2014, Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch said the government planned to begin using administrative detention against suspected extremists.Although Israeli police had made scores of arrests before that time, there had been few successful prosecutions for price-tag attacks and the government was facing mounting pressure to authorize the Shin Bet internal security agency to step in.The US State Department’s Country Reports on Terrorism discussed price-tag attacks for the first time in 2013, citing UN figures of some “399 attacks by extremist Israeli settlers that resulted in Palestinian injuries or property damage.”The report said such attacks were “largely unprosecuted.”