For many years, various American governments have called on Israel to stop the expansion of settlements, but Israel has consistently ignored this demand. The Obama administration has been the most vocal administration so far in articulation of this demand. Yet unfortunately a number of American individuals and institutions have provided large quantities of material and financial support for the expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories. This support is currently undermining the United States efforts to restart the peace negotiations. In addition to its diplomatic efforts to stop the settlements, the Obama administration must also stop the flow of American financial support for the settlement activities.
The American individuals and organizations that support the settlement activities must ask themselves: is what they are doing good for their fellow Americans? The Obama administration has correctly recognized that continuation of the Arab-Israeli conflict is harmful to the US interests in the Middle East and indirectly contributes to terrorism. Those Americans who support the settlement activities under current circumstances are indirectly contributing to the promotion of terrorism against the United States and should think about the consequences of their behavior for the safety and security of their country.
Furthermore, as many well-documented reports have shown, the Jewish settlers often engage in violent acts of terrorism against the Palestinians. The funding of their settlement activities is a direct contribution to violence against Palestinians. Just as the United States is opposed to Palestinian violence against Israelis and prosecutes any American citizens who offer financial support for Hamas, it should also stop Americans from funding extremist Jewish groups that terrorize the Palestinians. The Obama administration should make it illegal for American organizations to fund settlement activities in the occupied territories.
|Judaizing East Jerusalem|
Joseph Dana, Antony Loewenstein, and Mairav Zonszein
Jewish Americans can make great contributions to peacemaking in the Middle East by monitoring their own community to prevent its members from supporting the extremist Israeli groups that undermine the United States peace efforts in the Middle East. At the same time, the efforts of those American Jews who are speaking out against the American financial support for settlement activities must be acknowledged and appreciated. In a July 20, 2009 article in the Guardian, Chris McGreal describes how Rabbi Haim Dov Beliak in California has been campaigning to stop the flow of funds from Jewish American charities to the settlers. Beliak has been especially critical of the Jewish millionaire Irving Moskowitz‘s charity foundation, which has contributed several million dollars to pro-settlement Israeli organizations in the past two decades.
More Jewish Americans should speak out against the funding of settlement activities, for the sake of America, and for the sake of Israel, too, which will also be better off in the long run if the occupation ends. Support for Israel should be differentiated from support for the occupation of Palestinian territories. What’s good for people in Israel is in the end the same as what’s good for people in the United States: just peace with the Palestinian people, and just peace in the Middle East.
Yossi Gerlitz is an artist and art critic in Los Angeles.