Sixteen human rights groups are preparing to picket an annual New York City fundraising event that raises money for Jewish settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Hebron. Organizers say they will hold a silent protest at the entrance to the Chelsea Piers, 23rd Street and West Side Highway, on November 16 from 5:30 to 7:00pm (details below).
This will be the third consecutive year in which the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund’s annual fundraiser has faced protests. Last year, human rights groups criticized the New York Mets and Major League Baseball for hosting the event at Citi Field. In 2008 the Marriott Marquis was the site of a protest against the fundraiser. It is unclear if protests have led the Hebron Fund to change venues annually.
Susan Beschta from Code Pink explained, “All Israeli settlements violate international law, and Hebron’s settlers are among the most violent and racist of Israel’s settlers. It’s outrageous that on top of the billions of our tax dollars that our government gives to Israel annually, the US gives a tax break for donating to groups like the Hebron Fund that help to drive Palestinians from their homes.” According to all major human rights organizations, the UN, the International Court of Justice, and governments around the world, all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. This year’s Hebron Fund fundraiser has been organized as a Hudson River cruise and entitled the “Hebron Aid Flotilla” in an apparent attempt to mock the international Freedom Flotilla that sailed last spring to break the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza. The Israeli military attacked the flotilla in international waters, shooting and killing nine passengers, including an American citizen, aboard a Turkish-flagged ship, the Mavi Marmara, and injured an additional 58 passengers.
The Hebron Fund announcement for the event states that “settlements are legal,” that “this administration may decide to fly in the face of US law and commitment,” and that “the tax deductible status of the meager donations to Hebron’s Jews comes under repeated scrutiny - for no good reason except for racism and Anti-Semitism.” Keynote speaker and former Netanyahu advisor Caroline Glick has written in the Jerusalem Post that President Obama is “treating Israel like an enemy.”
In a recent New York Times report on the many US nonprofits that fund Israeli settlements, a senior US State Department official was quoted saying “It’s a problem. It’s unhelpful to the efforts that we’re trying to make.”
According to a 2007 report on Hebron, “Ghost Town,” by the Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Hebron is characterized by “a phenomenon of routine and sometimes extremely violent settler abuse of Palestinians” that aims to “get them to leave the area.” The two groups documented settler attacks that included physical assault, including beatings, at times with clubs, gunshots, stone throwing, hurling of refuse, destruction of shops, shattering of windows, thefts, cutting of fruit trees, and verbal insults. In 2007, Hebron Fund Executive Director Yossi Baumol told The American Prospect's Matthew Duss that "[d]emocracy is poison to Arabs," "Israel must not give Arabs a say in how the country is run," and "[y]ou'll never get the truth out of an Arab." Noam Arnon, a 2009 Hebron Fund fundraiser honoree, called Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein “an extraordinary person'' in 1995, according to a report by the Associated Press. In 1994 Goldstein massacred 29 unarmed Palestinians who were praying in a Hebron mosque, and wounded over 100 more.