Letter To The Marriott Marquis Hotel Re: Hebron Fund Banquet

Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East

TO: The Marriott Marquis Hotel, New York, NY

SUBJECT: Cancel November 17th Hebron Fund Banquet over Human Rights Violations

DATE: November 7, 2008

As organizations working for human rights, social justice, and peace, we call on the Marriot Marquis to cancel the November 17 fundraiser for the Hebron Fund. By allowing the Hebron Fund to fundraise on its premises, the Marriot Marquis will be directly aiding Hebron’s settlers, who are regularly described, even by Israelis, as right-wing, violent and extremists. The Marriot Marquis will be facilitating activities that directly violate international law and US foreign policy, actively promote racial discrimination, and, at least indirectly, support brutal Israeli settler attacks on Palestinian civilians and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from Hebron. Additionally, the Marriot Marquis may be facilitating efforts by the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund, a registered US non-profit, to camouflage its clear support for settlement construction from the Internal Revenue Service.

In the Israeli-occupied, West Bank city of Hebron 700 Israeli settlers, living amidst 150,000 Palestinians, are attempting to expand their hold on the historic old city by taking over homes, expelling Palestinian residents, and connecting their settlements to the neighboring settlement of Kiryat Arba, with 7000 residents.[1]

There is clear evidence that the Hebron Fund and its November 17th fundraising dinner support Israeli settlement construction, in violation of international law. In a September 24th, 2008 radio interview on the fundraiser, Hebron Fund Executive Director Yossi Baumol explained, “There are real facts on the ground that are created by people helping the Hebron Fund and coming to our dinners.” [2] Creating “facts on the ground” by building settlements has been the mantra of the Israeli settlement movement since its inception. As reported by Reuters,[3] a March 2007 joint appeal by The Hebron Fund and Jewish Community of Hebron called for donations saying, “Dozens of new families can now come live in Hebron... waiting for you to be their partners in the redemption of Hebron – by providing doors, windows, heating systems and many other necessities.”[4] A 2006 report by The Hebron Fund and the Jewish Community of Hebron called for the re-establishment of the “Mitzpe Shalhevet” settlement in the Palestinian market in Hebron, after the settlement was evacuated by the Israeli army. The accompanying fundraising appeal says, “Help us move families back into the Shuk [market] and into other new areas!” And, “Please redouble your support of the Hebron Fund at this crucial time so you can be a partner in…The purchase and renovation of ancient Jewish homes, Construction of new housing.”[5] The Hebron Fund has raised $10.4 million for Hebron’s settlers from 2000 – 2006 according to its form 990s submitted annually to the IRS.[6]

According to all major human rights organizations, the UN, the International Court of Justice, and almost every government worldwide, Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem violate international law, specifically Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention which states that, “The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population in the territory it occupies.” Continued settlement construction contradicts the US government policy, which has repeatedly denounced Israeli settlements as an obstacle to peace, as well as Secretary of State Rice's own statements in which she has “pressed Israel to cut its own financial incentives for settlers.”[7] The Hebron Fund’s promotion of settlement construction also appears to contradict the Hebron Fund’s declaration, submitted every year on its IRS Form 990, that its "primary exempt purpose" is "to promote social and educational well being," as well as Hebron Fund Executive Director Yossi Baumol’s assurances to the American Prospect that they fund only "tours, pilgrimage, and religious study."[8]

According to a 2007 report on Hebron, “Ghost Town,” by the internationally respected Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI), 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” of the old city.[9] The Hebron Fund says that it “operates in concert with the community there [in Hebron] to assess their needs and respond in kind.”[10] Through its generalized support to Hebron’s settler community, the Hebron Fund supports, at least indirectly, these violent assaults on Palestinian civilians.

According to B’Tselem and ACRI, “The settler attacks include physical assault, including beatings, at times with clubs, stone throwing, hurling of refuse, sand, water, chlorine, empty bottles and other objects, occasionally using sharp objects, destruction of shops and doors, shattering of windows, thefts, cutting of fruit trees, destruction of merchants’ stands, and verbal insults. Also documented during the second intifada are cases in which Israelis were involved in gunfire, trying to run people over, poisoning of a water well, breaking into homes, spilling of hot liquid on the face of a Palestinian, and the killing of a Palestinian girl.”

A November, 2008 report, “Under Attack: Settler Violence against Palestinian Children in the Occupied Territory,” by the child rights organization Defence for Children International – Palestine Section[11] explains that in Hebron, “Settler children routinely verbally harass, chase, hit and throw stones at Palestinian schoolchildren. Their parents and other adults engage in similar behavior.” DCI-PS notes, as one example, that records from the Qurtuba School in Tel Rumeida, Hebron, from April 2008 “documented seven separate physical assaults on schoolchildren including hitting and stone throwing. In one such attack, settlers turned their dog loose on a young boy causing him to fall down and break his arm as he tried to run away.” The DCI-PS report includes interviews with 10 year-old Raghad Hasham Younis al-Azza who was beaten by two eighteen-year-old settler girls, 12-year-old Yousef Hisham Younes al-Azza who was beaten in the mouth with a stone by a female adult settler, causing the loss of a tooth, and with 12-year-old Islam Wael Mohammad Sharabati who was hit and kicked by a group of settlers.

Some other recent assaults and harassment committed by Hebron’s settlers have been reported by mainstream media. On November 2nd, two Israeli border police and a Palestinian photographer were injured when they were attacked with stones by Israeli settlers.[12] On October 26th, after vandalizing Palestinian homes, graves and cars, a settler in Hebron, in speaking of Israeli soldiers who had just evacuated a settlement, told Israeli Army Radio, "We hope they are defeated by their enemies, we hope that they all become (kidnapped soldier) Gilad Shalit, that they are all killed and that they are all slaughtered, because that's what they deserve.” On October 18th, settlers assaulted a Palestinian photographer and international activists attempting to harvest olives in Tel Rumeida, Hebron.[13] An April, 2007 video of a female Hebron settler harassing a Palestinian woman who was caged inside her home horrified Israelis and the international community.[14]

According to B’Tselem and ACRI, as a result of settlement expansion, settler violence and Israeli military violence, and closures, in the center of Hebron, “at least 1,014 Palestinian housing units had been vacated by their occupants… 41.9 percent of the housing units in the relevant area… Regarding Palestinian businesses, 1,829 were not open for business… 76.6 percent of all the business establishments in the surveyed area…. The practice of closing streets to Palestinians in areas near the settlements, along with the open declarations of the settlers in Hebron about their intention ‘to Judaize the city’ and live in an area ‘free of Arabs,’ show that the source of the prohibitions on Palestinian movement in this area apparently relate to the army’s surrender to the racist demands of settlers.” B’Tselem and ACRI describe the movement of Palestinians out of the old city as “quiet transfer”, and “the unlawful transfer of a protected person as a grave breach of the convention, a war crime, for which the persons responsible bear personal liability.”

The Hebron Fund clearly demonstrates on its website its support for, along with the Jewish Community of Hebron, both racial discrimination and the replacement of the Palestinian population of Hebron by Jews. Clicking on the symbol which says “Give to Hebron” on the Hebron Fund webpage[15] takes one to a donations page on the website for the Jewish Community of Hebron which says, among other things, “keep Hebron Jewish for the Jewish people.”[16]

The use of violence and terror by Israeli settlers and the Israeli military in Hebron corresponds with the broadly accepted definition of ethnic cleansing. Human Rights Watch noted in a 2004 report on Darfur that, “Although ‘ethnic cleansing’ is not formally defined under international law, a U.N. Commission of Experts has defined the term as a ‘purposeful policy designed by one ethnic or religious group to remove by violent and terror-inspiring means the civilian population of another ethnic or religious group from certain geographic areas. . . . This purpose appears to be the occupation of territory to the exclusion of the purged group or groups.’”[17] Human Rights Watch further explains that, “The individual human rights abuses that characterize ethnic cleansing are crimes against humanity and war crimes.”

These war crimes are committed to "protect" and expand the presence of the very settlers supported by the Hebron Fund. In light of the above, we strongly urge the Marriot Marquis to cancel the Hebron Fund November 17th fundraiser, which would make the Marriott a party to massive human rights abuses and illegal activities that have been condemned by both the US government and the international community.

We look forward to your response (please respond to [email protected]).

Sincerely,

Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East - www.adalahny.org

Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel) - coalitionofwomen.org

Gush Shalom (Israel) - www.gush-shalom.org

Jews Against the Occupation-NYC - www.jatonyc.org

Jewish Voice for Peace - www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org

Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee - www.bdsmovement.net (for members of the BNC see[18])

US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation - www.endtheoccupation.org

WESPAC Foundation - www.wespac.org

Brooklyn For Peace - www.brooklynpeace.org  (Endorsement added after letter was sent)

 


 

[1] In Divided Hebron a Shared Despair, The Washington Post, July 26, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/25/AR2007072502360.html

[2] September 24, 2008 interview on Nachum’s News, minute 39:15, http://www.nachumsegal.com/readBlog.cfm?blog=50829

[3] Factbox: Tax-exempt US groups aid W. Bank settlers, Reuters, August 25, 2008, http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LO415812.htm

[4] Beit HaShalom in Hebron: Like a City Bound Together, The Hebron Fund/The Jewish Community of Hebron, March 21, 2007, http://www.hebron.org.il/english/article.php?id=314

[5]Hebron Today, The Hebron Fund/The Jewish Community of Hebron, Spring 2006, http://hebron.web.aplus.net/english/data/downloads/alon-hebron-2006.pdf

[6] For form 990s see www.guidestar.com

[7] US tax breaks help Jewish settlers in West Bank, Reuters, Adam Entous, August 25, 2008, http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/LK275621.htm

[8] Underwriting the Conflict, The American Prospect, Matthew Duss, December 20, 2007, http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?article=underwriting_the_conflict_in_hebron

[9]Ghost Town, Israel’s Forced Separation Policy and Eviction of Palestinians from the Center of Hebron, B’Tselem and The Association for Civil Rights in Israel, May, 2007, http://www.btselem.org/Download/200705_Hebron_eng.pdf

[10] Hebron Fund Mission Statement, http://www.hebron.com/english/article.php?for_email=1&id=416

[11] “Under Attack: Settler Violence against Palestinian Children in the Occupied Territory,” Defence for Children International – Palestine Section, November, 2008, http://www.dci-pal.org/english/publ/research/2008/UASTReport.pdf

[12] Two Israeli police injured in clash with settlers, AFP, November 2, 2008, http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5hgNoXENzhelhWm-68cckbSriCuHg

[13] Jewish settlers attack Palestinians during harvest, AP, October 19, 2008, http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5gtrn3kQw1hdbLltl0FVz9tvR5s7AD93TEK9O0, http://www.btselem.org/english/settler_violence/20081030_olive_harvest.asp

[14] http://www.btselem.org/english/video/20070416_Tel_Rumeida.asp

[15] http://www.binamica.co.il/~hfund/

[16] https://pro29.abac.com/hebron/english/donate.php

[17] Darfur Destroyed: Ethic Cleansing by Government and Militia Forces in Western Sudan, Human Rights Watch, May, 2004, http://hrw.org/reports/2004/sudan0504/6.htm#_Toc71531703

[18] Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine, General Union of Palestinian Workers, Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO), Federation of Independent Trade Unions, Union of Arab Community Based Associations (ITTIJAH), Global Palestine Right of Return Coalition, Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Advocacy Initiative (OPGAI), General Union of Palestinian Women, Union of Palestinian Farmers, Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign, Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI), National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba, Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ), Coalition for Jerusalem, Union of Palestinian Charitable Organizations

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