Funding illegal Israeli settlements?
Visa, Mastercard and PayPal all enable donations to be made to US-registered groups funding illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank in defiance of international law.
It appears at least one of the major credit cards also enables donations to an extremist Jewish group that has placed a bounty on the lives of Palestinians.
All three have in the last week ceased enabling donations to WikiLeaks. Neither Mastercard nor Visa have explained the basis for their decision to do so. PayPal has backed away from its initial claim that the US State Department told PayPal WikiLeaks had broken the law after the claim was discredited. This is the third occasion on which PayPal has suspended payment services for WikiLeaks.
Israel subsidises over 100 settlements in the West Bank in defiance of international law. Another 100+ are “illegal outposts” even under Israeli law. All benefit from extensive support from the United States, channelled through a range of Jewish and right-wing Christian bodies, all of which have charitable status under US law. The International Crisis Group’s report on settlements in July 2009 identified the important role played by US charities. Israeli newspaper Haaretz has investigated the strong support provided via US charities, and Israeli peace groups have also targeted the generous support provided via private donations from the US and Canada.
Credit card transactional systems play a key role in facilitating this support for illegal settlements. Here are some examples.
- The Shuva Israel group, an evangelical Christian group based in Texas, is accused by Israeli group Gush Shalom of channelling money to fund the illegal West Bank settlement of Revava. You can donate to it, says the Shuva Israel website, via Mastercard, Visa and Paypal.
- The One Israel Fund, used as an example in the International Crisis Group report, boasts of being “the largest North American charity whose efforts are dedicated solely to the citizens and communities of Yesha”. You can donate to the One Israel Fund, according to its website, via Mastercard, Visa and Amex.
- The website of another right-wing Christian group, the Christian Friends of Israeli Communities describes support for settlements like Argaman, which are illegal under international law. You can donate, their website says, via Mastercard, Visa and PayPal.
- One of the highest-profile groups is the Hebron Fund, the centre of a 2009 row when the New York Mets were criticised for hosting a fundraising dinner for the group. It provides extensive support for the extraordinarily aggressive Hebron settlement, described by one Israeli group as “an ongoing war crime”, while the Fund itself has been linked to praise for an Israeli mass murderer. According to its website, it receives donations via all major credit cards.
- Worst of all is the extremist SOS Israel group, which has incurred even the wrath of the Israeli Defence Force by rewarding Israeli soldiers who disobey orders to evict settlers from illegal outposts (i.e. inciting mutiny), and which has offered a bounty for Palestinians shot by IDF soldiers. The SOS Israel website describes a number of ways you can make your “generous donation” to it, including credit cards. Crikey’s token $2 donation via a Visa card was successful last night.
At this stage WikiLeaks has breached no international law and no laws of any country, but Mastercard, Visa and PayPal have all blacklisted it. All three continue to enable the support of settlements that are in breach of international law, in some cases of Israeli law, and in defiance of US policy on settlements under successive Republican and Democrat administrations.
Crikey invited Visa, Paypal and Mastercard to comment but none had responded by deadline.