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New York: silent vigil protests against illegal Holy Land settlements

silent vigil

silent vigil

120 New Yorkers silently picketed at the entrance to Manhattan’s Chelsea Piers on Tuesday night  to protest against the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund fundraising event to expand Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Hebron. The protesters held signs saying:  'End the Siege of Hebron,' 'Remove the Settlers,' 'Return the Land,' 'Hebron is in Palestine, 'US Dollars Feed Israeli War Crimes,' and other signs with large photos depicting violence by Israeli settlers and soldiers against Palestinian residents of Hebron. The protest was endorsed by sixteen US human rights and peace groups, three of which are Jewish.

About 40 people held a separate protest organized by J Street also at Chelsea Piers criticizing the Hebron Fund fundraising event and Israeli settlements. Some Hebron Fund attendees were forced to walk past the two protests in order to reach the Hebron Fund event.

Riham Barghouti from Adalah-NY commented:  “On top of the US government’s $3 billion in annual aid to the Israeli government, the Hebron Fund is in New York City raising tax-free money to support some of the most violent and racist Israeli settlers. All Israeli settlements violate international law. We need to end the use of US tax dollars to support Israeli human rights abuses, and stop groups like the Hebron Fund.”

The fundraising dinner for Israeli settlements came as the Obama Administration is pushing the Israeli government to commit to a temporary freeze of the expansion of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In Hebron, a West Bank city with over 160,000 Palestinian residents, around 600 Jewish settlers, guarded by thousands of Israeli soldiers, regularly employ violence to expand their control over the city by taking over Palestinian homes and shops, and driving out Palestinian residents, according to the Israeli human rights groups B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel.

The Hebron Fund event was 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, killing nine passengers, including an American citizen, and injuring an additional 58 passengers. The Hebron Fund announcement for the event stated that 'settlements are legal,' and claimed 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.'

The Hebron Fund’s keynote speaker, Caroline Glick a former adviser to Benjamin Netanyahu, has written in the Jerusalem Post that President Obama is 'treating Israel like an enemy.'

According to all major human rights organizations, the UN, the International Court of Justice, and governments worldwide, all Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem violate the Fourth Geneva Convention. In 1979, the US State Department’s legal adviser also issued a legal opinion that has never been revised stating that the establishment of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories 'is inconsistent with international law,' according to The Washington Post.

This is the third consecutive year in which the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund’s annual fundraising dinner in New York has faced protests. The Hebron Fund is one of a number of US nonprofit companies that fund Israeli settlements.