The initial piece in the Jerusalem Post alerted the world to some scurrilous shenanigans perpetrated by the United Israel Appeal’s New South Wales branch:
‘A major Zionist organization has withdrawn an advertisement because it featured images mocking the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. The United Israel Appeal (New South Wales) – Keren Hayesod last week withdrew the ad for a young adult UIA event, which was issued as a press release as well as on a Facebook page.’
Looking for a story behind the news, we investigated where the funds of the United Israel Appeal are disbursed.
‘Leading the projects that Keren Hayesod will support is Prime Minister’s Office project regarding national heritage sites. Keren Hayesod has taken it upon itself to raise funds in order to supplement the Government budget and expand the scope of the project.’.
On February 21, 2010, Netanyahu presented a Cabinet Communique outlining earmark funding of the national heritage project.
I would like to add three short comments.
– The list of sites submitted here is neither closed nor final. It can and will certainly include other sites. I also intend to include Rachel’s Tomb, to the rehabilitation of which the Jewish Agency has allocated NIS 20 million, and the Tomb of the Patriarchs. Since I was asked, I would like to make my intentions clear, and this is what will be.
– The donations that we are talking about here are earmarks. The list submitted here is the Government’s earmarked budget, even though we hope to receive the assistance of many other elements.
– We will meet again this week in order to approve the national transportation plan that will join the Galilee and the other parts of the State of Israel in an accessible national transportation grid, and which will – inter alia – bring people to this wonderful place. I think that it will greatly contribute to bringing the periphery closer to the center and vice-versa, itself a great economic contribution.”
Keren Hayesod is headed by a board of trustees, appointed by the Zionist Executive and the Jewish Agency. In addition to financing the activities of the Jewish Agency, Keren Hayesod undertook to support the yishuv economically and to provide financial assistance for development and settlement. Most revenues come from fundraising and are distributed by the institutions of the Zionist movement. Keren Hayesod collects donations in almost all countries with a Jewish community, either directly or through volunteers.
UNESCO has recently insisted that Israel remove the Cave of the Patriachs and Rachel’s Tomb, both located in the Palestinian West Bank, from its list of national heritage sites as they are sites of mosques. Abbas and Haniyeh have also insisted the sites be removed from Netanyahu’s proposed national heritage trail. Netanyahu has refused to do so.
Through its funding arrangements with its Israeli parent body, the United Israel Appeal New South Wales branch is complicit with Israeli commandeering of ‘national’ heritage sites in the West Bank.
‘In NSW, 50% of Women’s Division funds are allocated to The Nurit Absorption Centre , located in Be’er Sheva. The remaining 50% of funds raised are incorporated into the universal revenue of Keren Hayesod in Israel.’
Under its never-fully implemented Declaration of Establishment of 1948, Israel undertook to safeguard the holy sites of all religions. Israel has failed to fulfill its promise. As the 2008 US State Department Human Rights Report: Israel and the occupied territories states:
The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law protects all holy sites, but the government implemented regulations only for 137 Jewish sites, leaving many Muslim and Christian sites neglected, inaccessible, or threatened by property development. The Holy Sepulchre and other well-known sites have de facto protection as a result of their international importance; however, community mosques, churches, and shrines often faced threats from developers and municipalities that Jewish sites did not face. Christian pilgrimage sites around the Sea of Galilee faced regular threats of encroachment from district planners who wanted to use parts of the properties for recreation.
The just-released 2009 US State Department International Report on Religious Freedom reiterates the problems noted in the previous year’s report:
The 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law applies to holy sites of all religious groups within the country and in all of Jerusalem, but the Government implements regulations only for Jewish sites. Non-Jewish holy sites do not enjoy legal protection under it because the Government does not recognize them as official holy sites. At the end of 2008, there were 137 designated holy sites, all of which were Jewish. Furthermore, the Government has drafted regulations to identify, protect, and fund only Jewish holy sites. While well-known sites have de facto protection as a result of their international importance, many Muslim and Christian sites are neglected, inaccessible, or threatened by property developers and municipalities. The Christian pilgrimage sites around the Sea of Galilee face periodic threats of encroachment from district planners who want to use parts of their properties for recreation. In the past, only diplomatic interventions have forestalled such efforts. Such sites do, however, enjoy certain protections under the general Penal Law (criminal code), which makes it a criminal offense to damage any holy site. Following a 2007 order by the High Court to explain its unequal implementation of the 1967 Protection of Holy Sites Law, the Government responded in March 2008 that specific regulations were not necessary for the protection of any holy sites. The Government did not explain why it therefore promulgated regulations for Jewish sites but not for non-Jewish sites.
Donations to the United Israel Appeal are tax deductible so untaxed Australian income can be diverted overseas to fund Israeli ‘national heritage’ projects in the illegally occupied West Bank. Frank Lowy is a Life Governor of the UIA while son Steven Lowy is Chairman, Major Donor Division.
Frank Lowy’s money ended up in Israeli charities from his untaxed Liechenstein bank accounts.
And this is from the Murdoch press back home:
Just prior to being appointed to the RBA board in 1995, Frank Lowy paid $25million to settle a long-running tax dispute with the Australian Taxation Office.
That dispute related to a $48.3 million payment received by a Lowy family company, Cordera Holdings. Three days after a court hearing began, a settlement was reached. In mid-February this year, German tax authorities conducted raids on dozens of prominent businessman for allegedly using Liechtenstein bank accounts, and two weeks later the ATO announced there were 20 audit cases under way relating to funds in Liechtenstein ranging from $200,000 to millions of dollars.
Why hasn’t the ATO done anything about this yet? Any reporters asking questions over here? Or is Lowy too powerful on his home pitch?
The Murdoch media repeatedly stresses that:
There is no suggestion the Lowys are the subject of the Australian or US investigations.
No, they are just being called to give evidence at a Senate inquiry about dodgy tax schemes, where they have previous form. I am sure they are just popping in for a little chat, that’s all. Lowy was also linked to a corruption scandal involving Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, but I’m sure that Mr Olmert is just a very nice man too.
But according to Lowy, those Israeli charities got ALL the money:
“The report fails to mention the fact that all of the funds held in the structure in the Liechtenstein bank were distributed for charitable purposes in Israel some years ago,” he said.
Lowy is a long-term donator to Keren Hayesod.
Brog, who described Lowy’s politics in Israel as “centre-left”, said he believed he had also been a strong supporter of, and donor to, the Labour Party. He had also been a “very, very generous donor to Keren Hayesod” since the 1980s, Brog said.
“And I would expect that that financial support has only increased in the years since.”
According to a handful of Australian and Israeli businessmen who are active in Israel and keep an eye on Lowy’s movements in that country, the money that he puts into the Institute for National Security Studies and Keren Hayesod are the two main concerns he devotes time to outside his business interests.
When visiting the Cave of the Patriarchs one must not only explore the well-tended and re-paved Jewish part of the cave. One must also enter the Muslim side, though access is not as convenient. You can also visit the deserted Shuhada Street with the ubiquitous IDF positions everywhere. Tamar Golan and Michal Tsadik from Machsom Watch
Asked about the politicization of national heritage sites, he answers very seriously: “The fact that we are located within the Prime Minister’s Office gives us a status and presence that we wouldn’t have if we were part of a ministry. It is impossible to ignore us. Everyone sees us as the right people to approach.”
He says the prime minister and cabinet secretary are involved and interested in the national heritage project, but do not dictate what is to be done. Furthermore, recent cuts at government ministries did not affect his project.
“The decision to place heritage sites on the agenda is a legitimate political decision, but that is where the politics stops. Beyond that, everything stems from professional considerations. There is a lot of pressure on us, but it comes from local council heads. Many of them think I have piles of money to distribute.”
The list of 220 proposed sites includes 30 in the West Bank. Five have either been approved or have a good chance of getting the green light for financial support and development from Pinsker and his colleagues. But the issue of whether a potential site is located inside or outside the Green Line does not seem relevant to Pinsky. “The question from my perspective is: How many visitors could we bring to the site after we decide to invest in it? It doesn’t matter to me if it’s in Judea and Samaria or Tel Aviv.”
Pinsky says he is, however, aware of the criticism the project may encounter. “If someone suggests building an elevator in the Cave of the Patriarchs, because it is an important site, I would consider this based on its merits,” he explains. “But because the site is a sensitive place, I would first submit a recommendation to the prime minister. I would not promote it on my own.”
Pinsky gently criticizes the council heads in West Bank areas who, he says, “thought that the fact that a kippah-wearer was appointed to the job guarantees that their issues would be taken care of. Very quickly they realized things don’t work that way and that we arrive at our decisions in a very focused way.”
How much do we know about Frank Lowy and his beloved Israel?
Lowy’s Israeli Charities?
The secret Auschwitz ceremony that Ehud Olmert exposed
Introducing the Jewish National Fund Vol1 [pdf]
Preparing for Legal Action: Focus on Canada Park Vol2 [pdf]
Ongoing Ethnic Cleansing: Judaising the Naqab [pdf]
Greenwashing Apartheid Vol4 [pdf]
At last year’s UIA gala fundraiser in Sydney, president Bruce Fink said it had raised $16 million, making it the “highest per capita campaign in the Keren Hayesod world.”
Shopping mall magnate Frank Lowy, a life governor of the UIA who fought in the 1948 War of Independence, reminded the 1,000-plus donors in the audience of the countless lives lost defending Israel. “We must recognize our responsibilities and pay our dues,” Lowy said.
Burla believes discontent is mounting among the younger generation of Australian Jews, despite the country being “arguably the most Zionist Jewish community in the Diaspora.”
“In particular, the lack of trust reflects a growing sense among the younger generation of the Australian Diaspora that Israel sees Australian Jewry as a resource that can be used for its own needs, without any accountability or mutual responsibility,” Burla wrote at the time of the scandal surrounding the death of Australian-born Ben Zygier, an alleged Mossad agent who committed suicide inside an Israeli maximum-security prison in 2010.