Australian Zionist Organisation Funding Appropriation of West Bank Sites

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‘A major Zionist organization has withdrawn an advertisement because it featured images mocking the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.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.

In October, the Israel-based parent body of the United Israel Appeal, Keren Hayesod, sealed a deal with the Israeli government.

‘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.’.

As is customary with its illegal apartheid wall, the majority of which is sited on the Palestinian land across the 1967 Green Line, Israel stretches the boundaries of what it regards as ‘national’.

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.”

What is Keren Hayesod’s relationship with the Jewish Agency?

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.


Translation: Visiting Hebron is a must, but do make sure you see everything

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

Israeli education: Molding fascists, one student at a time
The Tax-Exempt Status of Charities that Support Israeli Settlements

UPDATE 6/2/12

The theft by heritage stealth continues:

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.”

Related Links

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.

15 Replies to “Australian Zionist Organisation Funding Appropriation of West Bank Sites”

  1. Israel appropriating historical sites for colonial ends

    Moves by the Israeli government and settler movement to appropriate historical sites undermine Palestinian cultural rights and highlight how Israel exploits archaeological claims for colonial ends.

    Last spring, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declared the Ibrahimi Mosque/Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron and the Bilal Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb outside Bethlehem to be “Israeli national heritage sites.” As The Electronic Intifada has reported since, the State of Israel seems to have two approaches to Palestine’s ancient sites. If, like the sites Netanyahu claimed or the remains at Sebastia, they fit into Israeli narratives about the Jewish history of the region, they are appropriated, renovated and incorporated into “archaeological parks.” If, like excavated finds and important buildings in Gaza, they highlight ancient Philistine or more recent Islamic periods of history, they can be bombed along with Gaza’s residents, or simply allowed to decay as vital conservation chemicals are excluded by the blockade. As an American-accented tour guide, overheard in Jerusalem’s Haram al-Sharif in October 2010, put it: “Having worked on two or three archaeological digs here [in Jerusalem], I can tell you that if anything is between 200 and 500 years old, it just gets tossed. It’s nothing.”

  2. Palestinians want Bethlehem on UN heritage list

    The Palestinian Authority is to launch a campaign to get the West Bank town of Bethlehem, Jesus’s traditional birthplace, added to UNESCO’s list of world heritage sites, officials said on Sunday.

    The Palestinian tourism ministry will launch the drive on Monday to get the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation to recognise the “Birthplace of Jesus: Church of the Nativity and the Pilgrimage route,” to their list, a ministry statement said.

    “Palestine is home to some of the most important heritage sites in the world. One of the most striking and universally significant is the Old City of Bethlehem and the birthplace of Jesus,” the statement quoted Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat as saying.

    “The Palestinians are eager to share their heritage with the rest of the world,” he added.

    The heritage of the Holy Land has taken on central role in the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

    Last November Israel reduced its cooperation with UNESCO in protest at its description of Rachel’s Tomb, a Jewish holy site near Bethlehem, as a mosque.

    Rachel’s Tomb, built over what is believed to be the burial place of the biblical matriarch, is the third holiest site in Judaism, but also considered a holy place for Muslims.

    Earlier this year, Israel announced plans to include Rachel’s Tomb and the Tomb of the Patriarchs in a national heritage restoration plan, a decision criticised by UNESCO as “escalating tension” in the area.

    Israel defended the decision at the time, saying the plan involved only restoration work and promising there would be no attempt to change the delicate status quo at these sites.

  3. UNESCO’s decisions 21 Oct 2010

    Executive Board adopts five decisions concerning UNESCO’s work in the occupied Palestinian and Arab Territories

    The Palestinian sites of al-Haram al-Ibrahimi/Tomb of the Patriarchs in al-Khalil/Hebron and the Bilal bin Rabah Mosque/Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem: the Board voted 44 to one (12 abstentions) to reaffirm that the two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian Territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law, the UNESCO Conventions and the United Nations and Security Council resolutions.

    Israel joined UNESCO on the 16th September, 1949.

    Permanent Delegation of Israel to UNESCO

    Ambassade d’Israël
    3, rue Rabelais
    75008 PARIS

    H. E. Mr Nimrod Barkan
    Permanent Delegate (2/16/2010)

    Ms Michal Pelosof
    Chargée de Mission
    Office: Ambassade d’Israël 3, rue Rabelais 75008 Paris

    Evangelicals are in partnership with the Jewish Agency: – from EI 6 Jan 2008″

    After raising more than two hundred million dollars for various projects in Israel, Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews (IFCJ), the organization he founded and is president of, has hit pay-dirt.

    In late December, the Jewish Agency for Israel, which helped found the state of Israel, announced that the IFCJ “will be declared a funding partner of the Jewish Agency … [and] Eckstein will … receive new voting powers that will include spots on the committees that oversee the agency’s budget and that meet with the prime minister and his Cabinet”.

    The announcement indicates a major shift in agency policy. Nearly 10 years ago, the head of the Jewish Agency “refused to be photographed taking a check” from Eckstein. “Now, it has publicly, and apparently proudly, acknowledged that the IFCJ would be donating 45 million dollars to the agency over the next three years, almost all of it raised from evangelical Christians in North America,”

    The Forward reported that the agreement, which is pending approval by the agency’s board, states that the IFCJ will donate 15 million dollars a year to its “core budget for immigration and resettlement, historically IFCJ priorities.”

    The donation is nearly double last year’s eight million dollars. The IFCJ will also be designated a “funding partner” of the Jewish Agency, a status previously shared only by United Jewish Communities, the umbrella organization for US federations, and Keren Hayesod, which represents international federations.

  4. February 22, 2010 in JPost:

    Dayan “congratulated the prime minister” for recognizing that the two sites must be on the national heritage list.

    “Their omission was unacceptable. It made the list a political one and not a historical one,” he said.

    But while the addition of the two sites was “a good beginning,” he said, there are many more historical sites in Judea and Samaria that should be included.

    Dayan said the council plans to continue to lobby to include other sites such as Shilo, Beit El and Joseph’s Tomb on the outskirts of Nablus.

    In the past few days the council lobbied the government on behalf of the Cave of the Patriarchs and wrote a letter to Netanyahu.

    Parliamentarians such as those in the Lobby for Greater Israel and individual MKs, including Ophir Akunis (Likud), visited Hebron and contacted the Prime Minister’s Office.

    Not all West Bank sites were excluded from the initial list, however. Herodian, Qumran and Sussiya were there already.

  5. Israel suspends ties with U.N. body:

    Israel suspended ties with the cultural body of the United Nations over its decision to classify the Cave of the Patriarchs and Rachel’s Tomb as Palestinian.

    “Israel rejects all five of UNESCO’s decisions and has no intention of cooperating with the organization,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon announced Wednesday evening in Jerusalem.

    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision last week in a statement, saying that “The attempt to detach the people of Israel from its heritage is absurd. If the places where the fathers and mothers of the Jewish nation are buried, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah and Rachel some 4,000 years ago are not part of the Jewish heritage, then what is?

    “It is regrettable,” the Israeli leader added, “that the organization established to promote historical heritage sites worldwide is trying for political reasons to detach the ties between the Jewish people and their heritage.”

    In February, Netanyahu included both sites on the country’s new national heritage list and allocated money to refurbish them. The decision was condemned throughout the international community; UNESCO asked Israel to remove the sites from the list.

  6. PM slams UNESCO calling Rachel’s Tomb a mosque (JPost:

    “The attempt to disconnect the nation of Israel from its heritage is absurd,” he said in a statement his office issued on Friday, in response to an October 21 decision regarding both sites by the executive board of the United Nation’s Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO.

    “If the places where the Jewish nation’s forefathers and mothers – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel – were buried 4,000 years ago is not part of the Jewish nation’s heritage, then what is a heritage site?” Netanyahu asked.

    He said he “regretted that an organization which was created to promote the heritage of historical sites around the world, was trying for political reasons to uproot the connection between the nation of Israel and its heritage. This attempt won’t succeed. The nation of Israel, unlike our neighbors, will continue to preserve freedom of worship for all religions.”

    In its press statement UNESCO referred to both sites, first by their Muslim names and then by their Jewish ones.

    It reaffirmed that the “two sites are an integral part of the occupied Palestinian territories and that any unilateral action by the Israeli authorities is to be considered a violation of international law, the UNESCO Conventions and the United Nations and Security Council resolutions.”

  7. Relevant parts of the Australian Greens policy on Israel and Palestine state:

    1.4 oppose Israel’s ongoing occupation of the Palestinian territories and the expropriation of Palestinian land
    and resources for its settlements;


    o an end to Australian taxation deductions for donations to states, institutions and organisations
    engaged in violation of human rights including settlement activity, and the harassment, shooting and
    killing of civilians.

    Hoping the Greens will be able to follow up on the tax deductability of UIA donations which go to its parent body, Keren Hayesod.

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