Eight groups representing tens of thousands of people in the United States, Palestine and Israel have called on the Marriott Marquis hotel in Manhattan to cancel the 17 November dinner for the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund aiming to raise money for Israeli settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank city of Hebron. In a 7 November letter the groups stated: “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.” The signers of the letter include Adalah-NY, Coalition of Women for Peace, (Israel), Gush Shalom (Israel), Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee, US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and WESPAC Foundation. Adalah-NY has called for a protest at the hotel on 17 November if the dinner is not cancelled.
Kathleen Duffy, a spokesperson for Marriott in New York City, told Adalah-NY on 12 November that the dinner will go ahead. Duffy did not respond directly to questions about seeming violations of the Marriott’s Human Rights Policy Statement which notes the Marriott’s respect for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and says that the Marriott endeavors to remain “free from complicity in human rights abuses.” All Israeli settlements violate international law, according to a broad international consensus. Duffy noted that in the past the Marriott cancelled the event of a group linked with white supremacist David Duke. On the Hebron Fund webpage, clicking on the symbol which says “Give to Hebron” leads 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.” In a report on Hebron, the Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and the Association for Civil Rights in Israel (ACRI) have labeled the demands of Hebron’s settlers as “racist.”
Aaron Levitt of Jews Against the Occupation-NYC explains, “As a Jew who has worked in Hebron as a human rights monitor, I’m dismayed that the Marriott is facilitating fundraising for Hebron’s violent Jewish settlers. One example of this violence is the ritual stoning by Israeli settler youth of Palestinian girls walking to the Cordoba School in Tel Rumeida, Hebron. Each day, several dozen young girls hurried to their schoolhouse, huddled together, past the entrance of the magnificent new settlement synagogue. And each day settler youths standing in front of their synagogue would hurl a barrage of stones at the passing girls. The attackers’ parents did nothing, or watched in approving silence. The settlers’ violence, and my own shame, was worst on Shabbat, when sometimes I would stare at the beautiful synagogue, wondering what corrupted version of my faith was practiced there.”
In Hebron 700 Israeli settlers, living amidst 150,000 Palestinians, are attempting to expand their hold on the historic old city by expelling Palestinian residents, and connecting their settlements to the neighboring settlement of Kiryat Arba. According to B’Tselem and ACRI, Hebron’s settlers’ attacks on Palestinians have included “physical assault, including beatings, at times with clubs, stone throwing, hurling of refuse, sand, water, chlorine … destruction of shops and doors, shattering of windows, thefts, cutting of fruit trees, destruction of merchants’ stands.” Defence for Children International-Palestine Section has also documented settler attacks on Palestinian children in Hebron. In 1994, Baruch Goldstein, a Hebron settler who grew up in Brooklyn, executed 29 Palestinians as they prayed at a mosque in Hebron.
In a 24 September 2008 radio interview, 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.” Creating “facts on the ground” is the mantra of the Israeli settlement movement. 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.” The Hebron Fund has launched other, similar fundraising appeals for settlements.
A 25 August 2008 Reuters article noted the seeming contradiction that “The United States says Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank threaten any peace between Israel and the Palestinians — yet it also encourages Americans to help support settlers by offering tax breaks on donations.” Reuters notes that US non-profits like the Hebron Fund fundraise for settlements even as US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “has pressed Israel to cut its own financial incentives for settlers.” According to the Hebron Funds US tax forms obtained by Adalah-NY, the organization has raised $10.4 million for Hebron’s settlers from 2000-2006. The Hebron Fund’s 1982 “Certificate of Incorporation” as a not-for-profit, also obtained by Adalah-NY, says the purpose of the organization is to “advance public knowledge and disseminate information,” and to raise money for various “educational, religious and medical institutions located in Hebron.” There is no mention of settlement construction.