Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Time for some prosecutions

At last! Thanks to the Supreme Court we now have a tool to prosecute people in the United States who are financing terrorism in the Middle East.

You may have heard of the Supreme Court's recent decision in Holder v. Humanitarian Law Project.

Under the law, It is a federal crime to "knowingly provid[e] material support or resources to a foreign terrorist organization." 18 U. S. C. §2339B(a)(1). The authority to designate an entity a "foreign terrorist organization" rests with the Secretary of State, and is subject to judicial review. "[T]he term 'material support or resources' means any property, tangible or intangible, or service, including currency or monetary instruments or financial securities, financial services, lodging, training, expert advice or assistance, safehouses, false documentation or identification, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, lethal substances, explosives, personnel (1 or more individuals who may be or include oneself), and transportation, except medicine or religious materials." §2339A(b)(1).

The Supreme Court, in one of its last decisions this term, held that Americans who provide aid to organizations that engage in terrorist activities can be criminally prosecuted for violating this law, even if the assistance they provide is designated to support humanitarian, not terrorist, activities.

This week the Times published an investigation of American assistance to terrorist activities in the Middle East, but I suspect we won't be seeing prosecutions any time soon.

As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.

A New York Times examination of public records in the United States and Israel identified at least 40 American groups that have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade. The money goes mostly to schools, synagogues, recreation centers and the like, legitimate expenditures under the tax law. But it has also paid for more legally questionable commodities: housing as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas.

That's right: Americans are getting tax deductions for giving money to support the terrorist activities of the Israeli government: building settlements in occupied territories and maintaining what Jimmy Carter has rightly characterized as a system of apartheid in the occupied territories.

The outposts receiving tax-deductible donations — distinct from established settlements financed by Israel’s government — are illegal under Israeli law. And a decade ago, Israel ended tax breaks for contributions to groups devoted exclusively to settlement-building in the West Bank.

So tell me: Is the United States really opposed to terrorism, or do our allies get a break on that?

We know who's making the contributions because they're claiming an income tax deduction. Somehow, though, I suspect we shouldn't hold our breath waiting for the first prosecution.

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