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Israeli settler cash is polluting US politics. It's time Democrats turned it down Open in fullscreen

Josh Ruebner

Israeli settler cash is polluting US politics. It's time Democrats turned it down

Falic family members have given more than $200,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee [Getty]

Date of publication: 29 August, 2019

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Comment: Democrats should refuse big campaign money from this Israeli family whose 'charitable' giving is helping displace Palestinians, writes Josh Ruebner.
Last month, the Associated Press ran an extensive investigation into the so-called charitable giving of the Falic family, which owns Duty Free Americas shops in more than 180 airports in the United States and Latin America.

Over the course of the previous 10 years, the family, through its Segal Foundation in Israel, has donated at least $5.6 million to far-right extremist Israeli causes.

Most of these donations are funneled through Panamanian companies to obscure their provenance. The "lack of transparency there makes tracking their donations more difficult," AP noted.

Nevertheless, AP was still able to uncover disturbing information about the recipients of the Falics' largesse by examining Israeli public records.

They gave more than $1 million to causes associated with Ateret Cohanim, a group which is accused of obscuring real estate transactions to replace Palestinians with religious, nationalistic Jewish Israelis in the heart of the Israeli-occupied Old City of Jerusalem.

The Falics also donated nearly $1 million to various institutions to support the virulently anti-Palestinian, illegal Israeli settlement enclave in Hebron, including supporting causes connected to Baruch Marzel, a former aide to Meir Kahane, whose organisation Kach is deemed a terrorist organisation by the United States.

Two organisations that support replacing the al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem - the third holiest site in Islam - with a third Jewish Temple on that site also received more than $100,000 from the Falics.

Those on the Democratic side of the aisle have received nearly $1.3 million from Falic family members

In addition to this ostensible "charitable" giving, the Falics are also generous donors to the current Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whose wars and frequent attacks against Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip have killed more than 1,000 civilians, and who has patronised the Israeli colonisation movement and sworn to prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state.

In fact, their contributions of more than $100,000 makes the family the largest donor to Netanyahu's coffers.

Not only do members of the Falic family attempt to advance their extremist agenda through Israeli institutions and politicians. They are also prolific political donors in the United States, making more than 1,400 contributions totaling more than $4.2 million since 1996, according to data shared with The New Arab by the Center for Responsive Politics.

Of that total, members of the Falic family have donated $2.4 million (57.2 percent) to Republican candidates, committees and PACs. Those on the Democratic side of the aisle have received nearly $1.3 million (30.3 percent) from Falic family members. (The remaining 12.5 percent of political donations were made to independent candidates, and committees and PAC's not categorised on a partisan basis by the Center for Responsive Politics.)

It is unsurprising that a family which supports extremist Israeli causes would seek to advance its political agenda in the United States by contributing a majority of its political donations to the GOP. After all, according to a 2018 Pew Research Center public opinion poll, Republicans sympathised more with Israel than with Palestinians by a whopping margin of 79-6.

At the urging of Donald Trump, the GOP adopted a platform in 2016 voiding its former support for Palestinian statehood and denying that Israel held Palestinian territory under military occupation. 

The Trump administration has followed with the most incontrovertibly biased policy of any previous administration by moving the US Embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, cutting off economic assistance to Palestinians and UNRWA, and closing the PLO Embassy in Washington. (Trump received more than $32,000 in donations from Falic family members in 2018.)

What is more surprising, however, is that the Falic family generously distributes its political giving to Democratic candidates and committees as well, even as the base of the Democratic Party and some Democratic Members of Congress increasingly embrace Palestinian rights.

By looking into the particulars of their giving to Democratic candidates, however, the Falics' bipartisan contributions make more sense. Unsurprisingly, a large part of their donations to Democratic candidates go to Members of Congress who are bucking the trend of their party by remaining unflinching supporters of Israel's policies. 

These include: Disgraced former Democratic National Committee chair Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz ($66,500); author of the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a failed bill which could have imprisoned people for 20 years for boycotting for Palestinian rights, Rep. Juan Vargas ($60,600); chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Eliot Engel ($37,100); ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee Sen. Bob Menendez ($28,600); second-term pro-Israel Rep. Josh Gottheimer ($21,600), chair of the Middle East subcommittee of the Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ted Deutsch ($13,300), and pro-Israel Floridian Rep. Lois Frankel ($12,600).

Why is the DCCC accepting contributions from a family whose policy agenda toward Israel and the Palestinian people is diametrically opposed to the Democratic Party's platform?

Nevertheless, these pro-Israel Members of Congress, who all notionally support the establishment of a Palestinian state should explain why they are taking big campaign money from a family whose "charitable" giving is helping to displace Palestinians from their homes and further Israel's colonisation drive.

Falic family members have also given more than $200,000 to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), an important institution which provides crucial national visibility for and support to select Democratic candidates for the House.

Why is the DCCC accepting contributions from a family whose policy agenda toward Israel and the Palestinian people is diametrically opposed to the Democratic Party's platform on the issue, which supports the establishment of a Palestinian state that "provides the Palestinians with independence, sovereignty, and dignity"?

And why does the DCCC willingly accept funds from a family which is also the largest bankroller of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who repeatedly attempted to humiliate and abase President Barack Obama, most prominently by conspiring with Republicans in the House to publicly undermine the Obama administration's signature foreign policy accomplishment - the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran?

Perhaps most surprisingly, the Falic family's donations to Democrats even extend to a few Members of Congress who have taken bold stances in support of Palestinian rights.

For example, Rep. Joaquin Castro, who is a cosponsor of a resolution reaffirming the First Amendment right of people to boycott - pushing back against legislative efforts to criminalise boycotts for Palestinian rights - has received $28,600 from Falic family members.

Democratic Members of Congress who support Palestinian human rights should take no further contributions from a family that is bankrolling a racist, colonialist Israeli policy

Former chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and solidly pro-Palestinian rights voter for many years, Rep. Raúl Grijalva, has received $15,600 from the Falics. And Sen. Chris Van Hollen, who gave a blistering Senate floor speech in support of the right to boycott for Palestinian rights earlier this year, also received $2,700.

Presumably neither these progressive Members of Congress nor the Falic family did their due diligence regarding these donations.

Hopefully Democratic Members of Congress who support Palestinian human rights will take no further contributions, and return past contributions, from a family that is bankrolling a racist, colonialist Israeli policy which is at odds with their values and policy positions.    


Josh Ruebner is senior principal at Progress Up Consulting and author of Israel: Democracy or Apartheid State? and Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace.

Follow him on Twitter: @joshruebner

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

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