Dec 13, 2010

Funding illegal Israeli settlements?

Visa, Mastercard and PayPal have all blacklisted Wikileaks, but they enable donations to West Bank settlements that breach both international and in some cases Israeli law - and worse.

Bernard Keane — Politics editor

Bernard Keane

Politics editor

Visa, Mastercard and PayPal all enable donations to be made to US-registered groups funding illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank in defiance of international law. It appears at least one of the major credit cards also enables donations to an extremist Jewish group that has placed a bounty on the lives of Palestinians. All three have in the last week ceased enabling donations to WikiLeaks. Neither Mastercard nor Visa have explained the basis for their decision to do so. PayPal has backed away from its initial claim that the US State Department told PayPal WikiLeaks had broken the law after the claim was discredited. This is the third occasion on which PayPal has suspended payment services for WikiLeaks. Israel subsidises over 100 settlements in the West Bank in defiance of international law. Another 100+ are “illegal outposts” even under Israeli law. All benefit from extensive support from the United States, channelled through a range of Jewish and right-wing Christian bodies, all of which have charitable status under US law. The International Crisis Group’s report on settlements in July 2009 identified the important role played by US charities. Israeli newspaper Haaretz has investigated the strong support provided via US charities, and Israeli peace groups have also targeted the generous support provided via private donations from the US and Canada. Credit card transactional systems play a key role in facilitating this support for illegal settlements. Here are some examples.
  • The Shuva Israel group, an evangelical Christian group based in Texas, is accused by Israeli group Gush Shalom of channelling money to fund the illegal West Bank settlement of Revava. You can donate to it, says the Shuva Israel website, via Mastercard, Visa and Paypal.
  • The One Israel Fund, used as an example in the International Crisis Group report, boasts of being “the largest North American charity whose efforts are dedicated solely to the citizens and communities of Yesha”. You can donate to the One Israel Fund, according to its website, via Mastercard, Visa and Amex.
  • The website of another right-wing Christian group, the Christian Friends of Israeli Communities describes support for settlements like Argaman, which are illegal under international law. You can donate, their website says, via Mastercard, Visa and PayPal.
  • One of the highest-profile groups is the Hebron Fund, the centre of a 2009 row when the New York Mets were criticised for hosting a fundraising dinner for the group. It provides extensive support for the extraordinarily aggressive Hebron settlement, described by one Israeli group as “an ongoing war crime”, while the Fund itself has been linked to praise for an Israeli mass murderer. According to its website, it receives donations via all major credit cards.
  • Worst of all is the extremist SOS Israel group, which has incurred even the wrath of the Israeli Defence Force by rewarding Israeli soldiers who disobey orders to evict settlers from illegal outposts (i.e. inciting mutiny), and which has offered a bounty for Palestinians shot by IDF soldiers. The SOS Israel website describes a number of ways you can make your “generous donation” to it, including credit cards. Crikey’s token $2 donation via a Visa card was successful last night.
At this stage WikiLeaks has breached no international law and no laws of any country, but Mastercard, Visa and PayPal have all blacklisted it. All three continue to enable the support of settlements that are in breach of international law, in some cases of Israeli law, and in defiance of US policy on settlements under successive Republican and Democrat administrations. Crikey invited Visa, Paypal and Mastercard to comment but none had responded by deadline.

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48 thoughts on “Funding illegal Israeli settlements?

  1. David

    The hypocrisy of Mastercard, Visa and PayPal is immense, ditto their faceless masters.

  2. shepherdmarilyn

    Rudd at least gets the point, unlike many others.

    Although if you want hypocrisy – he visits a holocaust museum and points out our perfidy in locking the gates to Jewish refugees before WW11 yet he did the same to Sri Lankans just last year and is trying to do the same to Afghans now.

  3. Scott

    Surely there is no obligation for these companies to provide services to everyone. I know lots of businesses that won’t deal with big tobacco due to ideological stands. And that’s fine as long as they do not break trade practices/discrimination law. Companies can offer/deny services to who ever they want. Wouldn’t be the first time companies incorporated in the US feel a little patriotic.
    The only issue here is that there seems to be a contract breach between these payment services companies and wikileaks, which wikileaks is perfectly entitled to take up with the courts.

  4. Mick

    In a nutshell, the companies refuse service to WL based on the _possibility_ it may have done something illegal.

    And yet all those other organisations are sending funds for illegal purposes (the UN, US and even Israel agree on that) and yet they continue to give _them_ service.

    PP made a statement summing up their position

    If they’d said “We don’t like WL so we won’t offer them service”, then that’d be fine. It’s when they jump on their high horse and try to make it appear they are taking the high moral ground about it that they look like a pack of hypocritical muffins.

  5. crapocular

    Stories such as this seem to be auguries for a descent into a new dark age, with no accountability in any official system, and indeed no system of principles at all. I know nothing is perfect (and certainly never has been) but this is incontrovertibly a turn for the worse.

    The only upside from these extralegal attacks on Wikileaks is that they confirm the substance of the leaks perfectly – the downside is that they make me want to take my credit cards and buy a whole bunch of canned victuals for the bunker.

  6. Michael James

    Bernard, you claim that “At this stage WikiLeaks has breached no international law and no laws of any country” however receiving and trafficking in stolen goods (which the US Diplomatic and Military documents most assuredly are), is usually considered a crime in most jurisdictions.

  7. 922870

    A good article that I think will help clarify and contrast the characteristics of the WikiLeaks funding controversy for those who haven’t yet fully understood the grave implications of this whole mess!

  8. crapocular


    “Any copyright action leveled against WikiLeaks for the release of a quarter of a million secret United States government cables would be a “grotesque misuse” of copyright law, says an expert in intellectual property.”

    Copyright law is the law of property pertinent to this situation – I think this quote (provided by Crikey here:

    resolves the question of whether Wikileaks has been “receiving and trafficking in stolen goods”

  9. SusieQ

    Michael James, as yet, no one at Wikileaks has been charged with anything to do with any stolen documents, so how can you make such a statement?

    As for the article itself, its seems business is business is business and you can be as hypocritical and immoral as you like, as long as you make money.

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