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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.


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 https://www.thepaypalblog.com/2010/12/updated-statement-about-wikileaks-from-paypal-general-counsel-john-muller/

    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.

  10. Mick

    What happened with the banks in the GFC already confirmed that Susieq 🙁

  11. Elan

    Weeeeellll the US backs their Israeli mates, but not Wicked Wicky.

    I mean; really? What is a card system do? Be reasonable.

    ………………..and of course this type of ethical behaviour will continue and thrive whilst the enablers- the BOTBOM (boil on the…..) will pop up everywhere to justify such behaviour.

  12. Barry Brunning

    Actually WikiLeaks is a publishing organisation for whistleblower leaks. As the case of
    Katharine Gun showed whistle-blowing can be protected action for the whistleblower and a public service by the publisher. For goodness sake get the facts, look at the history of WikiLeaks at Wikipedia.org.

    But back to the point of companies and their obligation. When you have an effective international duopoly in credit cards as is the case with MC and Visa, I believe there needs to be different rules. I often make donations to charities, NGO’s, etc. usually with MC. As a result of their action I cannot donate to WikiLeaks or the defence of Julian Assange in a convenient manner. Consequently, I plan to use cash or AmEx this Christmas wherever possible and I trust many other fair-minded people will choose to do likewise. Sadly the choice to use cash or AmEx cannot be universal, which illustrates my point about a duopoly, which should not be able to frustrate transactions at its discretion.

  13. twobob

    I will not be using pay-pal any more.

    The only thing these ‘private’ companies will understand is money. Stop using their services and find alternatives and they will grow a social conscience quick smart.
    Ignore it and they sooner or later it will be your own life or livelihood ruined on a whim.

    Michael james do you understand the definition of trafficking? If you do and still think your definition fits this story please post a link to the definition that suits your purpose so we can all laugh at your foolishness.

  14. Elan


  15. Scott

    @Susieq, The business argument is usually that, to quote the great Milton Friedman, “there is one and only one social responsibility of business–to use its resources and engage in activities designed to increase its profits”

    The idea is that business lacks the knowledge, skills and inclination to be the arbitrator of morality. That task should be left to governments and people themselves. Business should just make money (within the laws set out by governments), deliver funds to its stakeholders, such as employees and shareholders, who are then free to decide for themselves who to reward with their custom or charity; to reward or punish those they don’t agree with.

    Speaking for myself, I don’t know whether that is true. Companies are made up of people after all and a company’s inclinations usually mirror it’s board and management. If those companies adhered to a true instrumental philosophy of CSR, paypal and the rest shouldn’t have banned wikileaks, since it was a source of revenue 🙂 Still Americans pride themselves on their patriotism, so it’s understandable why the board and management might decide to make an example here, as opposed to the Israeli examples listed by Bernard (which don’t play into anti-americanism). Generally, I have no real problem with hypocrisy…it is not a bad thing to state an ideal and then fail to quite live up to it.

  16. joepierce1988

    The only thing these ‘private’ companies will understand is money. Stop using their services and find alternatives and they will grow a social conscience quick smart.
    Ignore it and they sooner or later it will be your own life or livelihood ruined on a whim.

    chocolate suppliers

  17. freecountry

    So Visa, Mastercard and PayPal have taken a stand and stopped selling one of their standard business services–acting as the middleman for processing donations–to Wikileaks. But there are other organisations which they have not, so far, taken a similar stand against.

    That’s like saying, I joined a boycott against dealing with A, but at this stage I have not boycotted B, therefore I must be actively endorsing B and I am guilty of all B’s crimes. For such a cheap beat-up, complete with the hysterical anti-Isr@el element, I nominate Crikey for its own Wankley Award.

  18. whoknows

    It shows it’s not about what is right or wrong, moral or legal – it’s about discriminate pressure to cause a reduction and hopefully (in their case) a weakened ability by WL’s to operate against the established way of “doing business”. The big end of town makes a few calls to suggest a course of action.

    I wonder what company (say one like Haliburton, BP or Shell for instance) would accept pre-trial judgement and assasination calls from government(s), slurred sexual charges against a CEO and detained arrest while the charge is mounted, yet to be filed.

    Whether one agrees with WL’s or not, the suffocation of free speech and a right to a fair trial can be snuffed out any time those who call the shots worldwide choose.

    This is alarming!

  19. Malice In Wonderland


    You appear to have missed the point.

    Visa, Mastercard and PayPal have stated quite clearly that they have “taken a stand”, as you put it, because they claim what Wikileaks is doing is illegal.

    Hence what is being demonstrated by this article is the inherent hypocrisy of these organisations since they clearly HAVE NO PROBLEMS turn a blind eye to other groups who are operating in clear violation of International Laws.

    Can I also remind you that, as yet, there are been no charges laid against Wikileaks.

  20. botswana bob

    These arrogant Amerikan corporations make me vomit. As was pointed out in a post to CRIKEY, you can donate to the KuKluxKlan using VISA/MC.
    Lets hope someone comes up with an alternative. I think there would be a stampede of customers leaving these corporate creepos.

  21. monkeywrench

    We have a lot of work to do here. This society is being stunted by its “Hero Politicians” who claim to be changing the paradigm, but are fucking us over in the same old style of the Howards and Thatchers. We need a freakin’ good rout.

  22. Ian

    I would definitely boycott Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and Amazon if I used them. I don’t and I won’t. I will be boycotting Julia Gillard however and any other “leader” or politician who joins the US and its anti-Wikileaks bandwagon.

  23. Ian

    Ordinary people who support government’s use of secrecy to conduct business that is not genuinely sensitive stuff are shooting themselves in the foot. Ordinary citizens don’t generally clamour for war or to pursue unethical causes and interventions, why should we let our governments do these things on our behalf?

  24. MLF

    “We don’t generally clamour for war” but we expect the state to keep us safe and free.

    We don’t “pursue unethical causes or interventions” but we’re not exactly open-armed welcoming to the less fortunate people from war-torn or ravenously under-developed countries. We like our cheap goods imported from SE Asia where people work in horrible conditions for little pay and poor prospects for prosperity.

    We may try to do good and be good – but we ‘aint perfect.

    We should hold our governments to a higher standard of accountability. But a higher standard of morality?

  25. botswana bob

    Proving the Coles-Woolies political duopoly is a load of laughs I gather George Brandis has come out with a statement that Wikileaks hasn’t broken any laws but the coalition takes a moral stand against them. A moral stand from a mob that when in government put refugee children in what were effectively concentration camps (who can forget Ruddock referring to a psychologically damaged child as “it”), said and did nothing when America imprisoned Australian citizens in that hell hole Guantanamo Bay,and gave us Children Overboard,certainly the Mother of all fibs. And who could forget Brandis’ role in the Children Overboard inquiry,badgering and bullying those who had come to tell the truth to the public. And now they are taking moral stands. Excuse me while I go to the window to watch the pigs fly by.

  26. a_boy

    I am lodging an objection with my bank (which bank?) because I’m not able to donate to Wikileaks with my Visa card, yet am able to donate to such abominations as the Ku klux Klan and several other vile racist organisations.

  27. Panders

    This would be troubling if there weren’t a completely different, rational reason why Mastercard, Visa, and Paypal refuse to do business with Wikileaks. Assange said he had a coming megaleak about and American bank. He claims to have 5gb from a Bank of America executive’s hard drive. He threatens the financial sector with a release of their private information and then you all are surprised that the is some payback. As much as I disagree with Assange, I bet he is smarter than some here. I’ll bet he expected some kind of reaction, that you can’t, and can make the issue about Israeli settlement policy is ridiculous.

  28. freecountry

    Malice in Wonderland,

    I have not missed any point. If my lawyers tell me in their opinion an activity is illegal, there is nothing wrong with me expressing that view, provided I’m not committing sub judice, and provided I’m not the suspect’s own Prime Minister in which case I should watch my mouth very carefully.

    I notice Assange seems to openly approve hackers trying to bring down those companies’ websites. Now that is illegal. You people have simply stopped thinking in your teenage-fan eagerness to take on all Assange’s enemies.

  29. Tamo

    Can we still buy cigarettes on Visa and Mastercard?

  30. ronin8317

    Please get your facts right : Wikileak neither condone or encourages the illegal DDOS attacks initiated by Anonymous. Reports that Assange approve of their action is a lie. Assange may be a wanker, but he’s definitely not an idiot.

    Mastercards, Visa and Paypal closed down the wikileak account because the US Government asked them to do so. It has nothing to do with illegality. The cables are doing an enormous amount of damage to US reputation. US diplomatic power is being destroyed with every leak, and the US government does not have a counter except for financial sanction.

    There is one thing the US can do to stop Wikileak in its track : release the US diplomatic cables themselves. This will allow the US Government to regain the initiative and impose some form of editorial control. The main stream media will follow the editorial guideline of the US Government rather than Wikileak, and the entire story will blow over in a week. The cables were uploaded to piratebay, it is now everywhere. The current path taken by the US government will only highlight their impotence to the world.

  31. sydneydave

    Freecountry, it wasn’t their lawyers telling them the activity was illegal, it was the US State Department applying pressure to withdraw services and doing so without any open legal process such as applying to a court for an injunction or order which is worrying. The effective duopoly of these services means the US government can affect a website or business or organisation that it does not like by Nixon style tactics in a way it could not do legally. This has far broader implications than Assange.

  32. David

    [I notice Assange seems to openly approve hackers trying to bring down those companies’ websites. Now that is illegal. You people have simply stopped thinking in your teenage-fan eagerness to take on all Assange’s enemies]

    Perhaps the assertion above should be backed up by a link justifying the claim. Otherwise it is simply the authors fantasy.

  33. MLF

    I’ll second that, David – but in regards to the “US State Department applying pressure to withdraw services and doing so without any open legal process such as applying to a court for an injunction or order which is worrying.”

    In this story with so much information and disinformation, we really should try to stick to the facts and avoid overly emotional knee-jerk reactions.

    I have not seen them, so can someone please identify where the SD was applying pressure to Visa/MC? Paypal stated they saw a letter “to Wikileaks” stating their activity was illegal – it wasn’t a leter from SD to Paypal.

    We need to be careful in what we are assuming – and repeating – is “the truth”.

  34. 922870


    Hysterical anti-Israeli sentiment or not – it doesn’t change the fact that what the Israeli people are doing is a direct breach of international law. Presumably you have some kind of tie to the Israeli people (if you aren’t one yourself), which is fueling your incomprehensive and uninformed opinion. To borrow a phrase from Jacques Fresco, it’s okay to say “I don’t know”. If you’re looking to debate the intricacies of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, at least be prepared to provide objective and unfiltered evidence.

  35. Ian


    Who decides what is and what is not legal? Governments that’s who; and in the main governments who are subservient to powerful lobbies, not their voting public. I don’t care what is legal or is not (except insofar as I might be punished for doing the illegal thing) but I do care what is right or not, morally right that is. Any government that goes about the business of building an empire with scant regard to the lives of the people effected and any government who supports that aggressor is morally wrong and deserves to be exposed as Wikileaks has done.

  36. Ian


    1) You say we expect our government to keep us safe and free but from what or who exactly? Are the Afghans or the Iraqis a threat to us? Were they when we invaded their countries? Did our government not join the invasion of Iraq in spite of most Australian citizens being against it.

    2) “We should really try to stick to the facts” you say. Well, government secrecy makes it oh so difficult to get to those facts and Wikileaks have done a wonderful job in helping us to do so. Also when facts are not known with certainty the best you can do is draw logical conclusions from what is known. In Australia facts are also distorted by a media that by and large reports the “facts” as announced by the elite. With exceptions, they don’t look for evidence to support arguments but are happy to report on assertions whether or not backed by evidence. The reporting on global warming is a case in point.

  37. MLF

    Yes, Ian, in case you hadn’t heard, terrorist organisations that are based in – not to mention funded by – countries including Afghanistan are a threat to us.

    You can count me amongst the loudest of advocates who will say that the invasion of Iraq constituted an illegal war. That I do not think the same is true regarding Afghanistan isn’t really relevant to this overall discussion but we can go there if you wish.

    Don’t be so blindsided by the fact that you think WL is a good thing (as I’ve continued to say, in principle so do I) so that you can’t make a critical assessment regarding the hoards of B-S that is flying around in relation to it.

    On your second point – if you really, honestly can’t agree with me that we should try to deal in facts then there’s no point in my responding further. But just in case you misinterpreted me, what I was saying is that if we are going to come on here and post opinions, they really should be factually based. Not to do so renders the whole discussion/debate useless.

    I don’t think its helpful to say “WL have done something illegal” without clear evidence that this is so. Equally, I don’t think its helpful to say “the State Department told Visa to cut WL off” without evidence (or at the very least wide respectable news coverage) to support it.

    Thats all I’m sayin.

  38. Ian


    Is there evidence about Afghanistan funding terrorist organizations.? Still? Their may have been some justification for the original attack on Afghanistan but the continued occupation now, it seems to me, is about the US military industrial complex and also about not wanting to lose face in the face of an unwinable war (like Vietnam). (That’s an opinion.) This is all off topic as you say.

    But as to facts, I agree we should do our best to ascertain facts and not simply blurt out unsubstantiated assertions. But I think values play an important part in any discussion of this sort and regardless of each specific fact in this case I side with Wikileaks against the ever increasing power and craziness of the US state and those like the Australian state that align with it.

  39. MLF

    “Values play an important part…” – too true, and amen to that.

    On Afghanistan, if you have some time you can read a overview here. The terrorist related parts are towards the middle/bottom, so are the UN Resolutions: http://www.un.org/News/dh/latest/afghan/un-afghan-history.shtml

  40. MLF

    p.s. I agree, I think we fudged the war and I also agree with the many who say we missed the opportunity to get out effectively eight years ago.

  41. jammy

    This whole affair in my opinion is about how the established media has been currupted and
    always pedel their paymasters line. TV and Radio news in UK have a lot to answer for in their
    reporting prior to the desicision to go go to war in Iraq . In the Assange case they falsely repeated over and over again that Jullian was accused and charged with Rape this was a lie. Now
    they have stopped saying the word Rape but the damage has been done. Anyway my main thoughts and concerns are with Bradley Manning and how he is being ‘treated’ – if you know what I mean.

  42. Syd Walker

    Good to see this subject covered in Crikey.

    On a positive note, I was encouraged to see that the French-based transnational company Veolia, which has extensive worldwide interests including large contracts in the West Bank area of occupied Palestine, recently got the boot from Edinburgh and Lille after hard-fought grass roots public campaigns. If sufficient pressure is applied worldwide, it may feel forced to pull out of the West Bank.

    See http://stopthewall.org/worldwideactivism/2416.shtml

    There’s plenty of scope for Australians to put similar pressure on this company. Why do we allow collaborators with apartheid to gobble up juicy public contracts in four of our states? Perhaps Crikey could lead a compaign on this in 2011?

  43. freecountry

    [Please get your facts right : Wikileak neither condone or encourages the illegal DDOS attacks initiated by Anonymous. Reports that Assange approve of their action is a lie. Assange may be a wanker, but he’s definitely not an idiot.]
    Yesterday Julian Assange made this statement from jail:
    [“We now know that Visa, Mastercard, Paypal and others are instruments of US foreign policy. It’s not something we knew before. I am calling for the world to protect my work and my people from these illegal and immoral attacks.”]
    Illegal? Wow, that word is getting a workout. For a calmer discussion on why a finance company might or might not suspend dealings with an account holder, see West Law News. Following new laws in 2001, finance companies were forced to become extremely risk-averse about whom they dealt with, and they take their cues from the governments in whose jurisdictions they operate.

    Of course there’s nothing in Assange’s statement that directly encourages hacker attacks. People read between the lines, though. Assange knows this, and so does Assange’s lawyer Mark Stephens, who was quick to try <a href="http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20101214/tc_nm/us_wikileaks_assange"distancing him from incitement to hacking:
    [“When I told Julian about the cyber attacks … he said ‘Look, I’ve been subject to cyber attacks. I believe in free speech, I don’t believe in censorship and of course cyber attacks are just that.’ “]
    Is that’s the best he can do, the most anti-hacking Assange quote that Stephens can come up with, then Assange is clearly not falling all over himself to remind his supporters to act within the law.

  44. freecountry

    Here’s that link I stuffed up.

  45. Ian

    Thanks for the link MLF. I read it and found it hard to get meaning out of it written as it is as a cold, dispassionate chronicle of events without much context or emotion. I am sorry but I can now only sympathize with the people of Afghanistan and others caught up in all the other wars and interventions the US has perpetrated in the name of democracy throughout the world. And Australia’s governments by and large support these aggressions while being careful to avoid critical debate on the issues.

    I refuse any longer to have the distorted view of the world pushed on us all by mainstream media, governments and their corporate masters cloud my judgment on what is really going on. Wikileaks (and presumably Bradley Manning’s) role in revealing what our governments, diplomats and corporations are doing and these government’s reactions make me all the more aware of the malignancy of the powers at the top and the ignorance/passivity of those governed.

    Beware the new Nazis!

  46. Ian


    Whose law are you talking about here? Powers can make anything they like legal like torture, assassinations, renditions and drone attacks. They choose what to make illegal too. And the victims and their supporters? What must they do? Should they not fight back with whatever means they have?

    I venture to suggest in your case a little counseling may be in order to help you understand the difference between what is right or even arguable and what is legal.

    As for these more or less monopolistic corporations having legitimate reasons for withholding there services, well they may well have reasons that are legitimate to themselves but far from so to society as a whole. We all know that big corporations have only one concern profit. For the rest they will do what ever they can get away with.

    As author, John Le Carré said…”The things done in the name of shareholders are as terrifying as the things done in the name of God.”

  47. Jin

    Please note that an Australian Zionist organisation also funds and provide tax deductions for donations for illegal Israeli government projects in the Occupied Territories.

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