Palestinian teens in a May protest in Washington DC. Liberation photo: Joyce Chediac.
On July 27th, Palestinians and allies held protests in East Meadow, Long Island and Brooklyn as part of the Defund Racism campaign targeting US settler organizations that support the theft of Palestinian land. The Long Island protest was outside the home of Yaakov Fauci, an American settler currently living in someone else’s home in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in Jerusalem. Fauci became infamous when he told the family of Palestinian activist Muna El-Kurd, whose home he non-consensually occupies, that if he did not steal her house, then “someone else” would.
The NYC protest was targeting New York Attorney General Tish James, who has the authority to investigate US organizations who claim to be charities, but who fund and support land theft in Palestine. These actions were led by Al-Awda NY: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition as part of the launch of its own campaign to expose Anti-Palestinian hate groups and settler movements in NY and the US, and in support of the Campaign to Defund Racism. According to their website, “The Campaign to Defund Racism is a Palestinian-led movement to end the use of ‘charitable’ funds raised in the United States to carry out the mission of Israeli settler organizations.”
Palestine advocates protest Zionist extremist Fauci and Settler Organizations in Long Island
In East Meadow, Long Island, the protesters chanted outside Yaakov (Jacob) Fauci’s former home. Fauci has been living in the El-Kurd home in Sheikh Jarrah for eleven years with the support and funding of Nahalat Shimon International, a settler organization that is committed to the ‘Judaization’ of Jerusalem and all of Palestine. This effort includes the goal of expelling entire Arab populations from Jerusalem neighborhoods such as Sheikh Jarrah. In May, a video of a confrontation between Muna El-Kurd and Fauci went viral. She told him, “you are stealing my house.” Fauci replied, “if I don’t steal it, someone else is going to steal it.”
While outside the Fauci home, protesters repeated his infamous exchange with El-Kurd (“This is my house” – “if I don’t steal it, someone else will!“) as well as “Shut down war crimes! Shut down genocide! Free free Palestine!.” They held signs which read, “Jacob ‘Yaakov’ Fauci – Funded to commit war crimes in Palestine by Nahalat Shimon. Shut down US-based settler organizations mobilizing genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine.” Protesters left these signs affixed to the trees outside Fauci’s house after the action.
Organizers distributed mock ‘Wanted’ and eviction notices during the protest. The ‘Wanted’ poster noted “Yaakov Fauci – Accused by Al-Awda NY and under international law suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity including being an agent of ethnic cleansing, apartheid, and conspiracy to commit genocide.”
The eviction notice read in part,
“You are hereby notified that, under the terms of international law, you are occupying stolen land and participating in ethnic cleansing of the indigenous people of Palestine. Al-Awda NY, acting on behalf of the international community and all peace-loving people of the world, hereby demands you vacate the premises immediately and render back payments for over 11 years of rent to the El-Kurd family.”
Lamis Deek, an organizer with Al-Awda NY, spoke in front of the Fauci house:
“Many communities in New York are being exhorted to commit violence and genocide and ethnic cleansing in Palestine. We say that day is over. We remind county officials that under the US Federal code 18 USC 1091, that it is a federal crime for people, for New Yorkers, for Americans to engage in acts of genocide, which means acts of ethnic cleansing, intended to damage and erase an entire people, as Yaakov himself, has testified to openly and repeatedly through his statements, written and spoken. It is also a federal crime to aid and abet that genocide, just as Nahalat Shimon did when they funded him to go to Palestine, first in the West Bank, and then in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Al-Quds [Jerusalem]. It is also a crime to conspire, and we call out the Zionist institutions that are calling on Americans and New Yorkers to go and colonize Palestine. This will be the first of many actions, by Al-Awda New York, by our friends at New York for Palestine, the National Lawyers Guild and DefundRacism.org because what we say is, crimes against humanity have no place in our community.”
A video of the full action can be viewed here.
The National Lawyers Guild also supported the protest. “The U.N. Human Rights Commission Rapporteur recently decried settlements as war crimes, and New York private and government actors are actively abetting war crimes, violence and genocide in Palestine with wholesale impunity. This must end if Palestine and the region can ever see peace,” said attorney Audrey Bomse, a member of Al-Awda New York and the National Lawyers Guild.
Fauci is a documented extremist and a supporter of former President Donald Trump. He has repeatedly shared Kahanist content – Kahanism is a far-right ideology named after Rabbi Meir Kahane which openly preaches violence, apartheid, and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. Fauci is also bedfellows with some of the most violent and extremist Israeli organizations and individuals, including Kahane Chai, a well-known Zionist terrorist organization closely tied to the extremist Kahanist movement.
Right-wing extremists who support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians denounced the protest at Fauci’s home on social media. Arsen Ostrovsky, an Israeli lawyer, called the protest “Jew hatred” and demanded the NYPD investigate. Emily Schrader, an Israeli propagandist, and Rabbi Elchanan Poupko, a NYC Israel supporter, also demanded the NYPD look into the protest. Yishai Fleisher, a leader of the Jewish community in Hebron, one of the focal points of the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, called Lamis Deek of Al-Awda NY a “dumb jihadi.”
One tactic that Israel supporters use against Palestinian advocates is to try to criminalize their organizing, whether it is with laws that target the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) Movement, or the new definition of antisemitism from the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) which attempts to label some criticism of Israel as antisemitic. Anti-Palestinian advocates also often attempt to label peaceful protests as violent, relying on anti-Arab and Islamophobic tropes.
Al-Awda NY and Deek have since been subjected to threats and hate mail, common treatment for organizers who take public stances to expose the violence and criminality of the Israeli settler-colonial project.
In mobilizing a hate campaign and labeling the activists as antisemitic, Israel advocates are trying to normalize and encourage the violence of Israeli settler-colonialism generally, and to whitewash Fauci in particular. After invading the Kurds’ family home, Fauci assaulted Muna El-Kurd, and in response Israeli police arrested Muna and released her on the express condition she not have contact or speak with Fauci.
Protesters in Brooklyn Target NY Attorney General James About Settler Organizations
After the morning protest in Long Island, a large crowd gathered in downtown Brooklyn to picket New York State Attorney General Letitia James to demand she “revoke the charitable status of Zionist settler organizations abusing nonprofit law to fund Israel’s war crimes of ethnic cleansing and illegal settlement.”
The lead organizers were Al-Awda NY and the NY4Palestine Coalition, which includes the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, American Muslims for Palestine – New Jersey Chapter, Within Our Lifetime: United for Palestine, and Jews for Palestinian Right of Return, as well as Jewish Voice for Peace – New York City and Neturei Karta (a Haredi Jewish anti-Zionist group).
“This is the beginning of a concerted campaign to tell Attorney General Letitia James and the Department of Justice – If you won’t do your job, we will do it for you,” said Lamis Deek of Al-Awda NY. “If not us – who will? This is the beginning of a strong and concerted campaign. There will be no safe spaces for these people who should be locked up in jails under US Federal law – conspiracy, attempting, and aiding and abetting ethnic cleansing is a federal crime. They should be locked up, not given tax shelters.”
Speakers at the protest included Lamis Deek and Daniel Teehan of Al-Awda NY, Joe Catron of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, Michael Letwin of Labor for Palestine, Rabbi Yisrael Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta, Roger Wareham of Black liberation organization D12 Movement, Yhamir Chabur of SOS Colombia, and more.
A large number of Jews also attended the protest in support of Palestine. “We are opposed to the occupation of Palestine. Because we are Jews, we oppose the occupation. Because we are Jews, we oppose the existence of the state of Israel,” said Rabbi Yisrael Dovid Weiss of Neturei Karta. “The Torah – the Jewish teaching – is not stealing, is not occupation, is not terrorism. This is unacceptable. We will not stand for it.”
Along with the speeches, the crowd chanted a series of slogans, including: “From the River to the Sea, Palestine will be free“; “Israel – you can’t hide, we charge you with genocide“; “Intifada intifada – long live the intifada“; “Resistance is justified when people are colonized“; “Globalize the intifada“; “Say it loud, say it clear – we don’t want no Zionists here.”
Approximately six Israel supporters showed up to counter-protest, and they waved an Israeli flag and shouted at the crowd of Palestinian advocates.
After the speeches, the group marched through downtown Brooklyn while holding a banner that read, “Everyone has the right to return to their home.” The protesters also chanted, held signs, and waved Palestinian flags.
One Palestinian was arrested by the NYPD during the march on an unknown charge.
Campaign to Defund Racism demands end of ‘charitable’ funds raised in the United States to carry out Israeli settler colonialism in Palestine
The Campaign to Defund Racism is a grassroots coalition of Palestinians working with supporters in the United States and around the world to “clearly define under the law that organizations supporting the oppression, displacement, and colonization of Palestinian lands is illegal under US charitable law,” according to their website. Over 200 organizations have endorsed the Campaign to Defund Racism, and the lead organizers of the coalition are The Hebron Defense Committee, Human Rights Defenders, the Youth of Sumud, the Good Shepherd Collective, and activists from the Bilin, the Jordan Valley, and Bethlehem as well as community members from Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.
The idea for the Campaign to Defund Racism began around three years ago during discussions between Palestinians living in the South Hebron Hills and the occupied West Bank who were facing violent efforts to remove them from their land, primarily from the right-wing Israeli settler NGO Regavim.
According to Defund Racism, “Regavim is an Israel-based non-governmental organization that works to expand Jewish control of land across Israel and the Palestinian Occupied Territories by pushing Israeli administrative, judicial, legislative, and military bodies to dispossess Palestinian and other non-Jewish communities of their land.”
This opposition to settler activity and ethnic cleansing soon spread to the Jordan Valley, Nablus and Tubas, Jerusalem, and throughout all of Palestine. The recent launch of the Campaign to Defund Racism in the United States takes the lead from these Palestinians, and is working to support their campaigns to protect their homes and land. Besides Regavim, other Israeli settler organizations that are working to displace Palestinians include The Hebron Fund, Ateret Cohanim, The Israel Land Fund, and the Ir David Foundation (Elad).
Within the United States, the main focus is for New York State Attorney General Letitia James to revoke the 501(c)(3) charitable status of five US sponsors of the organizations that are actively stealing land and engaging in ethnic cleansing in Palestine: American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, Friends of Ir David, the Hebron Fund, the Central Fund of Israel, and Israel Independence Fund. Regavim is funded by the Central Fund of Israel and the Israel Independence Fund.
According to the Campaign to Defund Racism website: “Revoking the charitable status of these organizations will help to defund their work by halting a large portion of the tax-exempt money sent to them via US organizations. From 2014 to 2019, these organizations had $319,921,483.00 in gross receipts on their charitable forms.”
Israeli settlements being built on occupied Palestinian land are illegal under international law, as are the house demolitions that Israel regularly conducts against Palestinian homes.
“Charities should be organizations that abide by international law, human rights, and international humanitarian law. Charities should be organizations that promote human values. Regavim promotes war crimes and therefore, it is extremely [not] understandable to me how it manages to continue to be a charity and to receive charitable money,” said Munir Nuseibah, Director of the Community Action Center at Al-Quds University in Jerusalem.
The controversy surrounding Israel’s ethnic cleansing of Palestinians has recently received substantial attention in the United States, in part because of the visibility of Muhammad and Muna El-Kurd, who are fighting to save their home in Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem, along with many other Palestinians in that neighborhood. The #SaveSheikhJarrah campaign has gone viral on social media. Israel’s efforts to forcibly remove Palestinians from the Silwan neighborhood of Jerusalem has also received substantial international attention.
Cody O’Rourke from the Good Shepherd Collective spoke about the importance of American solidarity with Palestinians. The Good Shepherd Collective is a member of the Campaign to Defund Racism. “This is a Palestinian call. Nearly 200 Palestinian organizations, villages, and community activists have asked specifically for US solidarity groups to leverage their power in this public campaign, endorsing these tactics and these specific targets,” said O’Rourke.
“This call-to-action was birthed out of the suffering of the people on the ground, and the people on the front lines. It is a call from the people of Atwuani, Khan al-Ahmar, Silwan, the Jordan Valley… the people most impacted by these settler organizations. People like Sami Huraini of Atwuani have been arrested several times for speaking out and taking action against the settler movement and Regavim [an Israeli settler organization]. And people in the US are inspired by his willingness to continue to be jailed and sacrifice his freedom for communal liberation. People are inspired and they are joining. They are joining because they see Palestinians believing in this call and that they see it as a winnable campaign that would have an immediate impact on the ground.”
O’Rourke from the Good Shepherd Collective is optimistic about the possibility of success for this campaign, in part because of growing support for Palestinians in the United States. “It’s not a complex issue. You see Israel install this system of dominance to erase and displace the Palestinian communities. The movement for Palestinian rights just continues to grow.” People interested in learning more about the campaign can visit DefundRacism.org.