The White House condemns the torching of a mosque, yet respectable Americans contribute to a yeshiva whose rabbi said it's okay to kill gentile babies. It is no surprise that the American administration tacitly, if unenthusiastically, accepted the excuse that the map of national priority zones the cabinet approved on Sunday does not violate the decision to freeze construction in the settlements.
How can President Barack Obama object to furthering education in a settlement like Yitzhar, located in the heart of the West Bank? After all, his own tax revenues contribute to the flourishing of the Od Yosef Chai Shechem yeshiva, the settlement's crowning glory.
This is the same yeshiva whose rabbi said it is permissible to kill gentile babies because of "the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents." In his latest book, the head of the yeshiva, Yitzhak Shapira, who bears the honorable title of rabbi, even permits killing anyone "who, through his remarks and so forth, weakens our kingdom" (Obama, beware!).
On November 17, this column reported that the Education Ministry's division for Torah institutions transferred more than NIS 1 million to this yeshiva in 2006 and 2007. The Welfare Ministry made do with a mere NIS 150,000.
A report on donations submitted by the yeshiva to the registrar of nonprofit organizations revealed that the American public also participates in financing the message coming out of Yitzhar. It states that in 2007 and 2008, the yeshiva received NIS 102,547 from an American foundation known as the Central Fund of Israel.
The American investigative reporter Philip Weiss says on his web site (mondoweiss.net) that money given to this fund is considered a tax-deductible donation. That means the thousands of shekels the fund sent to the settlement of Yitzhar were deducted from the donors' annual tax payments to the American treasury.
According to the fund's latest financial statement, it gave some $8 million to religious organizations in 2006, earmarked for establishing synagogues and schools, aiding the needy and "urgent security needs."
The fund's headquarters are located on the third floor of the Marcus Brothers Textiles store on Sixth Avenue in Manhattan. Its director is Jay Marcus, a resident of the settlement of Efrat.
His mother, Hadassah, is the fund's president and his father, Arthur, is vice president. Both parents live in New York.
The Washington Post's David Ignatius recently reported that according to statements filed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, funds like that of the Marcus family sent some $33.4 million, tax free, to organizations affiliated with the settlements in 2004-07.
'Large forces, extensive damage'
So the next time the White House spokesman condemns the torching of a mosque near Nablus, some reporter ought to ask him why respectable American citizens contribute to the Od Yosef Chai Shechem yeshiva, one of whose leading rabbis wrote the following incendiary words of incitement: "[Civil] Administration inspectors have not dared to enter Yitzhar since the freeze edict. Their experience with Yitzhar, and its heat, are responsible for the fact that every entry into the settlement by hostile elements requires large forces and ends with extensive damage to army and police equipment, even greater damage to Arab persons and property, and a region that continues to burn in every direction for several days" (Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, Hakol Hayehudi, December 4, 2009).
At the same time, U.S. officials could consider how a tax exemption for donors to Friends of Ateret Cohanim and The City of David jibes with official American policy regarding the presence of right-wing Jewish organizations in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem's Holy Basin.
Human rights organizations and Jewish peace activists in the United States have started giving information to the authorities about foundations that support dubious right-wing organizations in Israel. They are asking why the administration only shuts down funds that send charitable donations to associations affiliated with Hamas.
Cut off from their families
Gilad Shalit's prolonged isolation from the outside world is one of the most serious and justified complaints Israel has against his captors in Hamas' leadership. But last week, Israel's Supreme Court gave its stamp of approval to a prolonged lack of contact between hundreds of Palestinian prisoners and their parents, children and grandchildren.
For two and a half years, starting shortly after Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip, the Israeli authorities have barred relatives of more than 500 prisoners from entering Israeli territory.
But a panel of three justices unanimously rejected a petition from a group of prisoners and 13 human rights organizations that argued, among other things, that the Fourth Geneva Convention entitles every prisoner "to receive visitors, especially near relatives, at regular intervals and as frequently as possible." Whenever possible, prisoners should be allowed to visit their homes in "urgent cases," the convention adds.
The petitioners also noted that paragraph 1 of the Prisons Ordinance states that visits are one of the most important means of contact between the prisoner and his family and friends. A visit can make it easier for a prisoner to endure his confinement and encourage him in times of crisis.
Following a ruling by the European Court of Justice, the petition pointed out, Turkey allowed family members to pay weekly visits to Abdullah Ocalan, the head of the Kurdish PKK organization, whose death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment and who is detained under special security conditions.
But nevertheless, there is a difference. Unlike Gilad Shalit, who in three years has received only one or two letters from his parents, the Palestinian prisoners are visited regularly by the Red Cross and are in mail and telephone contact with their families.
On the other hand, unlike Hamas - which many countries define as a terrorist organization - Israel is committed to upholding international treaties and is supposed to abide by different humanitarian rules.