Thursday, October 31, 2013

Book Review: "Financing the Flames...of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel."

From a Speros News Book Review, 30 October 2013, by Martin Barillas:

"Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel." by Edwin Black.
Dialog Press, 2013. 262 pp.

Buy the book at Amazon here.
...Edwin Black, a New York Times bestselling international investigative author, has spent a good part of his life’s work explaining human rights abuses ...  
... there can be no understanding of the current Middle East madness, spilling out over the entire world, without appreciating ...a cabal of parties who fancy themselves doing “good.”
This the subject of Black’s most recent work, Financing the Flames: How Tax-Exempt and Public Money Fuel a Culture of Confrontation and Terrorism in Israel. 
"The unhappy intersection of big inhumanity and big money finds its most ironic dynamic in philanthropic abuse" Black writes in the introduction.  
The book reads like a novel, beginning with the wedding of a 15th-generation sabra – a Jew who is native to his ancestral lands rather than transplanted from elsewhere.  Through the dramatic events of this particular young man, the reader is introduced to the Goldstone Mission report, a document based on “information provided by Israeli nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) avowedly devoted to human rights…” that “was later recanted as being based on false and incomplete information.” (p 10)
However, the report had accused Israeli soldiers of widespread war crimes, so before its recantation, it caused enormous damage to both the military and to the individual soldiers involved.  

The NGO most significantly behind the Goldstone Mission report is the New Israel Fund (NIF).  
NIF describes itself as an “agent of change” in Israel, promulgating the distinctly American vision of equality amid religious and ethnic plurality.  Its money comes from donors around the world, as much as $37 million annually, much of that from the United States, and provides “seed” funding to thousands of Israeli social-action organizations and creating a progressive network across Israel.
It is not a “direct action” charity but a vehicle of “empowerment” to help, it says, “marginalized Israelis to organize and speak for themselves and achieve recognition and results in the corridors of power…We are a funder with a point of view…We are an advocacy organization that takes on the toughest issues; builds coalitions; incubates new approaches, programs, and projects for social change; and serves as the acknowledged leader of progressive civil society in Israel.” (p 25-6) 
 (Edwin Black taking notes in Israel)
Black praises some of NIF’s efforts but is quick to add that it has a political agenda funded by foreigners.
In recent years the New Israel Fund (NIF) has been “funding groups that directly or indirectly advocate for boycott, divestment, and sanctions, known as the BDS movement, which seeks to delegitimize Israel’s right to exist in every forum worldwide.” (p 27)

The Goldstone Mission report, with its unmerited attack against the Israel Defense Forces – using American tax-enabled money – appears to have been an example.  An orchestrated campaign of provoking Israeli soldiers coupled with selectively edited propaganda materials is another (chapters 5-7).  Deliberate efforts are made by a small but highly effective American group, not to resolve conflict, but to exacerbate it (chapter 8).  Black looks closely at these foreign groups funding the NIF and at least one is quite familiar: the Ford Foundation, that in just one year, 2000 -2001, gave more than $35 million to some 272 Arab and Palestinian organizations and whose network of activities is ridiculously complicated (ch 4) 
NIF is, above all, a lobbyist – or, where that is too sensitive a term, an “advocate for policy change” – that, in the words of one Israeli legislator, is “using American money to affect our internal political affairs.” The fuller record of NIF lobbying braggadocio runs off the edge of the legal pad,” Black writes. “The topics cover a range of issues from military benefits for veterans to involvement in the method of terrorist interrogations by security agencies…. the NIF has recently told its supporters that it was responsible for influencing some five hundred different laws and legal initiatives.” (p 169) Nor is this work confined to Israel: “And we do advocate outside Israel for changes in Israeli society that may impact Jewish communities elsewhere. (p 172) 
The meat of this book lies in the twists and turns of accusations levelled by the various parties.
  • Is the military being hamstrung by impossible humanitarian considerations that are in no matched by the rabidly zealous suicide bombers or enemy tacticians who use innocent citizenry to shield their movements?  
  • Are Jewish groups from outside Israel “funding anti-Israeli agitation and fueling war crime tribunals,” while “terrorists [are] waging war on Israeli children with impunity, and the soldiers who save the day [are] threatened with trial and discouraged from shooting, themselves being shot to death?”  
(p 52-53)

Black believes the answer to both questions is, “yes.”  
A particularly egregious situation is the payment of “salaries” to convicted Arab Palestinian prisoners of Israel who have committed acts of “resistance.”  The “salary” increases according to the seriousness of the act, measured by the length of the prison sentence.  The beneficiary of this “salary – in later usage termed “social welfare” – is determined by the prisoner.  
From where does the money to pay these “salaries” come?  Not from the Palestinian national economy “but from donor countries paying billions in financial aid to the Palestinian Authority.” (p 192)  After 9-11, the United States, no longer sent direct financial aid but ways were still found, as late as 2006, to get hundreds of millions of U.S. taxpayer dollars into their hands via various UN agencies. 
And then, there’s the banking system.
“A superhighway of money goes directly from Israel’s greatest adversaries into a vast interchange where it comingles with dollars, shekels, Euros, and yen from the finest financial nameplates and charitable funds in the world.” (p 198)
Millions are poured into the support of the families of jihadist “martyrs,” filtered through special funds administered by the Islamic Development Bank.  
It doesn’t end there, though:
“Ironically, some of the same Israel-based recipients who receive American tax-subsidized grants from the New Israel Fund have been selected for support by the most influential sovereign Arab and Islamic charitable organizations representing national treasuries committed to erasing the existence of Israel.” (p 200)
Any demand by a nation that its financial aid be used for peaceful projects and not terrorist salaries has been dismissed as “donor filth.” 
Black ends his Introduction to the book by saying, “Many people know how this saga [of conflict in the Middle East] began, but no one knows how this saga will end. For the Israelis, the resilient ethos embedded in their existence is encapsulated in their national anthem. That song is called Hatikva. In Hebrew, it means ‘the hope’.”...

Buy the book at Amazon here.
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