4 November 2009
Eleven organizations from the US, Palestine and Israel have called on baseball’s New York Mets to cancel a November 21st dinner at the Caesars Club at Citi Field for the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund. The dinner is a fundraiser for Israeli settlers in the Israeli-occupied West Bank City of Hebron. In a letter sent to the Mets on November 3rd, the groups said, “The New York Mets will be facilitating activities that directly violate international law and the Obama administration’s call for a freeze in settlement construction, and that actively promote racial discrimination, and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes in Hebron.” Seven hundred Israeli settlers, living amidst 150,000 Palestinians in Hebron, are expanding their hold on the historic old city by driving out the Palestinian residents.
The groups added that “It would be a tragic irony for an event funding Israeli settlers’ violent actions and discriminatory policies against Palestinians to be held at Caesars Club which, according to the Mets, “sits directly on top of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda,” which was named “in honor of Jackie Robinson, the… great American who broke baseball’s color barrier.” The Mets and Major League Baseball promote Robinson’s legacy, including Robinson’s value of “Justice: Treating all people fairly, no matter who they are.” Mets owner Fred Wilpon has explained in the past that, as a 16 year-old, meeting Jackie Robinson was an experience that never left him. “As a kid, a nothing, he treated me with all of that dignity that he treated everyone else in his life.”
On the Hebron Fund webpage, clicking on the symbol which says “Give to Hebron” leads to a donations page on the website for the Jewish Community of Hebron which says, among other things, “keep Hebron Jewish for the Jewish people.” In a report on Hebron, the Israeli human rights organizations B’Tselem and ACRI have labeled the demands of Hebron’s settlers as “racist.” Hebron settlement leader Moshe Levinger, praised in a Hebron Fund dinner video, has been quoted saying,“The Arabs know to behave like good boys around us.” Hebron Fund Executive Director Yossi Baumol also made very derogatory comments about Arabs in a 2007 interview.
The signers of the letter include Adalah-NY, American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, Brooklyn For Peace, Coalition of Women for Peace (Israel), CODEPINK Women for Peace, Gush Shalom (Israel), Jews Against the Occupation-NYC, Jewish Voice for Peace, Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (Palestine), US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and WESPAC Foundation. The letter was cced and sent to Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Middle East Envoy George Mitchell, who has a history of involvement with Major League Baseball, and Rachel Robinson, Jackie Robinson’s wife.
The letter explains that reviewing last year’s and this year’s Hebron Fund dinner shows that some dinner honorees support violence and terrorizing Palestinians. In 1990, Noam Arnon, who is to be honored at the dinner, called three Israelis who were convicted of killing three Arabs and maiming two Palestinian mayors in car bombings “heroes.” In a video on the Hebron Fund website, 2008 dinner honoree Myrna Zisman pays tribute to Hebron settler Yifat Alkoby. Alkoby became famous worldwide in 2006 when she was videotaped in Hebron terrorizing and calling a Palestinian woman and girl “whores” who were caged inside their own home as protection from settler attacks. In another video featuring 2008 dinner honorees, three children who appear to be the honorees’ children are briefly shown holding guns and smiling.
All Israeli settlements violate international law, according to a broad international consensus. The Hebron Fund’s dinner invitation says, “Join us in support of Hebron and in protest of today’s building freeze in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank].” In a September, 2008 radio interview, the Hebron Fund’s Yossi Baumol explained, “There are real facts on the ground that are created by people helping the Hebron Fund and coming to our dinners.”
Washington Post columnist David Ignatius recently highlighted the Hebron Fund and noted that, “critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns. A search of IRS records identified 28 U.S. charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007.” The Hebron Fund has been the subject of complaints to the I.R.S. regarding its tax-exempt status. The complaints request investigations of allegations that it raises funds for the development of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli organization Gush Shalom recently urged the National Lawyers Guild, an American organization, to encourage American tax authorities to strip US non-profits that support Israeli settlements of their tax-exempt status.