Unsurprisingly, the New York Times has turned this rather pedestrian finding — “40 American groups have collected more than $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade” — into an immense, lavishly illustrated, 3,000-word article headlined (above the fold, naturally) “Tax Exempt Funds Aiding Settlements in West Bank.” And here’s the kicker: The paper publishes it on the morning President Obama is meeting with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The piece explains how Americans — mostly evangelical Christians, one of the Times’s favorite bogeymen — get to deduct from their taxes their donations to Israeli communities. Of course, most of these donations are going to “large, established settlements close to the boundary with Israel that would very likely be annexed in any peace deal, in exchange for land elsewhere,” and the money “goes mostly to schools, synagogues, recreation centers and the like.” Nevertheless, all of this somehow merits the blunderbuss treatment, because some of the money will probably find its way to “more legally questionable commodities: housing as well as guard dogs, bulletproof vests, rifle scopes and vehicles to secure outposts deep in occupied areas.”
Certainly, the most militant settlers, the kind who deface mosques and chop down olive trees, are obstacles to peace and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. But pro-Palestinian charities that channel money into ferocious anti-Israel incitement or recruit for blockade-busting flotillas staffed by men armed with knives and clubs are rather massive obstacles as well. The Times admits that “Americans also take tax breaks in giving to pro-Palestinian groups,” but it devotes only one paragraph in this huge sprawl to the other side of the equation.
If the Times were interested in fairness, it would campaign against the deduction of donations to all groups in the area. Otherwise, the paper just looks like it’s trying to undermine Israel.
– Stephanie Gutmann is the author of The Other War: Israeli, Palestinians and the Struggle for Media Supremacy.