Adelson & Others Face $34B Suit Over Israel Settlements

     WASHINGTON (CN) – Support for Israeli settlements has casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and several U.S. nonprofits, philanthropists and corporations facing an unprecedented $34.5 billion complaint by Palestinians.
     Clocking in at a staggering 187 pages, the action filed Monday accuses the big-name defendants of having collectively supported Israeli settlement growth, to the tune of $1 billion funneled every year through U.S.-based nonprofits, to rid the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories of non-Jewish inhabitants.
     In addition to Adelson, the 51 named defendants include former White House national security adviser Elliott Abrams, Cleveland Cavaliers majority owner Daniel Gilbert, megachurch pastor John Hagee, five other individuals and dozens of corporations including Remax, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola and Volvo.     
     None of the aforementioned defendants have returned requests for comment. A research assistant for Abrams at the Council on Foreign Relations merely noted Wednesday that the senior fellow was out of the office.
     The March 7 complaint accuses them of having channeled money to Israeli settlements under the guise of charitable donations made to U.S. tax-exempt entities, affording them maximum tax deductions for their contributions.
     “These defendants, for close to 30 years, have violated at least eight federal criminal statutes … including money laundering, and any number of applicable Treasury regulations governing tax-exempt entities,” the complaint says.
     In addition to civil conspiracy and allegations of money laundering and violations of Treasury regulations, the complaint charges the defendants with trespass, war crimes, crimes against humanity – including genocide and pillage – and racketeering, though not all of the charges are leveled against all of the defendants.
     The lead plaintiff behind the lawsuit, Bassem al-Tamimi, says he was tortured as part of the promotion of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, abbreviated in the complaint as OPT.
     Along with Palestinian-American author Susan Abulhawa and 16 other individuals, two of whom represent killed Palestinians, five village councils joined the complaint as plaintiffs.
     They characterize the alleged conspiracy as supporting, “encouraging and funding wholesale violence and arms trafficking abroad and comprehensive war crimes in order to advance their own political agenda – getting rid of all non-Jews in the OPT.”
     Discussing the complaint in an interview, an attorney for the plaintiffs said his team is prepared for the practical concern that could deal the case an early dismissal -namely, conventional wisdom about the conflict suggesting that Israel acts in self-defense from Palestinian terrorism.
     “It’s going to be very difficult for these guys to get out of the lawsuit,” attorney Martin McMahon said.
     “If you’re going into court seeking $34 billion, you better have your ducks in a row. So I do think we have our ducks in a row,” he added.
     McMahon said he and W. Jameson Fox with Martin F. McMahon & Associates have “stockpiled” facts.
     “We have tailored this case to meet tort statute requirements, which means that the activity you’re complaining about touches American soil,” McMahon said. “And we believe it really does.”
     The complaint says tax-deductible contributions from U.S. donors provided funding for a “foreign army whose members condoned, facilitated, and in some cases encouraged and participated in the commission of comprehensive war crimes.”
     “Thus, American taxpayers have been subsidizing a foreign army’s ongoing pattern of war crimes activity,” it continues.
     More specifically, the complaint alleges that the conspiracy condones and facilitates “daily violent attacks on Palestinian homeowners and farmers by settlers armed with military hardware purchased with funds from U.S. tax-exempt entities.”
     Other violent acts include “the slaughtering of livestock and the poisoning of water wells and destruction of electric grids,” in addition to “devastation of the Palestinian agricultural sector, especially destruction of olive groves.”
     The complaint connects the conspiracy to “the forcible expulsion of at least 400,000 Palestinians since 1967,” when Israel seized control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, marking the beginning of its decades-long military occupation of Palestinian territory.
     Israeli settlement expansion has long been a contentious issue and a focal point of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The United States has officially condemned their expansion for 40 years, viewing the settlements as an obstacle to the creation of a viable Palestinian state.
     The current lawsuit alleges that their expansion, which the peace process has failed to stop, by its nature necessitates the removal of Palestinians from their land to make way for the settlements.
     Many Israelis and Israeli settlers, on the other hand, view the Palestinian territories, particularly the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, as land promised to the Jewish nation by God.
     Though some Israeli settlers are driven to live in the settlements because of economic benefits, ideological zeal drives others. Many Israelis view the settlements as a legitimate part of Israel, and believe the biggest settlement blocs will be incorporated into Israel as part of an eventual peace deal.
     Attorney McMahon says he expects the number of plaintiffs involved in the case to reach 100 within a month.
     Once attorneys for the defendants read the complaint and the associated case law, they will conclude that the case will be difficult to dismiss, McMahon added.
     Though Israeli settlements start as tiny, six-tent outposts dotting hilltops in the West Bank, they quickly expand into full communities with schools and shopping centers, McMahon said.
     “How did that happen?” he asked. “It was because the settlement officials would come over here, meet with wealthy, Jewish Americans and tax-exempt entities, and realize we can suck these guys for a lot of money. And they did.”
     Explaining the involvement of the big corporate defendants, McMahon said Hewlett-Packard and Motorola sell security surveillance devices to the settlements, that construction-support firms get lucrative construction contracts to build them, and Volvo sells the wheel loaders that demolish Palestinian homes to pave the way for settlements.
     “Every piece of the conspiracy, there’s somebody who’s working an angle,” McMahon said.
     “Every one of these companies had the option of getting the hell out of the OPT,” he added. “You know why they didn’t? Too much windfall profits. That’s civil conspiracy.”
     As for the Cleveland Cavs owner, McMahon said Gilbert arranged for the NBA to sponsor various fundraising events that benefit the Israeli Defense Forces.
     Friends of the IDF is a named defendant and also did not return an email seeking comment.
     With Gilbert’s help, Adelson sends NBA players on U.S. taxpayer-subsidized, “all-expenses-paid-for trips to Israel … to hang out with Israeli soldiers,” McMahon added.
     “And then you have an American guy like Elliott Abrams who is the spokesperson for the settlement enterprise here,” McMahon added. “His job is to stay on top of Congress and make sure nobody says a peep about settlement expansion or that it violates U.S public policy.”
     W. Jameson Fox described Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory as ill treatment of a civilian population.
     “We trace our steps and show how murder, rape, killing, destruction of property have all been classified, in the context of war, as war crimes,” Fox said in an interview.
     Fox and McMahon filed a similar lawsuit against the Treasury Department nearly three months ago, asking the agency to enforce its own tax codes in relation to the charitable donations.
     McMahon said that lawsuit was the first of two steps, intended to test the waters, knowing that most Americans would be surprised by the allegations.
     “We were hoping to use the first lawsuit as an educational tool and get the word out,” McMahon said. “Not a single nonprofit named in the first lawsuit sent us a letter saying we don’t engage in this stuff. And we never heard from Treasury.”

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