WASHINGTON (CN) – U.S. taxpayers have brought a federal complaint to halt U.S. aid of Israel, saying the money is being used to fund war crimes in the Palestinian territories.
"We're trying to cut off aid to Israel based on its human-rights record," attorney Martin McMahon said in an interview.
As laid out in McMahon’s Nov. 16 complaint, the U.S. Departments of Treasury, State and Defense have helped facilitate a "master plan" to permanently colonize Palestinian land and "de-nationalize" the Palestinian people.
"It's pretty clear to us that each of these agencies has engaged a Pro-Israel double standard," said McMahon, of the firm Transnational Business Attorneys Group.
McMahon notes that the agencies are quick to criticize and shut off aid to other countries with deplorable human rights records, but not Israel.
By committing crimes against humanity, genocide and denationalizing the civilian population, Israel has rendered the permanent annexation of the West Bank a "fait accompli,” according to the 69-page complaint.
American taxpayers have been funding these operations for the past 30 years, the complaint alleges.
McMahon added that each of the 28 people behind the suit – with Richard Siegel, of Teaneck, New Jersey, as lead plaintiff – are Palestinian-Americans.
“Treasury officials have allowed U.S. donors and tax-exempt entities to make significant contributions to the Israeli army, totaling a billion dollars since 2006, with a $104 million going to the army in 2014 alone,” the complaint states.
“The $104 million in donations made during 2014 to the Israeli army constitutes a small part of the $2 billion in laundered funds provided annually by U.S. donors to belligerent settlers and Israeli-based non-profits whose mission is to fund the violent expulsion of all non-Jews in the OPT,” it continues, abbreviating occupied Palestinian territories.
These operations help expand Israeli settlements, which the United Nations has condemned since 1979. According to UN Security Council resolution 446, the Israeli settlements “have no legal validity and constitute a serious obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East.”
In addition to alleging violations of the U.S. war crimes statute, the complaint invokes President Lincoln’s 1863 Lieber Code, President Clinton’s 1995 Executive Code, the U.S. Genocide convention and U.S. Army War Manual.
McMahon has filed two related lawsuits in the past year.
The first lawsuit, filed Dec. 16, 2015, took aim at Treasury Department policy, alleging that the agency "turned a blind eye" to 150 tax-exempt U.S. nonprofits that funneled money into Israeli settlement expansion, demolition of Palestinian homes and paramilitary activities carried out by armed Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians.
The case, which involves many of the same plaintiffs as the latest lawsuit, has been fully briefed for two months. McMahon said he expects a ruling on it soon.
The second lawsuit upped the ante by targeting corporations that are profiting from the Israeli occupation of the West Bank. The lawsuit named casino mogul Sheldon Adelson and several U.S. nonprofits, philanthropists and corporations and defendants in an unprecedented $34.5 billion complaint by Palestinians.
Proceedings in that case have been stayed, McMahon said.
The current lawsuit differs in that it takes aim at cutting off U.S. aid to Israel.
McMahon noted interest in it was fueled after the United States agreed just this past September to a 10-year $38 billion aid package, the biggest yet.
"We're coming at it from the vantage of you can cut off aid if there's a deplorable human-rights record, or if the country that's receiving the aid is using our military equipment in an offensive way," McMahon said.
The attorney notes there is precedent for such action in sanctions that both the Ford and Reagan administrations imposed on Israel under the parameters of the Arms Export Control Act and the Mutual Defense Assistance Agreement, after it used cluster bombs in civilian areas in Lebanon and Gaza. The Department of Defense stopped selling cluster bombs to Israel for six years as a result.
McMahon says U.S. agencies treat Israel differently than other human-rights abusers.
"They won't criticize Israel for the same conduct," McMahon said.
"Saudi Arabian bombing in Yemen is a war crime,” he said. “This same concept has been going on in Palestine for 30 years. How come it's a war crime when Saudi Arabia does it but not when Israel does it?”
Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry are named as defendants to the latest lawsuit in their official capacity.
None of the agencies would offer comment on pending litigation.
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