Though not named as a defendant, Trump is accused in the lawsuit of possibly having made illegal donations to Friends of Bet El, the Kushner Family Foundation or Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces - all American tax-exempt entities that fund Israeli settlements.
Any donations Trump made to those organizations would be listed on his 1040 tax form, but the president has yet to release them. Representatives for the Trump transition team and the White House media team have not responded to emails seeking comment.
The complaint says any donations Trump made to pro-settlement tax-exempt entities would constitute money laundering.
In an interview, attorney McMahon noted that U.S. tax-exempt entities get their status because the charitable work they do on U.S. soil alleviates a burden from the federal government. What they cannot do, McMahon said, is conspire to hurt individuals overseas or damage their property.
"When you send clean funds overseas to promote criminal activities like ethnic cleansing, theft of property and genocide, you commit money laundering," McMahon said, who put Trump’s possible donation to American Friends of Bet El at $10,000.
[su_columnpostpullquote align="right"]Israel considers Palestinian areas disputed territories – not occupied – because there was no Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank when Israel seized the territory, which was ruled by Jordan between 1948 and 1967. Because of that, the pro-settlement movement within Israel believes the country has just as much of a legal right to the land as Palestinians do.[/su_columnpostpullquote]Accusations of genocide jolt Israelis, whose collective memory of the horrors of the Holocaust is ever present. But Peled said the description is largely accurate.
"We're talking about real genocide,” said Peled. “This is not small. It's not just anti-Semitic slurs. If you take the UN definition of the crime of genocide - if you place it side by side with Israeli actions toward the Palestinians - it's almost identical. It's striking when you do that.”
The Office of the United Nations Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide defines genocide as any "acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." That includes "killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."
The Israeli government staunchly denies that it is engaged in ethnic cleaning or genocide against the Palestinian people. Israel says that any violence it employs is self-defense from Palestinian terror attacks.
But Peled points to the violence of the Israeli occupation inflicted on Palestinians as the bigger context. Military checkpoints, and the imposition of settler-only roads that connect the settlements to Israel, restrict Palestinian travel through the West Bank, he added.
"All of my friends who are Palestinian - their kids are being shot, they're being imprisoned, they're being tortured, they're being beaten - they're stuck in these little open-air mini prisons," Peled said.
The UN deems Israeli settlements illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949, which prohibits countries from moving their civilian population into territories occupied by war. Israel disagrees, however, that the law applies to the territories it seized in 1967, including the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel considers Palestinian areas disputed territories - not occupied - because there was no Palestinian sovereignty in the West Bank when Israel seized the territory, which was ruled by Jordan between 1948 and 1967. Because of that, the pro-settlement movement within Israel believes the country has just as much of a legal right to the land as Palestinians do.
McMahon’s clients reject this interpretation. The attorney said named plaintiffs Ali Ali and Linda Keteeb have lost $2 million to $3 million in West Bank property to which they hold the original deeds. Israeli settlers took the property by force, McMahon added.
Peled says Israelis don’t suffer materially from the occupation but that both sides suffer because of a lack of normalcy.
"The way I live, where I grew up - the privileges I have, the resources I have - everything is a result of the occupation of Palestine,” Peled said. "When you're an Israeli, you're a prison guard."
[su_columnpostpullquote]“The way I live, where I grew up – the privileges I have, the resources I have – everything is a result of the occupation of Palestine. When you’re an Israeli, you’re a prison guard.”[/su_columnpostpullquote]Peled called the level of ignorance on the issue in the U.S. "stunning, considering how much money goes there."
“These people are pouring money into this, and they're getting a tax break,” he said.
Peled is optimistic that the American judiciary will “wake up” and chip away at the settlement issue. “All it takes is one judge to say 'you know what, I'm going to give this some thought,'" he said.
Suing for $200 million in damages, the plaintiffs allege civil conspiracy, negligence, reckless supervision, aiding and abetting war crimes and crimes against humanity, and aiding and abetting tax fraud.
Netanyahu and other high-level Israeli officials cannot claim immunity, according to the complaint, because the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act contains exceptions for commercial activity and theft of private property.
The complaint accuses the officials of enabling the theft of thousands of acres of Palestinian land used to build Jewish-only settlements. In the process, the Israeli government demolished 49,000 Palestinian homes and forcibly removed 400,000 Palestinians - an act that the lawsuit says constitutes ethnic cleansing and meets part of the criteria for the Genocide Convention: the deliberate infliction of conditions of life calculated to bring about the physical destruction of a group in whole or in part.
As for the commercial activity, the complaint points to arms-purchase agreements in the United States.
"Every year, these officials visit Washington D.C. and consult with Department of Defense officials about the purchase of military hardware and sophisticated weaponry,” the complaint states. “Thus, they have been engaged in classic commercial activity in the U.S. for the last thirty years.”
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