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  • Duty Free Americas Simon Falic has been funding money to Israeli far-right settlers like Meïr Ettinger who was charged with setting fire to a Palestinian home.

    Duty Free Americas Simon Falic has been funding money to Israeli far-right settlers like Meïr Ettinger who was charged with setting fire to a Palestinian home. | Photo: Reuters / Twitter / @RabbiShmuley

Published 1 July 2019

The owner of ‘Duty Free Americas,’ the U.S.-based Falic family donated US$5.6 million to settler organizations and far-right groups and causes in Israel. 

A business family from the United States donated millions of dollars to far-right settler organizations in the occupied West Bank where illegal Israeli settlements are taking away Palestinian homes, an investigative report by the Associated Press has revealed. 

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The Falic family from Florida are owners of the chain of “Duty Free Americas” shops at airports worldwide. As part of their philanthropic work in Israel, Falics donated at least US$5.6 million to settler organizations for the last decade, funded synagogues, schools, and far-right causes. 

The Falics support groups that are demanding the establishment of a “Third Temple” for Jews at the Al-Aqsa Mosque complex in the old city of Jerusalem. 

Al-Aqsa has been one of the most sensitive issues in the conflict. The mosque, which is called Temple Mount by Israel, is the holiest site in Judaism and the third holiest site for Muslims. At present, the mosque is administered by the Muslim Waqf board and secured by Israeli police. 

They support the ultranationalist Jewish community in Hebron who follow late Rabbi Meir Kahane whose movement is outlawed in the U.S. and classified as a terrorist organization. Kahane’s Kach party was outlawed in Israel for being racist and calling for the mass expulsion of Palestinians. 

Falics donated around US$600,000 to "Hachnasat Orchim Hebron", a Jewish group associated with Baruch Marzel, Kahane’s former aide. 

Falics donated more money to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu than any other donors. Collectively, they donated more than US$100,000 to Netanyahu. 

Simon Falic (r) with U.S. ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Rabbi Shmuley. | Photo: Twitter / @RabbiShmuley

The family also backs groups which secretly buy Palestinian properties in East Jerusalem and funded an unauthorized settlement outpost in the West Bank. 

“Far-right foreign donors are a pillar of the settlement enterprise,” said Brian Reeves, a spokesman for Peace Now, an anti-settlement watchdog group from Israel. 

Simon Falic, one of the business partners, through his lawyer, defended their decision to fund illegal settlements. 

“We are proud to support organizations that help promote Jewish life all over the Land of Israel,” said Falic adding, “The idea that the mere existence of Jewish life in any geographical area is an impediment to peace makes no sense to us.”

He also said his connection with Marzel was through a “beautiful project” of distributing snacks to Israeli soldiers who are protecting Hebron residents.

"While I may not agree with everything he has said, the work we have done that has been affiliated with the Hebron community has been positive, non-controversial and enhances Jewish life in the Hebron area - which we strongly support," he said.

However, Palestinian activists disagree. "We are suffering from settler violence," Issa Amrao, a Palestinian activist from Hebron said.

"When I tell the soldiers 'protect me', they tell me: 'We are not here to protect you. We are with our own people, who are the settlers,’” he said. 

Since capturing West Bank and East Jerusalem in the 1967 Middle East War, Israel had increased its settler population in the occupied regions to about 700,000 people, roughly 10 percent of Israel’s Jewish population. 

Under the leadership of Netanyahu,  the policy of illegal Jewish settlements have significantly increased. U.S. President Donald Trump has emboldened Netanyahu by agreeing on pro-Israel policies like recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and moving the U.S. embassy to the holy city.

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An investigation by the Israeli news outlet Haaretz revealed that many U.S. organizations had raised more than US$230 million for settlement causes between 2009 and 2013. 

The casino magnate Sheldon Adelson is another big donor who gave US$5 million in 2014 to an Israeli university in the West Bank settlement of Ariel. U.S. ambassador to Israel Devid Friedman is also a prominent donor. 

The Falic family business “Duty Free Americas” is headed by three brothers Simon, Jerome, and Leon. They operate over 180 stores at airports and border crossings in the U.S. and Latin America. 

Two charitable organizations are registered under the Falic family, namely, the U.S. based Falic Family Private Foundation and the Segal Foundation in Israel. During 2017, the foundation in the U.S. donated around US$20 million to "various worldwide Jewish organizations,” according to tax filings. 

Which organization among these two give money to the settlement organizations has not been outlined but according to AP investigations, US$5.6 million has been donated to settlement and far-right causes. 

The family said their donation and support for Jewish life “should not imply the exclusion of anyone else, including Christians and Muslims” but activists deny the claim. 

“Everyone should be aware that when they shop at ‘Duty Free Americas,’ their dollars could potentially finance some of the most extreme right-wing actors in Israel,” said the founder of Israeli Democratic Bloc Ran Cohen. 

They have also donated US$50,000 to the “Fund for the Rescue of the People of Israel,” which raises funds for Lehava, a group that opposes Jewish-Arab couples and use intimidation and violence to stop assimilation. Falic said he gave the money for needy families and not for Lehava even though he opposes assimilation. 

Back in the U.S., the Falics support pro-Israel politicians. They have donated over US$1.7 million to politicians like Trump, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, New York Senator Chuck Schumer, and Florida representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

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