April 13, 2021

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Barghouti’s Bucks (Divest This!)

If you scour through the comment section of any pro-Israeli blog, you’ll invariably run into accusations that those of us writing and doing anything on behalf of the Jewish state (or lambasting BDS and other anti-Israel propaganda activities) are paid agents of the Mossad, Netenyahu, AIPAC or the latest fantasized cabal of super-wealthy Jewish fat-cats.   

I’ve always assumed these accusations were just simple-minded attempts by the BDS brigade to portray their enemies as vast, powerful and wealthy in order to assuage the egos of those who have seen their argument smashed and their campaigns defeated time and time again.  After all, if this blog were a corporation filing taxes, those forms would – at best – indicate two- to three-figure annual losses (with tip-jar donations eaten up by design and production of works like this, or the pine-appley Polynesian cocktails I prefer to sip while writing).

But last week’s arrest of Omar Barghouti for tax evasion flagged the fact that there are some people in the BDS game (both pro- and anti-) making a decent enough profit off the gig to earn some attention from Internal Revenue. 

Most of the commentary on the scandal has understandably focused on the rank hypocrisy of Barghouti himself who travels the globe calling for the economic ruin of the nation he has and continues to benefit from, whether through subsidized tuition at an Israeli university or security services ensuring that the planes he takes from Ben Gurion to various Israel-bashing gigs don’t blow up in the sky.

While that reaction is warranted, I’m more intrigued by the sources of money the dear leader of the global BDS “movement” has managed to squirrel away and the hubris required to assume he could just sock his earnings into bank accounts on the West Bank or United States and never be called to account for not declaring what he’s actually earned on his national tax forms.

The only specific number mentioned in news reports is $700,000 Barghouti deposited in West Bank accounts earned from his business installing ATMs in Palestinian-controlled territories.  At first glance, this number seems pretty high.  But upon second glance, that amounts to a mere $70,000 per year (given that this $700K total represents a decade worth of earnings).  A third glance, however, requires us to think how much one has to earn annually in order to sock away $70,000 out of that total in a rainy day fund.

Stories did not identify how much Barghouti makes in speakers fees and book royalties, although they did indicate that this is the money he’s kept in US banks (i.e., in banks held in the country he seems to despise only slightly less than he loathes Israel).  I have read that the speaker/writer supposedly donates his fees to “the cause,” which I suppose might be true (even if so much of everything else Barghouti spouts is a lie).  If that’s the case, however, what’s sitting in those US bank accounts?  Chanukah gelt?

Comparisons with Al Capone (who was finally put away for tax evasion, rather than his more violent crimes) were rife on the Net.  But I don’t recall the US Treasury Department letting Capone out on bail to travel the world denouncing the US.  Apparently, Israeli tax authorities are a bit more lenient in this regard, providing Omar leave to go abroad and give even more speeches proving Palestinians like himself live in the equivalent of the Warsaw Ghetto (before going out to dinner and relaxing in a comfortable hotel).

As I’ve said in the past, I begrudge no one who has found a way to get someone else to foot the bills (and even pay honorariums) at events in interesting and exotic locales.  And if Omar has managed to build a business flogging his book at speaking events, more power to him.  But if you want to keep such a scam going, there are a few business details worth staying on top of.  Paying your taxes is one of them.

A narrative is already emerging that the dread Israeli empire has found yet another way to suppress those stifled still voices of the BDS movement, turning their Mandelaesque leader into one more martyr to free speech who, for some reason, never stops talking (and never stops being given opportunities to be paid to talk).

To which I say “posh.”  But if the BDS “movement” wants to stake its reputation on an ATM salesman/tax cheat who remains unwilling to give up the privileges of the Israeli society he is dedicated to destroying, then I wish them a happy third decade of watching Israel go from strength to strength as their own project continues to burn.

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