Formally established in June 2003, Rebuilding Alliance (RA) raises money to finance the reconstruction of “homes and communities in regions of war and occupation” — specifically the regions affected by the Arab-Israeli conflict. But RA does not rebuild any Israeli homes that have been destroyed by Hamas rockets fired from Gaza, or by Hezbollah rockets launched from southern Lebanon. Rather, its aid is earmarked exclusively for “Palestinian families whose homes have been unjustly demolished by the Israeli government” — a reference to the Israeli Defense Forces’ demolition of structures that terrorists were utilizing as residences or as bases of operations. RA purports to rebuild only “the homes of people who have never been accused of any security violation.”
Intimately linked to the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), RA was created in reaction to the death of Rachel Corrie, an ISM activist who, in March 2003, was crushed beneath a bulldozer in Rafah when its operator failed to see her trying to block the destruction of a Palestinian home that was concealing a tunnel through which Hamas and Islamic Jihad terrorists were receiving smuggled weapons.
Cindy Corrie, Rachel’s mother, is a Member of RA’s Board of Directors. Craig Corrie, Rachel’s father, is an Honorary Board Member. And Alison Weir, the Founder and Executive Director of If Americans Knew, is listed as an “Associate” of RA.
Rebuilding Alliance is an outgowth of the Global Campaign to Rebuild Palestinian Homes, which was formed in June 2002 as a collaborative effort by three nongovernmental organizations — the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD), the Jerusalem Center for Social and Economic Rights, and Just Peace Technologies. Fiscal sponsorship for this Global Campaign was initially provided by Global Exchange, which is headed by the pro-Castro communist Medea Benjamin. Subsequent operational expenses were shouldered personally by members of Just Peace Technologies. Publicly lauded by ICAHD Coordinator Jeff Halper, the Global Campaign raised enough money (much of it with the help of some 400 United Methodist churches in the U.S.) to rebuild six homes and a peace center in the Jerusalem area and a kindergarten in the West Bank. Additional funds were used to petition the Israeli Supreme Court to cancel specific demolitions. In October 2002 the Global Campaign was dissolved and soon reincarnated as Rebuilding Homes. The organization officially changed its name to Rebuilding Alliance on June 28, 2003.
Apart from home reconstruction, RA’s major work falls into three additional categories:
(a) Education and Outreach: “[T]o change the unjust policies of the Israeli government — and make the world safer for all of us — we must reach mainstream Americans and our senators and representatives. We [RA] provide education, information, and experiences intended to reshape American views of the Middle East.”
(b) School Building: “Villages and organizations are asking us to help build schools. Despite personal and collective tragedies, they place the education of their children as their highest priority, the key to a better future.”
(c) Legal Defense: “We select precedent-setting building projects and defend them, all the way up to the Israeli Supreme Court.”
According to RA, the Israeli government chooses to demolish Palestinian homes for four main reasons:
(1) Land Grab: “Over 400,000 Israelis now live in the Occupied Territories, including the settlement ‘neighborhoods’ in East Jerusalem. Israeli settlements were built on private land, belonging to Palestinian villagers. Through an intricate system of zoning and planning, Palestinian homes were and continue to be demolished to make way for settlements.”
(2) Population Squeeze: “Home demolition, along with travel restrictions, curfews, blockading of towns and uprooting of trees, is one of the most brazen and cruel of Occupation policies. These policies are designed to make life so difficult for ordinary Palestinians that eventually they will give up their land and leave.”
(3) Military Action: “Military action destroys and damages Palestinian homes. … Since the start of Israel’s Occupation in 1967 over 14,000 Palestinian homes have been demolished, resulting in the displacement of more than 100,000 people.”
(4) Collective Punishment: “As a form of collective punishment, the Israel government demolished the homes of suspected terrorists and their extended families.” According to RA, these demolitions go “far beyond mere retaliation for terrorist attacks. It is an attack on an entire people, an attempt to make the Palestinians submit to a mini-state under Israeli control.”
RA’s cost for rebuilding an average home of 100 square meters (980 square feet) in the Jerusalem area is $43,000; this includes $30,000 for construction expenses; $2,400 in fundraising costs; $2,100 in administrative costs; $2,500 earmarked for a legal reserve fund; and $6,000 “to tell the story of the home to people around the world with a short film, build coalitions to adopt the home, and coordinate urgent action to prevent demolition.”
RA’s Executive Director is Donna Baranski-Walker, the founder of Just Peace Technologies. RA’s Board Chairman is Alan Kaufman, a Green Party of Michigan representative on the International Committee of the Green Party of the United States.
RA has 501(c)(3) status as a nonprofit organization with the Internal Revenue Service, a designation reserved for tax-exempt groups that operate for religious, charitable, scientific, or educational purposes. The IRS stipulates that such entities “may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities” and “may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates,” though some voter registration activities are permitted. On its 2004 and 2005 U.S. tax returns, RA declared that it had spent no money on lobbying or legislation.
Yet RA explicitly urges its members and supporters to make in-person and telephone lobbying calls (promoting pro-Arab policies) to their congressional representatives, and its website lists weekly congressional lobbying activities. In one particular “action alert,” the RA website posted specific instructions on how to help prevent the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 371, a bill supporting Israel’s construction of an anti-terrorism security barrier in the West Bank. On another occasion, an RA promotional campaign urged: “We’re encouraging Americans to take in the personal stories of Palestinian families, to invest in their future by helping them rebuild homes and schools, and to defend their rights in court. And when bulldozers are coming, we know we can save those homes and schools when citizens call Congress to intervene.” To make it easier for people to lobby effectively, RA provided a templated online letter which could be forwarded to individual congressmen.
RA’s websiteexhorts its readers to actively oppose the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), an influential Israeli lobby. Soliciting money for its “AIPAC Does Not Speak for Us” campaign in 2006, RA stated: “We urge our representatives to reject the AIPAC agenda. … During the terrible violence that engulfed Lebanon and Israel this past summer, AIPAC … demanded unconditional [U.S.] support for the disproportionate Israeli military assault … AIPAC urged the U.S. to rush more bombs to Israel, bombs that destroyed entire Lebanese neighborhoods. … AIPAC pushed for the current U.S. sanctions against the Palestinian people that have created a humanitarian crisis in Gaza. … In the West Bank, the destruction of Palestinian homes and confiscation of land goes unabated, with the full support of AIPAC. … We demand a suspension of U.S. military aid to Israel … until Israel abides by international law.”
Moreover, RA has engaged in direct legislative lobbying with such policymakers as California Senator Barbara Boxer and Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, asking them to vote against a proposal to cut off U.S. funding for the Palestinian government while Hamas was in political control of that entity. RA also permitted a non-U.S. citizen, a Palestinian named Husam El Nounou, to lobby Senator Boxer during a telephone call. The Palestinian NGO association to which El Nounou belongs has refused to sign a declaration pledging that any funds received from organizations such as RA will not be used to fund terrorism.