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NY Mets embroiled in settlement flap

Nov. 13, 2009 10:07 P.M. (Updated: Nov. 18, 2009 10:48 A.M.)
Bethlehem - Ma'an - Controversy continued to grow in the US over a fundraiser scheduled for Saturday at the New York Mets' Citi Field stadium for the Brooklyn-based Israeli settlement group The Hebron Fund.

Settlement supporters have called for letters praising the Mets for standing with the fund, while human rights groups issued a public appeal this week that resulted in hundreds of emails, letters and calls demanding the event's cancelation.

"The New York Mets will be facilitating activities that directly violate international law and the [US President Barack] Obama administration's call for a freeze in settlement construction, and that actively promote racial discrimination and the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians from their homes in Hebron," read a letter sent by 11 human rights organizations to the US baseball team.

"It would be a tragic irony for an event funding Israeli settlers' violent actions and discriminatory policies against Palestinians to be held at Caesars Club which, according to the Mets, 'sits directly on top of the Jackie Robinson Rotunda,' which was named 'in honor of Jackie Robinson, the… great American who broke baseball's color barrier,'" the letter added.

In its own statement, the Mets responded that "Citi Field hosts a wide range of events that reflect the diversity of our hometown and the differing views and opinions of New Yorkers. The beliefs of organizations holding events at Citi Field do not necessarily reflect those of the New York Mets."

But Abed Ayoub, representing the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, responded that tolerance for diverse beliefs "should not include facilitating events for groups that break laws, and support racism and violence... Surely the Mets would not do business with white supremacists or anti-immigrant vigilantes. The Mets should follow those same standards in dealing with The Hebron Fund, and cancel this event."

The Hebron Fund's activities violate international law and enable the right-wing Israeli movement's racist and violent settlers, according to Andrew Kadi, a representative of Adalah-NY: the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East. He told Ma'an that some 700 Israeli settlers, living amidst 150,000 Palestinians in Hebron, "are expanding their hold on the historic Old City by driving out Palestinian residents."

Israeli settlements already violate international law, according to a broad international consensus, but Kadi said Saturday's fundraiser also violates long-standing American foreign policy, as well as Obama's calls for Israel to stop expanding its borders.

He pointed out that The Hebron Fund's dinner invitation reads, "Join us in support of Hebron and in protest of today's building freeze in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank]," as well as statements by settlement backer Yossi Baumol in a September 2008 radio interview, in which Baumol said, "There are real facts on the ground that are created by people helping The Hebron Fund and coming to our dinners."

US Middle East envoy George Mitchell has not commented on the event, although his office reportedly received the letter calling for its cancellation, as well. Mitchell has a long association with Major League Baseball, having served as chair of an investigative committee on performance-enhancing drugs in 2006.

The Hebron Fund and The Jewish Community in Hebron did not respond to emails seeking comment.

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