by Alex Kane, Mondoweiss
The name Sheldon Adelson, the right-wing, pro-Israel casino mogul who has bankrolled the Republican Party, rings a bell for close observers of American politics. But how about the Falic family?
The Falics should be just as well known. Members of the family have donated millions of dollars to pro-Israel U.S. politicians from both parties. Beneficiaries of their largesse include GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney; Democrats Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Eliot Engel; the Republican National Committee; and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. In addition, the family has given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s political campaigns.
They have made their money through Duty Free America, which operates stores in airports around the U.S and the world where consumers buy tax-free products.
Leon Falic and his brothers bought the company in 2001. The Florida-based Falic Family Private Foundation, which receives the bulk of its funds from Duty Free Americas, has given money to a variety of pro-Israel causes, including West Bank settlements. And on December 28, the family is set to donate a Torah to Ariel University’s synagogue in honor of Fima Falic, who died in 2012. Israeli politicians will join the family in a ceremony that day. Nily Falic, the wife of the late Fima, is the national chairperson of the Friends of the IDF, a multi-million dollar operation that gives tax-free donations to the Israeli army.
The Falics are one of a number of wealthy, right-leaning Jewish American families that fund Israel’s and America’s right-wing politicians and illegal settlement projects. Hundreds of millions of dollars from U.S. tax-free foundations are poured into Israeli West Bank settlements every year. Taken together, the funds that originate in the U.S. are used for everything from infrastructure to business to security, solidifying Israeli control over the West Bank and putting a Palestinian state further out of reach.
A Duty Free Americas’ employee told me over the phone the Falics were not available for comment until Monday.
In addition to boosting the coffers of Netanyahu, Romney and Wasserman Schultz, the Falic Family has sponsored students to take a Zionist Organization of America-sponsored trip to Israel, where they visited the Falic-owned Psagot Winery, located in the settlement of Psagot, near the West Bank city of Ramallah. After Fima Falic died, the Zionist Organization of America released a statement extending “condolences to the entire Falic family on the sudden passing of Fima Falic, true Zionist and generous Israel supporter.” And as Mondoweiss’ Allison Deger reported in 2012, the family also funded an archeological dig in the settlement of Shiloh.
Tax forms I reviewed provide more details on the Falic family’s wealth, but the only detailed accounting of where donations went is in the records for fiscal year 2006. That year, the foundation gave hundreds of thousands of dollars to a range of groups related to Israel, including: $43,000 to the American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, which funds East Jerusalem settlements; $15,000 to the American Friends of Likud; $104,000 to a U.S. charity that funds a yeshiva in the Hebron settlement of Kiryat Arba, populated by the most extreme Israeli settlers; $85,000 to the Central Fund of Israel, another settlement fundraising vehicle; and $63,600 to Manhigut Yehudit, the Jewish Leadership movement run by Member of Knesset Moshe Feiglin, who has proposed paying Palestinians to move out of Gaza and called for the “conquest” and “annihilation” of people in Gaza.
On December 28, the Falic family will make another show of support for West Bank settlements. Nearly 20 Falic family members are set to participate in a ceremony at Ariel University marking the donation of the Torah, according to a press statement sent by Ariel University. The family members who will participate include Nily, national chairperson of the Friends of the IDF, and Simon, the chairman of Duty Free Americas. Also participating in the ceremony will be Likud Member of Knesset Limor Livnat (who announced her retirement earlier this month), the mayor of Ariel and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the religious leader for the Western Wall.
Ariel University is in the mega-settlement of Ariel, located deep in the occupied West Bank. In late 2012, the Israeli military recognized the university as an accredited Israeli school, the first school in a settlement to receive that recognition. (The Israeli military has authority to over the West Bank, which includes the granting of accreditation for schools.) That decision led 165 professors to publicly calling for the boycott of Ariel University.
In September, Ariel University’s administration fired an Israeli professor named Amir Hetsroni after he penned articles in Haaretz that criticized settlements, including Ariel.