Philadelphia (In Palestine Today)- He might not get as much publicity as other powerful megadonors, but Jeffrey Yass is a libertarian billionaire, CEO of the Susquehanna International Group, and the richest person in Pennsylvania. He’s helped wage a war against public education, donates money to various right-wing PACs, and helped finance Democratic Andrew Yang’s failed mayoral run in NYC.
Yass is also the primary funder for something called the Kohelet Policy Forum, which one activist described to me as “Israel’s ALEC.” The group pushes libertarian policies in the country and promotes settlement expansion. It even lobbied the Knesset to help pass the 2018 Nation-State law which grants greater rights to Jews than non-Jews (including land rights, language rights, and the “exclusive” right of “national self-determination”).
After the forced expulsion of Palestinians from Sheikh Jarrah in May, the group put out a statement referring to the situation as a “property dispute” and claiming that media reports had distorted facts.
“Contrary to the claims of the critics, there is nothing in the Geneva Conventions or any other part of the laws of belligerent occupation that forbids Israel to carry out court orders enforcing private property rights of landlords to evict their overstaying tenants,” it reads. “The claim that property rights of Jews must be disregarded while other property rights must be upheld or even enhanced has no basis in the law and is morally offensive.”
Philly activists have been targeting Yass, and trying to bring more attention to his influence, for the last five months. In May Jewish Voice for Peace Philadelphia (JVP Philly) Susquehanna International Group’s headquarters requesting a meeting with him. In June JVP Philly members held a sabbath service on his lawn and unsuccessfully tried to discuss the subject of Palestine with him,
This week Jewish Voice for Peace Philadelphia kicked off their “All Eyes on Yass” campaign, setting up a temporary dwelling to celebrate the Jewish holiday of Sukkot on Yass’ lawn.
“The holiday of Sukkot reminds us that all people are connected to land – but Jeffrey Yass is supporting the forced displacement of Palestinians from their homes,” said Jewish Voice for Peace Philadelphia member and Rabbinical student Rachel Kipnes. “Whether funding apartheid and settlement expansion in Israel, or education privatization and right-wing extremists in the U.S., Jeffrey Yass must be held accountable. That’s why we’re here protesting again – for the third time – and launching the ‘All Eyes on Yass’ campaign.”
“We built a sukkah on Yass because these fragile structures we build in this season remind us of our obligation to refuse apartheid, dispossession and occupation,” tweeted Rabbi Alissa Wise.
“The violence that Palestinians are facing in their own homes, with Zionist settlers constantly harassing them and Israeli military shooting live ammunition at children, does not ‘just happen.’” said teacher and JVP Philly member Anissa Weinraub. “It is advanced and paid for by actual humans, and Jeffrey Yass is one of them. I can’t just sit by and watch billionaires like Jeffrey Yass fund this right-wing, dehumanizing agenda. And that’s why we’re calling him out today.”
The activists told Mondoweiss that their overall goal is to cut off funding to the Kohelet Policy Forum, but that they also wanted raise awareness about Yass and connect the dots between his domestic agenda and what he is pushing within Israel.