As an organization that focuses on the critical role of the United States in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Jewish Voice for Peace is deeply concerned by the ongoing activities of U.S. organizations whose 501c3 (non-profit) status enables them to raise money from American donors to support and maintain settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
In the Washington Post last year, David Ignatius noted that from 2004-2007, 28 U.S. tax exempt organizations raised $33.4 million in funding for settlements and related organizations.1
The construction of settlements in occupied territory is a violation of international law.
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Non-profit settlement funders include New York-based Hebron Fund, which supports the extremist Jewish settlement of 700 settlers in the center of Hebron, making the area inaccessible and unlivable to its 150,000 Palestinian residents. Israeli organizations such as B’tselem describe the settlement in Hebron as a severe violation of the most basic human rights of the Palestinians in the city and an ongoing war crime.2 The Hebron Fund contributes almost $1 million dollars annually to support this settlement.3
An additional example is Friends of Ir David, which raises money to expand Jewish settlement in the Palestinian neighborhood of Silwan in East Jerusalem. From 2004-2006, Friends of Ir David contributed over $10 million dollars to activities that include fraudulent home purchases and ideological archaeological excavations that are used as a pretext to demolish Palestinian homes. Since 1967, thirty five percent of East Jerusalem has been taken over by the Jerusalem municipality for the sake of housing Jewish citizens — and changing the facts on the ground in anticipation of a final status settlement.4
While many of these organizations claim to merely fund “social and educational” activities, the Center Fund, also based in New York, contributed over 100,000 shekels (over $27,000) to the Od Yosef Chai Shechem yeshiva in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar near Nablus. This is the same yeshiva whose rabbi said it was permissible to kill gentile babies because of “the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.”5 The Center Fund also funds settler organized “security” organizations — ie, militias.6 Indeed the violence from the Yitzhar settlement has been so pronounced that former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert described it as “pogroms against non-Jews.”7
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The Colorado-based Christian Friends of Israeli Communities encourages churches and ministries to connect with “the pioneers of Biblical Israel” through the “adopt-a-settlement” program. The director of the organization’s Israeli office estimates that more than half the settlements in the West Bank receive direct or indirect support from Christian organizations.8
The impact of American dollars on helping settlers deepen and broaden their hold on Palestinian neighborhoods and cities is clear. These are just four examples of how U.S.-based organizations, taking advantage of their tax-exempt status, are contributing to creating “facts on the ground” in flagrant opposition to international law, as well as materially contributing to the ongoing human rights violations and daily misery of Palestinians struggling to survive and remain in the West Bank.
Unfortunately, these settlements, and their U.S. fundraising counterparts, are in no way outside the Jewish mainstream in either Israel or the United States. The Israeli beneficiary of Friends of Ir David, for example, known as Elad, has been in and out of a contractual relationship with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority. That relationship gives Elad control over the very archaeological site that it is using to pursue its political goal of increasing Jewish control over Silwan. The yeshiva in Yitzar funded by the Central Fund received over a million shekels in funding from Israel’s Education and Welfare ministries in 2007 and 2008.9
Even mainstream American non-profit organizations like Nefesh B’Nefesh, which works in partnership with the Jewish Agency to promote North American immigration to Israel, receives one third of its aliyah related funding from the Israeli Absorption Ministry each year. Nefesh B’Nefesh encourages North American Jews to move to settlements in the West Bank, both by promoting those “communities” on their website, without mentioning that they are situated in the West Bank, and by helping new immigrants access increased fiscal benefit packages they receive from the Israeli government for settling in West Bank settlements.10
Thus the Israeli settlement enterprise, despite an avowed settlement “freeze,” is a conscious target for expansion, aided and abetted both by the Israeli government and the American organizations that support them.
1 Ignatius, David, “A Tax Break Fuels Middle East Friction,” The Washington Post, March 26, 2009.
3 Ignatius, David, “A Tax Break Fuels Middle East Friction,” The Washington Post, March 26, 2009.
4 Eldar, Akiva, “The Very Eye of the Storm,” Haaretz, April 10, 2009. February 23, 2010.
5 Eldar, Akiva, “US Tax Dollars Fund Rabbi Who Excused Killing Gentile Babies,” Haaretz, December 15, 2009.
6 Weiss, Phil, “NY Fabric Store Family’s Charity: We Train People to Fight in Towns in Occupied Territories With Other Civilians Around Us,” www.mondoweiss.net, December 11, 2008.
7 “Yizhar Settlers Rampage Caught on Camera,” Haaretz, September 15, 2008.
8 Avni, Ronit, “Want to Stop Israeli Settlements? Follow the Dollars,” The Washington Post, June 25, 2009.
9 Eldar, Akiva, “US Tax Dollars Fund Rabbi Who Excused Killing Gentile Babies,” Haaretz, December 15, 2009.
10 Fleisher, Malka, “New Immigrants to Gush Etzion Receive Extra Help,” Arutz Sheva, May 25, 2009. See also www.nbn.org.il/communities/template/community
For information about Jewish Voice for Peace, go to <www.jewishvoiceforpeace.org>.