Tax-exempt terror: The US cash behind extremist settlers

by Yaniv Reich on December 9, 2009

Settlers are not some magical force of nature, of unknown origin, impossible to contain. They are a state-sponsored movement to drive out Palestinians from their ancestral homeland and move Jews to the newly created space. It is a movement that consumes occupied and stolen Palestinian land purely because the government of Israel, with the fourth most powerful army in the world, allows them to. That is, settlers exist in Palestine at the behest of the Israeli government that funds them, defends them from international pressure (with unconditional US acquiescence), and uses its military to protect them.

They also exist because US tax-exempt organizations give them millions of dollars each year to further their agenda of ethnic cleansing. In just three years from 2004–2007, a minimum of 28 US-based charities have given at least $34 million dollars to settler fanatics, according to a report by David Ignatieff in the Washington Post. In other words, the US government provides a form of federal subsidy to organizations that work against stated US policy in Israel/Palestine (not to mention international and human rights law).

These tax-exempt organizations typically operate under the guise of social, cultural, or educational purposes. For example, Ir David, a Jerusalem-focused organization at the forefront of the ethnic cleansing of East Jerusalem, states in its IRS filings that its purpose is “to create a charitable fund to provide financial aid & other reasonable assistance to benefit the Jewish people of the Old City of Jerusalem. To teach about the history and archeology of the biblical city of Jerusalem. To offer aid & assistance for education, housing & the rehabilitation of distressed properties.” This type of stated purpose is standard practice among these organizations.

“Redeeming Land”

But that is not how David Luria, chief fundraiser for Ateret Cohanim, one such organization, sees their true purpose:

“We are an umbrella organization that engages in redeeming land,” he said. “Our [fundraising] activity in New York goes solely toward land redemption.”

American Friends of Ateret Cohanim was founded in New York in 1987. Like all tax-exempt organizations, it must file detailed annual returns with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. An examination of them reveals that the organization describes its “primary exempt purpose” as: “[to] provide funding for higher educational institutes in Israel.”

“That’s because of the tax issue,” Luria said, explaining that due to American law, the American Friends organization “has to be connected in some fashion with educational matters.”
In reality, Ateret Cohanim in Israel focuses mainly on purchasing Arab property in East Jerusalem. Since its founding in the 1970s, it has bought dozens of Arab buildings for Jews to reside in. Just this April, for instance, it moved Jewish families into an Arab house it purchased in the Muslim Quarter.

One noteworthy donor to its Friends organization is casino magnate Irving Moskowitz, a well-known supporter of rightist causes, who also owns the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem. That hotel made headlines recently when Moskowitz obtained a permit to build 20 apartments for Jews there, sparking angry protests from the U.S. government.

These issues were highlighted again in late November when the New York Mets hosted a fundraiser for the Hebron Fund at their Citi Field stadium. The Hebron Fund’s primary purpose is to support a few hundred of the most extreme settlers in their bid to take over—by force—the old city center of Hebron.

The Hebron Fund’s extremist positions are clear. Hebron Fund executive director Yossi Baumol told The American Prospect that “[d]emocracy is poison to Arabs”, “Israel must not give Arabs a say in how the country is run” and “[y]ou’ll never get the truth out of an Arab”. Hebron’s chief rabbi, Dov Lior, a featured participant in some Hebron Fund events, recently praised a new book that says it is permitted for a Jew to kill civilians who provide moral support to an enemy of the Jews, and to even kill young children, if it is foreseeable that they will grow up to become enemies.

Settlers and the Israeli army routinely attack and terrorize Palestinians in Hebron, according to human rights groups such as B’Tselem in Israel. In 1994, Hebron settler Baruch Goldstein massacred 29 unarmed Palestinians who were praying in a Hebron mosque. One of the honorees at the 2009 Hebron Fund dinner, Noam Arnon, called Goldstein “an extraordinary person” in 1995. In 1990 Arnon called three Jewish terrorists who were convicted of killing three Palestinians and maiming two Palestinian mayors “heroes”.

Though the Hebron Fund tells the IRS that its purpose is to “promote social and educational wellbeing”, in 2008 Baumol assured New York radio listeners: “There are real facts on the ground that are created by people helping the Hebron Fund and coming to our dinners.”

The New York Mets refused to cancel the fundraiser after coming under pressure from human rights organizations. Instead, they made this statement to Adam Horowitz of Mondoweiss:

Thank you for your e-mail.

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.

Americans Paying Israeli Soldiers for Palestinian Deaths

Another tax-exempt organization in the US called Machanaim has been channeling money to a charmingly fascist-named group known as the Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land, according to an investigate report for Haaretz. This organization pays Israeli soldiers who refuse to evacuate settlements 1000 shekels (about $260 USD) for every day they spend in jail for violating the laws of their country and army. The organization also paid 20,000 shekels (about $5,200 USD) to soldiers holding up signs publicly to denounce the eviction of settlers from some tiny outpost called Homesh.

Still scarier, this organization pays some Israeli soldiers for killing Palestinians. For example, they gave 1,800 shekels (about $480 USD) to a soldier named Tzach Kortz, who shot an alleged terrorist in Kiryat Arba in November.

Although the Israeli organization that receives these funds is currently under investigation by Israel’s attorney general (as reported on Coteret blog), the US organization that helps fund it suffers no such scrutiny and maintains its tax-exempt status.

Stop Funding These Jewish Terrorists

Providing money to organizations that work in the occupied territories and East Jerusalem is not technically illegal. Still, this funding directly contradicts US government policy in the region. For example, 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service stated: “The United States stipulates that U.S. aid funds cannot be used in the occupied territories.” Despite this, there has yet to be any formal IRS investigation into the US funding of settler-created ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

This is an issue all non-violent Jews should be able to organize around, a point made eloquently today on the Mondoweiss blog.

It’s one thing to deplore American support for the colonists and issue generic statements of outrage, and another to say: “Let’s stop this group, this behavior should not be federally-subsidized.” Campaigns have to be targeted to be real and effective. J Street and Peace Now both avoided the issue that the Guardian focused on: The Mets hosting Hebron Fund and the U.S. government giving them a tax break. And no one besides Daniel Levy and Jeff Goldberg actually spoke out at the time and joined their voices publicly to the 11 Israeli, US, and Palestinian groups who called on the Mets to cancel [the event].

The Bottom Line

Stopping settler anarchism and overturning their coordinated, well-funded campaign to ethnically cleanse Palestine is the very least we can do.

Anyone who claims to uphold principles of democracy and human rights should be judged in accordance with the forceful action they take to stop the settlers and their political co-conspirators.

Next Steps

If anyone has any ideas/leads about how to find more information about these groups, for example, by delving into US and/or Israeli tax records, please contact me.

(The title of this post was taken from the Guardian UK article by the same name because I thought it was pretty much perfect.)

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 dcijc December 10, 2009 at 5:49 pm
2 Yaniv Reich December 11, 2009 at 9:32 am

Thanks for that, dcijc! I will definitely check them out.

3 Gush Shalom December 13, 2009 at 2:45 am

You might want to take a look at this

4 Yaniv Reich December 13, 2009 at 12:11 pm

Gush Shalom, I know about your work described in the link. Keep it up. And if there is any way I can help, please feel free to contact me.

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