Over $220 million has been given in tax-exempted US funds to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank over the last five years, according to an investigative report by Israeli news site Haaretz this week. Haaretz published the findings after analyzing thousands of documents from filed taxes as well as official papers from dozens of US and Israeli nonprofit organizations, several of which were directly involved with raising money to support settlements.
Around 50 tax-exempt nonprofit organizations in the US have been “massively funding” settlement residents, with nearly $224 million transferred as grants to the illegal settlements between 2009 and 2013, Haaretz reported. Families of convicted Jewish terrorists were among those who received funding from the US nonprofits.
One nonprofit reportedly gave financial support to the family of Ami Popper, an Israeli who murdered seven Palestinian laborers in 1990, according to Haaretz.
Members of the Bat Ayin Underground — which attempted to detonate a bomb at a girls’ school in occupied East Jerusalem in 2002 — was also among those to receive tax-exempt funding. Among the largest contributors was the Brooklyn-based nonprofit Hebron Fund, which reportedly transferred $5.7 million to the illegal Jewish settlement in Hebron between 2009 and 2014.
Through its designation of such organizations as nonprofits, the daily said, the US government is “incentivizing and indirectly supporting the Israeli settlement movement.”
When asked if granting tax-exempt status to such organizations contradicted the official US line against settlements, a White House official told Haaretz that every administration since 1967 has opposed Israeli settlements beyond the 1967 border and continues to do so today.
US-based nonprofits have recently come under fire before for supporting the illegal settlement enterprise. Earlier this year, a group of 13 Palestinians filed a complaint against US-based charities that financially support settlements, alleging that such support leads to terrorist activity and is in violation of US anti-terrorism laws.
Plaintiffs in the case argued that charities were financially supporting terrorist activity by funding settlers who have carried out acts of violence against Palestinians and their land, and desecrated houses of prayer. The case was rejected by a US Court of Appeals in April 2015.
Meanwhile, Israeli watchdog Peace Now has long fought against tax-exempt donations to settlements. The group points out that IRS regulations exempting charities from tax deduction define a charitable organization as one that “includes relief of the poor and distressed or of the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erection or maintenance of public buildings,monuments, or works; lessening of the burdens of government; promotion of social welfare.”
Such a definition does not extend to charities funneling funds to the Jewish-only settlements of the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, the group argues, and such donations should not be tax-exempt. Despite US condemnation of ongoing settlement expansion, such criticism has rarely been more than verbal and Israel has continued to expand settlements unabated. MAAN