Brothers in Arms protest group okayed for tax break after shifting to aid mission

Knesset Finance Committee head Moshe Gafni sets aside tension with group that tried to torpedo judicial overhaul, force Haredi draft as it now scrambles to help those hurt by war

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter

MK Moshe Gafni leads a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, which he chairs, on October 23, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)
MK Moshe Gafni leads a meeting of the Knesset Finance Committee, which he chairs, on October 23, 2023. (Oren Ben Hakoon/Flash90)

The chairman of the Knesset Finance Committee agreed Wednesday to exempt the Brothers in Arms organization from having to pay tax on charitable donations, putting aside bad blood between the coalition and the activist group, which led protests against the government’s planned judicial overhaul.

A spokesman for Moshe Gafni confirmed that the Finance Committee’s approval and the chairman’s signature was sufficient to recognize the organization under Clause 46 of the Income Tax Ordinance, which grants the exemption.

Veteran journalist Ben Caspit wrote on X that it was rare for an organization to secure the exemption within its first 18 months of operation.

Brothers in Arms, made up of reserve soldiers, was established this year and played a key role in mass protests against the government’s attempts to weaken the judiciary.

But in concert with other large protest organizations, it metamorphosed into a civilian relief and support organization, immediately after Hamas terrorists stormed into the country on October 7, murdering some 1,400 people, mainly civilians, and kidnapping at least 228 others.

The group is co-organizing a massive, 15,000-strong, volunteer effort based at the Expo Tel Aviv International Convention Center, distributing thousands of items of donated civilian equipment, distributing food and medical supplies, providing activities for evacuated children, supporting the bereaved and raising funds.

Aside from protesting the judicial overhaul, Brothers in Arms also opposed efforts by ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to secure legislation exempting the Haredi community from the mandatory military draft.

Volunteers help to sort and pack donated items at the Civilian Operations Hub, Expo Tel Aviv, October 19, 2023. (Sue Surkes/Times of Israel)

In August, a group of Brothers in Arms activists and parents whose children were about to be drafted petitioned the High Court of Justice to ensure that Haredi men were enlisted along with the rest of the population.

In the wake of the Hamas assault, at least 2,000 Haredi men have contacted the military in order to enlist, the IDF said last week.

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