J Street wants review of tax exemption for US pro-settlement organizations
search

J Street wants review of tax exemption for US pro-settlement organizations

Group says NGOs ‘channeled millions’ to support settlers, despite long-standing bipartisan American policy of condemning settlements

Israeli troops stand guard as settlers take a tour in the contested West Bank city of Hebron, on June 4, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
Israeli troops stand guard as settlers take a tour in the contested West Bank city of Hebron, on June 4, 2016. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

The liberal J Street organization is calling on the US Treasury to review the tax-deductibility status of donations by American groups that promote Israeli settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

In a statement sent to the media Friday, J Street said that “a sophisticated private network has sprung up in the United States, funded by tax-deductible donations, that has channeled millions of dollars to strengthen the settlements and weaken the Palestinians’ presence in the West Bank.”

According to the statement, the money is used to fund organizations such as the right-wing NGO Regavim, founded by Jewish Home MK Bezalel Smotrich, which J Street said “presses for the demolition of Palestinian houses – and in some cases entire communities.”

The statement also cited El’ad (also known as the Ir David Foundation), which works to move Jews into predominantly Arab areas of East Jerusalem, and the Brooklyn-based The Hebron Fund, a group that J Street says promotes Jewish settlement in Hebron “at the expense of the local Palestinian population.”

J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington, March 21, 2015. (Courtesy JTA / J Street)
J Street Executive Director Jeremy Ben-Ami addressing the group’s conference in Washington, March 21, 2015. (Courtesy JTA / J Street)

J Street also highlights US policy, which it says “consistently opposed the construction and expansion of settlements under each and every president — Democratic and Republican — since Israel started building on territories captured in the 1967 [Six Day] war.” Yet, it says, US “statements of disapproval have done little to stem or even significantly slow the inexorable expansion of the Israeli presence in the occupied territory.”

As such, the organization “is urging Americans to contact the US Treasury to urge a thorough review of organizations working to entrench and expand West Bank settlements to determine if such tax deductibility is permissible under current requirements.”

In March 2015, the Avaaz rights group unsuccessfully petitioned the IRS to revoke The Hebron Fund’s tax exempt status.

“Settlers in Hebron have benefited greatly from support from The Hebron Fund,” the petition said. “According to Israeli human rights observers, these settlers have ‘destroyed shops and doors, committed thefts, and chopped down fruit trees.’ They have ‘been involved in gunfire, attempts to run people over, poisoning of a water well, breaking into homes, spilling of hot liquid on the face of a Palestinian, and the killing of a young Palestinian girl.”

David Ignatius of the Washington Post reported in 2009 that a search of IRS records showed “28 US charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007.”

read more:
comments