New York State lawmakers blast bill targeting charities sending money to settlements

US state representatives condemn legislation from progressives as ‘a ploy to demonize Jewish charities’; speaker of assembly says measure is a non-starter

Luke Tress is a JTA reporter and a former editor and reporter in New York for The Times of Israel.

A general view shows houses in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, May 10, 2023. (Wisam Hashlamounn/ Flash90)
A general view shows houses in the West Bank settlement of Kiryat Arba, May 10, 2023. (Wisam Hashlamounn/ Flash90)

NEW YORK — US lawmakers in New York State on Wednesday censured progressive colleagues for introducing a bill in Albany targeting Israeli settlements, calling the measure “a ploy to demonize Jewish charities.”

The proposed bill, called “Not on our dime!: Ending New York funding of Israeli settler violence act,” calls to block nonprofits from funding activities in settlements and allow the state attorney general to penalize such groups. It is seen as having almost no chance of advancing.

The legislation says it aims to “prohibit not-for-profit corporations from engaging in unauthorized support of Israeli settlement activity.”

A group of progressive lawmakers led by Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani and State Senator Jabari Brisport introduced the legislation. Both are members of the Democratic Socialists of America party.

Mamdani said that each year, New York state charities send over $60 million in tax-deductible donations “to aid and abet Israeli settler violence.”

“Settler violence happening today in occupied Palestine is reliant on these funds,” Mamdani said in a statement. “By allowing these organizations to continue operating as non-profits while funding ethnic cleansing and war crimes, New York State is subsidizing these atrocities.”

He named the New York-based Central Fund of Israel as one of the bill’s targets. The group says it funds hundreds of Israeli organizations, including the Gush Etzion Foundation for the West Bank settlement bloc of the same name, but also nonprofits outside of settlements that support disabled people and their families, asylum seekers and at-risk youth.

A group of 24 state assemblymembers led by Democrat Daniel Rosenthal of Queens released a letter Wednesday blasting the measure as an attack on “Jewish organizations that have wide-ranging missions from feeding the poor to providing emergency medical care for victims of terrorism to clothing orphans.”

“This bill is a ploy to demonize Jewish charities with connections to Israel,” the letter said. “It was only introduced to antagonize pro-Israel New Yorkers and further sow divisions within the Democratic party.”

“We look forward to seeing the supporters of this legislation condemn last week’s attack from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad targeting civilians and recognizing Israel’s right to exist,” it said.

The speaker of the New York State Assembly, Carl Heastie, dismissed the legislation as dead in the water.

“This bill is a non-starter and it is not something we are considering,” Heastie said in a statement to The Times of Israel.

Assemblymember Charles Lavine, a Long Island Democrat and the president of New York’s chapter of the National Association of Jewish Legislators, said the bill’s sponsors “oppose the existence of the Jewish State” and were interfering with the State Department’s Middle East policy.

“At a time when antisemitism has reached epidemic dimensions, the bill serves no legitimate purpose,” Lavine said. “Anti-Israeli legislative gestures will only serve to impair American efforts for peace in the region.”

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