Private American donors have pumped more than $220 million into Jewish West Bank settlements in recent years through tax-deductible donations, effectively subsidizing a policy opposed by US administrations for decades, according to a Haaretz investigation released Monday.
The report found that some 50 American organizations gave tax-deductible donations by private individuals to the settlements. The payments went to property purchase, home amenities and, in some cases, support to families of convicted Jewish terrorists.
The newspaper said the money’s tax-deductible status means the US government “is incentivizing and indirectly supporting the Israeli settlement movement,” even though Washington opposes settlement construction and views it as illegal under international law.
The investigation was carried out by Haaretz reporter Uri Blau and funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and will be the focus of a number of in-depth reports published over the coming weeks.
According to the report, organizations that raise money for projects in West Bank settlements amassed a total revenue of $281 million between 2009 and 2013, the final year for which there is extensive data. In those years, $224 million was transferred directly to settlements via Israeli nonprofits.
The organizations named by Haaretz include the Central Fund of Israel, which supports settlement institutions; Honenu, which provided support to the terrorists’ families; and the Hebron Fund, which finances projects in the settler enclave in Hebron.
In 2013, Honenu — an NGO that provides legal counsel to settlers and right-wing activists — gave a grant to the family of Ami Popper, who murdered seven Palestinian laborers in 1990. It also allocated funds to members of the Bat Ayin Underground, which attempted to detonate a bomb at a girls’ school in East Jerusalem in 2002.
The report also said some of the money was spent on paying the salary of settler leader Menachem Livni, an Israeli jailed in connection with his activities in a radical Jewish group that carried out attacks against Palestinians in the 1980s. The money has otherwise gone to acquiring buildings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem and improving the living conditions of Jewish settlers, the report said.
Donations to the NGOs are tax-deductible, even though the United States government considers the settlements illegal.
“Concordant with permanent US policies, this administration never defended or supported any activity associated with the settlements,” a White House official told Haaretz. “It doesn’t support or advance any activity that will legitimize them.”
JTA contributed to this report.
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