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US Charitable Donations Funding West Bank Settlements

A great deal of support for Israeli settlements comes from the United States in the form of tax-deductible contributions from private donors. The Obama administration, like all administrations before it, opposes Israeli settlement in the West Bank and considers it an obstacle to peace. Yet, at the same time, the United States government effectively incentivizes support for the settlements by allowing American charities to disburse millions of tax-deductible dollars in support for them.

This problem has not gone unnoticed, even though it continues unimpeded at this point. The Israeli daily, Ha’aretz, is publishing a series of reports and data uncovered by journalist Uri Blau SettlersSoldiersIraqBurindetailing the extent of private American support for the settlements.

This investigation by Blau pushes forward efforts that a number of US-based groups have made in the past. Most recently, T’Ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights brought attention to this issue by filing a complaint against one such group, Honenu, in New York. Earlier in 2015, the group Avaaz petitioned the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of The Hebron Fund, which directly supports the flashpoint Israeli settlement in that Palestinian city.

As we wrote in September, “It is no secret that American charities send tax-deductible donations to Israeli settlements. And, while supporting settlements may be contrary to the stated policy of the United States, sending such donations is neither illegal nor a violation of IRS regulations governing tax-deductible charitable donations…[But] Stigmatizing such organizations can have a significant impact.”

This Ha’aretz investigation is bringing important information to light, but if it is to become more than an interesting series of articles, it will be crucial for Americans who recognize the settlements as a problem to bring greater attention to how the US tax code being used to entrench Israel’s occupation of the West Bank. In order to facilitate that discussion, FMEP has assembled the resources below.

The Ha’aretz Investigation

From N.Y.C. to the West Bank: Following the money trail that supports Israeli settlements

Haaretz investigation: U.S. donors gave settlements more than $220 million in tax-exempt funds over five years

An Interactive Look at U.S. Charities Supporting Israel’s West Bank Settlements

An inside look at how Haaretz tracked the flow of U.S. donations to Israeli settlements

WATCH: Meet Uri Blau, the journalist investigating U.S. donations to Israeli settlements

Who Pays for Israel’s Settlements? It Could Be You

Netanyahu Allies Donated to Groups Pushing for Third Temple

Documents and articles of note

FMEP Issue brief on settlement funding by US charities

Avaaz petition to IRS to revoke tax-exempt status of The Hebron Fund

Mother Jones piece on Avaaz petition

T’Ruah filing to NY State Attorney General to investigate possible misuse of charitable donations by Honenu and Central Fund of Israel

T’Ruah statement regarding filing

2010 New York Times report on US charitable funding of settlements

2010 article on settlement funding from The Forward

Washington Post article, by David Ignatius, on American funding of settlements

Summary of the “Sason Report” on Israeli governmental funding of “illegal outposts”

2014 article in The Forward on American funding of settlements and extremists

Peace Now’s report on the cost to Israel of settlements

2012 Yediot Ahronoth article on settlements getting preferential treatment above Israel proper

Report by Lara Friedman on cost of settlements from 1992-2011