UNITED STATES. New York: New York’s state assembly will soon consider legislation prohibiting registered charities from contributing tens of millions of dollars each year to support unauthorised Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Zohran Mamdani, a state assembly member, has introduced the “Not on our dime!: Ending New York funding of Israeli settler violence” act to forbid the use of tax-deductible donations for activities that are widely regarded as war crimes under the Geneva Conventions, such as the eviction of Palestinians from their land.
The construction of Israeli settlements has been referred to as “a flagrant violation under international law” by the UN Security Council.
“This legislation makes it clear that New York will no longer effectively subsidise war crimes and the flouting of international law,” said Mamdani.
“What we have is a number of New York state-registered charities that are sending at least $60 million a year to Israeli settlement organisations, which then use that funding to continue the history of expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians in the occupied territories that have been going on for decades,” he added.
Others in the legislature opposed the bill, branding it an assault on organisations that care for terrorism victims and clothe orphans.
“The bill is a ploy to demonise Jewish charities with ties to Israel,” they stated in a statement that did not name settlements, adding that it was solely introduced to rile up pro-Israel New Yorkers and cause discord within the Democratic party.
Among others, Jewish Voice for Peace, the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, and the Centre for Constitutional Rights (CCR) support the proposed law. “Aiding and abetting war crimes is not charitable, period,” said Vince Warren, head of CCR.
“This bill goes a long way towards ensuring that New York is not inadvertently subsidising war crimes but rather creating paths for accountability,” Warren added.
Mamdani listed a number of New York-based organisations as targets for the proposal, including the Central Fund of Israel, which promotes itself as “promoting charitable causes in Israel.” The “land of Israel,” which is frequently used to refer to both the occupied territories and the state of Israel, is specifically mentioned as the destination of CFI’s funding.
The CFI distributes funds to a number of settler organisations, including the Israel Land Fund, which is in charge of displacing Palestinian residents from their homes to make room for Jewish settlers.
Another US organisation, Friends of Israel David, funds Elad, an Israeli settler organisation responsible for the violent expulsion of Palestinians, in an endeavour to “Judaise” occupied East Jerusalem.
Mamdani claims these organisations pass themselves off as charities to hide their support of illegal activities.
The Israeli newspaper Haaretz revealed in 2015 that at least 50 NGOs in the US were actively involved in generating money for Israeli settlements. According to Haaretz, some of the funds were also used “towards providing legal aid to Jews accused or convicted of terrorism and supporting their families” through a “legal aid society” called Honenu.
Haaretz reported, “Among those who benefited from the group’s support in 2013 were the family of Ami Popper, who murdered seven Palestinian labourers in 1990, and members of the Bat Ayin Underground, which attempted to detonate a bomb at a girls’ school in East Jerusalem in 2002.”
The proposed legislation would allow New York’s attorney general to bring legal action against organisations that finance settlements. It would also allow Palestinians harmed by settlement groups supported by organisations located in New York to file lawsuits for compensation in American courts.
Mamdani stated that explicit law is necessary because, despite the possibility that other laws may be utilised to stop Americans from sponsoring criminal actions abroad, they have not been put into practice due to US politics of support for Israel.
For that reason, Mamdani admits that he will have difficulty passing the law now. Nevertheless, he noted that each succeeding US president has resisted building settlements and that public opinion is gradually changing in favour of the Palestinians.
“I think it will be a long fight. I do not have any illusions. But if you look at the attitudes of Americans towards Palestine and towards Israel, and specifically to the question of settlements, it is very clear that this is also a broadly popular fight,” Mamdani said.