West Bank outpost 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
An estimated $200 million in tax-exempt funds were donated to Jewish residents in the West Bank over the last decade, supporting settlements that are at odds with the current US’s administration’s foreign policy, The New York Times reported Monday.
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Washington does not allow Israel to spend US aid on West Bank settlements, but tax breaks are allowed on charitable donations to the area.
The Times identified over 40 US groups that collected some $200 million in tax-deductible donations for the settlements.
The funds went to schools, synagogues and recreation centers, but some also went to such items as guard dogs, bulletproof vests and rifle scopes.
In addition, the paper said, the Capital Athletic Foundation, run by disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff, donated $140,000 to a religious study organization in Israel called Kollel Ohel Tiferet.
However, according to documents cited in the report, some of the funds also financed a paramilitary operation in a West Bank settlement – including a camouflage sniper suit in a box labeled “Grandmother Tree Costume for the play Pocahontas.”
The US also gives tax breaks to pro-Palestinian groups, but the Times
article suggested the donations to the settlements were unique in that they were inconsistent with Washington’s policy, which does not allow settlements to receive US aid.
The paper quoted former US ambassador to Israel Daniel C.
Kurtzer as saying that “a couple of hundred million dollars makes a huge difference,” and if carefully focused, “creates a new reality on the ground.”
Although the article did mention the tax breaks for pro- Palestinian groups such as the Free Gaza Movement and the American branches of left-wing Israeli groups like Peace Now, watchdog group NGO Monitor issued a scathing statement on Tuesday afternoon, claiming the Times
article did not present the entire picture.
“Many organizations use US tax-exempt status to oppose Israeli government policy, and some are among the leaders of campaigns to demonize and wage political war against Israel,” Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said in a statement.