Left-wing Israeli NGO battles settlements in US

Gush Shalom wants to persuade US to cancel tax exemption for pro-settlement contributions.

By DAN IZENBERG
July 30, 2009 22:50
2 minute read.
Left-wing Israeli NGO battles settlements in US

Maaleh Rehavam outpost 248.88 AJ. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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The left-wing organization Gush Shalom is launching a campaign against organizations soliciting donations in the United States, particularly those receiving US federal tax exemptions for settlements and illegal outposts, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The timing of the campaign has been stepped up from September to August because the Foreign Ministry recently launched its own campaign to block governments of foreign countries from donating money to human rights organizations in Israel. One of the organizations singled out by Gush Shalom is called "Shuva Israel," which describes itself as "a US non-profit organization with 501c3 IRS tax deductible status." The organization solicits money for a long list of West Bank settlements and illegal outposts including Havat Gilad and Havat Ya'ir, which are on the list of outposts Israel has promised the US to dismantle. According to Gush Shalom, which refused to comment on this report, "while the public launch of the campaign, through publication of the first reports and legal actions, was originally planned for September of this year, recent events have prompted us to accelerate the timetable. "The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs under Avigdor Lieberman, in a grossly undemocratic move and in close coordination with a number of purportedly independent organizations such as NGO Monitor, has decided to actively target the operations of Israeli human rights organizations active in the Occupied Territories by pressuring the government of friendly nations to cease critical financial support for them." According to Gush Shalom, in criticizing the Dutch embassy in Israel for giving a grant of almost €20,000 to Breaking the Silence for its controversial report on alleged IDF human rights and war crime violations during Operation Cast Lead, the government acknowledged that the organization's actions were legal and legitimate but allegedly said they were politically incorrect. On the other hand, "many of the activities of the organizations targeted by our campaign are illegitimate and/or illegal under international, US and EU law." In the first phase of its campaign, Gush Shalom will pressure the US to halt tax exemptions to Israeli organizations and NGOs which "directly and openly support the development and operation of illegal outposts. The organization referred to Shuva Israel as one of them. While it has an address in Austin, Texas, the organization is located in the West Bank settlement of Revava. Asked about the Gush Shalom campaign, David Halevy, the head of Shuva Israel, said, "This is incredibly outrageous. They have the gall to do this after receiving so many millions of dollars from foreign governments supporting left-wing organizations that influence activity in Israel." He said the money collected is used to subsidize schools, libraries, youth activity, women empowerment training and other projects in the settlements and outposts. Asked how much money his group collects per year, Halevy replied, "I wish we collected more than we do. If we could get 10 percent of what these left-wing organizations receive, we could do a great deal." Gush Shalom said that in the second stage of the campaign, it will focus on the financing mechanisms of mainstream organizations such as Nefesh B'Nefesh, Christian Zionist philanthropies, the Jewish National Fund and the World Zionist Organization, which are also active in the West Bank.

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