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New York Gala raises $32m for Israel army

A New York City gala held by the Friends of the Israel Defence Forces (FIDF) on 27 March 2016 [Avi Mayer/Twitter]
A New York City gala held by the Friends of the Israel Defence Forces (FIDF) on 27 March 2016 [Avi Mayer/Twitter]

A New York City gala held by the Friends of the Israel Defence Forces (FIDF) yesterday evening raised $32 million for members of Israel’s occupation forces.

The event was attended by 1,200 US business people and philanthropists as well as key figures from the Israeli establishment, including Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon and Israel’s Consul General in New York Dani Dayan. Army Chief of the General Staff, Gadi Eisenkot, was also slated to attend but was called back to Israel amid an escalation of Israeli air strikes on the besieged Gaza Strip yesterday.

Among the biggest donors to the gala were Or Lachayal – an organisation which works to “strengthen the Jewish identity of the Israeli army” – which pledged $2.5 million and Nefesh B’Nefesh – which promotes Jewish immigration to Israel – which pledged $1.3 million, Arutz Sheva reported.

FIDF has a long history of fundraising for Israel’s occupation forces, the proceeds of which it then spends on “educational, cultural, recreational, and social services” for Israeli soldiers. It operates 20 offices across the United States and Panama, according to its own website.

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Support for the army from US organisations and the US government has been a cornerstone of Israel’s ability to continue its now 50-year-old occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Earlier this month the largest ever US military aid package to Israel – worth $38 billion over a ten year period – entered into force.

State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a written statement that “as we enter the new fiscal year, the ten-year period of the $38 billion Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by the United States and Israel in 2016 begins”. She added: “Under the terms of the MOU, the United States will set funding for Israel at levels of $3.3 billion in Foreign Military Financing and $500 million for cooperative programmes for missile defence over each of the next ten years.”

Although the US has long been Israel’s most vocal ally, under President Donald Trump its support for Israel has strengthened. In May the USA moved its embassy to Jerusalem and unilaterally declared the city Israel’s capital, drawing international condemnation and sparking widespread protests. President Trump has also enacted a number of policies which harm the Palestinian position, including cutting funding to UNRWA and declaring the right of return “off the table”. President Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century” – the details of which have yet to be revealed – is also widely believed to be pro-Israel in character and has been shunned by key players such as Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

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