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US and Israeli NGOs fund far-right Jewish extremists

Israeli right-wing activists from nearby settlements protest on the main road leading to the Palestinian village of Duma in the Israeli occupied West Bank on April 5, 2016 [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]
Israeli right-wing activists from nearby settlements protest on the main road leading to the Palestinian village of Duma in the Israeli occupied West Bank on April 5, 2016 [MENAHEM KAHANA/AFP via Getty Images]

Non-governmental organisations and tax-exempt foundations in the US and Israel are funding far-right Jewish extremist groups which rampaged through occupied East Jerusalem over a week ago while chanting "death to Arabs". The details have been exposed by T'ruah, a non-profit organisation of rabbis.

T'ruah uncovered details of how money is being channelled to violent Jewish extremist groups like Lehava, which organised the anti-Palestinian street protests. These sparked condemnations from many quarters, including pro-Israel groups like the American based Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

"Violence and hate are never the answer and do nothing to ease an already fraught and tense situation," said the ADL. "We are disturbed that extremist voices like Lehava are filling the vacuum. Both Israeli and Arab leaders need to forcefully condemn these actions and stop fanning the flames of hate."

However, Jill Jacobs from T'ruah criticised comments that cast right-wing Jewish rioters as marginalised outsiders. Such an approach, she argued, "erases the roles of both the Israeli government and American Jewish funders in enabling and encouraging such violence."

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Writing in Haaretz, Jacobs said that over several years, T'ruah has made a number of complaints to the Inland Revenue Service about US tax-exempt foundations that funnel money to Lehava and other right-wing Jewish extremist groups.

An investigation into Lehava's sources of funding ties it to a number of foundations and individuals within Israel and the US through an elaborate funding scheme. It's said that while the group does not have its own tax status in Israel, investigations by the Israel Religious Action Centre and the Democratic Bloc have shown that it receives money from other registered Israeli non-profit groups, which are in turn funded by American foundations and individuals.

Jacob cited the American Friends of Yeshivat HaRa'ayon HaYehudi ('Yeshiva of the Jewish Idea'), whose partner organisation is "explicitly" listed by the US State Department as a "foreign terrorist organisation" along with the Charity of Light Fund, which is named in tribute the late Rabbi Meir Kahane. The US-born rabbi preached and directed terrorism against those he viewed as enemies of Israel or the Jewish people, and advocated the forced expulsion of Palestinians from territory controlled by Israel. He and his group were designated as terrorists by the government in Tel Aviv.

According to Jacob, both foundations are headed by Levi Chazan, a notorious Kahanist, who was convicted in a 1984 attack that wounded seven Palestinians on a bus. Other funding comes from the Florida-based Falic family, owners of Duty-Free Americas.

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One of the largest sources of funds is said to be the Central Fund of Israel (CFI). As the largest US foundation channelling funds to Israeli extremists, it made close to $40 million in grants in the last year for which tax information is available, explained Jacob. Donations funnelled through CFI ends up in groups that defend Israelis arrested for terrorism and is said to be also given Israelis convicted of terrorism.

Individuals named in the report include many well-known figures in the US, such as Adam and Gila Milstein, who are major donors to the Israeli-American Council, Zioness and other groups that consider themselves pro-Israel. Milstein was named in an Al Jazeera documentary as a funder of the notorious Canary Mission, which tries to blacklist pro-Palestinian activists and academics.

"It is not enough to issue statements against the violence of the extremists, or to pretend that they represent a marginal perspective" said Jacob as she called on pro-Israel groups to take responsibility. "Those of us committed to the human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians also must insist that the institutions to which we are connected do not contribute to the groups that promote genocide and organise Jews to take part in violent rampages."

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