Legislation has been put forward at New York’s state assembly which would prevent registered charities from sending tens of millions of dollars per year to help fund illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Palestinian Territories.
Zohran Mamdani, a member of News York’s state assembly, this week introduced the bill titled ‘Not on our dime!: Ending New York funding of Israeli settler violence’, which aims to prohibit tax-deductible donations from being used to fund illegal Israeli settlements and expel Palestinians from their native land.
Speaking to the Guardian newspaper, Mamdani stated that “This legislation makes it clear that New York will no longer effectively subsidise war crimes and the flouting of international law”, referring to the fact that the building of Jewish-only and Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem is illegal under international law.
“What we have is a number of New York state-registered charities that are sending at least $60m 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 has been going on for decades,” he said.
Mamdani identified some of those organisations and charities based in New York as including the Central Fund of Israel, which claims to promote “charitable causes in Israel” and fund the entire “land of Israel” – a term Zionists use to refer to not only the Israeli state, but also the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
An entire network of settler organisations reportedly benefits from donations distributed by the CFI, such as the Israel Land Fund which is responsible for the expulsion of Palestinian families from their homes in order to accommodate new Jewish settlers.
The state assembly member also named the Friends of Ir David, another US-based group which funds Elad, an Israeli settler organisation responsible for the forced removal of Palestinians as it seeks to “Judaise” occupied East Jerusalem. “These organisations masquerade as charities while funding illegal activities,” Mamdani said.
He emphasised the necessity of introducing legislation explicitly and directly targeting funding to Israel and its settlements, saying that other laws that should target them are disregarded by those organisations and ignored by Washington due to the predominant position of supporting Israel within US politics.
“There’s a phrase that I grew up hearing: PEP, progressive except Palestine,” Mamdani recalled. “You’d see how, time and again, how politicians who espoused universal beliefs would always seem to find an exception when it came to the question of Israel and Palestine. We see that sadly in terms of how our laws are applied in terms of how our policies are applied. What this legislation does is it reckons with reality.”
If it is passed, the proposed legislation would essentially grant New York State’s Attorney General the power to sue those groups funding the illegal settlements, and would also provide the right to seek damages in American courts to Palestinians who are harmed by settler organisations funded by those ‘charities’.
“I think it will be a long fight. I do not have any illusions”, Mamdani said, acknowledging it may not be passed this time. “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 fight that is broadly popular.”
In response to the bill, 25 pro-Israel lawmakers this week sent out a joint letter condemning it, claiming that it would only serve to punish Jewish organisations that provide aid to the poor, as well as emergency care for victims of terrorism. “This bill is a ploy to demonise Jewish charities with connections to Israel. It was only introduced to antagonise pro-Israel New Yorkers and further sow divisions within the Democratic Party,” they stated.