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American Jews Donate $33 Million for Settlements

I’ve always been proud of the Jewish obligation to give tzedakah.  It’s one of the distinctions that sets Judaism apart from other religions of the world.  The command to make the world a better place by donating charity is really noble.  But this admirable impulse is being perverted by Jewish settlers.

You and I and every U.S. citizen are subsidizing Israeli settlements.  No, not because of direct U.S. government funding.  But because we’re allowing pro-settler tax exempt groups to fundraise here in the U.S. and subsidizing every gift that’s made.

David Ignatius recounts in today’s Washington Post:

A search of IRS records identified 28 U.S. charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007.

Given the fact that U.S. government policy opposes settlements and finds them “unhelpful” to the peace process, why are we being so “helpful” to the settlers?

Here are some of the biggest charitable groups involved in funding settlements on the backs of U.S. taxpayers:

One of the Israeli organizations that has led the way in developing this area of East Jerusalem is called Ir David, or City of David. Like other pro-settlement groups, it has an active fundraising effort in the United States. According to Form 990s filed with the IRS, Friends of Ir David raised $8.7 million in 2004, $1.2 million in 2005 and $2.7 million in 2006.

The group’s primary tax-exempt purpose, according to the IRS filings, is: “To create a charitable fund to provide financial aid & other reasonable assistance to benefit the Jewish people of the Old City of Jerusalem. To teach about the history and archeology of the biblical city of Jerusalem. To offer aid & assistance for education, housing & the rehabilitation of distressed properties.”

…According to IRS records, the Hebron Fund donated $860,637 in 2005 and $967,954 in 2006 for “social and educational well-being”; the fund’s online mission statement makes clear this is for Israeli settlers inside the city. The Hebron settlement of Kiryat Arba received $730,000 in 2006 from a group called American Friends of Yeshiva High School of Kiryat Arba.

Ignatius doesn’t even mention the Central Fund for Israel, apparently an even more successful settlement charity than Ir David, which raised $12-million in 2007 alone (approximately $30 million between 2004-2007) and is supported by some of the biggest names in the American Jewish community including former Bear Stearns CEO Ace Greenberg, James Tisch, Michael Milken, Irving Moskowitz ($370,000 in 2004), Alan Slifka, Larry Zicklin, Gil Glazer, and Kirk Douglas.  And another real eye-popper of a donor is Shari Arison, Israel’s richest citizen.

The Fund was founded, and is run by the Arthur Marcus family.  A Fund vice-president (son of the founders?) is Itamar Marcus, a former Shin Bet officer and founder of the militantly anti-Arab Palestine Media Watch.  Those who wish a tax deduction for donations to PMW are directed to the Central Fund.  So in part, this is a convenient way to both fund a family member’s pro-settler propaganda work AND allow donors a tax-deduction.  Though it does seem questionable for someone who is a Central Fund board member also to receive funding for PMW from the charity.

Women in Green, another militant pro-settler group founded by Nadia Matar, also funnels its donations through the Central Fund.  Phil Weiss reported last week that Matar spoke at a N.Y. synagogue and advocated the assassination of Mahmoud Abbas.

So it’s possible Ignatius’s $33-million is at least double that.  Phil Weiss developed the Central Fund story, which unfortunately no one in the Jewish media was interested in publishing.

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  • Marilyn Shepherd March 27, 2009, 1:44 AM

    Muslims give 10% of all their income to charity under jihad.

    • Megat S. Merican March 30, 2009, 10:47 AM

      Marilyn,

      Able Muslims are commanded by Allah to give only 2.5% of their income towards charity or Zakat as it is known in Islam. Beyond that which is prescribed, is merely optional.

      And as to the purpose of what the collected zakat is used for, it is important to note that their are 8 categories of persons who are entitled to receive them:

      “1. Fakir – One who has neither material possessions nor means of livelihood.

      2. Miskin – One with insufficient means of livelihood to meet basic needs.

      3. Amil – One who is appointed to collect zakat.

      4. Muallaf – One who converts to Islam.

      5. Riqab – One who wants to free himself from bondage or the shackles of slavery. (In Singapore, zakat due to this category of recipients is spent on those who need help to pursue education or to improve their standard of living).

      6. Gharmin – One who is in debt (money borrowed to meet basic, halal expenditure).

      7. Fisabillillah – One who fights for the cause of Allah.

      8. Ibnus Sabil – One who is stranded in journey.”

      Source: http://www.zpub.com/aaa/zakat-def.html

  • Moje March 27, 2009, 4:03 AM

    In Islam, our version of tzedakah is zakat. Being one of the five pillars of Islam, zakat – giving a portion of one’s wealth to charity – is mandatory on all muslims. The reason being that wealth is considered haram (forbidden), and in order to purify it (make it halal) one must give a portion of it to the poor and/or orphans. Incidentally, giving to charity voluntarily (going beyond zakat) is known as sadaqah – sadaqah / tzedakah same thing (and the words sound the same too!). We are not so different after all!

    Anyway, there are very strict rules as to who and what is eligible to receive zakat and sadaqah money. If Muslims were occupying Israel, it would be considered haram for them to request and recieve donations in the form of zakat or sadaqah in order to build settlements, because the need to build settlements is purely superficial – they are not a necessity and they are illegal. Saying that, what are the rules in Judaism for giving and receiving tzedakah money? Can tzedakah be used to build settlements? This question needs to be answered because if Jews are giving tzedakah to build settlements then they would be making a mockery of their religion. Not only that, they would be mocking God Himself. And seeing as He is also my God, I would take offence personally.

    • Richard Silverstein March 27, 2009, 3:49 PM

      I stand corrected regarding Islam’s concept of zakat & its similarity to tzedakah. They sound like “brother” concepts.

      In my opinion, giving money for settlements is not tzedakah, since the funds do not support “justice” but injustice. That is a distortion & insult to the word “tzedek” from which tzedakah derives.

      • Mary Rizzo March 28, 2009, 3:49 AM

        i just got this post in the email, and like Moje, I was surprised that you weren’t aware of one of the pillars of Islam, but he or she explained the reasoning behind it very well, so for me to do so is superfluous! I only would like to add that in Christianity, there is indeed an precept for charity in a cash version and it is known as “tithing”
        from Wikipedia:
        A tithe (from Old English teogoþa “tenth”) is a one-tenth part of something, paid as a (usually) voluntary contribution or as a tax or levy, usually to support a Christian religious organization. Today, tithes (or tithing) are normally voluntary and paid in cash, cheques, or stocks, whereas historically tithes could be paid in kind, such as agricultural products. Several European countries operate a formal process linked to the tax system allowing some churches to assess tithes.

        While it is voluntary, as you can see, so are the other systems in the other monotheistic faiths. No one garnishes paycheques or comes to collect, it is given on a voluntary basis. The twist here is the “tax deduction” element and as you correctly state, that it is being used not for purposes of support of the cult (here in Italy, what is collected is used for church maintenance, salaries for employees of the church, etc., whereas the part withheld off taxes and signed over to the church of choice, which dispenses it as it sees fitting. Recently, similarly to what you write, one of these groups that accepts “charity” as a religious group, the Italian Jewish Community, was exposed in a scandalous situation. Here is the link. http://palestinethinktank.com/2009/01/05/a-must-read-jewish-propagandist-inadvertently-exposes-his-plot/

        of course the comments are from individuals, I am sure you realise this.

        I am sorry to say that while I was a young woman, I gladly supported charity to Jewish causes, donating my time, I would never do such a thing now, knowing what they do with the money and who it hurts.

        • Miles Stuart March 28, 2009, 7:16 PM

          Thank you so much for the link Mary. We all know this kind of thing happens but it is rare to see it so amusingly exposed. I hope I do not offend anyone but I can hardly write this for laughing.

          • Mary Rizzo March 30, 2009, 3:14 AM

            Thanks Miles. Yes, unfortunately, there are many stories like this, including the event of the industrial sabotage in a Jewish cemetery in Rome, but they rarely get exposed. The Verano cemetery vandalism was an “inside job” but after 5 days of front page news, tv specials about how “Italians are anti-semites” and the like, once it was revealed that it was actually (Jewish) employees of the cemetery who did the damage to some graves, all of a sudden, SILENCE! Not even an apology to “the Italians”, nor public admission of what happened. It was reported on some tiny little angle in the papers. Quite some national hand-wringing… over nothing! And in the end, the victim spiel was promoted and the chance to say just how bad everyone was to Jews (untrue and they know it!) in Italy. This way, no one dares to challenge organised Jewish politics in Italy, which is extremely Zionist.

            It seems as though every word these representatives say is gold, until it is exposed as manipulative. Then the story gets buried and the rectification simply does not get aired!

            Just as it is so that the pro-Israel march in Italy got its 1500 strong “celebrities”, this story of “charity and being at the orders of Israel” got buried too.

            Yet, we are attentive here.

  • Dick Fitzgerald March 27, 2009, 12:37 PM

    Why the ignorant lst sen.: other world religions have pronounced concepts of charity.

    • Richard Silverstein March 27, 2009, 3:16 PM

      Perhaps it isn’t me who’s ignorant, but you. I didn’t say Judaism had a prounced concept of CHARITY. I called it tzedakah, which is quite different than charity. In Christianity and other religions charity is an elective act. It is considered a good deed but not an imperative. In Judaism, tzedakah derives from the word for “justice” & it is a religious obligation for even the poorest Jews to give tzedakah to the extent they can. Tzedakah pervades Jewish life in a way that charity doesn’t in other religions.

  • yevno aron March 27, 2009, 1:41 PM

    As Jewish Palestinians or Palestinian Jews the Israeli settlers have the right to live in Palestine.
    They live in their banthustans covering 15% of historic Palestine.
    85% of Palestine is closed for them

    • kylebisme March 27, 2009, 7:46 PM

      Jordan was never part of Palestine, but rather simply an autonomous area incorporated under the British Mandate of Palestine.

    • Miles Stuart March 29, 2009, 5:51 PM

      Something like 80% of the Palestinian inhabitants of what became Israel now live in 0% of Israel. All of them have a right to have their property returned and to be compensated for its deliberate and wanton destruction.
      If you are living in one of the settlements your residence breaches the domestic law of every civilised country on the planet, so travel carefully.

  • LD March 27, 2009, 3:28 PM

    What about the 5 million refugees? Do they have rights? Or do you want to keep your Jewish ethnic majority?

  • Lazynative March 27, 2009, 5:58 PM

    Moje covers what I was going to say; the Islamic concept of zakat is much stricter imo since it isn’t voluntary and specifies the actual amount as a percentage of income that needs to be given – and this is on top of other tax obligations – pretty strict really!

    It doesn’t surprise me that Judaism and Islam are very similar in this regard; Christianity is more divergent than these two faiths on this.

    the politicisation of charity and these obligations, is just disgusting though.

  • bar_kochba132 March 28, 2009, 4:22 PM

    Richard, actually far, far more money than the amount you reported here goes to what many people, particularly supporters of the Arab side, consider “illegal” settlements. For instance, Tel Aviv University collects millions of dollars per year in donations. TAU is sitting on the land that belonged to the Arab village of Sheikh Munis. The Arab owners of the land of Sheikh Munis are now refugees, probably rotting away in a refugee camp in Gaza. TAU never paid them a cent for it, the Israeli government confiscated the land. Now, I have no problem with that, because the Arabs started the war in 1948 with the express intent of driving the Jews into the sea. Fortunately they failed and paid the price. However, there is no Arab anywhere who considers TAU to be a “legal” settlement. Thus, those who view TAU to be “illegal” should oppose donations going there no less than to Jewish communities in Judea/Samaria.

    • Richard Silverstein March 28, 2009, 5:32 PM

      Thanks for the snotty snark. There are ways to compensate refugees for the loss of their homes & settlements. This will happen as part of any peace agreement.

    • Miles Stuart March 28, 2009, 7:41 PM

      Now, I have no problem with that, because the Arabs started the war in 1948 with the express intent of driving the Jews into the sea.

      If you really believe this you are among a rapidly dwindling band of seriously deluded people.

  • Miles Stuart March 28, 2009, 7:43 PM

    Many of those who have spent years languishing in Guantánamo were rounded up while fulfilling their Islamic charitable obligations. In at least one case I know of personally he was helping to build a girls school, about as clear an indication as you could get that he was an opponent not a supporter of Al Qaida and their ilk.