Yesterday, Akiva Eldar published another installment in his powerful expose of the most extreme of the settler yeshivas and their funding sources both from the government and American Jewish donors. He focussed on the Od Yosef Chai yeshiva, based in the viper nest settlement of Yitzhar, located near Tapuach, from which the pogromists who torched the Yasuf mosque came. The yeshiva has several claims to fame. One, a student once launched a homemade Katyusha rocket at a nearby Palestinian village. Two, the yeshiva is a hesder, or educational institution that trains future IDF soldiers. Its rabbis have consistently advocated mutiny and insubordination by telling students to refuse legal military orders to evacuate settlements. Three, one of the yeshiva rabbis published a book last month which advocated the killing of non-Jews (read, Palestinians) who threatened Jews, including children because they would grow up to harm Jews:
The rabbi said it is permissible to kill gentile babies because of “the future danger that will arise if they are allowed to grow into evil people like their parents.”
Four, the yeshiva receives $300,000 in state funding for its role as a hesder institution. Five, it receives large charitable gifts from Diapora Jewish communities in the UK and U.S. Those gifts are tax-deductible despite the fact that the yeshiva not only encourage violation of the Israeli military code, hatred of Muslims and Palestinians, but also flies in the face of U.S. policy regarding the settlements:
…The American public also participates in financing the message coming out of Yitzhar. It [the Israeli government charity filing] states that in 2007 and 2008, the yeshiva received NIS 102,547 ($25,000) from an American foundation known as the Central Fund of Israel (CFI).
My own review of IRS 990 reports shows that CFI gave $22,000 to “Friends of Yitzhar” (page 28, see link below) in the 2005 reporting year. In that same year, the Fund broke out its giving by category (pdf) noting nearly $400,000 for “security programs” (page 30), which would fund the militias and other violent hooligans running rampant in settlements like Yitzhar, Tapuach and elsewhere.
Jewish charities in the UK have even deeper pockets. The Charitable Commission report for 2006 (pdf) reports (page 8) the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva College for Rabbinic Studies donated approximately $600,000 to the Yitzhar yeshiva. The fund’s total tangible assets are listed at approximately $5-million. Didi Remez tells me that the 2007 Israeli charity report lists one of Britain’s wealthiest and most distinguished Jewish charitable funds, the Wolfson Foundation, as a $20,000 donor.
We may not have much leverage with a U.S. government frightened of its own shadow to take on pro-settler charities, but Britain seems more sensitive on these issues. I urge our British peace activist counterparts to inquire into this matter with the relevant British authorities. The government backed out of a Tel Aviv real estate deal with settler-builder Lev Leviev. It also just acceded to a request to distinguish Israeli food exports from the Territories from Israeli products from within the Green Line. We might have more luck exploring this from Britain than from Washington DC.
I hope to God someone in the Obama administration is reading these wise words and taking them to heart:
…The next time the White House spokesman condemns the torching of a mosque near Nablus, some reporter ought to ask him why respectable American citizens contribute to the Od Yosef Chai Shechem yeshiva, one of whose leading rabbis wrote the following incendiary words of incitement: “[Civil] Administration inspectors have not dared to enter Yitzhar since the freeze edict. Their experience with Yitzhar, and its heat, are responsible for the fact that every entry into the settlement by hostile elements requires large forces and ends with extensive damage to army and police equipment, even greater damage to Arab persons and property, and a region that continues to burn in every direction for several days” (Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, Hakol Hayehudi, December 4, 2009).
At the same time, U.S. officials could consider how a tax exemption for donors to Friends of Ateret Cohanim and The City of David jibes with official American policy regarding the presence of right-wing Jewish organizations in the heart of Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem’s Holy Basin.
Human rights organizations and Jewish peace activists in the United States…are asking why the administration only shuts down funds that send charitable donations to associations affiliated with Hamas.
The Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee has started the ball rolling with this wide-ranging IRS/Treasury Department complaint.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.