For many years, the United States has had a policy against spending aid money to fund Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which successive administrations have regarded as an obstacle to peace. Yet private organizations in the United States continue to raise tax-exempt contributions for the very activities that the government opposes.
There's nothing illegal about the charitable contributions to pro-settlement organizations, which are documented in filings with the Internal Revenue Service. They're similar to tax-exempt donations made to thousands of foreign organizations around the world through groups that are often described as "American friends of ... " the recipient.
But critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns. 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.
"This is an issue that has not gotten the attention it deserves," said Ori Nir, a spokesman for Americans for Peace Now, a lobbying group that opposes settlements. "I don't know how many people, including in the U.S. government, realize the extent of private American funding to settlements. ... Every dollar that goes to settlements makes Middle East peace that much harder to reach."
...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."
A senior Jordanian official argued in an interview this week that Israeli pro-settlement groups such as Ir David are seeking to transform the demographic character of East Jerusalem so that a two-state solution, with Jerusalem shared by Israeli and Palestinian governments, will be impossible.
Hebron is another controversial area where settlements have received substantial tax-exempt gifts from America. 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.
Often the U.S. charities will specify that their gifts are going to charities in Israel, even though the recipients are in the West Bank, which the U.S. regards as occupied territory. American Friends of the College of Judea and Samaria, for example, said its donations were "to provide for the expansion and furtherance of the needs of educational institutions in Israel," even though the college is in the settlement of Ariel. Similarly, other filings speak of gifts to "Elon Moreh, Israel," "Gush Etzion, Israel," "Karnei Shomron, Israel," "Efrat, Israel," and "Bat Ayin, Israel," even though those settlements are all in the West Bank.
A 2005 report by the Congressional Research Service stated: "The United States stipulates that U.S. aid funds cannot be used in the occupied territories." The issue came to a head during a 1992 dispute over the uses of U.S. loan guarantees. A Jan. 25, 1992, story in The New York Times said that Secretary of State James A. Baker had cautioned Israel's ambassador "that the administration was not going to underwrite Israeli policies that fundamentally contradict its own principles and long-stated policies."
U.S.-Israeli friction over settlements is likely to increase...
I left a comment there, which I'll expand on here:
As a resident in Shiloh, a revenant Jewish community built in the territory the international community awarded the Jews through a long process of international law, Peace Conference at Versailles, San Remo Conference, League of Nations, to be developed as the "reconstituted Jewish national home", as the official wording goes, including "close settlement on the land", I dispute the supposed 'illegality' claim.
I am living on Jewish land, where Joshua set up the Tabernacle, where Samuel prophesised and judged and where Achiyah berated a king of Israel. This is not religious belief or fiction for the historical records and archeology support the Biblical account. And if there were no Jews residing there prior to 1967, when the Arabs lost that land due to their aggressive war, let's recall that whereas Arabs continued to live in Israel, the area partitioned off from the original Mandate area after 1948 to be the "Jewish state", all Jews where ethnically cleansed from the Arab areas. That's why you probably think it's "Arab" and we're there somehow "illegally".
As regards the tax question, American money goes to all sorts of purposes. Americans supporting a Palestinian state, which doesn't even exist, has been earmarked in Foreign Aid bills for three decades, at least, for NVOs, etc. That's okay even when much of the money was spongeable for Arafat's terror? What hypocrisy!
If what irks other persons who left comments in that they are concerned about democracy and enfranchisment, well, (a) first stop terror and then you'll get democracy; and (b) we can arrange for them to vote within the Jordan political system and have an autonomous administration.
There are solutions for all problems.
P.S. And I left another comment here.