U.S. and World Politics

Not on Our Dime!

Historic bill would stop New York from subsidizing illegal Israeli settlements

By Michael Arria

Two New York lawmakers have introduced legislation that would block local charities from funding illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

State assembly member Zohran Mamdani (Queens) and State Senator Jabari Brisport’s (Brooklyn) Not on our dime! Ending New York funding of Israeli settler violence Act would amend New York’s not-for-profit corporation law and establish a civil penalty for nonprofits that helped fund settlements in violation of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

“Despite the clear illegality of this pattern of conduct, which has led to the expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians from their land (often in a violent manner,) this practice has continued,” reads the bill. “Moreover, these illegal settlement activities have been funded by organizations here in New York State. In fact, between 2017 and 2019 alone, organizations that are known to primarily fund illegal settler activities fundraised over $144 million in New York State. In short, New York State is effectively subsidizing illegal activity abroad, and has been complicit in violent dislocations of Palestinian people.”

The Central Fund of Israel (CFI), a New York-registered non-profit, sends almost $50 million to Israel every year.

The bill has been praised by human rights organizations and local progressives. “Israeli settler violence against Palestinians has reached alarming levels, and we can’t let U.S.-based charities be used as fronts for illegal settlement construction on Palestinian land,” said Adalah Justice Project Director of Strategy, Sumaya Awad, in a statement.

“New Yorkers are becoming increasingly critical of support for Israeli apartheid. It’s long past time our state government caught up and took action to end funding for violence perpetrated against Palestinians.”

“A variegated system of government and private money is used to dispossess Palestinians of their lands and homes. Today, we demand its end,” said Kaleem Hawa, a member of Palestinian Youth Movement’s New York chapter. “The funneling of millions of dollars to settlements from New York-registered charities amounts to a subsidy of Palestinian dispossession by American citizens. It’s time we stop New York’s funding of Zionist settler terror.”

The bill is already facing backlash from pro-Israel lawmakers. The New York Post reports that 25 of them have signed a joint letter condemning the move. “This bill is a ploy to demonize Jewish charities with connections to Israel. It was only introduced to antagonize pro-Israel New Yorkers and further sow divisions within the Democratic Party,” it reads.

“There’s a legislator in Albany who doesn’t believe in Israel’s right to exist,” tweeted Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal. “That’s why 25 of us are condemning his bill that would stop NY charities from helping victims of terror in Israel. True chutzpah: he introduced this law while rockets were raining down on civilians.”

A 2015 investigation by Haaretz revealed that at least 50 U.S.-based tax-exempt nonprofits funded illegal West Bank settlements to the tune of more $220 million over a four-year period. The money was “used for anything from buying air conditioners to supporting the families of convicted Jewish terrorists.”

Mondoweiss, May 17, 2023