New York JVPers to Israeli Settlement Funder: “Violence Against Palestinians should not be Tax Exempt”
For immediate release on February 22, 2016
Contact: Eva Kalikoff | firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace activists to Israeli Settlement Funder: “Violence Against Palestinians should not be Tax Exempt”
New York JVP activists bring Shuhada Street to the Hebron Fund
February 26, 2016– “Funding Israeli settlements is not charity; violence against Palestinians should not be tax-exempt.” That was the message that 30 students and community members brought to the doorstep of the offices of the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund, a 501(c)3 organization that funds Jewish settlers in the Palestinian city of Hebron. Students gathered to read testimonies from Palestinian activists in Hebron with large photos of shuttered storefronts on Shuhada Street, formerly the commercial heart of Hebron closed by the Israeli army. Activists held a banner that read “Open Shuhada Street – Hebron Fund is #NotExempt.”
“We are responding to a call for solidarity from activists in Hebron, who have been struggling to resist the occupation of their neighborhoods, closures of streets, and daily harassment by soldiers and settlers,” said Columbia/Barnard JVP student leader Eva Kalikoff. “It is unacceptable that Palestinian children have to walk to school through streets with trash thrown down on them by settlers in second floor apartments, or that Palestinian families have been forced to leave their homes because of street closures, checkpoints and invasions by settler families. The settler violence in Hebron is a primary example of the suffering of Palestinians throughout the West Bank. This horrible status quo has gone on for far too long, this has to end now.”
There are roughly 850 settlers who live in Hebron, accompanied by nearly twice that many Israeli soldiers. This week marks the 22nd anniversary of the massacre of 29 Palestinians at the Ibrahimi Mosque by Israeli-American settler Baruch Goldstein. In the aftermath of this horrific event, the Israeli military began cracking down on Palestinian neighborhoods, closing off streets, welding shut shop doors, and turning the main market street of Hebron into a ghost town. All this week Palestinian activists in Hebron and solidarity activists around the world have been holding events, protests and demonstrations to oppose the Occupation and to demand that the Israeli government Open Shuhada Street.
A recent report in the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz revealed that there are over 50 U.S. organizations with 501c3 non-profit status that transferred over $220 million dollars to settlements — even though official U.S. policy states that Israeli settlement expansion beyond the 1967 borders is illegal and an obstacle to peace. The Hebron Fund has used money from American donors to support specific settlers who have committed violent attacks on Palestinians, including Menachem Livni, convicted of a 1983 attack that killed 3 Palestinian students at a university. Tax documents show that the Hebron Fund provided up to 55% (as of 2008) of the annual budget of the settler’s organization, and between 2009 and 2013 transferred $4.5 million dollars to the Jewish settler community in Hebron. The international organization Avaaz petitioned the IRS to investigate the tax-exempt status of the Hebron Fund in 2015.
“We know that the occupation of Hebron and the closure of Shuhada Street will not end without outside pressure. We are demanding that the US government to take the first step towards ending the illegal construction of settlements by cutting off their support from US-based ‘charities’ that fund the occupation,” said Max Fineman, an organizer with Columbia/Barnard JVP.
Columbia/Barnard JVP also joined with Columbia SJP earlier this month to call on the University to divest from companies that profit from Israeli human rights abuses and violations of international law. “As Columbia students and residents of New York City, we refuse to be complicit in the human rights violations supported and funded by the institutions that represent us,” Kalikoff stated. The divestment campaign is gathering petition signatures and educating the student body about Israeli apartheid, violence against Palestinians, and the movement for Palestinian liberation. They will be hosting Israeli Apartheid Week starting on Monday and running events every evening throughout the week.
Jewish Voice for Peace at Columbia/Barnard is a diverse and democratic community of activists inspired by Jewish tradition to support Palestinian struggle for liberation and an end to occupation and apartheid.