Israel agency raises tax-exempt US, UK funds to put settlers in occupied Golan Heights, northern Palestine

The Jewish Agency, a quasi-official arm of the Israel government that encourages settlement in Palestine, and the Israeli government itself, are taking advantage of US and UK charity laws to raise tax-exempt donations specifically to place settlers in Syria’s occupied Golan Heights, all in violation of international law.

This is being done in the open – on the website of Nefesh b’Nefesh an Israeli-government supported program to encourage Jews from North America and the UK to settle in Palestine. Nefesh b’Nefesh receives direct funding from the Israeli government and manages the settlement process along with the Jewish Agency.

The Jewish National Fund (JNF), which is directly complicit in ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, assists in this effort. The Jewish Agency, like the JNF, is deeply implicated in plans to ethnically cleanse Palestinian Bedouins to make way for Jews.

“Go North”

Under its “Go North” program, Nefesh b’Nefesh encourages settlers to move to the northern areas of historic Palestine – an area that Israeli officials often fret has a Palestinian majority, despite the fact that indigenous Palestinians there are already severely restricted from land-use under JNF policies designed to favor Jews.

The map on the official website of the area targeted for settlement includes all of northern Palestine and Syria’s Golan Heights.

Map showing settlement target area includes all of northern historic Palestine and the occupied Golan Heights.

Israel occupied the Golan Heights in 1967, ethnically cleaning tens of thousands of Syrians from it. In 1981, Israel purported to annex the area, a move which no country in the world recognizes.

UN Security Council Resolution 497 declared that “the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect,” and reaffirmed that Israel’s occupation is subject to the Fourth Geneva Convention which renders colonization a war crime.

Tax-exempt funds for illegal colonies

On its donation page, Nefesh b’Nefesh invites people to make tax-exempt donations to support this illegal settlement scheme.

In the US, these donations are to be made through a tax-exempt nonprofit and in the UK through the JNF. Recently, as The Electronic Intifada reported, the JNF has suffered a series of setbacks in the UK thanks in no small part to the efforts of the Stop the JNF campaign.

According to its IRS information returns, the US nonprofit “Nefesh b’Nefesh Jewish Souls United” raised over $14 million in tax-exempt funds in 2010.

In recent years, it has emerged that millions of dollars of charitable funds from the United States have been channeled into illegal Israeli colonies in occupied territories. Despite repeated calls for action, however, the US government has done nothing about it.

While laws governing tax-exemptions for donations in both the US and UK rightly grant groups a wide degree of freedom in how they use funds, it is difficult to see how participating in, aiding and abetting grave crimes under international law can be seen as “charitable” even under the most generous interpretations.