First of kind in U.S., bill would block flow of money from NY “charities” to Israeli groups ethnically cleansing Palestinians
May 17, 2023, New York – A coalition of legal and grassroots organizations is rallying behind groundbreaking legislation that would stop New York State from subsidizing illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine. Under the bill, the Not on Our Dime! Act, New York-based organizations with charitable status would be prohibited from funding the Israeli settler organizations that are forcing Palestinians out of their generational homes, stealing their land, and committing a range of other human rights abuses.
“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 Sumaya Awad, Director of Strategy at the Adalah Justice Project. “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.”
New York-based nonprofits raising money in New York are a major source of funding for Israeli settler organizations. These settler organizations work in tandem with the Israeli military, rely on discriminatory laws, and often deploy outright brutality to push Palestinians off their ancestral lands. One New York-registered group operating as a charity, the Central Fund of Israel (CFI), has raised almost $50 million annually for Israel and its illegal settlements, and is a funder of some of the major Israeli settler groups.
“Aiding and abetting war crimes is not charitable, period. This bill goes a long way toward ensuring that New York is not inadvertently subsidizing war crimes, but rather creating paths for accountability,” said Vince Warren, Executive Director of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
In addition to Adalah Justice Project and the Center for Constitutional Rights, the coalition of organizations backing the bill includes Jewish Voice for Peace - New York City, Syracuse Peace Council, Palestine Youth Movement, New York City Democratic Socialists of America, and the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights. They have launched a campaign, Not on Our Dime!, to mobilize support for the legislation.
Introduced in the State Assembly by Zohran Mamdani (Queens) and in the Senate by Jabari Brisport (Brooklyn), the bill arises amid rapid growth in settlements enabled by the ultra rightwing government of Israel, which includes former leaders of settler organizations. Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, for example, co-founded Regavim, one of the expansionist – and overtly racist – groups that has received well over a million dollars from New York-registered nonprofits. Earlier this year, in a move condemned by even its closest allies, the Israeli government authorized construction of 10,000 housing units in the West Bank.
“Charitable status is supposed to help organizations that are doing good in the world. It should be obvious that demolishing homes, destroying villages, and ethnic cleansing are not charitable. We are glad this law finally recognizes that,” said Jonathan Brenneman of the Syracuse Peace Council.
Under current New York law, the Attorney General already has the authority to ensure that registered charities do not fund illegal conduct. The legislation clarifies that funding of Israeli settlements by charities is unauthorized and allows the Attorney General to fine such organizations no less than $1 million. It would also enable Palestinians harmed by war crimes funded by New York-registered charities to sue the groups in New York courts.
“Israeli settlers are seizing Palestinian land, demolishing homes, burning olive groves, and terrorizing families with ever-increasing intensity and impunity. This is not a far-away issue – much of the funding for this rampant brutality is coming through New York State, through groups masquerading as charities and enjoying tax breaks, all while funneling hundreds of millions of dollars to ethnic cleansing. Jewish New Yorkers demand that our elected officials refuse this charade and stop subsidizing these atrocities,” said Elena Stein, Director of Organizing Strategy, Jewish Voice for Peace.
“We do not accept that supposedly charitable organizations should be able to operate with complete disregard for the Geneva Conventions and the most basic of international norms. We’re glad that our legislators are finally calling the question on this practice. This bill offers a unique opportunity to end New York State’s complicity in the ongoing ethnic cleansing of Palestine,” said Dylan Awalt-Conley, a member of the New York City Democratic Socialists of America.
While this bill is the first in the country that would stop the flow of money from U.S. charities to settlement groups, it emerges from an effective Palestinian-led call to stop the various financial sources upholding Israel’s occupation and apartheid system: whether in the form of U.S. military funding, or private money. As the Israeli government takes ever more extremist and anti-democratic turns, national lawmakers are increasingly willing to ponder cutting off, conditioning, or limiting U.S. funding to Israel.
“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 – NY 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.”
“We’re grateful that New York State legislators are working toward setting precedent across the movement for Palestinian human rights. We know the U.S. has actively enabled Israel’s military occupation and settlement expansion over the Palestinian people, but we also know that this complicity does not have to continue. Today, we remind the people across New York that they have the opportunity to help end this brutal occupation so the Palestinian people can remain on their native land,” said Iman Abid, Director of Advocacy and Organizing, US Campaign for Palestinian Rights.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.