A few weeks before Benjamin Netanyahu’s delivered his controversial address to Congress, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli Prime Minister was considering a campaign trip to Hebron, a right-wing settler community in the Israel-occupied West Bank. The proposed March 10 trip to Hebron, which would have been the first by an Israeli PM in more than a decade, raised eyebrows among Israel’s political class and inflamed tensions with Palestinian groups. Last week, Netanyahu called it off, citing security threats.
Here in the United States, meanwhile, few politicians have questioned why American taxpayers continue to subsidize the Hebron settlers, accused by international observers of human rights violations that include thefts, battery, and murder. In 2003, the most recent year for which figures are available, an estimated 45 percent of the settler community’s funding came from the Brooklyn-based Hebron Fund, whose status as a tax-exempt nonprofit allows Americans to write off donations to the group.
“The Hebron Fund has supported, either directly or indirectly, a wide array of acts that are definitely not charitable,” says John Tye, the legal director for the global activist group Avaaz, which last week petitioned the IRSto revoke the Hebron Fund’s nonprofit status. “They are basically using a small group of Jewish settlers in the West Bank to push Palestinians out of their homes. These settlers are arming themselves, they are engaged in military and paramilitary acts, some of them have connections to terrorism, and they are committing a wide range of crimes against Palestinians.”