By Benjamin Schuman-Stoler
David Ignatius has a column today (also in the Washington Post) about tax-exempt charities that donate to various Israeli settlements in the West Bank, despite US government policy not to fund them. He says,
There’s nothing illegal about the charitable contributions to pro-settlement organizations, which are documented in filings with the Internal Revenue Service. They’re similar to tax-exempt donations made to thousands of foreign organizations around the world through groups that are often described as “American friends of … ” the recipient.
But critics of Israeli settlements question why American taxpayers are supporting indirectly, through the exempt contributions, a process that the government condemns. A search of IRS records identified 28 US charitable groups that made a total of $33.4 million in tax-exempt contributions to settlements and related organizations between 2004 and 2007.
Ignatius lists organizations like American Friends of the College of Judea and Samaria, American Friends of Yeshiva High School of Kiryat Arba, and Hebron Fund.
The glaring hole in the logic is that giving a charity a tax exemption, of course, doesn’t actually fund anything. It’s less an economic offense than a moral and pragmatic one: Considering the delicate arguments for peace in the Middle East and the controversy that settlements inevitably stir up, do these charities still deserve the tax-exemption if they help stymie US efforts towards peace?
And in other news about the peace process, new Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu spoke yesterday to allay some fears of his hawkish tendencies. For the record, his pick for foreign minister is the famous nationalist and right-wing Avigdor Lieberman, who lives in Nokdim–a West Bank settlement.