Middle East

19 rabbis appeal to cut US charitable donations to far-right Israel extremist groups 

Charitable donations from the US Jewish community are funding far-right Israeli groups and fuelling violence against Palestinians, 19 American rabbis warned in a letter last year following Israel’s 11-day onslaught on Gaza last May.

The group, which includes several prominent rabbis have gone public with their plea after reportedly being rebuffed by the Jewish charity and the escalation of attacks in Palestine by far-right Israeli extremists.

In the letter organised by the human rights group T’ruah, the 19 New York rabbis said that donations from the Jewish Communal Fund (JCF), a major American charity with a $2.4 billion fund, is going to Lehava, a far-right Israeli group that promotes Jewish supremacy in historic Palestine. The rabbis focused on charitable donations from the JCF to another US non-profit, the Central Fund of Israel (CFI).

“We have been disturbed to learn that one recipient of JCF funding is the Central Fund of Israel, which is one of the primary U.S. vehicles for donations to Israeli groups that funnel money to Lehava,” said the rabbis, claiming that the extremist group led a violent march through Jerusalem in June. Lehava members, said the rabbis, “helped to incite war” and to organise a “hate-filled march through East Jerusalem.”

During last year’s annual flag march, Israeli far-right supremacists shared selfies posing with guns and messages such as “Tonight we are not Jews, we are Nazis.” A report by Amnesty International on the conduct of Israeli police during May and June’s crackdown on Palestinians found that it had failed to protect Palestinians from Jewish supremacists who had organised attacks and publicised their plans in advance.

READ: Will the battles between Israel and human rights groups end?

Amnesty verified 29 text and audio messages on open Telegram channels and WhatsApp revealing how the apps were used to recruit armed men and organise attacks on Palestinians in cities such as Haifa, Acre, Nazareth and Lod between 10-21 May.

In their letter the rabbis described Lehava as a group “which bases itself in the genocidal philosophy of Meir Kahane,”mentioning the late rabbi who was the founder of the designated terror group Jewish Defence League (JDL). They warned of the annual flag march and the charity’s alleged complicity in funding groups connected to it. “Violent marches like these are not new,” the rabbis said. “Every year on Jerusalem Day, Lehava and partners organize the Flag March, which similarly terrorizes Palestinians in East Jerusalem.”

Another group mentioned in the letter as being funded by the CFI is the Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva. The rabbis say that “it infamous for incitement and violence against Palestinians.”

According to the Jewish Telegraph Agency CFI has been attracting criticism for over a decade because it is used as a financial conduit by extremist groups in Israel when they solicit donations in the US. Besides Lehava, the Central Fund is said to be linked to groups such as Honenu, which gives money to Israeli Jews convicted of violent acts against Palestinians, and Im Tirtzu, which once released a viral video in which it labelled the leaders of four major Israeli human rights organisations “foreign agents”, predictably igniting a wave of death threats.

It’s reported that CFI received $1.6 million last year from US charitable donations and a total of $23 million since 2002, according to IRS records.

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