The state of New York is home to some of Israel's top donors, giving away billions of dollars every year. However, new legislation introduced at New York's state assembly seeks to stop registered charities from transferring funds to any Israeli living in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and beyond the 1949 armistice lines, known as the Green Line.
The new legislation, named "Not on our dime!: Ending New York funding of Israeli settler violence act" will essentially revoke the tax-deductible status of charitable organizations and “prohibit not-for-profit corporations from engaging in unauthorized support of Israeli settlement activity.”
It highlights the activities of The Central Fund of Israel, an American organization that serves as a channel for anonymous donations from the United States to right-wing organizations in Israel. Among other things, the charity funds the salary of Moshe Koppel, chairman and founder of the Kohelet Policy Forum, who receives one million shekels annually.
Other associations mentioned in the proposed law include the Israel Land Fund, which funds construction in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem, and the Friends of Ir David Association, the main funder of the Elad Association, which manages the City of David site in Jerusalem. The legislation also refers to the Ateret Cohanim Association, which owns property in the Muslim Quarter of Jerusalem, the Regavim Movement, whose founder is Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich, and more.
According to estimates, New York-based charities send approximately $60 million per year to the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The legislation will also allow the attorney general of the State of New York to sue organizations that transfer funds beyond the 1967 lines (referring to territories beyond the Green Line). This provision would grant Palestinians who have been affected by donation funds the right to seek compensation in American courts.
The legislation is led by assembly member for the New York State Assembly Zohran Mamdani, a Democratic representative from Queens who openly supports the BDS movement and is closely associated with veteran Senator Bernie Sanders. The proposal is also supported by the Jewish organization Jewish Voice for Peace.
Mamdani clarified that the law would not apply to Jewish organizations that provide food for the poor, provide emergency medical treatment, and clothe orphans or engage in noble purposes, but only to organizations that support activities such as aiding the demolition and incitement of Palestinian schools, homes, and agricultural lands. However, he did not specify how the determinations would be made and by whom.
This illumination did not convince a group of 25 assemblymembers, most of whom are Jewish, who released a letter on Wednesday against the proposed law, claiming that it would punish Jewish organizations that provide assistance to those in need and emergency care to victims of terrorism, many of whom live beyond the Green Line.
“This bill is a ploy to demonize Jewish charities with connections to Israel,” the letter written by the group led by Democrat Daniel Rosenthal of Queens said. “It was only introduced to antagonize pro-Israel New Yorkers and further sow divisions within the Democratic party.”
“We look forward to seeing the supporters of this legislation condemn last week’s attack from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad targeting civilians and recognizing Israel’s right to exist,” it said.