The New York Times has finally covered a story that has been sitting under its nose for years – the tax-exempt fund raising Israeli settlers are doing in the U.S. In an expansive article in today’s paper, three reporters combine to tell a familiar story of how nonprofit organizations are raising money in the US to help build settlements and in some cases arm settlers themselves.
I say the story has been right until the Times’s nose because so much of this story is a New York story. As we have been reporting on here for the past year and a half, the Central Fund of Israel, located in a fabric store on 36th Street and 6th Avenue in Manhattan just 6 blocks from the Times headquarters, has been one of the most important players in this story. The Times gives them their due, and even quotes their president Hadassah Marcus who explained, "We’re trying to build a land. . .All we’re doing is going back to our home.”
The article is huge, and the Times should be commended for running it.
Still the article obfuscates the story in some places. My biggest issue is that it totally ignores the widespread support these institutions enjoy in the Jewish community. The article says "donors to settlement charities represent a broad mix of Americans," but then focuses on the more religious or ideological ones. As we have shown the apparent Central Fund donor list includes James Tisch, the CEO of Loews; Michael Milken, the banker/philanthropist; and Alan C. (Ace) Greenberg, the former CEO of Bear Stearns (the whole list is here). To me this is an interesting story.
And it’s not just about big names. The story says, "The settlements are a sensitive issue among American Jews themselves. Some major Jewish philanthropies, like the Jewish Federations of North America, generally do not support building activities in the West Bank." This is not true. A reader writes us:
I know this to be untrue, first by virtue of the JFNA’s funneling American Jewish money to the Jewish Agency, which openly supports settlements. But some Federations sanction settlements directly, too: the SF Federation’s endowment fund allows donations to settler groups.
The list of the San Francisco Federation’s approved charities is here. Among the many settler organizations it includes are the American Friends of Ariel (a large settlement in the northern West Bank), American Friends of Bat Ayin Yeshiva (located in the Gush Etzion settlement block), and, not surprisingly, the Central Fund of Israel.
The Times makes it out that the American Jewish community is wringing its hands over this practice while the radicals raise the money. This is not the case. While I agree that the majority of American Jews might not support the settlements, the majority of the leadership of the American Jewish community does. The settlements have been a project of the American Jewish community as much as they have been Israel’s project. The leaders of the community need to be called to account.