Home | Friday 12th August 2011 | Issue 783
British charities have contributed over one million pounds to Israeli settlements in the last 5 years. Several British charities currently fund religious yeshivas, security and social facilities in West Bank settlements. All receive tax rebates and are eligible for gift aid, which is where the Inland Revenue adds 28% to a donation made, effectively funding settlements from British taxes.
Examples of settlements that benefit include Modiin Illit, built next to the Palestinian village Billin, which used donations to build a swimming pool; Bat Ayin, Shavai Shomron and Kiryat Arba, which received money to build libraries and play grounds, and Maale Levona which received funding for settlement security.
Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, which raised money for Maale Levona’s walkie talkies and CCTV, describes these settlers as “scanning the roads and hilltops for suspicious movement, constantly on the alert for possible signs of peril.”
East Jerusalem settlers such as Elad who have demolished Palestinan homes in Silwan to build the archeoligical site Ir David Park also have a charity arm registered with the UK charity commission. This is despite the British consulate in Jerusalem advising its staff not to visit the controversial park.
At least 5 British charities raise funds that benefit Israeli soldiers. Over £1,400,000 has been sent by UK charities in the last 5 years to pay for soldier’s recreational and educational facilities and provide accommodation for lone soldiers on leave. One charity, the UK Friends of the Association for the Well Being of Israel’s Soldiers last year raised £800,741 which went to furnishing Israeli military bases, making them more comfortable for soldiers.
The Jewish National Fund also contributes to military activity. The JNF is currently on a fund raising drive to build roads for military use along Israel’s borders, such as that with the Gaza Strip.
They also solicit funds to build a recreational park in the Negev’s Ramon Air force base for use by air force families.
Many Hesder yeshivas, based in both Israel and the West Bank, which combine religious education with compulsory service in the Israeli military have UK charity arms. One, Keshet Yehuda in the Israeli Occupied Syrian Golan Heights, a yeshiva famous for graduating soldiers who enter combat units, receives donations from the Lewis Group Trust. The Lewis Group Trust is owned by clothes retailer River Island.
Charities that fund Jewish people from around the world to emigrate to Israel also collect money in the UK. One such charity, Nefesh B Nefesh advertise sixteen settlements on its website describing them as attractive places for new immigrants to move to. Nefesh B Nefesh use charity money to pay for immigrants’ flights and settling in costs and have recently registered in the UK.
The question is, should British charities that fund Israeli settlements receive tax rebates from the Inland Revenue, when the UK government recognise that settlements contravene International Law?
*For more on the Israeli boycott see http://www.bigcampaign.org/ED-F Off