Questions & Answers
What is the Campaign to Defund Racism?
The Campaign to Defund Racism is a cross-movement call to target and change one of the structures currently contributing “charitable” US dollars to the destruction of Palestinian property and the displacement of communities. Across Historic Palestine, from Sheikh Jarrah in Jerusalem to al Araqib in the Naqab, numerous Israeli settler organizations work to further the colonization of Palestinian lands by leveraging US charitable funds into legal and political campaigns dedicated to ousting families.
As systems of violence are perpetuated by resources, it is crucial that any nonviolent movement intentionally creates campaigns that target and restrict the resources of state and non-state actors. As such, this campaign is focused on cutting off the financial resources that support several Israeli organizations whose ongoing work oppresses and displaces Indigenous communities. The advocacy campaign works at three levels. First, it challenges the non-profit status of the US-based charitable organizations that funnel money to these organizations, and secondly with broader public awareness initiative focused on educating supporters of Israeli settler organizations about how their financial contributions displace Indigenous communities, thus perpetuating violence. Lastly, it links together movements by examining and publicizing the ways the nonprofit system finances the subjugation of oppressed groups in the United States, like Richard Spencers’s National Policy Institute.
Who made the call for the campaign?
We are a coalition of local Palestinian villages and organizations in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and within the historical 1948 borders that are calling for you to join us in our efforts to halt the funding of these racist organizations by US donors. We have been personally impacted by their efforts to disenfranchise and displace our communities, as well as misrepresent our history and current reality. We are impacted by their discriminatory application of laws as they apply to our families and communities, especially considering the disregard for their own illegal outposts—illegal under both international and Israeli law. We already live under a regime of belligerent occupation, and fear for the fate of our homes and land, but these settler organizations’ additional surveillance and lobbying within the court system only intensifies our daily struggles to secure our basic needs.
While the campaign was initiated in the South Hebron Hills by the Palestinian communities who are directly impacted by Regavim’s activities and ongoing settler violence, once the initiative started to develop it quickly spread up north through the Jordan Valley and further into the areas of Nablus and Tubas and into Jerusalem and beyond. Needing to move past models of justice which have focused on NGO humanitarian assistance and Israeli peace initiatives that have culminated in ineffective community building strategies which do not address the more widespread systems of oppression, the community leaders wanted to develop a movement that directly challenged the unjust systems which lead to their displacement. We needed not only a winnable campaign, but a campaign that would have an impact on the ground.
Who is running it, and why?
While this movement is directed by Palestinian community leaders, because of the retaliatory nature of these organizations and other radical elements of the Israeli colonization project, there is a necessary layer of caution and anonymity that is required for long-term sustainability. The leadership is composed of a cross-section of the communities most vulnerable to their agenda of colonization of Indigenous lands: communities in Area C, the Negev, Jerusalem as well as other areas in the historical borders of 1948 Palestine.
Because each village and city on the ground faces its own unique circumstances, communities and individuals are not bound to execute each action or assume the same risk as their friends and family. As it is in diverse movements of liberation, each individual has an inherent liberty to exercise resistance in ways that make sense for them and closest to them.
As it is with any national campaign calling for action from the international community to exact justice, there is a vast network—spanning nationality, race, religion, and gender—handling a myriad of responsibilities ranging from communication development, analysis, coalition building, and fundraising. Those who have joined this campaign understand the need to heed the direction of the local Palestinian leadership and the communities assuming the risks of running the campaign. These people who have joined understand the principles of sacrifice and dedication, and with that, we hope that allies are inspired by this Indigenous movement and take real risks for liberation.
Drawing from this diverse movement for justice, we leverage our specific skill sets to execute our strategy of both educating the general public on the oppressive nature work of Ateret Cohanim, Regavim, Ir David/Elad, Israel Land Fund, and Hebron Fund on the ground, but more importantly, creating structural change by cutting off the money they receive from US taxpayers.
What do we want?
We want you to join our call for the New York State Attorney General’s office to revoke the charitable status of each organization’s charitable sponsors in the United States: American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, American Friends of Ir David, the Hebron Fund, the Central Fund of Israel and Israel Independence Fund. Every year, millions of tax-deductible dollars are funneled through these organizations to settlement projects at the US taxpayers’ expense.
We believe, and have heard from US taxpayers, that they do not want to be implicated in the destruction of our homes, the displacement of our families, the continuous surveillance of our communities, the traumatic experiences and financial costs of fighting cases in Israeli court systems. We know that many US citizens don’t support random acts of violence, the expansion of illegal outposts and settlements, or the selective application of the Israeli Civil Administration and internal Israeli policies that discriminate based on race and religion.
We ask you to join your voice with ours in order to halt this destructive flow of money. Take a tangible step to create real change on the ground in our communities and homes, where we have been made vulnerable to the work of these organizations. Halting the flow of money from the United States to each of the listed targets will not end their work, as they also receive funds within Israel and elsewhere, but it will make a large impact on their ability to carry out operations as they have been. It will have a discernible impact on the safety and security of our communities, our families, and our children’s lives. It will also set a legal precedent for the way Israeli settler organizations—and other racist organizations in the United States—receive charitable status and tax-exempt donations.
Who are the targets of the complaints?
The campaign is targeting 5 US-based organizations which send significant sums of money to the Israeli organizations they serve as fiscal sponsors for: American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, American Friends of Ir David, Israel Independence Fund, Central Fund of Israel and Hebron Fund.
Why are you targeting these specific organizations?
The targets are all fiscal sponsors of some of the most recognizable Israeli organizations working on the ground across Historic Palestine to displace Palestinian families: Ateret Cohanim, Regavim, Ir David/Elad, Israel Land Fund, and Hebron Fund. They are also all registered in the same state—New York—where the coalition will file complaints against each organization to New York State Attorney General, Letitia James.
How will revoking the charity status help defund these organizations?
Revoking the charitable status of these organizations will help to defund their work by halting a large portion of the tax-exempt money sent to them via US organizations. From 2014 to 2019, these organizations had $319,921,483.00 in gross receipts on their charitable forms. So even if just 10% of the money is stopped, we are still talking about millions of dollars that have been diverted.
Although US donors will likely still be able to provide donations to these organizations, the incentive of donations as tax deductions will no longer exist. Having a charity status means that when US citizens or residents donate to these organizations, they can claim their donation on their taxes as write-offs, resulting in a reduction of the total amount they pay in taxes. This is because charitable organizations are supposed to be doing work that contributes to the public good—essentially, offering something to communities that the US or state government would otherwise have to provide or that community residents might request or have to provide themselves. However, when money goes to Israeli settler organizations which do not provide a public good for communities in the United States, US politicians—like New York Attorney General Letitia James—will have to explain why they allow this to happen.
Furthermore, airing the truth of these organizations’ work would likely discourage a portion of US donors from contributing. Ultimately, we expect to be able to make a sizable dent in the flow of money reaching these Israeli settler organizations, resulting in a tangible change on the ground as their ability to operate is—at the very least—stifled.
What can I do as an activist in New York to support this campaign?
There are many ways you can contribute. We’ve listed below a number of ways allies can get involved, but if you have another idea of how you see yourself moving the campaign forward, we would encourage you to do what feels exciting and possible for you.
What can I do to support this campaign if I am not from the US or New York?
Activists outside of New York can support in a number of ways as well. We’ve listed below a number of ways allies can get involved, but if you have another idea of how you see yourself moving the campaign forward, we would encourage you to do what feels exciting and possible for you.
What does it mean to be a fiscal sponsor?
While some of these organizations are a US-based charities—like the Hebron Fund—others use a fiscal sponsorship arrangement. Fiscal sponsorship partnership is an agreement between a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (the “fiscal sponsor”) and another organization or project. The fiscal sponsors offer their legal and tax-exempt status to help solicit tax-exempt donations. Organizations like Regavim, Ateret Cohanim, Ir David/Elad, and Israel Land Fund who have a fiscal sponsor, generally, are not incorporated and lack their own tax-exempt status in the United States. In this way, they are shielded, in part, from the direct investigation of their activities, unlike 501(c)(3) organizations like the Central Fund of Israel, which are registered. In this way, they are able to use US-based so-called charities like the Central Fund of Israel as back channels to run their programs to displace Indigenous Palestinian communities.
Fiscal sponsorships usually are fee-based contractual arrangements between a project and an established non-profit. Under this arrangement, the fiscal sponsor accepts financial donations on behalf of the sponsored group and then grants those donations to the sponsored group. In this way, registered US organizations are able to take a percentage of the donations that Israeli organizations raise through them. With the volume of money that these Israel-based settler organizations and their affiliates are able to generate, their fiscal sponsors like the Central Fund of Israel are also able to make money off of the oppression of Palestinians. These fiscal sponsors have little incentive to end their relationship with the organizations they sponsor outside of direct social and legal pressure.
Who is in control in the charity/fiscal sponsorship arrangement?
At all times, the fiscal sponsor maintains control over the funds. This is not a “pass-through” arrangement—essentially making the US-based organizations accomplices in their Israeli crimes against the Indigenous communities. The Central Fund of Israel, American Friends of Ir David, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, the Hebron Fund, and the Israel Independence Fund have been given special tax-exempt status by the IRS and New York state for conducting certain exempt activities defined by the law (charitable, educational, religious, scientific, etc.). To maintain this status, the public charity (fiscal sponsor) must conduct activities within the framework that governs charitable purposes. In other words, Regavim, Ir David/Elad, Ateret Cohanim, and Israel Land Fund must also follow US charitable guidelines. Working to displace Palestinian communities would hardly fit within that framework.
What are the responsibilities of charities who are fiscal sponsors?
While they can offer benefits, it is crucial to recognize the responsibilities that a fiscal sponsor must undertake, because this is the strategic pressure point of this campaign.
- Legal responsibility: The fiscal sponsors have a legal liability in this situation since they must ensure compliance with all federal, state, and local laws.
- Financial management: The fiscal sponsor needs to practice proper fiscal management of the funds. They will report such financial details on their annual IRS reports. As such, their flow of money into the process of colonization isn’t theoretical, but objectively verifiable through the programming of their partners.
- Program supervision: The fiscal sponsor must ensure that the activity they are sponsoring is aligned with their own charitable purposes.
How are these fiscal sponsors of Israeli settler organizations breaking charitable laws?
The fiscal sponsors (American Friends of Ir David, American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, Hebron Fund, the Central Fund of Israel) are registered as charities in New York State, meaning they are able to receive tax-deductible donations in New York.
These organizations’ fiscal sponsorship of Israeli settler organizations means that although the Israeli organizations are not registered as charitable organizations in the United States, they are able to receive tax-deductible donations through these registered nonprofits. Essentially, these two organizations function as conduits of money from donors in the United States to settler organizations in Israel.
US-based charities are only able to act as fiscal sponsors to organizations or projects that fit the IRS Equivalency Determination or Expenditure Responsibility test. Essentially what this means is that money going abroad must also fit the IRS framework for charitable projects. These parameters, as defined by the IRS, that tax-deductible organizations must work within and these include lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law, and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.
Given each organization’s long documented history of intentionally targeting non-Jewish communities for displacement and annexation campaigns as a means to develop illegal Israeli settlements, they hardly fit the requirements to receive tax-deductible donations within the IRS guidelines.
For additional questions, please contact us here.