The Hebron Fund is a non-governmental organization that sends tax-deductible money from the US to the illegal settlement project in the West Bank city of Hebron. It claims to do charity and support of social infrastructure. However, by funding settlements, which are illegal under international law and fly in the face of a long history of US policy condemning Israeli settlements, the Hebron Fund helps to fund discrimination and legal violations in Hebron.
The Hebron Fund is a New-York based fundraiser for the illegal Israeli settler community in Hebron. Founded by Rabbi Yitzchak Pechman in 1979, it became the largest known funder of the settler movement in Hebron. The projects it funds include tourist groups visiting Hebron, in which it supports their narrative about the settlement in Hebron, projects for soldiers such as rest areas, meals and subsidized tours, and security infrastructure. These tours cut directly through the Palestinian Old City of Hebron. During the tours, the Israeli military, border police, and civilian police quarantine Palestinians into alleyways, break into homes and force families into their living rooms. These tours have also created a space for Israeli settlers to attack Palestinians and flip over tables in addition to the routine verbal abuse. Despite years of documenting this tour, in which the Hebron Fund knows full well the impact of the tour on the local community, it continues to carry out the tours without adjustment. While claiming to have humanitarian goals, such as social infrastructure, its work is the basis of the violent presence of settlers inside Hebron. As such, it funds the system of apartheid and settler-colonialism inside Hebron.
Israeli settler movement — bolstered by the Hebron Fund — has forced Palestinian communities into small, disconnected ethnic zones. As a result, the center of Hebron is physically separated by 121 closures, including 21 permanently-staffed Israeli military checkpoints. The approximately 5,600 Palestinians in these neighborhoods must navigate this labyrinth during their daily affairs. Additionally, 6,200 Palestinians cannot reach their homes by vehicle. Israel’s intentional design to minimize Palestinian space while maximizing settler control of Hebron has led to a mass exodus of the indigenous communities.
The Hebron Rehabilitation Committee reported in 2015 that out of a total of 3,369 housing units surveyed in this area, almost a third (1,079 housing units), were empty. Israel’s utilization of military orders under the guise of security has also forced the closure of 1,610 shops. Of the 650 shops in the old market, just 10% are functioning.
In imposing this system of oppression and displacement against the local communities, the Israeli military and settler communities utilize state-sanctioned violence to maintain control. From January 1, 2001, to December 31, 2019, the Israeli military and settler community have injured an estimated 8,157 Palestinians — 3,482 of which were children at the time — and killed 182 people, of which 42 were children. The most well-known example of this state-sponsored terrorism is the Ibrahimi Massacre. The Hebron Fund, by its own admission, plays a crucial role in the settler movement of Hebron.
The Hebron Fund works as a fundraiser for the settler movement in Hebron. From 2017 to 2019, it collected between $2.2 million and $2.4 million. In 2019 it granted $1.7 million, presumably to the settlement movement in Hebron. There is little information available on the Hebron Fund’s donors. In 2016, Goldmann Sachs donated $18,000 thousand to the Hebron Fund, and in 2017 the Irving Moskowitz Foundation, a well-known funder of other settler organizations, gave the Hebron Fund $300,000.
The personalities behind the Hebron Fund are well-known for their bold stances not only in their work subsidizing illegal settlement but also with regard to the situation on the ground and Palestinians in general.
Uri Karzen, the Director-General of the Jewish Community in Hebron — as well as a member of the settler city council for Kiryat Arba — has made clear his support for collective punishment against Palestinians. Although collective punishment is commonly understood to be both illegal and immoral and has been explicitly outlawed by international law, Karzen has described it as “not something that’s immoral or illegal, it has to be done when you’re dealing with a real threat to life.”
Another recognizable personality from the settler community in the heart of Hebron is Yishai Fleisher, the International Spokesman of the Jewish Community in the city. A columnist, frequent tweeter, and founder of Kumah, Fleisher proudly extols a worldview of which ethno-nationalism is a vital component. Of the balance between Israel’s “Jewish and democratic” character, Fleisher has said, “They are two important values, but they are not and cannot be equal. The democratic aspect has to sometimes yield to the Jewish character of the state. Democracy is good but not penultimate. This is ultimately an ethnic state. […] We don’t need to give voting rights to every voter if that would undermine the Jewish nature of the state. We aren’t here to create a completely open democracy, and no state in this region is like that.”
Steering the direction of the organization is also Laurie Moskowitz Hirsch, a national board member of the Hebron Fund. Hirsch is the daughter of two well-known donors to many settler organizations, Cherna and Irving Moskowitz. Moskowitz advocates for an “undivided Israel,” at Americans for a Safe Israel – an organization that promotes Israeli control over the West Bank, East Jerusalem, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. Moskowitz’s belief in violent conquest has also led her to financially support programs teaching Jewish Israeli women living in settlements how to use handguns as a form of “empowerment.”