Friday, September 17, hundreds of New Yorkers marched with Within Our Lifetime and Decolonize This Place to the headquarters of the Central Fund of Israel, calling for the defunding of US-based “charities” which funnel money into Israeli settlements. Earlier that day, Palestinian organizers in the West Bank raised the same call while working to prepare for the upcoming olive harvest in Atara, a small village near Ramallah that regularly faces settler attacks.
A few months ago, over 200 Palestinian village councils, organizations, and activists launched the Campaign to Defund Racism, calling for allies in the United States to the revoke the charity status of organizations fundraising to further the ongoing project of Israeli settlement. Since then, organizations working for justice from New York have begun to build pressure on the ground in order to encourage State Attorney General, Letitia James, to investigate these organizations and revoke their charitable status. Among the organizations targeted by the campaign is the Central Fund of Israel, which sends money to Regavim and Israel Land Fund.This is what brought protesters from Within Our Lifetime and Decolonize This Place to the Central Fund of Israel’s doors – just one of the points within New York city that they have highlighted as a “zone of operation,” where activists can confront the companies, organizations, and individuals funding settler-colonialism, apartheid, and violence. The protesters also made a stop at the Museum of Modern Art, where members of the Board of Directors are known to invest in or own companies helping to legitimize and uphold the violent structures at work in Palestine. “As New Yorkers, we demand a shut down and tax status revocation of the Zionist settler organizations rampant in our city who are funding settlements, colonialism, and the occupation of Palestine,” said Nerdeen Kiswani, chairperson for Within Our Lifetime.
Earlier that day, organizers from the South Hebron-based group Youth of Sumud – one of the organizations coordinating the Campaign to Defund Racism on the ground in the West Bank – traveled to Atara, near Ramallah, to help local farmers prepare for the upcoming olive harvest season. It is well-documented that attacks on olive trees and farmers increase during the harvest season, as the ten million olive trees strewn across the West Bank are a vital source of income for tens of thousands of Palestinian families.
As the organizers carried out their work in Atara, they were interrupted by Israeli settlers active in the area, who called for Israeli soldiers in an attempt to intimidate and bully the Palestinians out of their space. Although the soldiers verbally assaulted the activists, demanding their IDs, the Youth of Sumud members refused to leave the area and continued with their work until it was finished.
A few weeks ago, protesters from Within Our Lifetime and Decolonize This Place targeted the registered 501(c)(3) Friends of Ir David, a US-based charity set up to fund the Israeli organization Ir David/Elad, which has systematically worked to evict Palestinians from their homes in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan and replace them with Israeli settlers. These moments of confrontation are powerful examples of what allies are able to do in their own contexts, and what must be done to create structural change that can result in real changes on the ground for Palestinians. While Palestinians across Historic Palestine face the brunt of the violence in their own communities at the hands of settlers and those who fund them, Palestinians and allies abroad can make sure that these “charities” do not continue to fund racist violence and lawfare without grappling with their own set of consequences – hopefully, dwindling donations and ultimately a revocation of their tax status.