Europe Offers Tax Benefits for Illegal Settlements

Organisations raising funds to benefit the Israeli army and illegal settlements in the West Bank enjoy tax-exempt status in Europe.

The Sar-El Foundation is one of several groups working in the Netherlands dedicated to supporting the Israel Defence Forces. It organises regular visits to Israel, where Dutch volunteers spend three-week periods training with the IDF.

Max Arpels Lezer, the foundation’s Amsterdam-based chairman, said that he tries to encourage volunteers to work in Israeli hospitals but if “that is not possible they can do civilian work on military bases.”

He has previously stated that while the volunteers do not become soldiers, “they help in the battle against the Palestinians.”

Under Dutch law, foundations such as Sar-El are exempt from tax, and individuals giving money to them can deduct the donations from their income tax.

A similar group Collectieve Israël Action (Collective Action Israel) collects about eight million euros (11 million dollars) per year, according to its website. Among the projects it assists are training for Israeli soldiers, particularly on the applications of advanced technology. The CIA’s board of advisers includes Doron Livnat, director of Riwal, a supplier of cranes used in the construction of the massive wall that Israel has built in the West Bank. That wall was found to be illegal in a 2004 opinion issued by the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

The Nachamoe Foundation, meanwhile, raises money for the upkeep of Israeli families. The foundation has admitted that some of the families live on Israeli settlements between Jerusalem and Bethlehem. These settlements violate international law; the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention forbids an occupying power from transferring part of its own civilian population into the land it is occupying.

Some groups in the Netherlands have categorised support for the IDF as “humanitarian aid”. Visie voor Israël (Vision for Israel) encourages its sympathisers to give donations that will be used to buy gifts such as backpacks for Israeli soldiers. A newsletter from the organisation says that the quantity of gifts provided has increased substantially since the Israeli army’s offensive against Gaza over the past two years.

A spokesman for the Dutch Inland Revenue service said that the country’s tax rules do not contain any clauses relating to breaches of international law.

Ghada Zeidan from United Civilians for Peace, a Palestinian solidarity group in the Netherlands, says it is “very difficult” to convince the authorities that they should take action against fundraising by pro-Israel organisations. “The problem is that there is a kind of culture of acceptance of it,” she added.

Earlier this year a campaign was launched in Britain to have the Jewish National Fund (JNF) stripped of its status as a charity. While the JNF presents itself as an ecologically minded body that plants trees in Israel, it has actively supported violence against Palestinians for many decades.

One of its leading figures Yosef Weitz explicitly advocated in 1940 — eight years before the state of Israel was founded — that Palestinians should be forced out of Palestine. More recently, the JNF has concentrated much of its energies on settling Jews in the Negev, a process that has involved the uprooting of indigenous Bedouins, often by the destruction of their homes.

The latest accounts made public by the JNF in London say that its total income for 2008 amounted to 7.7 million pounds (12.2 million dollars). Another priority for the fund has been to help the Benji Hillman Foundation; set up in memory of a soldier killed when Israel attacked Lebanon in 2006, it offers accommodation to young people who travel from abroad to join the Israeli army.

A spokesman for the British revenue authority said he could not say if any investigations have been undertaken into the JNF’s activities.

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM)  – one of the organisations monitoring the JNF’s work – is seeking a probe into whether fundraisers for foreign armies can be considered charities under British law.

IPS

Brussels, September 28, 2010.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: