U.S. Christian charities provide tax free donations to illegal Israeli settlements
In spite of many United States Churches proposing to divest from the Israeli occupation of Palestine, many US Christian charities are donating millions to fund illegal settlement expansion.
According to the New York Times, at least 40 American groups have donated more than 200 million dollars of tax deductible donations to Jewish settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem over the last decade. The money funds things like schools, synagogues, and recreation centers. However, the money also funds weaponry and vehicles to secure and expand the occupied areas.
Al Jazzera reported that Christians United for Israel (CUFI) provides funding for projects in the Israeli settlements. CUFI fiercely opposes UN Security Council initiatives condemning settlement expansions. Leader of CUFI, John Hagee, is reported to have raised tens of millions of dollars since the 1980s for Jewish groups in Israel advancing settlement causes.
American tax law allows for the donations to groups devoted to settlement building to count as part of the donor’s tax deduction. For example, if you are in the 33 percentile tax bracket, the actual cost of a $100 donation is only $67. Thus, as a person’s income tax bracket increases, the real cost of their charitable gift decreases, making contributions more attractive for wealthier donors.
Thus, a contradiction is exposed: while the American government allegedly seeks to end illegal Israeli settlements, the American treasury is funding settlements through tax breaks on donations to support settlement expansion.
Many US Christian charities believe donating to Israeli settlements is part of their religious duty. According to Al Jazeera, at a fundraiser for American citizens in the Israeli settlement of Shiloh, US Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee referred to the occupied West Bank by its biblical name “Judea and Samaria.” Huckabee also said that the West Bank is a “fundamental part of Israel.” Many American evangelicals support Huckabee’s ideals on Israel due to their interpretation of biblical scriptures.
However, Rabbi Ehud Bandel, an Israeli executive board member of the Germany-based International Council of Christians and Jews told Al Jazeera that “human life takes precedence over land,” and over Judaic tradition. Bandel said that “colonial mentality of the Judeo-Christian [relationship] is counter-productive. I think it’s dangerous and it’s immoral. It is turning a national conflict into a religious war between the Judeo-Christian world and Islam – and a religious war is the most dangerous one”.
As American charities continue to support illegal Israeli settlements, Palestinians in the West Bank continue to suffer the psychological, physical, and financial devastation of living in a land occupied by settlers.