A group of 30 students and pro-Palestinian activists protested Friday to demand the end of tax-exempt status for the Hebron Fund, a Brooklyn not-for-profit that supports Jewish settlers in the West Bank city.
The demonstrators gathered outside the Midwood headquarters of the group that they say provide invaluable support for settlers who have destroyed the economy of the Palestinian town and block progress to a two-state solution.
“We are responding to a call for solidarity from activists in Hebron, who have been struggling to resist the occupation of their neighborhoods, closures of streets, and daily harassment by soldiers and settlers,” said Eva Kalikoff , a leader of Jewish Voice for Peace at Columbia University.
Students read testimonies from Hebron’s Palestinians and presented photos of dilapidated storefronts on Shuhada Street, which was once a thriving business district. They held posters reading “Open Shuhada Street - Hebron Fund is #NotExempt.”
Kalikoff said Palestinian families have been forced to leave their homes because of street closures, checkpoints and incursions by settler families.
“This horrible status quo has gone on for far too long, this has to end now,” she said.
The Hebron Fund says it supports the Jewish settlers in Hebron to defend their right to live in the town, which it considers to be part of the Jewish homeland.
“Communities around the world have traditionally raised funds to provide humanitarian, educational and religious services for the Jews of Hebron since the early Middle Ages,” the group says on its web site. “We are proud to be continuing and expanding this tradition.”
Under U.S. policy and international law, Hebron is occupied territory. Palestinians hope to control the entire town as part of a future state on the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
The protests are timed to coincide with this week’s 22nd anniversary of the Hebron mosque massacre in which Israeli-American settler Baruch Goldstein killed 29 Palestinians. The carnage sparked widespread Palestinian unrest. In response, the Israeli military began their occupation of the Palestinian neighborhoods, and closed Shuhada Street, once the main street in the city center of Hebron.
Today, there are 850 Jewish settlers living in Hebron, and nearly double that amount of Israeli soldiers occupying the area to protect them.
Throughout the week, Palestinian activists in Hebron and around the world are participating in protests for the reopening of Shuhada Street, and ending of Israeli occupation in Hebron.
Despite the United States policy opposing West Bank settlements, dozens of American non-profits are pouring millions into the settlements, Haaretz has reported.
Avaaz, an international activist organization, asked the IRS to review the Hebron Fund’s tax-exempt status in 2015.
According to tax files, as of 2008, the Hebron Fund provided up to 55% of the settler’s organization’s annual budget and donated $4.5 million dollars towards the Jewish community in Hebron.
“We are demanding that the U.S. government to take the first step towards ending the illegal construction of settlements by cutting off their support from U.S.-based ‘charities’ that fund the occupation,” said Max Fineman, an organizer with JVP.