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J Street calls for settlement funder investigation

WASHINGTON (JTA) — J Street called for an investigation into American charities that fund Israeli settlement activity

J Street, the self-proclaimed political home for "pro-Israel, pro-peace Americans," launched a campaign Monday calling on the U.S. Treasury Department to look into whether organizations named in a July 6 New York Times report have broken the law. 

The report identified more than 40 U.S. organizations that have collected over $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for schools, synagogues and recreation centers in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem. 

The organizations support Jewish settlements in the West Bank and receive tax breaks from the U.S. Treasury. Some of the settlements are seen as illegal by the international community; others are viewed as illegal by Israel’s government.

"With the explicit goal of undermining a two-state solution, many of these groups raise tax-deductible contributions from the United States to deepen the occupation in the Occupied Territories," said the J Street appeal to followers to petition Treasury to investigate the funding. "Some even fund settlement outposts that the Israeli government considers illegal."

Treasury, White House and State Department spokesmen did not return requests for comment on the status of the settlements named in the story, and whether the U.S. government was considering action.

The New York Times report revealed a connection between one of the organizations and Kahane Chai, a banned Israeli political party that was deemed a terrorist organization by the United States in 1994. Friends of Zo Artzeinu/Manhigut Yehudit, based in Cedarhurst, N.Y, was co-founded by Shmuel Sackett, former executive director of Kahane Chai.

“Ongoing settlement construction is diminishing the chances of a two-state solution and endangering Israel’s very future as a Jewish, democratic home,” J Street director Jeremy Ben-Ami said in a statement. “Funding such activity is both irresponsible and provocative.”

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