Photo Credit: Abed Rahim Khatib / Flash 90
Hamas activists burning an Israeli flag in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip.

Progressive rabbis and pro-BDS lawmakers have found a new way to take aim at their ideological Zionist opponents and the Jewish State: targeting a pro-Israel Jewish charity that funds more than 350 non-governmental organizations in Israel, and the New York-based Jewish Communal Fund from which it receives money.

To be precise, the Central Fund of Israel currently distributes funding to some 400 grantees. Among those on the list are organizations that include the American Friends of Sderot, The Ari Fuld Project, Chasdei Naomi, Friendship Circle, Honenu, Just Want to Dance, Koby Mandell Foundation, League for Special Children, Leket Israel, Lemonade Fund, Nerya Center Kiryat Malachi, Panim el Panim, Refuah v’Simcha, Simcha LaYeled, Stand With Us, Sulamot, Hebron Fund, Woman to Woman, World Mizrahi, Yad Ezra VeShulamit, Yad L’Achim, and many more.

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These groups are aimed at providing services and medical support for disabled children and adults, legal aid services, women’s health, food for families living below Israel’s poverty line, emergency financial aid for breast cancer patients, cultural and social services in communities (such as Kiryat Malachi) and support for bereaved families of victims of terror, among other organizations.

But 19 progressive Jewish clergy of the far-left T’ruah organization in June 2021 sent a letter to the New York Jewish Communal Fund, published by JTA, claiming it was allowing US tax-exempt funds to reach Israeli “extremists,” and in particular the Lehava organization.

The ‘Drop-CFI’ Campaign
Sent in the wake of the 11-day May 2021 war Hamas launched against Israel, the letter demanded that Jewish Communal Fund “drop CFI from your list of accepted grant recipients, and publish clear guidelines regarding the values to which JCF adheres when making grant decisions, in order to ensure that funding does not reach other organizations that support violence in Israel, in the United States, or anywhere else.”

Claiming documentation in left-wing mainstream media, the rabbis claimed, “CFI funds some of the most violent extremist groups in Israel,” including Honenu.

“While ending grants to the Central Fund of Israel will not shut down Lehava or the other extremist groups, doing so will send a clear message that New York Jews refuse to tolerate violence,” the letter concluded.

False Accusations Against CFI
Jewish Communal Fund is one of the largest and most active networks of Jewish funders, currently managing $2.4 billion in charitable assets for more than 4,200 donor advised funds, designated by The Chronicle of Philanthropy as a “Top 100” Charity in the US.

The Central Fund of Israel funds humanitarian and social service organizations in the Jewish State, including those based in Judea and Samaria.

All but one of the 19 signatories went public last month (April 2022) with their letter to the Jewish Communal Fund.

The letter included numerous false accusations about Central Fund, the least of which were claims of giving money to Lehava (which it does not), Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva (last grant was in 2014), and Mishmeret Yesha (last funded in 2012).

T’ruah’s Smear Campaign Against CFI
Citing a visit to the Temple Mount by Israeli Knesset Member Itamar Ben-Gvir – linked to a right-wing Jewish organization — prior to the Islamic holy month of Ramadan (a time when Arab violence typically rises in Israel) T’ruah CEO and progressive rabbi Jill Jacobs told JTA, “We believe that donors who entrust their charitable donations to the Jewish Communal Fund should know that they are helping to subsidize violent extremists.

Jacobs claimed in a statement on the T’ruah website that the Central Fund of Israel (CFI) “supports far-right Israeli terrorism with tax-deductible contributions,” and that the organizations it funds “directly support incitement against Palestinians, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and Israeli and American Jewish human rights leaders. In the worst cases, this funding has supported physical attacks, vandalism, and even murder.”

To its credit, the Jewish Communal Fund ignored the efforts of T’ruah.

Pro-BDS Congress Members Join In
Last summer, members of the anti-Israel Democratic “Squad,” including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Andre Carson (D-IN), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), joined the effort to double down on Central Fund.

All are supporters of the international Boycott, Divest and Sanctions (BDS) economic war on Israel.

In a July 22, 2021, letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, the lawmakers demanded she revoke the tax-exempt status of pro-Israel Jewish charities if some of their funding is awarded to Jews in Judea, Samaria and post-1967 areas of Jerusalem.

According to the lawmakers’ letter, which came as the organization was in the process of completing a second IRS audit, “The Central Fund of Israel (CFI), a US-based 501( c)(3) entity registered in New York State, is among several US-based groups fueling the dispossession and displacement of Palestinians to make way for Jewish Israeli settlers. The groups’ tax-exempt non-profit status means their donors receive a form of valuable support from the US government in their efforts to bolster the settlement movement.

Tlaib accused CFI “and other private actors” of “acting in direct contradiction to the United States government’s long-standing public policy position opposing the development and expansion of Israeli settlements within occupied territory.”

It somehow has escaped the notice of The Squad that Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria are not illegal, a point that dates as far back as the League of Nations, which itself guaranteed in Article 6, “The Administration of Palestine, while ensuring that the rights and position of other sections of the population are not prejudiced, shall facilitate Jewish immigration under suitable conditions and shall encourage, in co-operation with the Jewish agency referred to in Article 4, close settlement by Jews on the land, including State lands and waste lands not required for public purposes.”

Two IRS Audits
Central Fund of Israel has undergone two IRS audits within a five-year period, neither of which appeared justified, and both of which found the organization to be absolutely kosher.

The question is: why?

The first audit was launched by the IRS in September 2015, directing the organization to produce documents from its fiscal year 2013, allegedly in response to a complaint filed by T’ruah.

The progressive rabbis filed the complaint over the Central Fund’s support for Honenu, and T’ruah claimed its effort forced CFI to temporarily halt funding for the legal aid services group.

Central Fund director Jay Marcus told JewishPress.com in an interview, however, that claim was inaccurate.

Regardless, the IRS completed its investigation and gave Central Fund a clean bill of health in March 2016.

Four years later the IRS opened a new probe of Central Fund in September 2020, directing the Jewish charity to submit documents for its fiscal year 2017.

That audit dragged on for more than a year — but the IRS once again gave the Central Fund the all-clear on August 3, 2021.

Less than a month earlier, Tlaib and her cohorts had sent their letter to Secretary Yellen, demanding she revoke CFI’s tax-exempt status.

“The agent didn’t seem to indicate that it was political, but who knows?” Marcus told JewishPress.com. “In any case, thank God we got a clean bill of health on that one” as well.

Allegations CFI Supports Terrorism
Tru’ah and its anti-Israel supporters have not been alone in their efforts to target the Central Fund.

In 2014, Ayda Husam Ahmad and 12 associates – all residents of the Palestinian Authority — filed a lawsuit in the US District Court in New York under the US Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) and the Alien Tort Statute (ATS) against five American Jewish organizations (Central Fund for Israel, Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, the Hebron Fund, Inc., One Israel and American Friends of Ateret Cohanim), demanding money damages for “injuries sustained in connection with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.”

Two of the plaintiffs were US nationals, one was Greek, and the remainder were Palestinian Authority citizens.

Renowned US attorney Nathan Lewin was retained to defend the Jewish organizations.

The plaintiffs claimed they were injured by Israeli citizens (“settlers”) living in Judea and Samaria and were suing the five charities for their part in “stonings, firebombings, shootings, beatings, destruction of property and vandalism” which they claimed were intended to “coerce, intimidate and influence the Israeli government and public and thereby bring the expulsion of the Palestinian residents from Occupied Palestine.”

So, what does the Central Fund have to do with all this?

The plaintiffs claimed CFI and the other four “purported charities” collected “millions of dollars” in donations which they claimed were wired “directly to the settlers and the illegal settlements.”

They also claimed the funds were used to “build and maintain the illegal settlements, illegally take land in Occupied Palestine, to support the attacks by the settlers on Palestinians living in Occupied Palestine, and to support the terrorist acts of the settlers against Palestinians and other persons in Occupied Palestine.”

Judge Jesse M. Furman dismissed the lawsuit and closed the case.

Why the Case was Dismissed
The judge noted that the plaintiffs’ claims “fail as a matter of law.”

“In this case, the… complaint alleges no facts suggesting that Defendants were aware – or even deliberately indifferent to the possibility – that the financial support they provided to ‘the Settlers’ would be used to support any violent activity.

“The American Plaintiffs do not (and cannot) allege that the Settlers are a designated terrorist organization. Nor do they allege that the Settlers have publicly stated terrorist goals or are associates of established terrorist organizations

“The … complaint never contends that Defendants gave money directly to those specific individuals or groups. Nor does it even specify what proportion of the ‘over half a million’ Settlers those individuals and groups comprise.

The allegation, the judge wrote, “does not claim that they provided money to the specific organizations or individuals that engaged in terrorist activities…

“Essentially, the … complaint alleges that Defendants transferred funds to an unorganized group of approximately five hundred thousand people, and that some people in that group committed attacks against the American Plaintiffs. Those allegations are not even sufficient to show ‘but-for’ causation… let alone the more demanding standard of proximate causation.”

The plaintiffs then took the case to appeal, where a three-judge panel affirmed the District Court’s ruling.

“To survive a motion to dismiss, a complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to ‘state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face,’” Judges Guido Calabresi, Jose Al. Cabranes and Christopher F. Droney wrote in their decision.

What’s the Point of All This?
It appears this endless campaign of hate has three goals:

  • To delegitimize the Central Fund of Israel,
  • To dry up donations to Central Fund of Israel pro-Israel recipients, and
  • To find a way to revoke CFI’s tax-exempt status.

The progressive rabbis of T’ruah and the pro-BDS “Squad” of Congress members appear to be more focused on destroying their ideological opponents than promoting those with whom they say they have common cause.

“Central Fund seems to be Number One on these people’s list . . .probably because we’ve gotten in this past year $50 million,” Marcus commented.

“It’s a lot of money, for over 400 different NGOs in Israel.”

Marcus said, however, that although he is sure there are many grantees that leftists don’t like, “most of the NGOs are groups that run food kitchens, build schools and hospitals, and focus on women’s health, ecology, the economy.

“Who could oppose that?”

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.