New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani has introduced a bill that would ban tax-deductible donations to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, but he faces opposition from both centrists and progressives in his own party.
The bill, dubbed the “Not on our dime!: Ending New York funding of Israeli settler violence” act, would give the attorney general the power to stop groups that fund settlements from registering as charities and deny them tax-exempt status. It would also allow private individuals impacted by settlement-funding groups, such as Palestinians being displaced by an organization funded by a New York charity, to sue for damages and seek a court order to shut them down.
Mamdani, a progressive Democrat who represents parts of Queens, said he introduced the bill to align New York’s policies with its values of democracy and human rights. He argued that US charities that fund settlements are violating international law and contributing to the oppression of Palestinians.
“New Yorkers are unwittingly subsidizing the dispossession of Palestinians through their tax dollars,” Mamdani said at a press conference on May 16th. “This bill is about accountability and transparency. It’s about ensuring that our tax dollars are not used to fund violence and apartheid.”
The bill has the support of several progressive groups, such as Jewish Voice for Peace, Adalah Justice Project, and New York Communities for Change. However, it has also sparked backlash from many Democratic lawmakers, who signed a letter denouncing the bill as “a ploy to demonize Jewish charities with connections to Israel” and “antagonize pro-Israel New Yorkers.”
The letter’s signatories included not only mainstream Democrats but also some progressive legislators who typically align with Mamdani on issues such as police reform and labor rights. Among them were Assemblymembers Catalina Cruz, Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Ron Kim, Yuh-Line Niou, and Amanda Septimo.
Some of the progressive lawmakers who opposed the bill said they did so because they felt it singled out Israel and ignored other human rights violations around the world. Others said they were concerned about the bill’s potential impact on Jewish nonprofits that provide social services or cultural programs in Israel.
“I don’t support settlements or violence against Palestinians, but I also don’t support this bill,” said Cruz, who represents parts of Queens. “It’s divisive and counterproductive. It targets Jewish organizations that do good work in our communities and have nothing to do with settlements. It also undermines the possibility of a peaceful two-state solution.”
Mamdani said he was disappointed by the opposition from his progressive colleagues, but he vowed to continue pushing for the bill’s passage. He said he hoped to educate them about the realities of Israeli occupation and settler colonialism, and to persuade them that his bill was not antisemitic or anti-Israel.
“This bill is not about Israel or Judaism. It’s about justice and accountability,” Mamdani said. “It’s about ending our complicity in a system that denies Palestinians their basic rights and dignity. It’s about standing up for our values as New Yorkers and as Americans”.
The anti-settlement bill introduced by Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani is a bold and unprecedented attempt to challenge US support for Israeli settlements, which are widely considered illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace. The bill faces strong resistance from both centrists and progressives in the New York State Legislature, who accuse it of being antisemitic or anti-Israel. However, Mamdani argues that his bill is motivated by a commitment to democracy and human rights, and that it would make New York more consistent with its own values. The fate of the bill remains uncertain, but it has sparked a lively debate about the role of US charities in funding settlements and the impact of settlements on Palestinians.
Q: What are Israeli settlements?
A: Israeli settlements are Jewish communities built on land that Israel occupied in 1967 during the Six-Day War. These lands include the West Bank, East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights, and the Gaza Strip (although Israel withdrew its settlers from Gaza in 2005). Most of the international community considers these settlements illegal under international law, as they violate the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring its population to the occupied territory. The settlements also violate UN Security Council resolutions that call for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories and respect the rights of Palestinians. The settlements have been widely criticized for expanding Israel’s control over Palestinian land and resources, creating a system of segregation and discrimination, and undermining the prospects of a two-state solution.
Q: How do US charities fund Israeli settlements?
A: US charities that fund Israeli settlements are typically registered as 501©(3) nonprofit organizations, which means they are exempt from paying federal income tax and can receive tax-deductible donations from US citizens. These charities raise millions of dollars every year from individual donors, foundations, and corporations, and then transfer the money to Israeli organizations or institutions that operate in the settlements. Some of these Israeli recipients include religious schools, synagogues, museums, parks, security forces, and even extremist groups that advocate for violence against Palestinians. According to a 2015 investigation by Haaretz, US charities sent more than $220 million to Israeli settlements between 2009 and 2013.
Q: What is the “Not on our dime” act?
A: The “Not on our dime!: Ending New York funding of Israeli settler violence” act is a bill introduced by New York State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani in May 2023. The bill aims to stop US charities registered in New York from sending funds to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. The bill would give the attorney general the authority to stop groups that fund settlements from registering as charities and deny them tax-exempt status. It would also allow private individuals impacted by settlement-funding groups, such as Palestinians being displaced by an organization funded by a New York charity, to sue for damages and seek a court order to shut them down. The bill is the first of its kind in the US and has been endorsed by several progressive groups. However, it has also faced opposition from many Democratic lawmakers, who claim it is antisemitic or anti-Israel.