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May 18, 2023 5:12 pm

Majority of New York State Assembly Democrats Condemn Bill Targeting Pro-Israel Charities


avatar by Andrew Bernard

New York State Assembly Chamber in the State Capitol in Albany, NY. Photo: Wadester16/Flickr.

A majority of the Democratic Conference of the New York State Assembly on Thursday signed a letter condemning a bill that would cut off funding to pro-Israel charities.

The “Not On Our Dime!: Ending New York Funding of Israeli Settler Violence Act” seeks to prohibit nonprofits from engaging in “unauthorized support of Israeli settlement activity.” The signatories to Thursday’s letter say the bill is an effort to attack Jewish organizations.

“This bill is a ploy to demonize Jewish charities with connections to Israel,” the letter says. “It was only introduced to antagonize pro-Israel New Yorkers and further sow divisions within the Democratic Party. We look forward to seeing the supporters of this legislation condemn last week’s attack from the Palestinian Islamic Jihad targeting civilians and recognizing Israel’s right to exist.”

The letter was led by Assemblymember Daniel Rosenthal (D-Queens) and endorsed by 65 other members of the 150-member Assembly.

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The “Not On Our Dime!” act was introduced on Tuesday in the Assembly by Zohran Mamdani (D-Queens) and in the Senate by Jibari Brisport (D-Brooklyn) with five additional co-sponsors, most of whom are members of or were endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). One of those five original co-sponsors, Manny De Los Santos (D-Manhattan) reversed course and signed Thursday’s letter condemning the bill.

In addition to banning New York charities from giving money that supports Israeli settlements, the bill would also authorize the Attorney General of New York to fine such organizations in excess of $1 million and allow Palestinians to bring private civil action against those charities.

The official website supporting the legislation lists its institutional backers as including the DSA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Jewish Voice for Peace NYC, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) New York.

The bill’s supporters and the text of the legislation itself contend that Israeli settlements violate article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits population transfers to or from an occupied territory, and that funding those settlements is therefore “aiding and abetting” Israel’s “illegal” activities. Israel contends that the West Bank and Gaza are disputed territories, not occupied territories, and therefore Israeli settlements do not violate international law.

The charity most prominently cited by the “Not On Our Dime!” act’s website is the New York-based Central Fund of Israel (CFI), which in 2021 gave $55 million to more than 500 Israeli organizations whose missions range from providing living assistance for Holocaust survivors to helping Ethiopian-Israeli youth. “Not On Our Dime!” supporters say that CFI’s support for charities engaged in settlement activities mean that it and other New York Jewish charities “masquerade as charities while funding illegal activities, including war crimes.”

In addition to the signatories to Thursday’s letter, other New York politicians also expressed their opposition to the bill.

“The recent introduction of the ‘Not On Our Dime: Ending New York Funding of Israeli Settler Violence Act’ is a disturbing effort to bring the delegitimization of Israel to the halls of power in New York,” said Assemblymember Amanda Septimo (D-Bronx). “New York will continue to support Israel by finding new ways to deepen the state’s relationship with the nation, and we will always support our Jewish friends and neighbors by standing against hate in all its forms.”

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