Update | 2.20.2020

Israel Confiscates School in Susiya

On February 19, 2020, the Israeli Civil Administration confiscated a schoolhouse from the village of Susiya in the South Hebron Hills. These Israeli attacks on the basic infrastructure that serves the Palestinian children of Susiya is not simply a violation of human rights, but a message to the community: Leave your village.

In 2012, the far-right Israeli NGO, Regavim, launched a public and legal campaign to advocate for the forced displacement of the indigenous inhabitants of Susiya. In June 2012, the Israeli Civil Administration issued more than 50 demolition ordersto the small Palestinian village. These demolition orders came after Regavim petitioned the Israeli Supreme Court, pressuring it to declare the village a “security threat” as well as an “illegal outpost”.

This most recent confiscation represents the continuation of Regavim’s campaign to drive the local community off of their lands. Regavim has advocated for the demolition of Palestinian homes countless times. In the past, Regavim has petitioned the Israeli courts for the displacement of Palestinians in the West Bank village of Susiyah to make way for the expansion of the Israeli settlement of Susya. In 2018, they petitioned the Israeli courts to forcefully evict the Bedouin community in Khan al-Ahmar in order to advance Israeli territorial claims in “Greater” Jerusalem. In both cases, the international community, including EU diplomats, US Senators, and US State Departmentcautioned against these measures and in the case of Khan al Ahmar, ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda warned that evictions of the community could constitute a war crime.

Regavim finances its work through the use of US-based charities. The Central Fund of Israel and Israel Independence Fund enable Regavim’s work by funneling US taxpayers’ dollars through tax-exempt donations. This happens through the two organizations’ charitable status in the United States and their fiscal sponsorship of Regavim. However, for grants to overseas entities, US Treasury and IRS regulations require the US grantor to make an “equivalency determination” to determine if the foreign entity is functionally the same as a US nonprofit. In other words, the recipient – the sponsored organization overseas – must fulfill the same requirements as non-profits in the United States. These guidelines require that tax-exempt donations “lessen neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law, and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency”.

Given the nature of Regavim’s work and the practical outcome of their actions, we see no evidence that such a determination has been made, or in fact could be made. A minimal good faith effort on the part of the donor organizations would have made it clear that Regavim’s mandate runs contrary to the spirit of the laws governing charitable organizations. The organizations’ failure to comply in good faith with the equivalency determination requirement is a primary reason for its status to be revoked.

Palestinians have long raised the issue of U.S.-based charities, such as the Central Fund of Israel, and their role in financing human rights abuses and have advocated for legal pressure to enforce the application of IRS regulations.

As the Good Shepherd Collective moves forward, we are building a grassroots movement to challenge the ways that US-based nonprofits can fund human rights abuses. To this date, GSC has collected the endorsements and video testimonies of around 130 Palestinian activists to raise the call to engage this campaign to stop charitable organizations from funding Israeli settlers organizations. We’ve received the endorsements of nearly 30 Palestinian villages in municipal councils as well as leading Palestinian human rights organizations. But we need your help.

As we move forward into 2020, methodically building our coalition on the ground and international networks, we ask you to make sure you stay connected by following us on Facebook,Twitter, and Instagram.

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