Shepherd Hotel - Tomer Appelbaum - 15112011
Demolition work on the Shepherd Hotel in East Jerusalem earlier this year. Part of the landmark building was torn down to make room for housing for Jewish residents. Photo by Tomer Appelbaum
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The sponsors of two bills approved by the Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday accurately identified the soft underbelly of Israel's left-wing and human-rights organizations: They are the only ones who receive funding from foreign governments and international organization - and this is the exact kind of funding the bills seek to curtail. Right-wing groups get no funding whatsoever from these sources.

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But this doesn't mean right-wing groups are short of funds. On the contrary, a look at their financial statements shows that what they raise from private donors, mainly Jews living overseas, far exceeds what left-groups manage to raise from foreign governments. At the same time, right-wing groups are far less transparent than their left-wing rivals.

In 2008, for instance, Elad, which is apparently the wealthiest of the right-wing groups, received NIS 47 million in donations and had a budget of NIS 57 million. By comparison, the budgets of the seven largest left-wing organizations - Peace Now, the Association for Civil Rights in Israel, Ir Amim, B'Tselem, Breaking the Silence, Yesh Din and Physicians for Human Rights - came to NIS 37 million combined.

Most of the left-wing groups' money came from foreign governments. Elad, in addition to donations, also earns revenues from its franchise to run the City of David national park, which is one of its two main occupations. The other is settling Jews in East Jerusalem.

But the names of Elad's donors are unknown to the public because the group obtained a special permit from the Registrar of Associations to refrain from publishing them. Elad argued that publishing the names would hurt both the donors and the organization, and the registrar agreed, rejecting leftist groups' appeal of this decision.

Other right-wing groups also manage to raise money from individuals, though in far smaller amounts. For instance, Ateret Cohanim, which also works to settle Jews in East Jerusalem, raised NIS 1.6 million through its friends organization in 2008, while the settlement of Ariel's friends organization raised over $1 million in 2009.

Though rightist groups don't receive money from foreign governments, they do benefit from the fact that donations to nonprofits are tax deductible in the United States. In that sense, the U.S. government indirectly supports their activities via the tax break it grants their U.S. donors. Sometimes, in their filings to the U.S. government, these organizations downplay their settlement activity and list their focus as education or immigrant absorption to facilitate receipt of tax-deductible status.

One factor contributing to right-wing groups' lack of transparency is that organizations engaged in Jewish settlement all have various subsidiaries and affiliates, often registered in tax shelters such as the Marshall Islands or even Liberia. They say this is necessary to protect the identity of the Palestinians who sell land to them, as the lives of these Palestinians would be in danger if their identities were known. Nevertheless, it makes their financing much harder to monitor.

קראו כתבה זו בעברית: עמותות הימין מגייסות יותר כסף בפחות שקיפות