The income tax authorities have opened an investigation into the activities of the right-wing organization, Honenu. The probe comes in the wake of a Haaretz report that Honenu is secretly raising funds for Yigal Amir, prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassin.
The authorities will be examining whether Honenu is operating according to the objectives it declared when it applied for recognition as a welfare agency.
Such recognition allows donors to claim a tax credit for 35 percent of contributions not exceeding 30 percent of their income, or NIS 2.165 million. "We will examine the new information presented about the activities of the association and its adherence to the law in light of the findings," an Income Tax Authority spokesperson said.
Honenu registered as a non-profit organization on January 1, 2002, declaring its objectives to be "assistance, welfare and economic, spiritual and psychological rehabilitation of prisoners, detainees and their families," along with meeting their religious needs, vocational training and job placement.
The association defines another of its objective as the provision of economic and legal assistance to "Jews in distress and/or in detention and/or under arrest and/or incarcerated and/or taken captive due to the security situation and/or their intention to work for the good of Israel."
According to a report from the registrar of non-profit associations, Honenu received donations totaling NIS 190,000 in 2002, and NIS 414,000 in 2003, and declared distribution of NIS 65,000 and NIS 152,000 respectively in those years. The file contains no details about the recipients of the funds. Honenu, which must submit its 2004 books for auditing by January, is now undergoing what has been defined as a "routine audit."
Honenu began raising funds for Amir and his wife, Larissa Trimbobler, a few weeks ago. The official responsible for funds at Honenu, Hillel Roth, confirmed that donors who want a contribution to be earmarked for Amir were to note specifically it was for "the fund for the rights of Yigal and Larissa Amir."
Roth said Honenu was operating a "sub-fund" for Amir. Trimbobler confirmed this, and said that she needed the money to prepare for the retrial Amir is to request.
The Honenu Web site has posted letters of support from senior religious figures, among them Shas spiritual leader Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. A Shas spokesman said last week that Yosef's letter had been removed from the site and that the letter should not lead to an assumption of "any other support, including and especially for the despicable murderer, Yigal Amir."
However, Yosef's letter appeared again on the site this week.
"We are unaware of any fund-raising for Yigal and Larissa Amir," the Justice Ministry responded. "If the reporter has information showing such activity, we will be happy to receive it and check into the legality of the activity."
Honenu director Shmuel Medad of Kiryat Arba refused to comment for this report.