If Shin Bet Calls for Defunding Yitzhar Yeshiva, Why Are U.S. Donations Still Tax-Deductible? – OpEd


For years, many bloggers and journalists including myself, Phil Weiss, Didi Remez, Akiva Eldar and David Ignatius have been calling for cutting off tax-deductible donations to radical settlers, settlements and the organizations that support them.  The NY Times reported that total giving to such groups reached $200 million over a number of years.  As far as the Obama administration and the IRS, it’s fallen on deaf ears.  Now, perhaps the most credible source imaginable has weighed in in favor of the proposition: the Shin Bet:

The Shin Bet security service is urging the Education Ministry to immediately halt funding to the Od Yosef Hai Yeshiva in the settlement of Yitzhar, near Nablus, saying it has received intelligence information that senior rabbis in the yeshiva are encouraging their students to attack Arabs.

The army’s GOC Central Command, Maj. Gen. Avi Mizrahi, recently issued restraining orders that forbid several students affiliated with the yeshiva to enter the West Bank. This decision was based on what security sources termed well-founded suspicions that these students had been involved in attacks on Arabs, including “price tag” attacks on Arab property (so-called because they seek to deter the army from razing houses in the settlements ) and the torching of mosques in nearby Palestinian villages.

The head of the yeshiva, Rabbi Yitzhak Shapira, was filmed in the past accompanying some of his students to a nearby Arab village; the students then threw stones while the rabbi looked on. Shapira is the author of the controversial work “The King’s Torah,” which, among other things, discusses circumstances under which Jewish law might permit the killing of non-Jews.

The institute gets funding from four different line items in the state budget. In 2009, the Education Ministry gave it NIS 468,000 for the yeshiva high school and NIS 847,000 for the yeshiva gedola. The yeshiva also got money from the Social Affairs Ministry for a project to rehabilitate ultra-Orthodox drop-outs (NIS 707,000 in 2009), plus NIS 156,000 to operate a dormitory.

Those numbers equal funding of $500,000 from the government in 2009.  Yitzhar also receives a heavy dose of tax-deductible funding from U.S. settler support groups like the Central Fund of Israel and Hebron Fund, among others.

The report continues:

The Shin Bet recommendation to withhold funds came about a month ago, Haaretz has learned. In the weeks since then, Shin Bet and Education Ministry officials have had two meetings on the matter, but the ministry has apparently not yet decided how to respond. Od Yosef Hai, for its part, is preparing to petition the High Court of Justice if its funding is halted.

The Shin Bet said it has “accumulated a lot of information about the involvement of students at Od Yosef Hai and Dorshei Yehudcha [the yeshiva high school] in illegal, subversive and violent activities against Arabs and the security forces. The information indicates that the yeshiva’s rabbis and leaders are aware of some of these activities, but do not prevent them, and even enable students to take part in them.”

I should add that terror attacks perpetrated by Yitzhar yeshiva students have gone on for years.  I reported here on a home-made Qassam (Maariv report) that a student launched from the settlement towards a nearby Palestinian village.  Other students have vandalized and set arson fires at nearby mosques.  Add to that, that Rabbi Shapira’s book, described rather mildly above, actually calls for murdering Palestinian children on the presumption that they will grow up to kill Jews.  And it does this under the guise of Jewish law as interpreted by a supposedly learned rabbinical figure.

One needs to ask how long mainstream Jewish movements in the U.S. are going to stand for this hillul HaShem committed in the name of Judaism.  When will the Reform and Conservative movements say explicitly that this is not Judaism and these are not rabbis, and that it is a shandeh that our government supports donations by U.S. taxpayers to these groups.  When will the IRS wake up to the fact that they’re allowing U.S. citizens to support arson and pogroms perpetrated by these hooligans against Palestinians?  Is it U.S. policy to subsidize Israeli settlers who are destabilizing what little peace process that remains between the two sides?

H/t Ben White.


This article first appeared at Tikun Olam

Richard Silverstein

Richard Silverstein is an author, journalist and blogger, with articles appearing in Haaretz, the Jewish Forward, Los Angeles Times, the Guardian’s Comment Is Free, Al Jazeera English, and Alternet. His work has also been in the Seattle Times, American Conservative Magazine, Beliefnet and Tikkun Magazine, where he is on the advisory board. Check out Silverstein's blog at Tikun Olam, one of the earliest liberal Jewish blogs, which he has maintained since February, 2003.

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