New Yorkers rally in support of Not on our Dime! Act – Mondoweiss
On July 20, hundreds of New Yorkers gathered to protest recent Israeli violence and call on local lawmakers to back the historic Not On Our Dime! Act.
The legislation, which was introduced by State Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani and State Senator Jabari Brisport, would amend New York’s not-for-profit corporation law and establish a civil penalty for nonprofits that fund illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.
“Despite the clear illegality of this pattern of conduct, which has led to the expulsion and dispossession of Palestinians from their land (often in a violent manner), this practice has continued,” reads the bill. “Moreover, these illegal settlement activities have been funded by organizations here in New York State. In fact, between 2017 and 2019 alone, organizations that are known to primarily fund illegal settler activities fundraised over $144 million in New York State..In short, New York State is effectively subsidizing illegal activity abroad, and has been complicit in violent dislocations of Palestinian people.”
The protesters gathered outside the offices of American Friends of Ateret Cohanim, an organization that collects tax-deductible donations to the Ateret Cohanim settler group.
A 2015 Haaretz investigation found that over 50 U.S.-based tax-exempt nonprofits funded illegal West Bank settlements with more than $220 million over a four-year period. “Thanks to their status as nonprofits, these organizations are not taxed on their income and donations made to them are tax deductible – meaning the U.S. government is incentivizing and indirectly supporting the Israeli settlement movement, even though it has been consistently opposed by every U.S. administration for the past 48 years,” the paper explains.
“It is unreasonable to think you can fundraise here in New York to expel Palestinians from their homes without being held accountable under the law,” Center for Constitutional Rights senior staff attorney Diala Shamas told the crowd.
The action comes amid an eventful moment in U.S.-Israel relations. This week Israel President Isaac Herzog traveled to Washington to meet with President Biden and address a dual session of Congress. A number of progressive congress members skipped the speech on political grounds, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Cori Bush (D-MO), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
The speech came just one day after the House voted in favor of a resolution saying Israel isn’t an apartheid state by the overwhelming margin of 412-9. That resolution was a GOP-initiated rebuke to comments made by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) during a recent NetRoots panel, in which she referred to Israel as a “racist state.” Jayapal has since walked the comments back. She voted for the resolution and attended Herzog’s speech.
The Not on Our Dime! Act has faced extreme backlash from local pro-Israel groups and politicians. “This bill is a ploy to demonize Jewish charities with connections to Israel. It was only introduced to antagonize pro-Israel New Yorkers and further sow divisions within the Democratic Party,” reads a letter signed by 25 lawmakers.
“Across the city, I’ve heard from thousands of New Yorkers who have made it clear that there should be no exceptions when it comes to justice,” declared Assemblymember Zohran Mamdani at the event. “It is unacceptable that New York State is granting charitable stairs to organizations funding the violation of the Geneva convention. It is out of step with national policy, international law and the will of New Yorkers. This legislation will change that.”
Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss. He is the author of Medium Blue: The Politics of MSNBC. Follow him on Twitter at @michaelarria.