US NGO raises over $24M for Israeli soldiers in one night

Published March 17th, 2016 - 10:00 GMT
Nonprofit groups in the US have long raised money to be sent overseas to Israel, in addition to the billions in aid pledged each year by the US government. (AFP/File)
Nonprofit groups in the US have long raised money to be sent overseas to Israel, in addition to the billions in aid pledged each year by the US government. (AFP/File)

New York-based NGO “Friends of the IDF” on Tuesday raised over $24 million in one night to aid those that serve in Israel’s military.

The group reported on its website that over 1,200 "businesses and philanthropic leaders" attended the annual gala “to demonstrate their love and support for Israel’s soldiers and FIDF.”

Speakers at the fundraiser praised members of the Israeli military forces for their performance during Operation Protective Edge, the name attributed by Israel to the 2014 military offensive on the Gaza Strip that left over 2,200 Palestinians killed.

Attendees of the event faced dozens of picketers outside the venue protesting US support of the ongoing Israeli military occupation, according to Israeli media sources.

FIDF’s annual galas have attracted a number of controversial figures over the years, including Sheldon Adelson, American billionaire and financial backer of right-wing Israeli politicians.

While the group self-professes to support Israeli soldiers and bereaved families of soldiers killed, the group has in the past been caught up in lawsuits alleging its funding of illegal settlement expansion in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Several NGO’s based out of the US have long raised money to be transferred to Israel. The funds make their way overseas in addition to billions pledged by the US government in military aid to Israel.

Such funds are often funneled towards pro-settlement groups, enabling US citizens to freely donate to the illegal enclaves despite the fact that the US government has condemned ongoing settlement expansion.

FIDF was one of a number of NGO’s, individuals, and corporations to be pulled into a lawsuit by a group of Palestinians earlier this month who are attempting to sue the actors for supporting illegal settlement expansion and the violence it brings to Palestinian locals.

Israeli daily Haaretz reported at the time the lawsuit was filed that the group alleged those being sued “contravened American law against money laundering, in terms of which the transfer of money for the purposes of committing a crime is illegal.”

Such cases have been overturned in the past, with a US Court of Appeals last spring rejecting an appeal from a group of 13 Palestinians seeking damages for alleged "terrorist attacks” carried out by Israeli settlers.

The complaint was filed against US-based charities that financially support settlements, alleging that such support leads to "terrorist" activity and is in violation of US anti-terrorism laws.

Plaintiffs in the case argued that charities were financially supporting "terrorist" activity by funding settlers who have carried out acts of violence against Palestinians and their land, and desecrated houses of prayer.

The dismissal of the case was a setback for those fighting to shed light on private US funding that sustains settlement expansion, illegal according to international law.

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