JERUSALEM (AP) — An Israeli group raising funds for Jewish extremists convicted in some of the country’s most notorious hate crimes is collecting tax-exempt donations from Americans, according to findings by The Associated Press and the Israeli investigative platform Shomrim.
The records in the case suggest that Israel’s far right is gaining a new foothold in the United States.
The amount of money raised through a U.S. nonprofit is not known. But the AP and Shomrim have documented the money trail from New Jersey to imprisoned Israeli radicals who include Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin and people convicted in deadly attacks on Palestinians.
This overseas fundraising arrangement has made it easier for the Israeli group, Shlom Asiraich, to collect money from Americans, who can make their contributions through the U.S. nonprofit with a credit card and claim a tax deduction.
Many Israeli causes, from hospitals to universities to charities, raise money through U.S.-based arms. But having the strategy adopted by a group assisting Jewish radicals raises legal and moral questions.
It also comes against the backdrop of a new, far-right government in Israel led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, where ultranationalists and extremist lawmakers have gained unprecedented power.
According to Shlom Asiraich’s promotional pamphlets, its beneficiaries include Yigal Amir, who assassinated Rabin in 1995; Amiram Ben-Uliel, convicted in the 2015 murder of a Palestinian baby and his parents in an arson attack; and Yosef Chaim Ben David, convicted of abducting and killing a 16-year-old Palestinian boy in Jerusalem in 2014. The group also assists an extremist ultra-Orthodox man who fatally stabbed a 16-year-old Israeli girl at Jerusalem’s gay pride parade in 2015.
Shlom Asiraich, or “The Well-Being of Your Prisoners,” has been raising money in Israel since at least 2018, and officially registered as a nonprofit in 2020 by a group mostly consisting of Israelis from hard-line settlements in the West Bank. At least five of the group’s seven founders have themselves been questioned by Israeli authorities for crimes related to their activities against Palestinians. Some have been arrested and charged.
Recipients of its largesse have hailed the group for coming through in difficult times.
“You have no idea how much you help us,” the family of Ben-Uliel, who is serving three life sentences, wrote in a hand-written letter posted to the group’s Facebook page.
Being a relatively new organization, Shlom Asiraich’s official filing to Israel’s nonprofit registry provides little data and does not indicate how much money it has raised. But in its promotional flyers, recently broadcast by Israeli Channel 13 news, the organization indicated it has raised 150,000 shekels (about $43,000).
Israeli nonprofits have long sought funding abroad, with the U.S. a major source. According to figures published by Noga Zivan, a consultant for nonprofits in Israel, between 2018 to 2020 Jewish-American organizations alone donated $2 billion to Israel each year.
Israeli right-wing groups have long raised funds in the U.S. But Dvir Kariv, a former official in the department of Israel’s domestic security agency Shin Bet that deals with Jewish violence, said it is unusual for extremist Jews such as the ones who run Shlom Asiraich to do so.
He said the group appears to have taken a cue from other far-right Israeli groups, particularly Kach, an anti-Arab racist group that was once banned as a terror organization in the U.S. but which Kariv said was adept at raising money there decades ago.
Itamar Ben-Gvir, a senior Cabinet minister in Israel’s new far-right government, is a disciple of Kach’s founder, Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was once barred from Israeli politics.
It is not clear when Shlom Asiraich began working with the New Jersey-based World of Tzedaka, a nonprofit that says it works “to enable any individual or organization to raise money for their specific cause.”
Donors in the U.S. can enter the Shlom Asiraich site and click on a link that takes them to a donation page hosted by World of Tzedaka. They can also donate directly from World of Tzedaka’s site.
According to an instructional video on the World of Tzedaka site, fundraisers must list a rabbi as a reference and receive approval from a Lakewood religious committee. World of Tzedaka charges $28 a month and a 3% processing fee for transferring funds to an Israeli bank account, the site says.
World of Tzedaka supports other charitable ventures, most of them focused on assisting Jewish families in distress, according to its website.
Ellen Aprill, an expert on tax and charities at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, said convicted criminals and their families could be considered in need and qualify as a permissible charitable purpose.
While supporting someone convicted of acts of terrorism could be seen as encouraging criminal activity, that would need to be proven, she said.
Marcus Owens, a lawyer who ran the IRS’s nonprofit unit in the 1990s, took a tougher stance.
“The U.S. Department of Justice views assistance to the families of terrorists as a form of material support for terrorism,” he said.
In order to become a tax-exempt group recognized by the IRS, an organization must operate exclusively for charitable, religious or educational purposes.
Repeated attempts to reach representatives of Shlom Asiraich were unsuccessful. A person who answered the group’s phone number hung up on an AP reporter. Moshe Orbach, whose address in the hard-line West Bank settlement of Yitzhar is listed as the group’s headquarters, declined through a lawyer to be interviewed.
A World of Tzedaka representative hung up when asked for comment.
The IRS refused to answer questions about the group, saying “federal law prohibits the IRS from commenting.”
According to documents obtained by the AP, Shlom Asiraich was registered as a nonprofit with Israeli authorities by Chanamel Dorfman, an attorney and a top aide to Ben-Gvir, Israel’s new national security minister.
Dorfman is also listed as the group’s “lawyer/legal adviser” on Guidestar, the official nonprofit registry’s site.
In a text message, Dorfman denied ever having been the group’s legal adviser and did not respond to additional questions. Dorfman recently told the conservative daily Israel Hayom he was simply acting as a lawyer and that “if I knew that this is what this organization does, I wouldn’t have registered it.”
In October, on the eve of the Jewish New Year, Shlom Asiraich tweeted a photo of snacks it provided to Jewish suspects under house arrest, and to families of Israelis convicted or charged with crimes against Palestinians. A note accompanying the wine and other goods the nonprofit provided called the men “beloved heroes.”
“Stay strong and remain loyal to the people of Israel and to the holy Torah and don’t stop being happy!” the note read.
Wait, so only the left wing judenrat traitors are allowed to freely engage in political activities such as fundraising, but anyone who disagrees with the suicidal socialist-fascist ideology is labeled an “extremist” and railroaded by the fifth column Israeli court system with shabak goons using torture on Jews to extract a so-called confession?! Same shabak, by the way, that would never torture a real genuine islamonazi terrorist; but apparently torturing and railroading Jews is what Medinat Judenrat is all about.
SHAME ON YOU VOS IZ NEIAS!!!!!!! It is unbelievable that you published this anti Semitic leftist article. This organization is trying to help innocent Israelies who are imprisoned in administrative detention and not allowed to see lawyers. They are thrown into jail without any evidence they they committed any crimes. Their only crime is that they are Torah people who love Israel and Torah and want to make Israel a Jewish state. The left wing liberals want to destroy them using any means they can, including weaponizing the legal system to torture them. This article mentions Amiram ben Uliel who allegedly burned down an Arab house. The way that the government got Amiram to confess is by ordering the Shabak to brutally torture him for 3 weeks until he gave a false confession. There is absolutely zero evidence that he had anything to do with this crime, and Arabs from that Arab town actually testified that they saw two Arabs doing this crime. Shame on you Vos Iz Neias for publishing this anti Semitic and hateful article against a righteous organization which wants to protect innocent frum Jews from the evil left wing elements of the Israeli government, the police and crooked courts<.
This seems to encapsulate the main point of singling-out this group. Not right.
It is unbelievable that you publish the kind of article the nazis would publish about the evil Jews. Please remove this horrific article from the anti Semitic AP from your website. This organization, Shlom Asirayich, is trying to protect religious Jews, both chareidi and religious Zionist from being brutalized by left wing liberals and tortured and imprisoned after being falsely charged with crimes like self defense against brutal Arabs.
The man who, in righteous indignation, killed the gay sympathizer at the “pride” parade – I consider him a modern day kanoi. I intend to look up this Shlom Asiraich, about whom heretofore I’ve never heard (thank you AP for informing me!), and if I find a way to send some gift to this kanoi and/or his family, I will gladly do so.
That “extremist ultra-Orthodox man who fatally stabbed a 16-year-old Israeli girl at Jerusalem’s gay pride parade in 2015″ (Yishai Schlissel): Before the stabbing event he was already imprisoned for something else and was diagnosed by the prison doctor as schizophrenic and was kept in the prison hospital as a patient who suffered a psychotic breakdown while in prison and who refused to take his medication (the Wikipedia article uses much milder terms to describe his mental condition but I researched the matter back when it happened). It was a scandal that they just let this guy who refused to take his medication out on his own without supervision. Further, his picture (along with others) had been distributed to the police guarding the parade. And his picture at his arrest (after the stabbing) at the parade shows not only an OBVIOUSLY out of place character (long beard and hareidi) that stood out like a soar thumb, but also an obviously wild-eyed psychotic just by looking at him. Yet the police (and there a LOT of them supposedly protecting the parade) could not notice him (he was not disguised nor trying to hide himself).
And the prison can’t even keep him safe as he is constantly being severely beaten by other inmates.