Verizon. Pfizer. Bank of America. U.S. Corporations Are Funding Israeli Settlements.

Tax records show that the foundations of well-known corporations are funding settlements that are considered illegal under international law.

Alex Kane

A sign for Pfizer pharmaceutical company is seen on a building in Cambridge, Massachusetts, on March 18, 2017. (DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty Images)

The cor­po­rate foun­da­tions of Ver­i­zon, Pfiz­er, Bank of Amer­i­ca, Deutsche Bank, Amer­i­can Express and JPMor­gan Chase have col­lec­tive­ly giv­en over $25,000 to U.S. non­prof­its that send mon­ey to Israeli set­tle­ments in the occu­pied West Bank, accord­ing to tax records from 2001 to 2016 reviewed by In These Times.

Palestinian rights advocates say these corporate foundations should cease their donations to pro-settler groups.

A large net­work of U.S. non­prof­its rais­es mil­lions of dol­lars annu­al­ly to send to Israeli set­tle­ments, which are built on Pales­tin­ian land and are con­sid­ered ille­gal under inter­na­tion­al law. Some Israeli set­tlers vio­lent­ly harass Pales­tini­ans and burn down their crops. Israeli set­tlers have also killed Palestinians.

Tax records reviewed by In These Times show that Israeli set­tle­ments have a sur­pris­ing source of funds: the foun­da­tions of some of the most well-known U.S. corporations.

In addi­tion, the cor­po­rate foun­da­tions of Ver­i­zon, Pfiz­er, Deutsche Bank, Amer­i­can Express and JPMor­gan Chase have col­lec­tive­ly giv­en over $48,000 to Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, a U.S. non­prof­it that sends mil­lions of dol­lars to Israel’s mil­i­tary to sup­port var­i­ous enrich­ment activ­i­ties — like edu­ca­tion pro­grams and recre­ation­al and cul­tur­al cen­ters at army bases for soldiers.

Most of these funds come from cor­po­rate dona­tions that match the dona­tions of indi­vid­ual employ­ees, though for some dona­tions — all of Verizon’s and JP Mor­gan Chase’s in 2005, 2015 and 2016 — it is not spec­i­fied if the pay­ments are match­ing grants. The cor­po­rate foun­da­tions encour­age employ­ee dona­tions to non­prof­its by promis­ing that the com­pa­nies will match dona­tions to the non­prof­its of their choice, dou­bling the total amount of mon­ey that go to those nonprofits.

It’s unclear whether the cor­po­rate foun­da­tions are aware their mon­ey is flow­ing to Israeli set­tle­ments built in defi­ance of inter­na­tion­al law. None of the cor­po­ra­tions con­tact­ed by In These Times about these dona­tions respond­ed to requests for comment.

The vast major­i­ty of the dona­tions from these cor­po­ra­tions flow to rel­a­tive­ly uncon­tro­ver­sial groups, like universities.

Cor­po­ra­tions give mon­ey to char­i­ta­ble caus­es to boost their own image, allow­ing them to por­tray them­selves as altru­is­tic phil­an­thropists rather than rapa­cious cap­i­tal­ists. Cor­po­ra­tions typ­i­cal­ly fund their own foun­da­tions, which gives them an added ben­e­fit: a tax deduction.

But the dona­tions to Israeli set­tle­ments draw the cor­po­ra­tions into per­haps the most con­tro­ver­sial con­flict in the world, and seem to con­tra­dict pledges made by some of these foun­da­tions to fund char­i­ties that advance social jus­tice and don’t dis­crim­i­nate. We do not pro­vide fund­ing to any orga­ni­za­tion that dis­crim­i­nates based on race, reli­gion, col­or, sex, sex­u­al ori­en­ta­tion, gen­der iden­ti­ty, age, nation­al ori­gin, ances­try, cit­i­zen­ship, vet­er­an, or dis­abil­i­ty sta­tus or espous­es hate,” states Bank of Amer­i­ca, in a state­ment on their web­site explain­ing what groups their Char­i­ta­ble Foun­da­tion Match­ing Gifts pro­gram supports.

Some Israeli set­tlers use vio­lence against Pales­tini­ans, burn­ing olive trees and killing civil­ians. In Octo­ber 2018, Israeli set­tlers threw stones at a Pales­tin­ian car, smash­ing through a win­dow and killing Aisha Rabi, a 47-year-old Pales­tin­ian moth­er of eight.

Set­tlers have also car­ried out ston­ings, Molo­tov cock­tail attacks and beat­ings against Pales­tini­ans. Israeli set­tle­ments, and the infra­struc­ture built to sup­port them, block Pales­tin­ian free­dom of move­ment, forc­ing Pales­tini­ans to take cir­cuitous routes because they are barred from using the fastest routes on roads Israel built to ben­e­fit set­tlers. And Pales­tini­ans liv­ing in the occu­pied ter­ri­to­ries are barred from liv­ing in Israeli settlements.

Close observers of how set­tle­ments fundraise in the Unit­ed States will notice some famil­iar names in the tax doc­u­ments of these cor­po­rate foun­da­tions. Most of the dona­tions go to large, wealthy orga­ni­za­tions that raise the bulk of pro-set­tler cash in the Unit­ed States.

The cor­po­rate foun­da­tions of Ver­i­zon, Pfiz­er, Bank of Amer­i­ca, Deutsche Bank, Amer­i­can Express and JPMor­gan Chase have togeth­er giv­en over $15,000 to the One Israel Fund, a non-prof­it that gives cash to set­tle­ments across the occu­pied West Bank, includ­ing to set­tler secu­ri­ty guards that harass Pales­tini­ans and block their free­dom of move­ment. The cor­po­rate foun­da­tions of Pfiz­er, Amer­i­can Express and JPMor­gan Chase have also giv­en over $6,300 to the Cen­tral Fund of Israel, a non-prof­it that also sends mil­lions of dol­lars to Israel, includ­ing large amounts to West Bank set­tle­ments. The Cen­tral Fund of Israel has drawn crit­i­cism for pro­vid­ing finan­cial sup­port to Honenu, a group that gives mon­ey to Israeli Jew­ish pris­on­ers con­vict­ed of abus­ing or killing Palestinians.

In addi­tion to fund­ing ille­gal set­tle­ments, both the One Israel Fund and the Cen­tral Fund of Israel donat­ed to a secre­tive Israeli gov­ern­ment-linked ini­tia­tive to attack the boy­cott, divest­ment and sanc­tions move­ment, a glob­al, Pales­tin­ian-led cam­paign call­ing for an end to Israel’s occu­pa­tion, the right of return for Pales­tin­ian refugees, and equal rights for Pales­tin­ian cit­i­zens of Israel. Accord­ing to The For­ward, the secre­tive ini­tia­tive will fund infor­ma­tion gath­er­ing, influ­ence cam­paigns, [and] pro-Israel advo­ca­cy,” though it’s unclear if the pro­gram has launched. The One Israel Fund and Cen­tral Fund of Israel also fund Im Tirtzu, an far-right Israeli nation­al­ist move­ment that harass­es Israeli leftists.

The cor­po­rate foun­da­tions have also giv­en to small­er non­prof­its that raise mon­ey for spe­cif­ic set­tle­ments or institutions.

The foun­da­tions of Ver­i­zon, Deutsche Bank and Pfiz­er sent near­ly $1,500 to the Amer­i­can Friends of Yeshiv­ot Bnei Aki­va, a group that rais­es mon­ey for a net­work of reli­gious Zion­ist schools across Israel and the occu­pied West Bank and Golan Heights.

In 2004, the Pfiz­er foun­da­tion gave $500 to Amer­i­can Friends of Bet El Yeshi­va Cen­ter, a non­prof­it run for many years by David Fried­man, now the U.S. ambas­sador to Israel, that sup­ports the set­tle­ment of Bet El, which sits deep in the occu­pied West Bank.

And the cor­po­rate foun­da­tions of JPMor­gan Chase, Pfiz­er and Ver­i­zon have sent near­ly $1,000 to the non­prof­it Amer­i­can Friends of Elon Moreh, which sup­ports the set­tle­ment of Elon Moreh, a com­mu­ni­ty with a rep­u­ta­tion for harass­ing Pales­tin­ian farmers.

Pales­tin­ian rights advo­cates say these cor­po­rate foun­da­tions should cease their dona­tions to pro-set­tler groups.

Foun­da­tions have to take respon­si­bil­i­ty and own­er­ship over gifts that pass through them, whether through match­ing funds, donor-led giv­ing, or oth­er meth­ods,” says Rebec­ca Vilkomer­son, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Jew­ish Voice for Peace, which advo­cates for Pales­tin­ian rights. Groups that are clear­ly vio­lat­ing inter­na­tion­al human rights and inter­na­tion­al law should not be receiv­ing cor­po­rate gifts.”

Alex Kane is a New York-based free­lance jour­nal­ist who writes on U.S. for­eign pol­i­cy in the Mid­dle East.
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