Israel to strip Amnesty International of tax benefits over support for BDS

Amnesty International [file photo]

Amnesty International [file photo]

Israel’s Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon has reportedly taken steps to strip Amnesty International of its tax benefits in Israel, barring Israeli donors from receiving tax deductions from their donations to the international human rights organization owing to its calls to boycott Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, Israeli media reported on Saturday.

According to Israeli media, Miki Zohar, a member of the Knesset, Israel’s parliament, from the right-wing Likud party wrote a letter to Kahlon in which he accused Amnesty International of working to “persecute and slander IDF soldiers.” He reportedly wrote:

Amnesty supports illegal infiltrators and draft refusers, and works with all its might to harm the State of Israel

He then went on to request that the finance minister use the anti-Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) bill passed in March, which banned foreigners who have openly expressed support for BDS from entering the country, in order to “immediately revoke Israel’s recognition of donations to Amnesty, since it is an organisation which encourages others to boycott all or part of Israel.”

In June, Amnesty International announced that it was launching a campaign to convince the international community to implement a full boycott of illegal Israeli settlements across the occupied Palestinian territory.

Slamming Israel’s “virtually total impunity” for its war crimes and crimes against humanity committed since 1967, Amnesty International Secretary-General Salil Shetty called on foreign states to impose an “international ban on settlement products, a comprehensive arms embargo on Israel and Palestinian armed groups,” as well as full investigations by the International Criminal Court into crimes committed as part of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

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“By banning settlement goods and putting in place laws and regulations that stop companies from operating in Israeli settlements, governments worldwide have an opportunity to make a real difference to the lives of millions of Palestinians who have endured decades of injustice, indignity and discrimination” Shetty said at the time.

Amnesty International reportedly reacted to the calls for stripping the group from receiving tax benefits in Israel, which could greatly affect the amount of donations they receive in the country, by refusing to respond to “politicians’ populist initiatives.”

“When there is a need, we will reply officially to the authorised bodies, such as the Finance Ministry, and discuss the topics.”

The BDS movement was founded in 2005 by a swath of Palestinian civil society as a peaceful movement to restore Palestinian rights in accordance with international law through strategies of boycotting Israeli products and cultural institutions, divesting from companies complicit in violations against Palestinians, and implementing state sanctions against the Israeli government.

Israel to penalise Amnesty supporters

Image of an Amnesty International rally [Richard Potts/Flickr]

Image of an Amnesty International rally [Richard Potts/Flickr]

Israel’s finance minister is working on a set of measures to revoke tax benefits for anyone that supports Amnesty International’s campaign for a boycott against the Israeli occupation.

Sources in Israel have reported that the Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon is working to introduce a set of measures to revoke tax benefits from Amnesty International’s supporters, in accordance with the Boycott Law.

Kahlon’s remark reflects the growing anxiety within the country over the snowballing of the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS). Since its launch in 2005 dozens of artists, academics, human rights organisations and various institutions around the world have joined the campaign against Israel’s occupation and its discriminatory policies against Palestinians.

The new measures to fight the global BDS campaign proposed by Kahlon are in response to a report by Amnesty International two months ago which called on the “international community to ban the import of all goods produced in illegal Israeli settlements and put an end to the multimillion dollar profits that have fuelled mass human rights violations against Palestinians”.

Read: Amnesty slams Israel’s detention of Palestinian human rights defender

Amnesty submitted the report to mark the 50th anniversary of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. The report accused Israel of being a “war criminal” because the “settlements” are “war crimes”.  Amnesty said:

For decades, the world has stood by as Israel has destroyed Palestinians’ homes and plundered their land and natural resources for profit.

Amnesty International‘s Secretary-General, Salil Shetty, objected to the international communities’ paralysis over the situation saying “50 years on, merely condemning Israel’s settlement expansion is not enough”. “It’s time for states,” he added. “to take concrete international action to stop the financing of settlements which themselves flagrantly violate international law and constitute war crimes.”

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