Fact Sheet: The Central Fund of Israel
Followers of the messianic Temple Mount Faithful movement, who want to build a Jewish temple in the Noble Sanctuary mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, one of the most sensitive holy sites in the world. TMF are among the extremist groups funded by the Central Fund of Israel. (Photo: Corina Kern/Flash90)
What is the Central Fund of Israel?
- Established in 1979, the Central Fund of Israel is a New York-based 501(c)(3) registered non-profit organization that funds hundreds of Jewish organizations in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, including some of the most extreme and violent elements in Israeli society and dozens of settler groups that are forcibly displacing Palestinians from their homes and taking their land.
- CFI is by far the largest of a number of US non-profit organizations that funnel money to Israeli extremist groups, with a total revenue of more than $48 million in 2019. It has channeled tens of millions dollars to far-right groups in Israel and the occupied territories, with donors receiving a tax write-off due to its status as a 501(c)(3) organization. According to a 2010 report by The New York Times:
“Dozens of West Bank [settler] groups seem to view the fund as little more than a vehicle for channeling donations back to themselves, instructing their supporters that if they want a tax break, they must direct their contributions there first.”
- CFI enjoys charitable status in the US despite the fact that many of the groups it funds are engaged in serious violations of international law that contradict and undermine longstanding US foreign policy, efforts to make peace, and harm Palestinians. Some also violate anti-discrimination provisions in federal law regarding registered 501(c)(3)s and/or are made up of followers of the notorious violent extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose Kach party, Jewish Defense League, and offshoots are classified terrorist organizations by the US government because of the violence of their members. In August 2021, seven Democratic members of Congress urged Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to review the tax-exempt status of CFI and similar groups, noting: “Tax-exempt nonprofit status allows US-based 501(c)(3) entities and their US-based donors to receive an effective subsidy from the US government to support serious breaches of international law and violations of internationally recognized human rights related to the expansion of the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise.”
Who runs CFI?
- CFI was founded and is operated by members of the Marcus family out of a textile business in Manhattan owned by Israeli-American brothers Jay and Itamar Marcus, who both live in the illegal settlement of Efrat on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. Jay Marcus is president of CFI.
- Itamar Marcus, who was CFI vice president from 1999 to 2008, runs a right-wing settler propaganda outfit called Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) whose highly problematic claims are frequently cited by western politicians and media, perpetuating racist stereotypes of Palestinians and impacting US and European policy. CFI gave more than half a million dollars to PMW while Itamar Marcus was vice president of the fund.
Notable extremist groups funded by CFI
- Ateret Cohanim: A far-right religious nationalist organization working to displace Palestinians in the Old City and neighborhood of Silwan in occupied East Jerusalem, in order to replace them with Jewish settlers, part of a plan to “Judaize” the area. Ateret Cohanim does this by purchasing property (or receiving it from the Israeli government), often using dubious and illegal methods like blackmail and middlemen to disguise the real buyer, and using discriminatory Israeli laws to evict Palestinians from their homes, which are then handed over to Jewish settlers. According to Human Rights Watch, “Ateret Cohanim aims to create a Jewish neighborhood in the heart of Silwan, putting 700 Palestinians at risk of eviction.”
- Israel Land Fund: ILF also buys land in the occupied Palestinian territories through shady means and sells it to Jewish settlers and is actively engaged in displacing Palestinian families from their homes in occupied East Jerusalem, including in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan. Under the heading “The Danger,” ILF’s website states it “was founded after realizing a need to disrupt the purchase of Jewish owned land in Israel by hostile, non-Jewish and enemy sources… House by house, lot by lot, the Israel Land Fund is ensuring the land of Israel stays in the hands of the Jewish people forever." Nearly all of the ILF’s budget comes from CFI.
- Honenu: Honenu provides legal and financial support to Jewish extremists who have been accused of or convicted of violent attacks, including murder, against Palestinians and liberal Israelis. Those who have received support from Honenu include one of the settlers who murdered three members of the Dawabsha family, a one-year-old baby boy and his parents, in 2015; Ami Popper, who murdered seven Palestinians in 1990; Yigal Amir, who assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995; and Jack Teitel, an American-born settler who carried out a series of violent attacks over a number of years against Palestinians, left-wing Israelis, and LGBTQ people, including the murder of at least two Palestinians.
- Temple Mount & Land of Israel Faithful Movement / Temple Mount Heritage Foundation: The so-called “Temple Mount Faithful” are messianic Jewish extremists who want to build a Jewish temple in the revered 1,300-year-old Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary) mosque complex in occupied East Jerusalem, because it stands on the site of two ancient Jewish temples. Once on the fringes of Israeli society, in recent decades they’ve become increasingly mainstream, including among their numbers senior government officials. Their provocations in and around the Noble Sanctuary are a source of constant tension in Jerusalem and threaten to ignite a major religious conflagration in the region and beyond. According to the Temple Mount & Land of Israel Faithful Movement’s website, their “Long Term Objectives” include:
“Liberating the Temple Mount [Noble Sanctuary] from Arab (Islamic) occupation… The Temple Mount can never be consecrated to the Name of G-d without removing these pagan shrines. It has been suggested that they be removed, transferred to and rebuilt at Mecca.”
- Od Yosef Chai Yeshiva: The Od Yosef Chai yeshiva is an extremist religious school in the West Bank settlement of Yitzhar, where some of Israel’s most radical and violent settlers live. Od Yosef students are responsible for numerous attacks against Palestinians and their property, as well as left-wing Israelis and Israeli soldiers. In 2009, the head of the school co-authored a book that condoned the murder of Palestinian civilians, including children. It read in part: “there is reason to harm children if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us ... we have seen in the Halakha [Jewish religious law] that even babies of gentiles who do not violate the seven Noahide laws, there is cause to kill them because of the future threat that will be caused if they are raised to be wicked people like their parents." It further stipulated: "If we kill a Gentile who has sinned or has violated one of the seven commandments - because we care about the commandments - there is nothing wrong with the murder.” It concluded that the injunction “Thou Shalt Not Murder” applies only “to a Jew who kills a Jew.”
- Hemla (Chemla): Hemla is a racist far-right group composed of followers of the extremist Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose stated mission is to protect the “the honor of daughters of Israel” by preventing them from dating or marrying Palestinians and other non-Jews. Hemla is closely connected to another Kahanist group that works against the mixing of Arabs and Jews, Lehava, whose members are known for roaming the streets of Jerusalem wearing black shirts, beating up Palestinians and searching for mixed couples to harass.
- Palestinian Media Watch. Run by former CFI vice president Itamar Marcus, PMW is an influential far-right settler organization that perpetuates racist stereotypes about Palestinians by documenting supposed instances of incitement in Palestinian society against Israel and Jewish people, cherry picking examples that are not representative, mistranslating them, and always leaving out the context of Israel’s brutal military occupation and theft of Palestinian land and homes for its illegal settlement enterprise (of which PMW is a part). Marcus has been warmly received and supported by numerous members of Congress, including then-New York Senator Hillary Clinton, testifying before Congress and parliaments. PMW’s claims have served as the basis for countless western and Israeli media stories portraying Palestinians as inherently violent and duplicitous and questioning their desire to live in peace with Israelis. PMW’s website boasts that its efforts have "led to changes in [US] legislation and funding procedures" for the Palestinian Authority.
- Canary Mission. An anonymously-run far-right US-based website that posts names and photos of American students, professors, and others (including progressive Jews) it claims “promote hatred of the USA, Israel and Jews.” It is intended to smear and intimidate students and others who speak out in support of Palestinian human rights and/or criticize Israel, seeking to harm the future job prospects of young people in particular by calling on potential employers not to hire them. The Israeli government has also used information found on Canary Mission to ban Palestinian-Americans and others from entering Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. Canary Mission has been heavily criticized even by supporters of Israel as a McCarthyite blacklist and online bullying.