Enjoying Aid But In No Rush to Provide Benefits

IsraAID volunteers raising flags at the Home Depot in Longmont, CO; photo courtesy.
IsraAID volunteers raising flags at the Home Depot in Longmont, CO; photo courtesy.

The government of Israel benefits from the activities of Israeli aid organizations operating throughout the world, reaping dividends in the realms of economics and public relations. Ariel Dloomy wonders why the state does not grant them 46A status enabling them to receive tax-exempt philanthropic donations that will augment their work.

In September 2013, the state of Colorado was engulfed by severe flooding that caused massive damage to more than 17,000 homes. IsraAID responded immediately by sending an Israeli rescue and relief team to assist victims of the disaster. Two months later in that same region, an anti-Israel campaign arose whose slogan was: “Do you want peace? Stop ethnic cleansing in Palestine.” The Allied Jewish Federation of Colorado retaliated quickly, responding with billboards that read: “Israel is helping the Colorado flood victims.”

This story is no exception. More than 20 Israeli nonprofit aid and development organizations are working throughout the world assisting populations in crisis. Examples include delegations sent to Sri Lanka after the tsunami; the earthquake that devastated Haiti; and most recently the Philippines where a coalition of Israeli organizations mobilized to provide assistance to typhoon survivors. Through their work, they epitomize Israel’s self-imposed moral and ethical commitment to the global populace, which serves to enhance its status in the affected regions and worldwide. These organizations provide diverse types of aid, including agricultural development, water purification, renewable energy, medical rehabilitation, development of social and psychological services, and more.

While these organizations are a boon and a salve to Israel’s negative global image, they also share a common challenge: the government refuses to recognize them as nonprofit organizations in accordance with the 46A status of the Income Tax Ordinance – meaning they cannot receive tax-deductible donations. By denying them 46A status, which the government justifies by citing their work outside of Israel, these nonprofits are placed in a perilous situation bureaucratically, preventing them from receiving even the most basic governmental benefits due to a nonprofit organization from the municipal to national level.

The situation is particularly absurd considering that these very organizations often collaborate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Office of Public Diplomacy, the arms of the government that promote Israel’s public image. The government has been thrilled to leverage their work in showing the world a face of Israel different than the one embroiled in conflict, all while denying them the key philanthropic support that would augment the very efforts they so laud.

The activities of these Israeli aid organizations open up broad economic opportunities, strengthen partnerships with local agencies, and result in Israeli companies winning tenders from world aid organizations in an amount estimated by the OECD to be more than $40 billion annually. The presence of these organizations in disaster ravaged regions also prevents the entrance of armed militias and international terrorist organizations, who find them fertile ground, as well as helping to mitigate the spread of diseases such as malaria, AIDS, swine flu, and tuberculosis.

If the State of Israel considers these organizations as important as they proclaim, so significantly advancing Israel’s image as a “light unto the nations,” then the government must take immediate action to enable them to receive philanthropic support. The development of these organizations is of paramount importance to the Israeli state and society.

Ariel Dloomy is Co-Executive Director at AJEEC-NISPED (the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation – Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development); and Founding Director of Society for International Development (SID), Israel.

This article was originally published in Hebrew in Walla Business (April 23rd, 2014): http://finance.walla.co.il/?w=/4997/2739771

About AJEEC-NISPED: Founded in 1998, AJEEC-NISPED (the Arab-Jewish Center for Equality, Empowerment and Cooperation – Negev Institute for Strategies of Peace and Development) is an Arab-Jewish organization based in Israel’s Negev, dedicated to strengthening active citizenship through education and economic empowerment. Since the organization’s inception, our local, regional and international projects have been changing the lives of thousands of participants by promoting equitable democratic societies for communities in transition. Through people-to-people cross-border projects, we promote comprehensive peace in the Middle East. Internationally, we work to advance sustainable human development in societies in transition.

Our programming includes an array of strategies including economic development through the formation of cooperatives and social enterprises, volunteerism, quality early childhood education, health promotion and the environment, and Jewish-Arab partnership. All programs emphasize community ownership and are holistic, empowering, and culturally competent.

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