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Fundraisers for Israeli settlers raise thousands despite US sanctions over West Bank violence

Several online fundraisers for settlers have raised questions about the impact of American sanctions
Israeli border guards arrive to evacuate settlers who attempted to reestablish an illegal settlement outpost called Or Haim in the  occupied West Bank on 22 January 2023.
Israeli guards speak with settlers who attempted to reestablish an illegal settlement outpost called Or Haim in the occupied West Bank, on 22 January 2023 (Gil Cohen-Magen/AFP)

Several online campaigns were able to raise tens of thousands of dollars for sanctioned Israeli settlers, raising questions about the impact of Washington's sanctions as well as concerns over whether financial services firms are at risk of violating those sanctions.

A report by the Associated Press found that within days of the US sanctioning Yinon Levi, an online fundraiser for him and his unauthorised settler outpost, Meitarim Farm, in the occupied West Bank, raised more than $140,000.

The funds were raised on the Israeli website, Givechak, and donors from all over the world contributed to the campaign.

“A few days ago, Yinon Levi’s accounts were confiscated in a scandalous decision,” read a note on the fundraising page before it was taken down, according to the AP. “All donations will go to the further development of the farm and the land of Israel.”

Another fundraiser for David Chai Chasdai, a settler who was also sanctioned by the US, raised over $31,000 on Charidy, a New York-based site. The AP reported that the fundraiser page was taken down after it requested comment.

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Chasdai "initiated and led" a violent rampage last year in the Palestinian town of Huwwara, where Israeli settlers set dozens of cars and homes on fire after two settlers were killed by a Palestinian, according to the US announcement sanctioning the settler.

Chasdai said in an interview with Walla News this month that he was "happy to be on the US blacklist — apparently, they’ve identified something real in what I represent".

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Levi, Givechak, and Charidy declined to comment to the AP. Middle East Eye reached out to Givechak for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

The sanctions imposed on Levi and Chasdai prevent them from accessing the US financial system and also impose a visa ban on them.

Israeli experts say that the use of online crowdfunding platforms has played a key role in helping raise money for Israeli settlement outposts in the West Bank. All West Bank settlements are deemed illegal under international law.

And while settler outposts are not authorised by the Israeli government, they receive tacit support.

"If the crowdfunding could be stopped, this could be a game changer. The outposts are not able to operate without this money," Eitay Mack, an Israeli human rights lawyer, told the AP.

However, Yehuda Shaffer, an expert on sanctions and former deputy state attorney for Israel, told the news agency that it was unlikely Washington would go after Israeli banks for their involvement in crowdfunding campaigns.

Shaffer referred to the US sanctions as more akin to "lip service" to address Palestinian concerns.

“My feeling is that this is much less serious than Ukrainian sanctions,” he said.

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