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Amnesty Israel summoned to Finance Ministry amid calls to strip tax benefits

According to Israeli Finance Ministry Director General Shlomi Heisler, the NGO has violated anti-boycott legislation.

A sign displaying the logo of Amnesty International. Credit: Paintings/Shutterstock.
A sign displaying the logo of Amnesty International. Credit: Paintings/Shutterstock.

Israel’s Finance Ministry has summoned the country’s branch of Amnesty International for a hearing, in what is being seen as a first step toward revoking tax benefits it enjoys, Israel Hayom reported on Monday.

In a letter obtained by the Israeli daily, Finance Ministry Director General Shlomi Heisler charges Amnesty with violating anti-boycott legislation by campaigning for arms embargoes against the Jewish state and promoting a blacklist of communities in Judea and Samaria.

Under the Law for Prevention of Damage to the State of Israel through Boycott, the government can deny nonprofit organizations their tax-deductible donation status if they support boycotting areas under Jerusalem’s control, including Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem.

“All of Amnesty International’s calls appear on Amnesty Israel’s website and are, in practice, published by it in a way that constitutes the knowing dissemination of calls to boycott Israel,” noted Heisler.

In addition, Jerusalem takes issue with the fact that 80% of the group’s budget comes from Amnesty’s international headquarters in London, which the official claimed raises questions regarding its independence.

Two years ago, Amnesty International released a 280-page report titled “Israel’s Apartheid Against Palestinians: Cruel System of Domination and Crime Against Humanity.” The report claimed the Jewish state was founded on “institutionalized segregation and discrimination against Palestinians, as a racial group, in all areas under its control.”

In July 2023, Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich instructed the Tax Authority to launch an investigation into the local Amnesty branch. The forthcoming hearing will allow the organization to defend itself before the Tax Authority sends its final recommendations to Smotrich.

Since the Knesset passed the anti-boycott law in 2011, lawmakers have called for Amnesty to be stripped of its benefits under the Income Tax Ordinance, but successive governments have failed to follow through.

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