An Israeli crowdfunding campaign for the residents of a Palestinian town hit by a Jewish riot last month has raised questions with regard to how the funds can be disbursed without going to those supporting terror.
The fundraiser, the brainchild of a religious Labor Party activist Yaya Fink, raised nearly half a million dollars for the residents of Huwara, some of whom suffered property damage due to the riot, which followed the murder of two Israelis in the city earlier the same day. Nearly 12,000 Israelis donated about 1.8 million shekels ($488,000) in the two-week campaign, which ended on March 14. The original goal of the project was 100,000 shekels ($27,500).
“The silent majority in Israel is against radicalism, against violence and against racism,” Fink told JNS. “As a religious person I could not sit by and be silent,” he said, adding, “One must fight terrorism, and concomitantly distinguish between terrorists and their supporters—who need to be killed or imprisoned—and innocent civilians.”
However, questions have arisen with regard to how to actually distribute the funds so no money goes to those supporting terror.
In a statement, Fink said that the distribution of funds to some 32 families would be carried out over the next few weeks via unspecified “civilian groups on the ground.” He had said in a tweet that background checks would be carried out with two former Israeli security officials, from the Israel Security Agency (Shin Bet) and Civil Administration.
Some have questioned, though, how this could work.
“This begins to get interesting,” tweeted Sara Haetzni Cohen, the chair of the right-wing NGO Yisrael Sheli. “Do ‘former’ officials in the Shin Bet and the Civil Administration have access to updated intelligence? It’s worth asking whether someone in the Shin Bet and in the Civil Administration is transferring intelligence information to former workers in the organization.”
A spokeswoman for COGAT, the Israeli defense body that deals with Palestinian civilian affairs, said in a statement Wednesday that it was not involved in the matter in any way.
“This campaign was hasty, irresponsible and insensitive,” Haetzni Cohen told JNS. There was now a “very serious problem” with regard to distinguishing between Huwara residents, she said. “We are talking about a village many terrorists came from,” she added.
The difficulty was highlighted in a report by the Kol Yehudi website which found that the Palestinian owner of the car lot in the village which was set ablaze was a convicted terrorist who had served five years in prison and who had praised the terror attack that sparked the riot.
Brothers Hallel Yaniv, 21, and Yagel Yaniv, 19, were murdered as they sat in traffic on the main road through Huwara on February 26. Village residents celebrated the murders, cheering and passing out sweets.
The main suspect in the shooting was killed by the IDF during a raid in the nearby Palestinian city of Jenin the following week.
“I get up every morning looking out at the village of murderers, Huwara, where treats were handed out [to celebrate the murders],” said Esti Yaniv, the murdered brothers’ mother, in a video posted online.
The bereaved mother said she was “horrified” by the crowdfunding effort, calling it “a backward campaign for the people who handed out baklavas after the murder of my children.”