Israeli Bank Hapoalim, crowdfunding website GiveChak, and non-profit Har Hevron Fund are enabling violent settler to raise over $135,000 just days after White House announces sanctions against him
(Washington D.C., February 8, 2024) — The U.S. Department of Treasury should immediately investigate and consider sanctions against an Israeli bank, a crowdfunding website, two credit card processors, and an Israeli charity for providing goods and services, including enabling donations and funding, to a violent Israeli settler on the Treasury Department's Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN), said DAWN in a new investigation released today.
A February 1 executive order responding to Israeli settler violence in the West Bank included sanctions against four individual extremists, effectively blocking them from using the international banking system and prohibiting others from providing them with goods and services or contributions for their benefit.
A full list of the entities violating the executive order can be found below.
"If the administration is serious about sanctioning violent Israeli settlers, it should ensure that it creates consequences for the Israeli banks and charities openly defying the sanctions rules," said Michael Schaeffer Omer-Man, director of research for Israel-Palestine at DAWN. "Sanctions against individuals without enforcement against the institutions helping them evade those sanctions only formalizes Israeli impunity."
Executive Order Sanctioning Violent Israeli Settlers
On February 1, 2024, President Biden issued an executive order, "Imposing Certain Sanctions on Persons Undermining Peace, Security, and Stability in the West Bank," in which he declared extremism and violence by Israeli settlers in the West Bank a threat to U.S. national security interests and foreign policy. The EO was followed by a State Department announcement that it was sanctioning four "persons connected to escalating violence against civilians in the West Bank," including David Chai Chasdai, Einan Tanjil, Shalim Zicherman, and Yinon Levi.
Section 3 of the executive order specifically prohibits "the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order," including receiving such funds, goods or services on behalf of the sanctioned person. This prohibits entities, banks, payment processors, and websites from facilitating funding and services for the individuals sanctioned by the United States. A person or entity violating this order is itself liable to be added to the list or have its assets frozen or seized.
President Biden described in the executive order how "the situation in the West Bank — in particular high levels of extremist settler violence, forced displacement of people and villages, and property destruction — has reached intolerable levels…" The executive order followed the Israeli government's refusal to take meaningful law enforcement action against violent Israeli settlers in the West Bank, particularly in the past year under the aegis of Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir, himself a settler. Minister Ben Gvir reportedly instructed police to stop law enforcement activities against settlers in recent months.
As detailed below, DAWN's investigation found that a number of Israeli banks and non-profit institutions have violated the executive order by establishing a charitable fund, handling accounts, processing payments, and sponsoring websites to fundraise for the benefit of sanctioned settler Yinon Levi. Justifying the sanctions against him, the Biden Administration pointed to his role in violence and threats that amount to forcible displacement of Palestinian communities near the Israeli settlement outpost he established.
Following the imposition of these sanctions, Israel's Bank Leumi froze two accounts belonging to Levi. However, in an attempt to evade the sanctions, an Israel-registered non-profit called the Har Hevron Fund launched a crowdfunded fundraising campaign called "Supporting the Levi Family from Meitarim Farm" that has as of February 8 raised over $135,000 in alternative income to Levi. The campaign explicitly declared its intention to bypass the sanctions by providing Levi financial support: "Yinon Levi's accounts were frozen, leaving his wife and children without income — we won't abandon them," the campaign states, adding that in the unlikely event that Levi is able to regain access to his funds, donations will instead go toward expanding his illegal West Bank settlement property.
According to the DAWN investigation, Israeli Bank Hapoalim is now processing transactions for this fund, violating the executive order's prohibition on providing services and funding for the benefit of a sanctioned individual. The Har Hebron Fund's crowdfunding page prominently displays Bank Hapoalim's payment app Bit as its payment processor.
Speaking with ABC News on Thursday, Levi addressed the president: "Biden thinks we will be scared, but these sanctions do the opposite. They reaffirm our commitment. We are making Israel safer by living here," he said.
DAWN found the following entities and individuals were involved in violating the executive order in order to bypass the sanctions against Yinon Levi by providing services and funding to an alternate account created for his benefit:
- Har Hevron Fund (a.k.a. Har Hebron Fund or Mount Hebron Fund) is responsible for launching the crowdfunding campaign for the benefit of Levi, with the declared intention of bypassing US sanctions.
- GiveChak.co.il is the crowdfunding website hosting the Har Hevron Fund's crowdfunding campaign for the benefit of Levi. The website is owned by TikChak, an event and campaign services company that lists Israeli universities, newspapers, municipalities, a government ministry, and the Knesset as clients.
- At least one GiveChak.co.il server is located in Frankfurt, Germany (IP address: 22.214.171.124), with its ISP registered to Amazon (a U.S. company);
- Bit, a subsidiary of Bank Hapoalim that offers app-based payments, is processing donations to the Har Hevron Fund for the benefit of Levi.
- PeleCard, an Israeli credit card processor, is processing credit card payments to the Har Hevron Fund for the benefit of Levi.
- JGive.com, a crowdfunding platform, maintains a fundraising portal for the Har Hebron Fund, which is fundraising on the site for the benefit of Levi,
- Board Members of the Har Hevron Fund, Avraham Shalem, Reut Gaz, Yoel Tuvia Copeland, Galia Barmi, Shay Melamed, Iran David Benita, who have ultimate responsibility for the organization's sanctions evasions.
DAWN sent the detailed results of its investigation to the State and Treasury departments on February 7, 2024, and called on the administration to enforce its order and impose sanctions against these businesses and entities if it finds they are breaching the executive order in a scheme to evade the sanctions announced against Levi last week.