Grants from the Israeli Consulate should be returned

The Israeli Consulate in Chicago has announced Social Impact grants to three Minneapolis-based organizations. They held a ceremony on Thursday, December 9 to distribute the three $5,000 checks to A Mother’s Love, Mr. Basketball Academy, and Minnesota STEM Partnership. 

The irony of Israel awarding “Social Impact” grants is astounding. This has been a year when the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has killed hundreds of Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank, many of them children, demolished homes in Jerusalem and in the Naqab (Negev) desert, denied Palestinians the COVID vaccine, denied them freedom of movement, education, health care, water, livelihood, and arrested dozens of children from their beds at night. 

In October, Israel declared that six human rights organizations are “terrorist” organizations, severely restricting their operations and funding. What could motivate Israel to give American human rights organizations grants? 

Israel is suffering a public relations setback, which was exacerbated by their bombing of Gaza in May. Human rights abuses within Israel and the occupied territories have only intensified since then. Israel used to be able to apply oppression with impunity, but now there is increased awareness of the situation in the United States. 

A growing number of U.S. citizens are becoming sympathetic to Palestinians. Even favorable opinions of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement are increasing. (The BDS movement attempts to compel Israel to comply with international law through economic, cultural and educational boycotts and divestment.) 

Clearly, Israel feels the need to counter this growing sentiment in the U.S. by showing its support for “social justice”—everywhere except in Israel.

Make no mistake: Israel targets Palestinians simply because they are Palestinians. The 2018 “Nation State Law,” one of the Basic Laws which substitute for Israel’s constitution, clearly states that non-Jews do not have the same rights in Israel as Jews. This law is Israel’s admission that it practices apartheid, as two human rights organizations (B’Tselem and UN Human Rights Watch) laid out in separate reports in 2021.

Do the three organizations receiving grants from Israel really want to accept money from an apartheid state?  Do they want to do public relations work for a country whose laws enshrine Jewish supremacy? 

In my world, social justice means equality. These Minneapolis organizations are working towards equality, healing from past and present injustices, and community uplifting. But those values are contradictory to all that Israel stands for—ethnic supremacy, settler colonialism, and apartheid.

Organizations working for social justice should not accept money from countries working for injustice and inequality. The three community organizations that received the grants should return the money. This should be done publicly and loudly, proclaiming that, in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

​Sylvia Schwarz
St. Paul resident and member of MN BDS Community and of Jewish Voice for Peace