Saturday, July 13

U.S. Prepares UN Resolution Supporting Temporary Cease-Fire: Israel-Hamas War Live Updates

Within weeks of President Biden imposing financial sanctions on Israelis accused of violent assaults in the occupied West Bank, crowdfunding campaigns on behalf of two of the men had collected the equivalent of more than $170,000.

Far-right Israelis pledged the funds in a show of support for the settlers, whose efforts to exert Israeli control over lands in the West Bank have often involved maintaining illegal outposts and assaulting and intimidating Palestinians. But the donations have become the focus of a legal battle after an Israeli credit card company balked at transferring the funds.

Cal, the credit card company processing the donations for Yinon Levi, one of the settlers hit with sanctions, refused to send the money designated for Mr. Levi and stated that it would reimburse those who had donated, according to the nonprofit group that set up the crowdfunding campaign. The group appealed to an Israeli court, arguing that the donations were intended for Mr. Levi’s family, including his three children, and should not be affected by the U.S. restrictions.

Last week, a court in Tel Aviv issued a temporary injunction while it hears arguments in the matter.

The sanctions that the Biden administration announced on Feb. 1 barred four Israelis from the U.S. financial system, and some Israeli banks have enacted restrictions on the men in order to not run afoul of the American measures.

Mr. Levi, whom the U.S. State Department accused of leading settler groups in attacks on Palestinian and Bedouin civilians, told ABC News that he had been unable to access his money in Israel and would struggle to pay workers on his farm. David Chai Chasdai, who the State Department said had led a deadly riot in the Palestinian town of Huwara, told an Israeli television channel that he couldn’t pay his phone bills or his children’s kindergarten fees.

On Feb. 6, a campaign in support of Mr. Levi — who last week was also hit with sanctions by Britain — appeared on the Israeli crowdfunding platform Givechack featuring a photo of him, his wife Sapir Levi and their three children. The campaign portrayed the family as victims of harassment by the Israeli left and emphasized its financial plight since Mr. Levi’s accounts were frozen.

Within 10 days the campaign had raised over 517,000 Israeli shekels ($141,000). Then the nonprofit group that organized it took it down. Reut Gez, the director of the nonprofit, the Mount Hebron Fund, said in an interview that Cal, the Israeli credit card company, “asked us to take down the campaign, and are withholding the funds.” The group filed a lawsuit to get the company to release the money either to it or to a trustee that would manage the funds for the family.

The Mount Hebron Fund was founded in 2015 by the Mount Hebron Regional Council, a state-funded local authority in the West Bank, and is managed by council members and their relatives, according to the Democratic Bloc, a group that monitors the Israeli far right. Ms. Gez said that all the donations for the Levi family had come from Israel.

The campaign to support Mr. Chasdai has raised 114,000 shekels, roughly $31,000, through a separate crowdfunding platform. Those funds have been collected by the nonprofit Shlom Asiraich, which aids Israeli Jewish extremists imprisoned for serious crimes, including murder, largely against Palestinians.

The crowdfunding efforts show that even though most Israelis, according to opinion surveys, oppose settler violence, there is sympathy on the far right for those facing financial penalties. But the sweeping nature of the U.S. sanctions means that financial institutions would be reluctant to participate in efforts to direct money to Mr. Levi or others, experts said.

“The language of the order suggests that anyone who enables or provides funds to sanctioned persons is implicated and risks repercussions themselves,” said Eliav Lieblich, a law professor at Tel Aviv University. “No one wants to mess with the U.S. Treasury.”