Progressive Jews back controversial bill to block charities from funding Israeli settlements

Outside a handful of socialists, the bill has no support in the state Senate or Assembly.

Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani

Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Despite legislative leaders declaring it dead on arrival, Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani is still pushing for a bill that would prohibit New York charities from giving money to Israeli settler organizations. Nearly 100 Jewish leaders, rabbis and activists signed onto a new letter in support of the Not on Our Dime Act, which has received intense backlash from many Jewish elected officials in the Assembly. But even as progressive Jewish New Yorkers signal their support for the legislation, not every socialist lawmaker in the Legislature has signed on to the bill.

Letter signatories include members of progressive Jewish organizations that have already signaled their support for the legislation, including Jews for Racial and Economic Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow. “Jewish leaders across the state have a moral obligation to stop New York’s subsidy of these human rights violations,” the letter reads. “And we are not alone: a majority of American Jewish voters oppose U.S. funding of settlement activity.” The letter cites a 2021 poll from the Jewish Electorate Institute that found that 58% of Jewish voters surveyed supported restricting U.S. aid to Israel so that it cannot be used to expand settlements in the West Bank.

The legislation would specifically target any New York-based nonprofits that provide funding to organizations that support or expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which have long been condemned by the international community as illegal. The United Nations has found that the Israeli occupation of the West Bank violates the Geneva Conventions, and the federal government in March issued a rare criticism of the settlements. “We call on our state legislators to support this bill and bring an overdue end to New York State’s subsidy of illegal Israeli settler violence,” the letter concluded. The bill would allow the state to fine nonprofits who continue to give to settler organizations found to have violated the Geneva Convention, and would give the state attorney general the authority to dissolve nonprofits that don’t comply with the law.

But the legislation garnered swift opposition from many rank-and-file Assembly members, as well as legislative leaders who said the bill would never get a vote. “There’s a legislator in Albany who doesn’t believe in Israel’s right to exist,” Assembly Member Daniel Rosenthal wrote on Twitter when he first shared an opposition letter he spearheaded among his colleagues, referencing Mamdani without explicitly referencing him. “That’s why 25 of us are (condemning) his bill that would stop NY charities from helping victims of terror in Israel.” More than 60 Assembly Democrats have since signed on to Rosenthal’s letter opposing Mamdani’s bill.

So far, Mamdani’s legislation, sponsored in the state Senate by Sen. Jabari Brisport, only counts socialist lawmakers among its supporters. But two state legislators endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America – state Sen. Julia Salazar, who identifies as Jewish, and Assembly Member Emily Gallagher – have not taken a public position on the bill. Both lawmakers represent parts of Brooklyn that include sizable Jewish communities. A spokesperson for Mamdani’s office would not comment on the record about Salazar and Gallagher’s public silence, and neither lawmaker immediately returned a request for comment.