More than half of all American states have passed laws designed to combat the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel. No advocacy group was more important to this push than the Israel Allies Foundation, an American non-profit that supports a network of pro-Israel legislators across the globe.
It was the IAF that in 2014 connected a South Carolina politician with an Israeli legal scholar who drafted the first bill to ban state agencies from contracting with entities that boycott Israel.
After that law passed in South Carolina in 2015, the IAF successfully lobbied for nearly-identical anti-BDS bills in 25 other states, including Florida, Pennsylvania and Arizona. Now the group is backing another bill, which has already passed in South Carolina and Florida and been introduced in six more states, which would change civil-rights codes to define antisemitism to include anti-Zionism.
Public records obtained by The Forward show that the Israeli government approved a grant of more than $100,000 to the Israel Allies Foundation in 2019. The IAF has not disclosed this or any previous Israeli grants to the United States government, in possible violation of laws requiring American political advocacy groups to disclose foreign-government contributions.
The IAF, which reported $1.4 million in revenue in 2018 and features a testimonial on its website from Vice President Mike Pence, did not respond to four emails seeking comment.
It is one of 11 American groups that received Israeli government funds, according to the documents, which show that the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs and a quasi-governmental organization it created have given at least $6.6 million to U.S. organizations since 2018. These grants, along with millions more that went to groups in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Israel itself, were to further the country’s public diplomacy efforts, particularly against BDS.
The Israeli government’s gifts to pro-Israel American entities — including more than $1 million each to Christians United for Israel and Aish Hatorah’s Hasbara Fellowships — were publicly unknown until the last few weeks, after a politician not from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s party took over the ministry and dropped its longstanding stance against releasing its public records.
According to the Israeli documents, most of the grants to the American organizations were intended to send those groups’ members — and selected guests — on chartered trips to Israel, which often included meetings with Israeli officials. Spending these funds abroad, rather than inside the United States, may have allowed them to avoid onerous federal disclosure requirements designed to thwart foreign influence campaigns.
But documents also suggest that some of those trips included instructions for pro-Israel advocacy back home — in statehouses and on college campuses — which legal experts say may expose not just the recipient groups but also anyone who went on their trips to fines and even prosecution for violating disclosure rules.
The documents, which include financial spreadsheets, government memoranda and the minutes of official meetings, were released after a Freedom of Information Act request by the Israeli Freedom of Information Movement and the Israeli news website The Seventh Eye, and shared with the Forward.