Friends of the IDF lobby group secures forgivable US COVID loans for Israeli soldiers

A non-profit organization that supports IDF soldiers received a $2.5 million PPP loan under the guise of a ‘religious organization,’ but adds up to a mere pittance of the continued bonanza of American tax-payer dollars flowing to the apartheid state.

A non-profit organization that “that provides for wellbeing of the soldiers of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF)” was awarded a $2.5 million forgivable PPP loan by the (Small Business Administration) SBA. The Friends of Israeli Defense Forces (FIDF) is the only organization “authorized to represent the IDF across the United States and Panama” where they claim to operate 20 regional offices, with a P.O. Box in New York.

The FIDF’s loan was filed under the category of “religious organization” in the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan data, despite the NPO being listed as a Y12 organization under the IRS’ NTEE classification system for non-profits: a “Mutual/Membership Benefit Organization,” which (in the case of FIDF) raises funds for issues relating to “foreign affairs and national security,” according to the tax-exempt organizations database published by ProPublica.

The FIDF is the largest donor organization to the IDF and its CEO, 33-year IDF veteran Maj. Gen. (res.) Meir Klifi-Amir, receives an annual salary of over $1 million. Klifi served as Netanyahu’s military secretary before retiring in 2010 and working as a security consultant, specializing in “national security and strategic planning for governments and agencies worldwide.” He was appointed to the top post of the FIDF in 2014. Questioned about the untoward “bonuses” of half a million dollars he was given by the NPO, Klifi justifies it by asserting that he “manages to raise three times as much as the second largest organization” and claims the job is one that “nobody is enthusiastic about,” despite perks like flying business class as a part of his contract.

The New York-based 501c3 organization raises the vast majority of its average annual haul of $113 million (over the period of Klifi’s tenure) through extravagant gala events and functions attended by major celebrities like Barbra Streisand, Larry King and Arnold Schwarzenegger, among others. Last October, the FIDF National Gala raised “a record” $37 million from top NY real estate leaders. “A Night of Heroes” featured a delegation of 20 IDF soldiers and several high profile guests. Klifi delivered a speech in which he called the IDF “an extraordinary force of humanity. Guided by its official ethical code, the Spirit of the IDF, which holds human life above all else.”

Charity for murder

The IDF’s track record of holding “human life above all else” is laughable, at best. What Klifi calls an “extraordinary force for humanity” has engaged in a litany of human rights abuses and extrajudicial murder against the Palestinian people over decades and is the prime agent of Palestinian oppression by the Israeli state.

From aiding the wholesale dispossession of Palestinian lands by Israeli settlers to killing children with targeted headshots, the Israeli Defense Forces are anything but a boon for humanity. A timeline counting back to the year 2000 compares the number of Palestinians and Israelis killed since the Second Intifada began in that year. The tally shows the true mission of IDF in the world and exactly what the FIDF’s mission to “provide hope, purpose, and life-changing support for [IDF] soldiers” really entails.

In May, the U.S. Senate approved a $38 billion-dollar package for Israel’s Defense establishment, allocating $3.8 billion a year over the next decade to “upgrade most of Israel’s fighter aircraft, improve its ground forces’ mobility and strengthen its missile defense systems.” The largest military assistance deal in American or Israeli history co-sponsored by Senator Marco Rubio, however, seems to have stalled in the U.S. Congress.

Petty cash

Fortuitously for Israel, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for 2021 was just passed in the Senate last Thursday—a virtual carbon copy of the House version—that includes the go-ahead for $3.3 billion to Israel based on the same (Memorandum of Understanding) MOU, which delineated the original $38 billion-dollar aid proposal.

The Pentagon’s $740.5 billion NDAA passed by an overwhelming majority of 86-14 and, in addition to the billions slated for Israel’s defense systems like the Iron Dome, it also sets aside millions for joint U.S.-Israeli public-private partnerships to develop “innovative medical projects primarily aimed at detecting and treating the coronavirus.” Furthermore, the Act calls for the establishment of a “US-Israel Operations Technology Working Group” to focus on battlefield technology and other Israeli grant programs.

With such massive windfalls of U.S. taxpayer cash for Israel’s war machine, it’s no wonder that Meir Klifi-Amir would display such condescension over challenges to his outsized salary and bonuses as chief executive of the Friends of Israeli Defense Forces NPO. “Petty people want to make headlines,” he complained. He would have “returned to Israel a long time ago,” he exclaimed, if it wasn’t for the “tremendous pressure” he is under to remain here and raise “three times as much as the second largest organization.”

Raul Diego is a MintPress News Staff Writer, independent photojournalist, researcher, writer and documentary filmmaker.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>