Honenu, an organization that provides legal services to suspected terrorists, violent settlers and gives financial support to their families, receives tax-deductible donations in both Israel and the United States.
What do Yitzhak Rabin’s assassin, the murderers of Mohammed Abu Khdeir and the arsonists convicted of setting fire to Jerusalem’s Jewish-Arab Hand in Hand school have in common, apart from their violent extremism?
All have received legal representation or some other form of assistance from Honenu, a self-proclaimed “Israeli Zionist legal aid organization.” Based in Kiryat Arba, a settlement next to Hebron that is home to the grave of Jewish terrorist Baruch Goldstein (itself located in a park named after leader of the Kach terrorist group Meir Kahane), Honenu has tasked itself with a clear vision: to come to the aid of “[s]oldiers and civilians who find themselves in legal entanglements due to defending themselves against Arab aggression, or due to their love for Israel.” In Honenu’s eyes, they are defending “noble citizens” who have “acted on behalf of Am Yisrael [the people of Israel].”
To explore Honenu’s past and present client list of “noble citizens” is to read a timeline of some of the most heinous acts of Jewish terrorism in recent memory. Chances are that if you have read about a “price tag” attack, a violent assault on or killing of Palestinians by Jewish Israelis, or any other “ideological crime” of this nature in recent years, the perpetrators have been assisted in some way by Honenu.
The organization has fundraised for Yigal Amir, who assassinated Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. His wife has also received financial support from the group.
The three Israeli suspects in the murder of teenager Mohammed Abu Khdeir are represented by Honenu.
Honenu represented one of the Lehava members indicted for the arson at the Jewish-Arab Hand in Hand school in Jerusalem.
Honenu attorney Itamar Ben-Gvir is also representing Yinon Reuveni, the main defendant in the case of the burning of the Church of the Multiplication in the Galilee. Ben-Gvir chastized [Heb] Israeli authorities in that case for overreacting by treating it like a murder case.
A quick look at Honenu’s website indicates that it is a very active organization. The organization claims that over 1,000 arrestees a year turn to it for legal help. That figure is not only indicative of the scale of the problem of settler violence in Israel-Palestine, but also speaks to the significant resources at the organization’s disposal.
Donations to Honenu from within Israel are tax-deductible, meaning that the organization is de facto subsidized by the government. Donations from the U.S. are funneled via a charity that has tax-deductible status, meaning that the organization also benefits from American taxpayers’ money.
It must be said that working to safeguard suspects’, criminals’ and even terrorists’ civil rights should not, in of itself, be condemned. Upholding the rule of law includes ensuring a fair judicial process for all, no matter how reprehensible the crimes involved are. +972 has previously reported on and denounced Israeli authorities for violating the rights of terrorism suspects, Jewish and Palestinian alike.
Nonetheless, there is massive difference between defending a criminal or terrorist’s rights and endorsing their crimes. The language used throughout Honenu’s website is inescapably supportive of the actions of Jewish terrorists — to call them “noble citizens” simply glorifies them and indirectly condones their actions. In the case of Abu Khdeir’s murderers, Haaretz cited Honenu as saying that it sees “defending these suspects [as] in keeping with its mission.”
Furthermore, Honenu’s work goes far beyond legal support. As exposed by Israel’s Channel 10 recently, providing financial support to convicts and their families forms a significant part of the organization’s mandate. According to the Channel 10 report, Honenu has provided financial support to, among others, the families of Ami Popper and the Bat Ayin Underground members.
In total, the report claims, Honenu has provided around NIS 200,000 directly to prisoners and nearly NIS 50,000 to their families. Israel’s own Foreign Ministry describes such financial support — when it is intended for Palestinian prisoners — as providing “a strong financial incentive” and “official stamp of approval” to terrorist attacks. By subsidizing Honenu with tax-deductible status, the Israeli government is essentially doing the same thing it condemns Palestinian authorities of doing.
For Benjamin Netanyahu to call the arson at the Church of the Multiplication “an attack on all of us” rings hollow as long as the state subsidizes an organization such as Honenu. Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, who draws a state salary, declared that the same attack “contradicts the values of Judaism and human ethics” even as his state-sponsored predecessors declared it a “great mitzvah” to donate to Honenu.
With the focus on Jewish terrorism intensifying, the time has come start questioning the state subsidization of an organization that directly and indirectly commends violent attacks against Palestinians like the murder in Duma. Following Channel 10’s investigation, MK Manuel Trachtenberg of the Zionist Union called on Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon to revoke Honenu’s tax-deductible status. Whether the government does so or not will be a true test of its self-declared “zero tolerance” approach toward Jewish terrorism.