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Saturday, 22 September 2012

Another Victory for BDS - Norway Removes the Karmel-instituttet from list of tax deductible organisations


No more tax deductables for funding settlements in occupied territory


Israeli settlements under construction near Jerusalem, occupied West Bank
 (Issam Rimawi / APA images) 

Following advocacy-work and pressure from Norwegian People’s Aid (NPA) and the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (NUMGE), the Norwegian Ministry of Finance today announced their decision to exclude the Norwegian organisation “Karmel-instituttet” from the list of organisations that the Norwegian public may get tax deductions for providing funds to. The reason behind the decision is that the organisation provides financial support to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

'We are very pleased that the Ministry of Finance has made this decision, based on the fact that Karmel provides funds to the illegal Israeli settlements. The decision follows a letter sent by NPA and NUMGE in January this year, asking them to look into the issue’, says the Secretary-General of NPA, Liv Tørres.

The Ministry of Finance, in their press release today, writes that their intention is to ensure that the system of tax deductions does not benefit organisations that actively support or contribute to acts that are in contravention of international law. On the basis of information from the Karmel-institute about their transfer of financial support to Israeli settlements and the organisation’s own stated intention to continue providing such support, the Ministry of Finance has decided that gifts to the organization are no longer tax-deductible.

Commenting on the decision, Stein Guldbrandsen of NUMGE said: ‘Norwegian citizens who have provided financial support to Karmel-instituttet through the years must now contemplate that their support has constituted a contribution to breaches of international law’.
Israel's Ghetto Wall

Tørres and Gulbrandsen promise that the NPA and NUMGE will continue to focus on how we may prevent all Norwegian financial support to the Israeli settlements’ and add that ‘we see the decision of the Ministry of Finance as an important political signal from the Norwegian government, that such activities are unacceptable’.

Background-information:

NPA and NUMGE’s work on Norwegian links to the Israeli occupation: In May 2012, NPA and NUMGE released a report (in Norwegian) looking at Norwegian links to the Israeli occupation, in the form of trade with, investments in and financial support to the settlements or corporations that are involved in the Israeli occupation.

The report can be downloaded in Norwegian here  

Karmel-instituttet: This Norwegian organisation has for a number of years provided financial support to the illegal Israeli settlement of Alonei Shilo, in the occupied Palestinian territories. According to the organization, around half of the houses in the settlement (23 caravan-homes and 3 “study centres”) are paid for through funds collected by Karmel-instituttet from Norwegian citizens. In addition to being illegal according to international law, the settlement of Alonei Shilo does not have an official permit from the Israeli government, and is hence an illegal settlement also according to Israeli law.

The legal basis for the decision: Effective from 1 January 2012, the Norwegian Ministry of Finance can remove organisations from the list of organisations approved for tax-deductible gifts, with the stated purpose of ensuring Norwegian follow-up of resolutions from the UN Security Council. One such resolution is UN SC Resolution 465 (1980), which calls on all states ‘not to provide Israel with any assistance to be used specifically in connection with settlements in the occupied territories’. As tax-deductions should be seen as a form of government-subsidizing, the letter from NPA and NUMGE asking the Ministry to look into the case of Karmel, referring to this resolution as the basis for the request. The Ministry of Finance, in their decision on the issue, did not refer to particular UN resolutions or international conventions, but stated that their intention is to ensure that the system of tax deductions does not benefit organisations that actively support or contribute to acts that are in contravention of international law.

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