Major philanthropic institutions urge governments to ‘stop enabling war crimes’ in Gaza open letter 


Shafi Musaddique and Charles Keidan


Dozens of major funders and funding bodies including the Human Rights Funders Network (HRFN) – a membership organisation which includes some of the largest US and European foundations as dues paying members – have called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. In an open letter, they condemn what they describe as Israeli war crimes and collective punishment on the Palestinians living inside Gaza.  

“We call for the US and European governments to stop enabling war crimes through unconditional military support, and for Israel to end its collective punishment of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents. There is no military solution to this crisis,” said the open letter, initiated by 28 institutions and individuals. The letter also calls for ‘the safe release of all civilians taken hostage from Israel as well as of all Palestinians who have been unlawfully detained.’

The letter marks a major shift within liberal US philanthropy in particular, who have largely remained silent on the escalating violence over recent weeks.  

The Funders4Ceasefire letter has been signed by nearly 100 additional funders and philanthropic associations and collaboratives, as well as hundreds of individual donors and philanthropy professionals.  

The Human Rights Funders Network consists of some of philanthropy’s biggest foundations aligned with progressive causes. That raises the possibility that big names in the world of philanthropy – through their membership of HRFN – have effectively stated their view of Israel’s “war crimes and collective punishment” without publicly naming themselves individually as organisations. Alliance reached out to HRFN for clarification on the process of initiating the letter, who its members are and which US and European organisations are a part of the network. 

“We also take seriously our responsibility to address the root causes of what we see unfolding today — the decades of systematic violence, military occupation and displacement that all Palestinians, especially in Gaza, have experienced at the hands of the Israeli government. In our own backyards, we are horrified by a recent spike in anti-Palestinian, Islamophobic, and anti-Semitic violence and rhetoric. We are united in challenging all bigotries rooted in white supremacy,” the letter also noted. 

Many notable signatories of the Funders for Ceasefire letter are recent grantees of US philanthropist MacKenzie Scott, including Mama Cash, Frida, Urgent Action Fund, Global Fund for Women, Fund for Global Human Rights, and Global Greengrants Fund. Other signatories include donor networks Solidaire and Resource Generation, Global Fund for Community Foundations, the American Muslim Community Foundation, the Kataly Foundation, Funders For Justice and Ben & Jerry’s Foundation.

The Open Society Foundation (OSF) invoked similar concerns in a separate statement, calling for a diplomatic effort towards bringing a ceasefire. OSF was founded by 93-year-old former hedge fund manager and elder statesman of progressive philanthropy, George Soros with the goals of working for justice, democratic governance, and human rights worldwide. OSF said “a bombing campaign that has caused unprecedented casualties is likely to be judged as collective punishment”.

Elsewhere, the Arab Foundations Forum (AFF) – which includes major regional funders as members – has described Israel’s actions as ‘genocide’. “The horrific genocide we’re seeing unfold in Gaza presents a paradigm-shifting moment in our collective human experience”, it noted in a newsletter dated 5 November. AFF have launched a humanitarian appeal backed by the British charity, The Asfari Foundation.

The Jewish Funders Network (JFN), an international community of private foundations and philanthropists with over 2,500 members, says it has established a centralised platform to respond to needs in Israel. The Israel Rises platform is a joint venture between the Israel Defense Forces, the Prime Minister’s Office, the Forum of Foundations In Israel, and JFN alongside business, civil society and nonprofits.

Writing on its website, the CEO of JFN, Andes Spokoiny said: ‘As Israel fights the fight of its life, we are trying to expand our support through better and more impactful giving so as to fulfill the many needs that have been emerging since that horrible day of October 7.’

Shafi Musaddique is a news editor at Alliance magazine. Charles Keidan is the executive editor at Alliance. 

Tagged in: Israel-Palestine Conflict

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