A nonprofit think tank that serves as a fiscal sponsor for hundreds of progressive causes around the world was recently severed from access to vital financial services due to its support of a French NGO working on Palestinian issues.
In February, the Alliance for Global Justice, or AFGJ, issued a statement announcing that the company that handled its credit card transactions had blocked its ability to process donations. The move came after a “pro-Israel” group accused one of the organizations sponsored by AFGIJ, the Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network, of serving as something of a front for a leftist Palestinian militant group that is designated by the State Department as a terrorist organization.
“Groups like Alliance for Global Justice provide terror groups with the funding that is critical to their operations and the fact that they do so with U.S. taxpayer subsidies,” an attorney for Zachor Legal Institute told the Washington Examiner. The article also noted that Zachor Legal Institute had filed a complaint asking the IRS to investigate AFGJ’s nonprofit status and accusing the organization of supporting terrorism.
The Alliance for Global Justice provides fiscal sponsorship for roughly 150 grassroots nonprofit organizations around the world, mostly in Latin America. The abrupt severance of a critical financial lifeline came as a shock to the organization, which survives on individual donor support.
“They cut off our ability to accept credit card donations without warning or cause, which absolutely affected our ability to fundraise and support sponsor organizations — many of which need this money to literally pay rent and keep their lights on,” said Camille Landry, outreach coordinator for AFGJ, adding that AFGJ’s own operations had come to “a screeching halt” as a result of the shutdown.
The controversy revolves around a France-based member organization of Samidoun known as the Collectif Palestine Vaincra that was previously accused of links with extremism by the French government of Emmanuel Macron and ordered dissolved. The Collectif successfully appealed this claim in French courts and was cleared in May of last year. A French court found that charges that the Collectif was antisemitic were “unfounded,” ordering Macron’s ban to be reversed. “The French government has much more information and much more access to their activities, and said they’re they’re not engaged in any unlawful activity,” said Mark Burton, an attorney who sits on the board of directors of AFGJ.
The lawyer with Zachor accused the Collectif of having ties to the radical leftist militant group the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, which was designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department. The Collectif has denied any links with the PFLP, though has defended it as a legitimate resistance movement against the Israeli military occupation of the Palestinian territories. Burton said that AFGJ has never had to defend its association with the group, because Zachor’s complaint has not led to any IRS inquiry, yet it’s been enough to badly hobble the organization.
AFGJ also flatly denied the charge that its sponsored organizations had ties to terrorism. “Some years ago we got into the business of being fiscal sponsors to grassroots organizations that needed to operate as nonprofits but didn’t have the means to do so,” said Landry. “It is being claimed that one of our sponsored organizations, Samidoun, that exists to support Palestinian political prisoners and their families, broke the law. That is untrue.”
The scrutiny of Palestinian organizations appears to be highly selective. As The Intercept has previously reported, pro-Israel groups in the United States with ties to designated terrorist organizations have been known to fundraise domestically through tax-exempt movements linked to the far right in Israel and the occupied Palestinian terrorities.
As first reported in the progressive Jewish publication Mondoweiss, the AFGJ’s credit card donations were handled by a company called Salsa Labs, a fundraising software provider for nonprofit organizations. Salsa Labs in turn uses a contractor called CardConnect to process card transactions. According to the AFGJ, it was CardConnect that cut off the organization from services this February.
A letter from CardConnect to the AFGJ dated January 24 informed the group that it was being cut off from services, stating “we will no longer process credit, debit, or prepaid card transactions that you may submit to us.” The letter provided no context to the decision other than stating that the business relationship was being terminated and telling the AFGJ to make new arrangements for credit card services. CardConnect did not respond to questions from The Intercept.
Since then, transactions by the AFGJ with donors and member organizations have been forced to be carried out individually via physical checks and wire transfers: a costly and time-consuming process that has impeded its ability to fundraise.
The takedown of AFGJ appears part of a coordinated effort. Zachor Legal Institute’s website describes itself as a “legal think tank and advocacy organization” focused on combating the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement. The organization also describes its role as “producing legal scholarship that is then made available for use by the entire Zionist umbrella of organizations,” with the aim of reducing “the negative impacts of anti-Israel lies and misrepresentations.”
Zachor has also targeted universities in the United States, including the University of California, Los Angeles, whom it has accused of supporting antisemitism by declining to crack down on BDS activism on campus. The group has also filed amicus briefs in support of state anti-BDS laws, including a measure seeking to ban BDS in the state of Texas.
Over the past several years, the Israeli government and associated organizations have launched a crackdown on NGOs run by Palestinians or perceived to be supportive of Palestinian rights. The Israeli government in 2021 announced raids against a group of Western-supported civil society organizations in the Palestinian territories on accusations of supporting terrorism. The allegations were criticized by some U.S. officials as well as European Union officials who have continued to provide funding to targeted groups after finding that terrorism allegations were unfounded.
The AFGJ is still working to find an alternative credit card service provider after being turfed by CardConnect. In a statement issued this February after the original severance, the organization highlighted the stress that the financial shutdown had caused to the organization.
“Our staff and board collective is working overtime, under stressful conditions, to find alternatives to protect AfGJ and our projects. We are doing everything we can to stop this assault on our freedom and our right to organize for that more beautiful, just, and sustainable world we all dream of,” the statement said. “One thing is certain: If they succeed in destroying Alliance for Global Justice, they will turn their sights on other organizations that are fighting back the rising tide of repression. They will come for you.”