Hebron Israel Israeli occupation Israeli settlements MondoWeiss

Cancel tax-exemptions for U.S. funders of settlements ASAP

U.S. tax-exempt charities are in league with the devil in the occupied territories. Coteret, an increasingly important blog by Didi Remez, tells us:

Last Tuesday (December 1 2009) an investigative report in Haaretz revealed that Machanaim a US 501c3 tax exempt charity is funding the Task Force to Save the Nation and the Land (aka SOS Israel), the organization that offered every soldier refusing to evacuate a settlement, and the Kfir Brigade soldiers who publicly demonstrated their opposition to evacuation, NIS 1,000 for every day they spend in military prison

The report criticized the Government for not taking action against a registered association inciting mutiny, noting also that it might be a good idea to ask the US to cease providing tax-exemptions for the funder.

Philip Weiss wonders why the pro-Israel, pro-peace camp doesn’t lodge more angry protests against tax exempt funds that support the settlement enterprise, like the Hebron Fund that did a fundraiser at Shea Stadium recently.

I’ve often taken exception to MondoWeiss, but when Phil is right, he’s right. The idea that tax exemptions are available to people who are helping the settlers resist the settlement freeze or who prop up the Jewish zealots in Hebron is outrageous. Weiss notes: “This is actually an issue we can all do business on” and “this is an area where the radicals and the liberals can join forces to good effect.”

If you tell me that it is Weiss who is the devil and that I am naively taking his satanic bait by doing what he wants me to do, I will tell you, “Who cares?” What’s wrong is wrong. This blog accepts the truth from all sources, whether it’s MondoWeiss or Arutz Sheva.

That said, I can’t find fault with woefully understaffed, liberal Jewish groups that haven’t adopted this particular issue yet. They must choose among a zillion competing priorities in the course of every week, and if this one hasn’t been a prime target on their radar screens, they should be given a lot of slack. I should be given slack as well, because I can only spare the time and energy for an occasional post these days.

But I suspect there is another problem. Perhaps the rhetorical atmosphere created by some on the far-left is so poisonous that if they support an action or a cause, many people in my camp will hesitate to join them. We’ve got to get over this, somehow. We should call upon the American government to cancel these tax exemptions NOW.

32 thoughts on “Cancel tax-exemptions for U.S. funders of settlements ASAP

  1. The determination of the legality of the settlements has to happen first. It is an acceptable charitable purpose to raise funds for development in a foreign country, even for one relgious group.

    If the funds were used for terror, or other overtly illegal purposes, that would be cause for the US object to 501(c)3 status.

    There is a rational reluctance to base questioning a group’s 501(c)3 status on popular political objection. It makes charitable definition a stacked deck (as if it isn’t partially already).

    The encouragement of mutiny is likely a disqualifying action. The charity will be asked to refrain from disqualifying actions, not to disband.

    There are MANY charities that skirt the regulations of what is acceptable activity by a 501(c)3. The targeted charities will raise the question, “If our tax exemption is questioned, what about …..”.

  2. The position of the United States and the international community is that the settlements are illegal. We’ve been through this before; there is no need for a “determination of the legality of the settlements.”

  3. Remember me? I’m back for this one. I don’t get what you’re saying, Richard. If money from a 502c3 goes to an organization that supports activities that are against U.S. policies -regardless of whether or not they are “legal” under U.S. law– isn’t that grounds to remove the tax exemption?

  4. Bill-
    It is NOT the policy of the US government that the settlements are “illegal”. They are defined as “unhelpful”. Regarding their “legality” there are arguments pro and con. The problem is ultimately political, not legal.

  5. Dan says:
    I’ve often taken exception to MondoWeiss, but when Phil is right, he’s right

    “When he’s right, he’s right”…even if he is one of the major dissementors of antisemitic propaganda in the world today (“you see, they themselves admit what they are like!”). Of course, there was that guy in Central Europe some decades that DID build a lot of public works projects, including the Autobahn, so he too did some good. Have to admit that, as well.
    MagnesZionist says he will make an alliance with anyone who opposes the settlers and the settlements. The ends justify the means. And the “progressives” go around claiming how “moral” they are. Ahmedinejad opposes the settlements. So does Qaddafy and Assad and Tariq Ramadan and the neoNazis and many others.

    Of course, from my point of view, the alliance of “Jewish progressives” with antisemites might be a good thing, it will discredit them in the eyes of right-thinking people everyone. On the other hand, if sane, civilized “progressives” lend legitimacy to Weiss, MJ Rosenberg and their ilk, it may make them more acceptable in the eyes of the uninformed. The jury is still out, as I see it.

  6. “Who cares” is important for liberal Zionists, in that we get silenced by the appearance of our opponents on either fringe as complicit with the “enemy”.

    We need to express EXACTLY our views, and clearly, as a distinct voice, in this case the majority voice.

    I so wish that Jewish charitable giving was predominately for goodness, rather than to support expropriation.

    And, I am very disappointed that most currently quoted Palestinian grass-roots leaders are urging boycott of joint welfare and good neighbor charitable efforts.

    Where examples of reconciliation are needed so profoundly, and are genuinely and comprehensively charitable, dissent emphasizes divisive political methods primarily.

    My local chabad rabbi yesterday undertook a charitable mitzvah exercise in which he raised $2000 from a supporter, and gave out $2 to 500 individuals at a local university to pass on, charity. He gave to self-identified Jews, to self-identified Christians, to self-identified Muslims, and asked them to give the money to a charity of their choice.

    I was impressed, as token as the $ amount is. The message is of empowerment for the purpose of goodness. Maybe cynical people gave the $2 to some anti-Zionist “charity”, or collectively bought a keg, and laughed at him for his gullibility.

    Jews are asked to give charitably without an agenda, not just the letter, but the spirit.

  7. Dan, if your going to throw in with mondoweiss you really have to get the lingo down, It’s either itbak yahud , ( kill the Jews ) or Ein Reich, Ein Volk, Ein Fuhrer. It’s the Phil Weiss way.

  8. My Daddy always told me that when you lay down with dogs you wake up with fleas. I don’t understand why Phil Weiss should be tolerated or treated as an ally because he’s correct about things now and then. I find him despicable and an example of one of the folks whose fingerprints in and/or around J Street are going to make it that much more difficult for a real and good faith progressive alternative to the status quo to develop.

    On the other hand, if all Dan is saying is that Weiss makes a good point about meting out tax exemptions to an entity that supports a policy on settlements that is, first and foremost, incompatible with American policy, what’s wrong with that?

  9. It should be pointed out that Dan is not only “reluctantly” pointing out that that “sometimes Phil is right” but he maintains a link to his site which can be interpreted such that visitors here should also look there for further “enlightenment”, thus showing at least some degree of approval of what Phil AND his antisemitic commentators are saying.

  10. Especially when considered relative to intentional annexation of land that limits the prospects of any good neighbor to good neighbor relationship, that IS possible.

    And, that adopts any indirect strategy to expropriate other individuals’ title and then legalistically transfer that title to an exclusive class or ethnicity.

  11. YBD:

    Let me clarify and try to sound less contradictory. Sometimes a heinous soul can raise a good point that nobody else has raised. In this case, if Weiss is the first one to raise the issue of tax exemptions for contributions to an organization that is funding settlement activity that is inconsistent with American policy, then how could it be wrong to agree with that heinous person if you agree with the point he is making?

    On the other hand, I look at the contributions that folks like Weiss and Rosenberg (you should see the humdinger of a battle I had with Rosenberg the other day hee when he exhibited conduct–he blatantly misrepresented an article he cited to buttress an age-old anti-Jewish canard–conduct that was so much worse than anything you were ever wrongly accused of there) are making toward the goal of building progressive coalition, and it breaks my heart. I know you think it’s a good thing that they discredit the J Street approach; I think it’s awful.

    As to Dan, he’s been out in the wilderness for a long time and, I submit, with the utmost respect for Dan because he runs a forum with civil discussion that is unmatched on the web, that he probably gives too much of the benefit of the doubt to the Weiss and (now) Rosenberg wing of the “progressive” wing of the Israel-focused American constituency.

    By the way, I have coined a new phrase for the Weiss/Rosenberg wing of the Israel-focused constituency, because they ain’t lefties (I’m a lefty hee). I call them the MHCs, which stands for Mocking Hating Clowns, because that’s what they are.

    Unfortunately, the MHD’s allow folks like you (and you know I loves ya YBD, you are my pal) successfully point to J Street and say, “See, those folks ain’t pro-Israel!” And I know that to be the case because of the reaction I have gotten from the Israel Committee at my own conservative but relatively groovy and progressive shul on the Upper West Side of Manhattan–where as you know we lefties tend to run free.

    And, to me, and I know not for you YBD, it’s a real darn shame and it breaks my heart. I joke about it but it breaks my heart. I detest the MHCs of the world; they do nothing but interfere with what I consider to be necessary change. They are just like the communists back in the day who tried to “bore from within” my beloved American labor movement; all that succeeded in doing was to give union-busters pretext for busting unions, busting heads, and keeping wages low.

    Deja’ vu all over again–I’d take all the MHCs and all the other smart people along with them, stick ’em in a room with all the food and beverages and pens and paper that they could ever ask for, and I’d let them mock and chide everyone else till the cows come home–to the Upper Westside (and there ain’t too many cows here YBD so it’ll take a long time for them to come home).

    Shabbat Shalom and Happy Channukah to you and to your family YBD, and to all from this group, just about all of whom I have so much respect for.


  12. 1. The official position of the U.S. government is that the settlements are illegal. In the 1970s, the House Foreign Affairs Committee asked the State Department for its opinion on the legality of the settlements. State responded that it is illegal both under general principles of international law binding on all countries, and under the Fourth Geneva Convention, which Israel is bound by as a party.

    The language regarding the settlements has subsequently been softened, but the official statement has never been retracted, as far as I know.

    2. Even if the settlements are not illegal, they are not eligible for 501(c)(3) status because they are racially restricted. This has been disqualifying since the early 60s. See Rev. Rul. 67-325, 1967-2 C.B. 113. Available here:


    Moreover, the Internal Revenue Manual, which is the operating manual used by IRS agents, says: “Organizations that foster prejudice or discrimination will be disqualified from recognition of exemption under IRC 501(c)(3).”

  13. Uri:

    You shouldn’t assert that that the “official Amercan position” has declared the “settlements” illegal without citation. What “settlements”? In every square inch of territroy occupied in 1967? And do you understand that an opinion from the State Department, even if it says what you say it says, does not constitute official American policy? Please, if you can, it really would help if you could provide a citation that could substantiate the argument you would like to make.

    Also, I don’t think the IRS regulation applies to foreign countries; there has to be a more accurate regulation. That’s not to say that settlements in the West Bank aren’t a reflection of discrimination per se, but it is to say that when you take an IRS regulation that seems on its face to apply domestically, you need to find something a little more kosher (if you know what I mean). I would assume that the IRS regualations would preclude exemptions for overseas contributions that conflict with American policy.

  14. Thanks, Uri. I am not sure #1 proves what you claim that it proves. For an activity to be “illegal” for American citizens to engage in –and for them to face consequences if they engage in it– doesn’t it have to violate a domestic legal statute or regulation? There is no law in Congress calling these settlements illegal. In that regard, number 2 is more persuasive because it deals with IRS regulations.

  15. The illegality we’re talking about is at the level of state action, not personal action. It’s illegal for Israel to transfer its own population into occupied territories. I don’t know that it’s illegal for Americans to live on settlements. That’s why the talk is of removing settlers, not prosecuting them.

  16. 990’s are available for public inspection.

    I don’t know exactly what it takes to get them.

    They are required to disclose at a mid-level of detail, the activities that are conducted.

    If an activity, accurately described in a 990, is either obviously or ambiguously illegal, the IRS typically will NOT terminate the status unless they detect a willful disregard for the law, or intent to illegally avoid taxation (not a mistake, an intent).

    It may be an example of an issue that angers, but without ANY power to follow up.

    Specific research is necessary and possible, to make a legal claim, or even morally to make a journalistic claim. Accusation is only an assertion though.

  17. Bruce:

    1. Here is the citation:

    Letter of the State Department Legal Advisor, Mr. Herbert J. Hansell, to Chairmen Fraser and Hamilton Concerning the Legality of Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Territories, April 21, 1978. International Law Materials (1978) 777-779. Cited in The human rights dimensions of population transfer, including the implantation of settlers, a report to the UN Economic and Social Council by Rapporteur Awn Shawhat Al-Khasawneh, June 30, 2004. Available online at http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/fd807e46661e3689852570d00069e918/2dfed17dc7dfae2a852563a9004c4055?OpenDocument

    2. I believe that a statement on the legality of an action in the international arena, made by the legal advisor of the State Department to a congressional committee, states official United States policy. Foreign policy is primarily a function of the executive, which routinely delegates such functions to the State Department. The legal advisor is the most authoritative source of opinions on legal matters, and a congressional committee is about as about as formal a forum as you can get.

    3. I agree that the IRS has not issued an opinion on the exemption eligibility of organizations that support discrimination abroad. I don’t think it’s fair to speculate that the IRS would extend the principle to foreign discrimination. I believe, though I don’t have a citation for you right now, that it is official US policy to oppose racial discrimination abroad. If so, the IRS would not consider an organization charitable, since activities contrary to public policy remove organizations from the ambit of “charitable.” And if it’s not charitable, it won’t be exempt.

  18. Richard:

    Correct, but the IRS has the responsibility to investigate based on reasonable accusations. Since tax-exempt organizations are not required to make detailed public disclosures of their activities on Form 990s, and the general public has little ability to force them to disclose their activities, all that is necessary for members of the public to do is raise a reasonable suspicion.

    Form 990s are easy to get. Use guidestar.com.

  19. Correction in my response to Bruce: under point 3 it should say “I DO think it’s fair to speculate that the IRS would extend the principle to foreign discrimination.”

  20. But your overall point seems to be that it should be the duty of complainants to present solid evidence of misconduct, and your point about the narratives seems to be that there is enough information reported in the 990s to justify such a burden. If narratives are routinely uninformative, then there is no reliable way for members of the public to get their hands on the information they need to provide really solid evidence. That’s why the current standard for allegations – raising a reasonable suspicion – is appropriate.

  21. Your key word is “reasonable”.

    If you think that on the basis of research of the charity and research of the law, you can make the case, go ahead.

    To politicize it will likely backfire and add to contention rather than realize a change in behavior beyond the Hebron Fund setting up a separate organization for political or non-charitable activities.

    I prefer the positive.

    For example, there are environmental organizations that “love the land” so much that they are willing to work with whomever resides on it, temporarily and/or permanently.

    Their work might conflict with the political orientation of boycotting funding of any settlement activity, but if an environmental group supports the permaculture (integrated sustainable agriculture/community design) in a region, I support that effort.

    I’d RATHER that that 501(c)3 help the settlers not harm the land, than not.

    I personally believe that ownership of land is conditional, not permanent ever, and ultimately dependant on the degree of care that a community or individual demonstrates.

    Boycotts can never be comprehensive enough to be consistent and complete. They pick an example, one that they hope will stand scrutiny and illustrate patterns of injustice. (There is then the hope that law will emerge that will be consistent and precise, and capable of applying the law to ALL cases.)

    I very much prefer the strategy of attempting to persuade towards a proposal. So long as the Arab League proposal remains on the table, that seems to me to be an excellent basis of persuasion.

    To the extent that it falls off the table, for actions by Israel, Arab League or confused dissent, THAT would be a big tragedy and basis of frustration.

    As a dissenter, I would invest WHOLEHEARTEDLY in making that proposal occur, and by persuasion (as a more likely approach to isolation), and contest any effort that distracts from that.

    The issue of the expansion and status of the settlements (title and sovereignty), is THE issue that tips towards or away from reconciliation.

    The argument to the Israeli populace is SOLELY (those that do not privately desire expropriation of the whole of the West Bank), that peace is more secure than fortress, and MUCH more secure than annexed maze.

  22. Isn’t one of the ambiguities of the settlement issue that some are illegal and others fall into a gray area because of unresolved territorial dispute?

  23. Suzanne-
    They are either all legal or all illegal. If you hold they are illegal than the Israeli presence at the Western Wall and the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem is illegal.

  24. You raise your stakes Yakov.

    All or nothing.

    By both Israeli and Palestinian law, the exclusive nature of the settlements is illegal. By all rational laws of property, expropriation of any private land is illegal.

    The grey comes into contested situations, or clarification of relative title.

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