J Street, the far-left organization that styles itself as “pro-Israel, pro-peace” but in practice works to lobby against Israel in Congress and the media, is continuing its pursuit of conservative pro-Israel non-profit groups as if the IRS scandal had never happened.
In 2010, J Street began pressuring the U.S. Treasury to investigate pro-Israel non-profit groups and charities that spent money in the West Bank, accusing them of fueling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by supporting Israeli settlements. (When pressed to explain why J Street was not also asking the federal government to investigate Islamic charities in the U.S. that may spend money on anti-Israel causes, J Street president Jeremy Ben-Ami memorably said: “I don’t give a shit about Islamic charities.”)
J Street’s efforts were part of a broad campaign by the Democratic Party and its senior leadership, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United, to encourage the IRS to investigate conservative non-profit groups and charities. As Wall Street Journal columnist Kimberley Strassel documents in her new book, The Intimidation Game: How the Left Is Silencing Free Speech, these efforts, encouraged by President Barack Obama, helped encourage the illegal behavior in the IRS scandal.
One of the groups singled out for discrimination by the IRS was the pro-Israel non-profit group Z Street, which was meant to be a counter-weight to J Street (which is itself a non-profit, with a separate political action committee). Like Tea Party groups and other conservative organizations seeking recognition from the IRS at the time, Z Street faced additional, unusual scrutiny, which included questions that challenged the group’s political beliefs — which are none of the federal government’s business.
In 2010, Matthew Hausman of the Jewish Policy Center noted that the discrimination against of Z Street “occurred not long after the left-wing organization J Street announced its campaign to lobby the Treasury Department to revoke the tax-exempt status of Jewish charities that support religious and cultural institutions in Judea and Samaria.” Z Street is still fighting, and winning, legal battles against the IRS. But other than that, the culprits in the IRS scandal remain unpunished and unashamed.
Emboldened by that fact, J Street has resumed its fight against Jewish non-profits that happen to support Israeli citizens who live in settlements. In an email to supporters Sunday, J Street vice president of communications Jessica Rosenblum wrote:
Over the past several years, a number of organizations have sprung up in the United States to raise and disperse tax-deductible donations to Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Collectively, they have raised hundreds of millions of dollars. Some of these settlements could conceivably be absorbed into Israel under a two-state peace agreement with the Palestinians. But others are located in the heart of densely-populated Palestinian territory that would be part of a Palestinian state under any imaginable agreement.
One such settlement is Elon Moreh — home to some of the most extreme settlers, and a hub for other outposts in the area. Anything that entrenches settlements like Elon Moreh makes a two-state agreement more difficult. And in fact, settlers in these communities, as well as their US backers, fiercely oppose a two-state solution and advocate a “Greater Israel” under which Israel would unilaterally annex most or all of the West Bank.
As part of our series highlighting the activities of organizations that benefit from US tax-deductible contributions while expanding and entrenching settlements, we’re going to take a deeper look at the example of American Friends of Elon Moreh, based in Passaic, New Jersey. The group receives tax-deductible contributions to send to the settlement in the West Bank.
We question why donations to settlements like Elon Moreh are tax-deductible, in apparent violation of the current requirements for such treatment. To receive tax-deductible donations, organizations cannot engage in activity that is illegal or runs counter to a clearly defined public policy.
Support for settlements like Elon Moreh contradicts the clearly established, bipartisan US policy of opposition to settlement expansion. Why should US taxpayers subsidize activities expressly designed to oppose and undermine decades of consistent US policy, which are illegal under international conventions signed and ratified by the United States [sic]?
This is a question we’re asking of the Treasury in an action we launched last week. We hope reading more about Elon Moreh will inspire you to join us in calling on the Treasury to review the tax deductibility of donations to groups aiding settlement expansion and entrenchment. [Original emphasis.]
(The settlements are not generally illegal — except to some leftists and international forums dominated by Israel’s enemies.)
J Street’s shameless effort to encourage Treasury and the IRS to continue the abuse of pro-Israel, conservative groups right where they left off is not only a sign of how dangerous the group is to the future of free speech and freedom of assembly in the U.S., but also a warning of the kind of abuse conservatives can expect under a Hillary Clinton administration if she wins. Clinton has vowed to repeal Citizens United, and wants the IRS to have the authority to do legally what it once did illegally.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. His new book, See No Evil: 19 Hard Truths the Left Can’t Handle, is available from Regnery through Amazon. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.