Photo Credit: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
President Barack Obama walking with Chief of Staff Jack Lew during a break from debate preparations in Williamsburg, Va., Oct. 14, 2012.

The leftwing, anti-Netanyahu group J Street is pushing this month a petition titled, “Ask the Treasury to review the tax-deductibility of donations to groups aiding settlement expansion and Palestinian dispossession.” The umbrella cast by the petition appears to be broad, but the real target, as disclosed in an email sent out this week by Meretz MK Michal Rozin, is Regavim, a movement dedicated to enforcing the rule of law regarding illegal Arab construction everywhere.

In another email Jeremy Ben-Ami, president of J Street, sent his members in early September, he announced that he was pressuring the Obama Administration to revoke the US tax-exempt status of the Israeli NGO Regavim in response to their supposed activity against the two-state solution. Regavim has been very effective recently in forcing the Israeli authorities to apply Supreme Court rulings on demolishing illegal Arab construction in Area C of Judea and Samaria. Borrowing a page from the play book of Peace Now, which has been documenting every minute construction in Israeli communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, Regavim has become a pesky companion to every Arab attempt to defy the law, especially in cases where the courts, all the way up to the Supreme Court, have ruled in favor of demolition. As a result, the Netanyahu government and its law enforcement agencies can no longer ignore these rulings and permit illegal Arab construction to flourish.

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One of the most outstanding recent focal points of the Regavim efforts has been their campaign against a squatter camp outside the Jewish community of Susiya in Judea, which the US and the EU insist must stay put despite the fact that its existence violates every signed agreement between Israel and the PA.

Ben-Ami wrote his followers that he was shocked to discover that the “settler movements” aiming to destroy Susiya are partially funded by donations from the US — including Regavim which has systematically mapped out the Susiya shacks and lean-tos, pointing Israeli police at the precise location of structures that violate the law. Ben-Ami sees this well-organized campaign to enforce the law as a threat to a future Palestinian State, which, he believes, must some day be handed the entire area.

As MK Rozin told J Street members in her email: “In 2016, they have already demolished more Palestinian homes than in all of last year. … This process is led in part by influential right-wing NGOs (like the group Regavim), which have been systematically mapping out strategically located Palestinian villages — like Susya — and lobbying the Israeli government to demolish them. Their goal is simple — to destroy the dream of the two-state solution.”

By “lobbying to demolish,” MK Rozin, who is entrusted with the rule of law in Israel, is referring to Regavim’s relentless efforts to push government agencies to enforce court rulings. Alas, that obedience to the law in Israel appears to be an affront to US foreign policy, which Rozin would like to thwart by taking away their American tax exempt status. “Incredibly, Regavim and their fellow settler groups often benefit from tax-free contributions coming from the USA — even while they actively oppose the two-state solution, undermining key US and Israeli interests,” Rozin wrote, adding, “That’s why J Street has called on the US Treasury Department to review whether the activities of Regavim should make them ineligible to receive tax-free contributions.”

Now, as promised by Ben-Ami in his email, J Street is making Regavim the target of Obama’s Jewish Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew. In a three-paragraph appeal to Lew, next to the petition described above, J Street is directly challenging the Secretary of the Treasury to take away the tax exemptions of pro-Zionist NGOs whom, they say, obstruct US policy regarding the two-state solution.

The J Street spiel is reasonable on its face: “While the US has consistently opposed illegal settlement expansion, it has allowed Americans to make tax-deductible contributions to groups actively engaged in dispossessing Palestinians of their land and aiding the spread of settlements,” which is why “we’re calling on the Treasury Department to review whether tax-deductible treatment for donations to such groups meet the relevant requirements — and, if not, to cut off the flow of tax-deductible US dollars.”

But the above statement, like all political hackwork, is bereft of specifics and context, lumping together real and imagined targets. The most crucial omission is the fact that Regavim’s official mission has nothing to do with Jewish settlements or with the two-state solution. Instead, as their website states, “The mission of Regavim is to ensure responsible, legal, accountable and environmentally friendly use of Israel’s national lands and the return of the rule of law to all areas and aspects of the land and its preservation.” As such, they are just as effective regarding illegal Bedouin and other Arab construction inside 1967-border Israel as they are about Area C of Judea and Samaria.

The reason Regavim is being attacked by name is because they are not a Zionist movement of slogans and demonstrations (their rallies so far have been pitifully under-attended). They are a Zionist movement dedicated to upholding the law, and as such they beat the opposition at its own game.

Which is why it is highly unlikely that Secretary Lew would devote any time in the next three months to going after Regavim’s tax exempt status — but someone inside the IRS might. Stay tuned.

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