Photo Credit: screen capture
The parent org's website homepage of new political campaign office in Israel.

Opponents in Israel of the American tax-exempt organization-funded V15 campaign effort have laid several complaints against it: one, the foreign funding (including U.S. government funding) of an Israeli campaign violates Israeli election law, and two, an American tax-exempt entity funding a political campaign violates American law.

But even V15’s defenses to those charges make it ripe for lethal criticism.

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V15 and its funder, OneVoice, claim to empower the “majority of Israelis” to change Israeli leadership (that’s what their posters say: “We’re Changing the Leadership”) to reflect that majority’s views. In fact, the goals of OneVoice represent neither the majority of Israelis, nor even the stated political views of the Palestinian Authority.

Let’s start with the complaints already on record.

In this corner, we have V15, the community organizing-style political campaign effort which imported the skills and funding of American leftists to Israel. OneVoice has received, under the Obama administration, large grants from the U.S. State Department and various foreign political parties and efforts. Also, the fact that the son of Mahmoud Abbas – the acting leader of the Palestinian Authority, is on its Advisory Council, is difficult to ignore.

The most problematic issue already raised, because it is hardest to explain away, is how an American entity which is tax-exempt can be funding a political campaign at all, let alone one in Israel.

IRSGATE MEETS ISRAEL

The politicization of American tax-exempt organizations was what triggered the Internal Revenue Service’s ugly Lois Lerner scandal. A significant number of politically conservative organizations which applied for tax exempt status were subject to extraordinary scrutiny and other alleged inappropriate behavior, because the claim was, because they were politically engaged, which is prohibited under the IRS regulations.

But the flat-footed targeting and punishment of organizations deemed “conservative” by the IRS was itself a politicization of the IRS process. It led to a huge outcry, congressional investigations, internal governmental investigations and lawsuits, most of which remain unresolved.

In fact, at least one pro-Israel organization which applied for tax-exempt status was given special scrutiny by the IRS which placed it in a Be on the Look Out (BOLO) category created by the IRS for “occupied territory advocacy.”

Just advocating for Israel with respect to the disputed territories triggered intensive IRS scrutiny, without the organization funding or participating in either an American or an Israeli political campaign. That’s hard to square with OneVoice having tax-exempt status, given its focus on “occupied territory advocacy.” The difference between the two entities is that OneVoice unabashedly seeks to turn over the disputed territory to the Arabs.

Young Likud party activists posted on their Facebook page instructions for filing complaints with the IRS against V15, in an effort to encourage the Service to undertake an investigation of the entity, and members of Congress are seeking an investigation by the State Department.

In addition, a complaint was filed with Israeli police against V15 and the Labor-Livni and Meretz parties, alleging violations of Israeli election law which bars campaign funding from sources outside of Israel.

V15 RESPONSE AND COUNTERCHARGE

The response by V15 to the criticisms lodged against it have been inconsistent. It was able to diffuse the State Dept. funding issue by claiming the grants ran out at the end of November, 2014. V15 was not launched until January, 2015, so, they claim, there were no State Department funds in its coffers by then.

The entity’s response to the IRS violations have been less categorical. Although it rigorously denied it is involved in the prohibited “campaigning for or against any political candidate,” statements by its alleged leadership, and the plain letter of their own posters reveal otherwise.

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Lori Lowenthal Marcus is a contributor to the JewishPress.com. A graduate of Harvard Law School, she previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools. You can reach her by email: Lori@JewishPressOnline.com

8 COMMENTS

  1. The Obama administration is apoplectic that the Jews might actually insist on surviving, and so — as this article demonstrates — they are deploying every single tool they can lay their hands on to prevent that. Stripping the tax exempt status of organizations that advocate views the Obama people think are heresies goes hand in hand with USING tax exempt organizations to violate the laws of both the US and Israel by actively campaigning against Bibi, because he identifies the Iranians for what they are: lunatics intent on recreating the Persian Empire.

    Fortunately it will all be up to the Israeli voters. This article and the many others calling out V15 for what they really are will — I certainly hope — enable the Israeli electorate to understand the nature of the forces arrayed against them. All they have to do is vote in order to make this entire absurd assault, on their country and their intelligence, go away.

    If only the Americans could do that now, instead of having to wait another 1 year, ten months, and twelve days, for our national nightmare to end. Hopefully our country, and Western Civilization, will still exist then that happy date rolls around.

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