And now there are other delicate issues which demand attention. If this was the basis for a decision, why were three IRS agents allowed – or were they forced? – to suggest under oath that there was another basis for delaying Z STREET’s application? First there was the claim that perhaps Z STREET was really an “action” organization whose mission could only be accomplished by legislation. Then there was the claim that Israel is a country where there is a “heightened risk of terrorism,” and of course Z STREET required special scrutiny because it might be providing funds to terrorist groups. Except, of course, Z STREET doesn’t fund anything, and then there is the little matter of Israel being the object of terrorism, not the source of terrorism.
And, further, on the subject of Israel and terrorism – how is it that the IRS felt comfortable making the argument, presenting as a legitimate basis for giving special scrutiny to pro-Israel organizations the likely possibility that it meant those groups might engage in supporting terrorism, is an additional cause for alarm. Where was the so-called “Israel lobby” and why weren’t its members screaming at the top of their lungs that such an explanation was being offered?
The IRS scandal certainly isn’t over. But with respect to the portion that has to do with the Service’s treatment of pro-Israel organizations, it looks like the IRS no longer has much basis for denying it engaged in viewpoint discrimination. Now the question becomes how to make sure the prior wrong behavior is ferreted out, the wrongdoers are punished, and mechanisms are put in place that ensure such wrongdoing does not continue.
About the Author: Lori Lowenthal Marcus is the US correspondent for The Jewish Press. She is a recovered lawyer who previously practiced First Amendment law and taught in Philadelphia-area graduate and law schools.
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