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September 18, 2014 / 23 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Z Street’

IRS Punished Conservative Non-Profits, Perhaps Also Pro-Israel Groups

Saturday, May 11th, 2013

For more than a year the U.S. Congress has been investigating whether the Internal Revenue Service was inappropriately treating conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status, or burdening such groups with requests and demands which are impermissible, as many had claimed.

Friday, May 10, the IRS person in charge of the division dealing with non-profits, Lois Lerner, apologized for actions taken by the agency which were based on political affiliation.

“That was absolutely incorrect, it was insensitive and it was inappropriate. That’s not how we go about selecting cases for further review,” Lerner said at a conference sponsored by the American Bar Association.

“The IRS would like to apologize for that,” she added.

How did the IRS do this?  By singling out dozens of organizations for additional reviews because they included the words “tea party” or “patriot” in their exemption applications, Lerner admitted.

The Ways and Means Committee has been seeking information on precisely this activity and “the IRS repeatedly denied they were targeting conservative grassroots organizations,” said committee chair Dave Camp (R-MI) in response to the revelation.  He announced  that the committee will soon hold hearings on this now-admitted practice by the IRS.

Camp stated in a press release issued just after the admission of wrongdoing by the IRS, “The IRS absolutely must be non-partisan in its enforcement of our tax laws. The admission by the agency that it targeted American taxpayers based on politics is both shocking and disappointing. The Committee on Ways and Means will thoroughly investigate this matter and will soon hold a hearing to get to the bottom of this situation.  We will hold the IRS accountable for its actions.”

PRO-ISRAEL GROUP SUED IRS CLAIMING TARGETING PRACTICE

While they are at it, the committee might want to ask the IRS whether their list of targets extended beyond political party discrimination. There is evidence the IRS also targeted pro-Israel groups whose positions were potentially inconsistent with the administration’s.

For example, in 2010, the passionately pro-Israel organization Z STREET filed a lawsuit against the IRS, claiming it had been told by an IRS agent that because the organization was “connected to Israel,” its application for tax-exempt status would receive additional scrutiny.  This admission was made in response to a query about the lengthy reveiw of Z STREET’s tax exempt status application.

In addition, the IRS agent told a Z STREET representative that the applications of some of those Israel-related organizations have been assigned to “a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

Z STREET’s lawsuit claims the IRS activity constitutes viewpoint discrimination and a violation of its constitutionally protected right of free speech.  The organization is seeking, among other things, complete disclosure to the public regarding the origin, development, approval, substance and application of the IRS policy to treat pro-Israel organizations differently than it does other organizations. (disclosure: this reporter was the founder and president of Z STREET when the litigation was filed.)

At least one purely religious Jewish organization, one not focused on Israel, was the recipient of bizarre and highly inappropriate questions about Israel.  Those questions also came from the same non-profit division of the IRS at issue for inappropriately targeting politically conservative groups. The IRS required that Jewish organization to state “whether [it] supports the existence of the land of Israel,” and also demanded the organization “[d]escribe [its] religious belief system toward the land of Israel.”

For years the IRS has denied it took any such inappropriate actions and has done its best to prevent Z STREET from pursuing its claim of viewpoint discrimination. The IRS even took the position that because Israel is a country “where terrorism happens,” the service was justified in taking additional time to determine whether Z STREET was involved with funding terrorism.  Z STREET is a purely educational organization that has never funded anything, either in Israel or anywhere else.

Coincidentally, after two and a half years of non-movement, the very first hearing in Z STREET v IRS was recently scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, July 2, in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia.

Representatives of several tea party groups rejected the apology offered by the IRS, and insist that steps be taken to prevent such blatant discrimination in the future.

J Street Leader: Our Job is to “Move Jews” to Support Washington Politicians

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

Carinne Luck, J Street’s Vice President for Campaigns, and the person who sent out the mass email announcing the new J Street political initiative , is on video explaining to J Street members that what “the Administration” and people “on the Hill” want from J Street is for them to “move American Jews” towards their views, and so that is what J Street spends most of its resources doing.

Got that? The goal of J Street is not to represent American Jews on the left, but is instead “to move American Jews” to the left and to the Administration’s/friends on the Hill’s point of view, and to “provide them with cover.”  And so J Street is “spending the bulk of its resources” doing that. See the video here. There are a few other nuggets, but we think admitting they take direction from elected officials, and that they are field operatives instead of constituency representatives, clears up the debate about who and what they are.  The video was taped and put on YouTube by J Street, but was later removed from that site by them when Pro-Israel Media recognized what it really meant and began to share it.

Backlash Against Inclusion of BDS in Israel Day Parade

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

A major backlash against a UJA-Federation and Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) decision to permit groups encouraging Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel to march in the upcoming Celebrate Israel Parade in New York City has led to a campaign to oust the groups from the event.

“A coalition of community Jewish organizations urgently calls on all friends of Israel to make their voices heard,” an e-mail from an organization called JCC Watch reads. “We urge everyone to raise your voices and call the UJA-Federation and the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC).  Urge them to stop these groups from marching in the Israel Day Parade and hijacking a pro-Israel event for their anti-Israel purposes.”

Those who participate in the campaign will be responding to news that the New Israel Fund (NIF) will be participating in this year’s parade, despite funding projects that many see as aiming to delegitimize and weaken Israel, both socio-politically and economically.

NIF is a funder of various organizations which have urged divestment from Israel, including Mossawa, Adalaha, Machsom Watch, Coalition of Women for Peace, Social TV, and Women Against Violence.

The NIF marched in last year’s parade, along with Israel Apartheid Week supporter B’Tselem , Rabbis for Human Rights, and  Partners for Progressive Israel, which has called for a boycott of all products produced by Jews in Judea and Samaria.

JCC Watch founder and member of the newly established Committee for a Pro-Israel Parade Richard Allen stated that “it is not surprising that the UJA-Federation is pushing these bash Israel groups to march in the June 3, 2012 Israel Parade.”  He accused several senior members of the UJA of being involved in anti-Israel work, including one officer he says worked with Noam Chomsky on an anti-Israel project and another he says gave $1 million in UJA funds to the “George Soros-funded political group”  Jewish Funds for Justice.

Americans for a Safe Israel (AFSI) Executive Director Helen Freedman decried the participation of the BDS groups, noting that when her organization wanted to march in the parade with signs promoting Jewish sovereignty over all the land assigned to the Jewish people in biblical texts, her group was denied. “We were turned down because we were too “extremist” and our banners in support of a whole Israel – yisrael shlayma -were not welcome,” Freedman said, according to a letter from her posted on the website of activist Batya Meidad.

Supporters of the campaign to oust BDS groups from the annual New York City parade are being encouraged to call or e-mail Board members of the UJA Federation of New York.

Members of the Committee for a Pro-Israel Parade include Allen of JCCWatch, Rabbi Steven Axelman of Whitestone Hebrew Centre, Helen Freedman of Americans for a Safe Israel, Beth Gilinsky of the National Conference on Jewish Affairs, Eli E. Hertz of “Myths and Facts”, Lori Lowenthal Marcus of Z Street, Rabbi Allen Schwartz of Congregation Ohab Zedek, and Rabbi Eli Kowalsky.

Showdown Between J And Z

Wednesday, February 17th, 2010

“No, you must be realistic. You can only claim to be pro-peace when what you promote really can lead to peace.” Her gentle, but assertive, voice startled me as it rose with conviction.  Lori Lowenthal Marcus, initiator of Z Street, was answering my question about what J Street believes in that she does not.

J Street is a U.S.-based advocacy group that seeks to influence American policy towards the Middle East conflicts by promoting a two-state solution and encouraging continuous diplomacy. Z Street, a grassroots organization, vehemently disagrees with J Street’s positions. It defies two central points inherent to J Street’s mantra – an immediate Palestinian state alongside Israel – facilitated by the United States and the national community.

First, Marcus demands to know why a Palestinian state should be created when Fatah and Hamas have declared in their governing documents that Israel must be destroyed. They have clearly proven themselves to be committed to the murder of Israelis; so why make concessions to terrorists?

Secondly, Marcus forthrightly questions their leftist identity. If they are so concerned with Western colonialism, how can they insist on a two-state solution imposed by outside parties, a most extreme form of colonialism?

Another disquieting matter for her is that J Street does not seem disturbed with Iran being an existential threat. She was shaken by a J Street event in October which she attended, and talk about the U.S. standing together with Israel against Iran was met with virtual silence. There was only enthusiastic clapping when announcing the end of the “Israeli occupation of ‘Palestine.’”

Although they now shifted their views to support sanctions on Iran, J Street still opposes military options. “Iran is about to point a catastrophic weapon at our homeland, but they [J Street] still say no to military action because it’s only a last choice. But won’t a last choice make things too late?”

Profoundly troubled by J Street’s ideas of peace, Marcus was left to create her own unabashed defense of Israel as a Jewish state. With a J.D. from Harvard University, a double- graduate degree from Bryn Mawr, and an undergraduate degree from Brandeis University, Marcus is equipped with the brains and the credentials. As a former president of the Zionist Organization of America for the Greater Philadelphia District, former radio host for “The ZOA Middle East Report,” and now a published writer, she has the exposure and experience. Nothing, however, rivals her fervor for clearing the cloudy air surrounding Israel and its package of troubles.

“I’ve been paying attention to Israel for the past 10 years and obsessively for the past seven or eight years. What I saw with Operation Cast Lead, the misinformation, the worldwide anger in a focused way, and then the rise of J Street, I realized it was time to start another organization that speaks to people who feel disenfranchised,.” Marcus explains. “It struck a chord So many people are coming out of the woodwork and saying thank you. Jews and non-Jews were waiting, wanting to express their support with affirmative strength.”

While only a newborn of two weeks in July 2009, the Z Street website had 20,000 hits from people not only across the states, but also around the world.

While only a newborn of two weeks in July 2009, the Z Street website had 20,000 hits from people not only across the states, but also around the world. “It struck a chord So many people are coming out of the woodwork and saying thank you! Jews and non-Jews were waiting, wanting to express their support with affirmative strength.”

Marcus emphasizes the importance of knowing the historical and legal information about Israel and sharing it with others. It is not enough to be an emotional supporter, but one armed with the details of indisputable truth.

Marcus has begun speaking to large and small groups as part of Z Street’s primary objective to disseminate facts about the Middle East (see sidebar) while rousing Jewish pride. It also aims to dispel the notion on college campuses that “progressive,” “cool,” and “anti-Israel” are synonymous.  It has been suggested to stage a debate between both “Streets,” and Marcus is very willing to do it.

“Israel was created before the Holocaust. Israel was around for thousands of years. It was not created in 1948, but just re-established and recognized by the UN,” she says with a dignity that demands respect. “I don’t vote there [in Israel], but I have valid information. I can’t sit idly by. True, I don’t have the right to tell them [the Israeli Government] what to do, but I have the obligation to say what I think is best [for them]. How could someone who supported the Olmert government, now support Netanyahu? Only with cognitive dissonance.”

This author also spoke by phone with Adrienne Price, treasurer of Z Street. A former investment banker and real estate company owner, Price became involved because “I saw a need for an organization focused solely on the idea of supporting a Jewish state. There are many large organizations, and I have nothing against them, but they are concerned with a whole range of issues, where you can’t choose to support one aspect on their agenda but not another. I was looking for an organization that doesn’t get hung up on other political issues like global warming or immigration. I found Z Street stays focused on the Middle East issues I’m concerned about.”

Price works at Z Street with an accountant, both of them volunteers. “We’re very careful about monitoring the money so it’s handled properly. We will run as lean as we can, for as long as we can. Every dollar for non-profit matters, so we use a sharp pencil.” Although a buoyant personality, she says this seriously, mindful and appreciative of support during these economically trying times.

She hopes that Z Street can help “reframe the issues of Israel, security, the peace process, and why Israel is where it is.” Many Jews will support Israel, but because it has become complicated, the support is sometimes attenuated and sometimes apologetic. “Zionism has become a pejorative term, whether it’s the UN who uses it as a bad word or young college people who should be better informed about the establishment of Israel and the Jewish dream.” She maintains that respectful, yet vocal, expression of pride and principle will restore positive meaning to the word that has become so unfortunately loaded.

Most striking to hear is the optimism and confidence that bubbles in Marcus and Price. “It’s David up against Goliath, but there is hope!” says Marcus with a determination that leaves me breathless. “Obama’s policies, which J Street intentionally or not represent, are being revealed as foolhardy. Truth is the most powerful weapon. And we have the truth. If you’re sitting at a dinner party and someone is spouting The New York Times’s bias like it’s from Sinai, you want to state the facts right on. Sharing accurate information about Israel will send powerful ripples that will spread across the waters of politics and prejudice.”

You can contact Z Street through their website, www.zstreet.org, or by emailing them at 18zstreet@gmail.com.

 

 

SIDEBAR:

 

The following, according to Z Street, are crucial points in the defense of Israel that the organization seeks to disseminate:

 

When people begin talking about Israel taking away the land from the Palestinians, Z Street always asks: Whose land was it before 1967?  And before 1948?  And before that?  And before that?  Once Z gets them to the Ottoman Empire period, people invariably lose steam. It presents an opportunity to explain that because there has been no sovereign state in the territories since the end of the Ottoman Empire period, the legal precondition for “occupation” does not exist and so Israel’s presence in the land does not constitute “occupation.”

Even though Z Street disagrees with the concept altogether, it always makes clear that the words should be,  “giving away” territory, not  “giving back” territory.

When people talk about Israel as an “apartheid  state,” Z Street first asks for the definition of apartheid.  Once the point is refined, Z Street informs them that there are Arab members of the Israeli Knesset; there is an Arab who sits on the Israeli Supreme Court; there is an Arab in Netanyahu’s cabinet, 20 percent of Haifa University students are Arab; and Arabs are eligible to attend every single secular Israeli university.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/features/showdown-between-j-and-z/2010/02/17/

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