London (Mar. 2)
The question whether the Jewish National Fund is a charity entitled to exemption from income tax was raised in a Revenue Appeal brought by the Fund to-day before Mr. Justice Rowlatt in the King’s Bench Division, the hearing being adjourned. The Commissioners for the Special Purposes of the Income Tax Acts had previously ruled that it was not a charity.
Mr. A.M. Latter, K. C., for the Fund, said that it was not formed for profit. Its object was to acquire land in Palestine and to settle Jewish people upon it. It obtained large funds from voluntary collections among Jews, and primarily the point of view of the founders was to form a religious trust. The funds were used for settling poor people on the land in Palestine, and produce in rather a primitive country the beginnings of a civilised community. The people so settled were refugees from persecutions and massacres, such as Yemenite Jews and Russian Jews. In the circumstances the association maintained that it was a charity inasmuch as its objects were for the benefit of a large class of the community, for the relief of poverty and for religious purposes. From whatever angle it was viewed, it was carrying out charitable duties in the eyes of the English law. In addition to acquiring land and letting it to the settlers it had installed a water supply, planted forests, cultivated plantations, erected homesteads for workers and trained and found employment for the settlers. It had also granted land for and advanced money in connection with the erection of synagogues, orphanages, hospitals, social clubs, schools, and other religious, charitable and educational institutions.
The Attorney-General, Sir Williem Jowett, K.C., for the Crown, said the question was not what the association did do, but what it was authorised to do by the terms of the trust. Looking at the association’s powers under its memorandum and articles of association, it was obvious that the underling intent and purpose was political. The object was to establish in Palestine a Jewish National Home. The settlers were never to have absolute ownership of the land to avoid the risk of any settler disposing of the property to any member of the non-Jewish community. From a Revenue point of view it was important that it should not be said that when persons gathered together for a semi-political purpose they could gain exemption. The fact that an organisaton was performing a very useful public service did not make it a charity.