Jerusalem (Mar. 28)
Mr. Norman Bentwich, former Attorney-General for Palestine, who is now Weizmann Professor of International Peace at the Hebrew University, will appear for the Jewish National Fund before the Privy Council, the highest court in the Empire, when it hears the appeal of the Jewish National Fund against the judgment of the Appeal Court confirming the decision of the Income Tax Commissioners that the Jewish National Fund should not be exempted from income tax on the ground that it is not a charity. The appeal is expected to be heard by the Privy Council during April.
Sir John Simon, the present Foreign Minister, appeared for the Jewish National Fund when the case was heard by the Appeal Court last May. The appeal turned on the refusal of the Inland Revenue Commissioners to grant the Fund exemption on the interest of Â£32,000 consolidated stock owned by it and representing donations.
There was no question, Sir John Simon said, that the Association did not-and could not by its Constitution-make any profits. The question was whether or not the case was one which justified the application of the phrase “charitable purposes”, and the four divisions which they had to consider were: Trusts for the relief of poverty; trusts for the advancement of education; trusts for the advancement of religion; trusts for other purposes beneficial to the community not falling under any of the preceding heads. The organisation received the offerings of Jews in various parts of the world, and considerable sums came into its hands. Its objects, as members of the Jewish faith most stoutly maintained, were definitely religious, in view of the fact that it was an essential part of the Jewish faith and a fundamental tenet of the Jewish religion that they should assist the settlement of Jews in the Holy Land. That was regarded by good Jews as a definite part of their religious duty, and that was the main purpose for which thie money had been used.
The Master of the Rolls, in giving judgment, said that the objects for which the Association was established, set out in the memorandum, were very wide. It could build, control and superintend railways, factories and workshops; purchase, develop, deal with and turn to account mines, minerals, and precious stones; purchase and acquire any personal property; purchase and carry on businesses suitable for the purposes of the Association and acquire concessions in the represented region.
He agreed with Mr. Justice Rowlatt (against whose judgment the appeal was brought) on the question of religion. The promotion of religion meant the promotion of spiritual teaching in a wide sense and the maintenance of the doctrine upon which it rested and the observance which served to promote and manifest it; not merely a foundation or cause to which it could be related. Religion, as such, found no place in the memorandum of the Association. There were some items in the details exhibited in the case of expenditure upon schools, but in his judgment the Association failed to establish that it fulfilled the requirements under the head of education.
The Association was not established for religious or educational purposes only, and similarly he found that the relief of poverty did not fit the purposes of the Association. It was true that a scheme which dealt with settling Jews upon land in a new country, away from unhappy surroundings, might be interpreted as mitigating poverty and as being of service to persons in need and distress. He, however, agreed with Mr. Justice Rowlatt that it was not the improvement of the position of poor Jews and their families which was the characteristic purpose of the Association; it was rather the repopulation of the Holy Land and other land in a wide area around, so that once more the population of that district might be Jewish. That was the aim and primary object of the Association.
A careful survey of the principles to be applied, the Master of the Rolls added, led him to the conclusion that the Commissioners were right in law and that the judgment of Mr. Justice Rowlatt must be upheld. The yearly interest received by the Association upon this fund could not be held to form part of the income of a body of persons or trust established for charitable purposes only.
Lord Justice Lawrence and Lord Justice Slesser agreed.
The Jewish National Fund immediately stated to the J.T.A. when the judgment was handed down at the time that it intended taking the matter further. The Fund, it is understood, is concerned particularly with the principle on which its claim for exemption from income tax is based, and is specially interested in obtaining a ruling in regard to future contributions and chiefly legacies, in view of the heavy claims of death duties.