J Street to Treasury Dept.: Halt tax deductions to pro-settlement groups


(JTA) — J Street called on the U.S. Treasury Department to review the tax-deductibility status of groups that support settlement activity in the West Bank.

The liberal Jewish Middle East policy group in a statement posted on its website and sent to journalists pointed out that the United States has “consistently opposed the construction and expansion of settlements under each and every president — Democratic and Republican — since Israel started building on territories captured in the 1967 war,” and a legal determination that the settlements are illegal under international law retomains in place.

“A sophisticated private network has sprung up in the United States, funded by tax-deductible donations, that has channeled millions of dollars to strengthen the settlements and weaken the Palestinians’ presence in the West Bank,” J Street charged in the statement.

The statement singled out the Regavim organization, which monitors and pursues legal action against construction lacking Israeli permits undertaken by Palestinians or Bedouins in Israel and in the West Bank; Elad, which helps Jewish families move into Arab neighborhoods in eastern Jerusalem; and The Hebron Fund, which helps Jews move to the largely Palestinian-populated West Bank city of Hebron.

Internal Revenue Service requirements are clear about the criteria organizations must meet to benefit from tax-deductible, charitable donations, J Street pointed out, citing the tax code as saying the groups’ activities must not be “illegal [or] contrary to a clearly defined and established public policy.”

“Clearly the United States has not effectively put real weight behind its opposition to Israeli settlements,” said J Street President Jeremy Ben-Ami. “It must do more to maintain the viability of a two-state solution. At the very least, it should not reward with a tax deduction those funding organizations whose activities could well be illegal and whose goals and activities are in direct opposition to long-standing, bipartisan US policy.”

The group in its statement called on its American supporters to contact the U.S. Treasury and call for a review of the tax-exempt organizations working in the settlements.

J Street points out on its website that contributions to the organization, which as a 501(c)(4) organization is permitted to lobby and support lawmakers, are not tax deductible.

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