Will the IRS finally get its day in court?

May 16, 2013

Lori Lowenthal Marcus, the founder of Z Street who filed a lawsuit against the IRS, notes that “the very first hearing in Z STREET v IRS was recently scheduled for the afternoon of Tuesday, July 2, [2013] in the Federal District Court of the District of Columbia.” If Marcus were not a lawyer herself and very persistent, there would be no appeal for Z Street. And need I point out that justice delayed is justice denied?

I don’t know what official reasons were given by the IRS to Tea-Party related organizations — as well, ironically, as those with the word ‘patriot’ in their names — for holding up their applications, but Z Street’s lawsuit claims that

21.   [IRS] Agent [Diane] Gentry also informed Z STREET’s counsel that the IRS is carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel.
22.   Agent Gentry further stated to counsel for Z STREET: “these cases are being sent to a special unit in the D.C. office to determine whether the organization’s activities contradict the Administration’s public policies.”

Could the violation of the First Amendment be more clear? An affadavit from the IRS official in charge of the “special unit” referred to was even more Orwellian:

a. The application indicated that Z Street could be providing resources to organizations within Israel or facilitating the provision of resources to organizations within the state of Israel;
b. Israel is one of many Middle Eastern countries that have a “higher risk of  terrorism.” (LR.M. 7.20.6.7.5.2(1). See also http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/crt/2008/122433.htm); and
c. A referral to TAG is appropriate whenever an application mentions providing resources to organizations in a country with a higher risk of terrorism.

This is like saying that we shouldn’t support the Boston Marathon, because terrorism happens there! And it is reminiscent of the US refusal to give refuge to Jewish victims of the Nazis because, as Germans, they were enemy nationals.
Marcus notes that the Z Street charter specifically condemns terrorism, and that Z Street has never provided funds or ‘resources’ to anyone in Israel or anywhere else.  And she adds that Z Street is not the only Jewish organization to receive ‘special treatment’ from the IRS:

And 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.”

Three years ago, long before this week’s scandal broke, (Carl) reported that the IRS was holding up the registration of the pro-Israel group Z Street as a tax-exempt organization. Z Street sued the IRS, and in court it introduced a letter from the IRS asking whether it supported Israel. The next court date in that case is July 2, but in the meantime the IRS is facing a much larger scandal in which pro-Israel organizations may only be a small part (Hat Tip: Memeorandum). 

In a conference call with reporters last week, the IRS official responsible for granting tax-exempt status said that it was a mistake to subject Tea Party groups to additional scrutiny based solely on the organization’s name. But she said ideology played no part in the process.
“The selection of these cases where they used the names was not a partisan selection,” said Lois Lerner, director of exempt organizations. She said progressive groups were also selected for greater scrutiny based on their names, but did not provide details. “I don’t have them off the top of my head,” she said.

The IRS did not respond to follow-up questions Tuesday.

Congressional critics say the IRS’s actions suggest a political motives: “This administration seems to have a culture of politics above all else,” said Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas. “A lot of the actions they take have a political side first, and put government second.”

Flores complained to the IRS last year after the Waco Tea Party’s tax-exempt application was mired in red tape. The IRS asked the group for information that was “overreaching and impossible to comply with,” Flores said: Transcripts of radio interviews, copies of social media posts and details on “close relationships” with political candidates.

When Flores complained last year — asking pointed questions about the IRS treatment of Tea Party groups — the IRS response didn’t acknowledge that it had treated conservative groups differently. “They did more than sidestep the issue,” he said. “They flipped me the finger.”

Before the IRS started separating out Tea Party applications, getting tax-exempt status was routine — even for conservative groups. The Champaign Tea Party’s treasurer, Karen Olsen, said the process was smooth, with no follow-up questions from the IRS.

Politico suggests that pro-Israel groups were also targeted.  

The same Internal Revenue Service office that singled out Tea Party groups for extra scrutiny also challenged Israel-related organizations, at least one of which filed suit over the agency’s handling of its application for tax-exempt status.

The trouble for the Israel-focused groups seems to have had different origins than that experienced by conservative groups, but at times the effort seems to have been equally ham-handed.

Legal filings show that the problems for Z Street — and apparently for other Israel-related groups — stemmed from an obscure unit in the Cincinnati IRS office: the “Touch and Go Group.” One of the so-called TAG Group’s duties was to weed out applications that might be coming from organizations which might be used to fund terrorism.

In response to Z Street’s lawsuit, an IRS manager acknowledged that applications mentioning Israel were getting special attention.

Israel is one of many Middle Eastern countries that have a ‘higher risk of terrorism,’” wrote Jon Waddell, manager of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations Determinations Group. “A referral to TAG is appropriate whenever an application mentions providing resources to organizations in a country with a higher risk of terrorism.”

However, Z Street and other groups reported getting unusual inquiries from the IRS. A Z Street lawyer was contacted by a Jewish religious group, which detailed inquiries from the IRS that the group’s leaders thought had treaded too far.

Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel? Describe your organization’s religious belief system towards the land of Israel,” the IRS asked in a letter sent to the religious group, which asked not to be named.

“If they’re asking that of that group, what else are they asking?” Lowenthal Marcus asked.
She said basing the review for terrorism on where an organization did business was strange and ineffective.

“If their policy was to look at any organization that had anything to do with a country where terrorism exists, I don’t see how that limits anything,” Lowenthal Marcus said. “There’s been terrorism in the United States, in the United Kingdom, in Canada, in Malaysia….and in Boston. Is that now going to be on the list?”

In court filings in the Z Street case, the Obama administration has denied that the IRS is discriminating against groups that disagree with Obama administration policies.

In court papers, the IRS denied that its personnel ever told Z Street that there was a special review for groups that might be at odds with Obama administration policy. The tax agency contended that the issue was whether the groups might violate “public policy” — a legal term of art for the notion that the government shouldn’t bestow a benefit on an individual or organization engaged in illegal activity like terrorism, or in an officially disfavored activity such as racial discrimination.

“The application was not transferred to TAG because of an ‘Israel special policy’ or because Z Street’s views on Israel contradict the Obama administration’s views on Israel,” the Justice Department wrote in a brief seeking dismissal of Z Street’s lawsuit.

TAG was originally set up by the Bush administration in 2005 to target terror funding. The Obama administration vowed to change TAG in 2009, but of course, Muslim groups are still claiming that it targets them as well.

J£w$ Got Mon€¥ #JewsGotMoney

April 11, 2013
(simply) …A non-Jewish documentary director Sasha Andreas produced a movie titled Jews Got Money?, dedicated to these other Jews – the ones who didn’t get any money. (Read this article) about the movie. Did you know that one in five Jewish persons in New York lives in poverty? If you didn’t, you are not alone: the common stereotype all around the world is that “Jews got money.” This is exactly the cliché that our upcoming documentary by the same title hopes to debunk.

Purim’s Beauty Myth

February 24, 2013

What did you think of the question posed at the bottom of the article?

(Forward By Johnna Kaplan)Esther saved the Jewish people because, so they say, she was smart and brave. When she learned of the genocidal plot of Haman, the vizier to her husband, King Ahasueres of Persia, she revealed that she was a Jew and pleaded for her people to be spared.
Esther’s daring act of approaching the king, confessing her nationality, and requesting the Jews be saved from certain death underpins the story of Purim. But as relatable as the holiday’s heroine is meant to be, few of us would get the opportunity to act as she did. Ahasuerus had chosen Esther above all of the other girls in his harem; to put it plainly, she was able to save the Jewish people because she was the hottest woman in the room.
But the story of Purim isn’t the only reason I’ve been thinking about Jewish women, beauty and the pressure to look a certain way.
First, I read this Jewcy piece by Emily Shire (who also writes for the Sisterhood) about how Jewish girls and women have a particular preoccupation with thinness. I had never thought of the issue that way, possibly because, unlike Shire, I grew up in a town where Jews, though hardly invisible, were not the majority. In my experience, (natural) beauty and (effortless) skinniness were expected of all girls equally, as were good grades, athleticism and flawless hair.
My mom was similarly unsure about the premise, though when I read her a sentence about Jewish women being especially devoted to the diet beverage Tab, she said excitedly, “Ooh! I remember Tab!” I tried to recall whether, in my youth, Jewish girls I knew cared more about being thin than the others. I wasn’t sure.
But now, as an adult, I think perhaps we do. The other day a friend mentioned that an acquaintance, a Jewish-Hispanic woman, had “married a white dude; her kids look totally white.” I cynically said, essentially, “good for her, because Jewish guys don’t want us anyway unless we’re size zero.” My friend replied, “Exactly,” and added that the Jewish men she knew preferred “Asian girls with big boobs — another white elephant.” It’s important to clarify that my friend is a) long-married and b) neither Jewish nor Asian. Jewish women are now expected to be thinner (read: prettier) than the competition, to the point where even outside observers notice it.
While pondering this rather depressing state of affairs, I noticed Purim on my calendar, preceded by the minor fast day of Ta’anit Esther. Esther fasted for three days before approaching Ahasuerus. How many pounds, I wondered, could one lose doing that? Because if I was requesting a stay of execution for my entire community based on my attractiveness, I’d want to look as good (read: thin) as possible when doing it.
Esther is not the only Biblical woman who relied on her looks to help defeat enemies of the Jews. Judith got close enough to decapitate Holofernes because he desired her, and though it isn’t explicitly stated, it’s hard for me to believe Yael lured Sisera into her tent simply by promising him a drink. Of course, plenty of other ancient women might have had the guts to wield tent pegs against their foes; we only hear about the ones who got the opportunity.
These days, hopefully, it’s different, but for much of history a Jewish woman could only change the world by being noticed. Even today, you don’t get plucked from obscurity for your personality. The idea that looks can bring salvation runs through the Jewish female experience. If you can catch the eye of the King or even flirt with the Nazi officer, maybe you’ll change his mind. Maybe you’ll live.
I suppose every little tribe under ancient Persian rule had their would-be Esther, who hoped the king would repay her presence in his harem by lending support to her cause. But not all cultures would approve of such things. So I wonder if the celebration of women who do good by means of their beauty is particularly Jewish. I wonder if some relic of it hangs on to this day, and is expressed in the pressure to be prettier, to be thinner, to be the one who might get noticed and save us after all.

I find the “Forward” disturbing more times than not, but what struck me as odd is that the article did realize that a females sexiness is a trait that is encouraged by Judaism in a way that a man’s sexiness is not… this I agree with… but I found it odd that the Forward somehow seems to think this character is unique to Judaism or at the very least is something unusual. I can’t think of any culture that does not share this character. It was almost like the writer reached a conclusion she didn’t like and then concluded that Jews like beautuiful women because we are inferior and then concluded that other cultures are not like this… which is a very odd conclusion. Is this the source of the Forwards progressive readers self hate and Anti-Semitism? Do feminist Jews really believe that gender traits are something that is made by Jewish law and not something that occurs naturally? I find it hard to refute the idea that feminism is in fact self hatred. I am very glad this liberal self hater allowed us a window into her warped soul.


How Islamic public relations money is using a victim’s illness to obscure a Muslim threat

August 16, 2011
The word is Stockholm syndrome. Empathy for your killers.This report obscures a correlative truth. This isn’t a progressive slant: Jews are trauma victims of a historical abuse by… everyone. And Muslims are subversively attempting to attack. It is very sad that the Muslim public relations money is using the illness of a historically abused community to justify their taqqiyya and need to obscure. The report, “Muslim Americans: Faith, Freedom, and the Future”, claims that overwhelming numbers of Jewish Americans believe Muslim Americans are loyal to their country – 80 per cent (about the same number and percentage who voted for Obama). Aside from Muslims themselves, no other religious community demonstrates such confidence in the loyalty of America’s Muslim citizens. It is very sad for the Jewish community that they are so vain as to assume that tolerance for killers is a good thing. Vanity is a vice and abuse victims are weak to it. From substance abuse to feminism there is a need to perceive of oneself as different then reality when someone has been traumatized. It is frustrating to see the public relations establishment use the Jewish communities pain as a way to justify equally abusive world views like feminism and Islam. If the Jewish community could wake up from their prideful need to be more tolerant then the general population then they might be able to see a threat to their own family as immanent. The biggest problem with the martyrdom and abuse culture is we start to see an intellectual superiority for those who have been wronged. People who experience injustice are not wiser. This is not to say there are not some intellectual strengths in the Jewish community, but we are incapable of dealing with social issues without making things worse. The worst part about being inside the Jewish community and trying to correct the culture from within is the personal attacks one deals with. Anyone inside the Jewish community who questioned Obama for the last few years was marginalized, called racist or mentally ill.


Melanie Phillips – The World Turned Upside Down

June 26, 2011
I found a manifesto! wow… she says everything. the thing that none of us could pack in the same way. people listen to this and they change their mind. really amazing. she makes complete sense. h/t @BenAlexanderBen


Meet Australia’s Aborigine who is president of her Orthodox shul

June 24, 2011


“The first Jew came here on the First Fleet in 1788, and since then Jews have been marrying Media_httpmultimediaj_epituAborigines because white women wouldn’t marry them,” Jackson Pulver said. “There’s a big mob of black Cohens out there, and they’ve got Jewish ancestry.”

…A female president of an Orthodox shul in Australia. Oh, she’s also an aborigine.
h/t elderofziyon.blogspot.com via jta.org
And image is from Aboriginal Art News.…and image via Mean Spirited


Jews, Non-Jews and Ethics

March 28, 2011

Following the recent terrorist attack in Jerusalem, I came across a predictably biased media report. Toward the end of an ITN news segment, the reporter says, “Israeli police called the bombing a ‘terrorist attack’ – their term for a Palestinian strike.” Wow. Someone leaves a bomb in a bus station filled with innocent civilians, and that’s merely a strike?! Just in case this reporter needs a refresher course, there’s a huge difference between guerrilla warfare and terrorism: guerrillas strike military forces; terrorists target civilians. Apparently, Israeli civilians don’t count. Listen closely at around 0:52 of the video:

It’s incredibly frustrating to witness the constant double standard directed against Jews and Israel. While we have every right to call out such prejudice, we can’t let it affect us to the point where we stop doing what is right. Despite the fact that virulent anti-Semites will always blame Jews no matter how ethically we behave, the same is not true for everyone else. Whether we’re dealing with difficult people in our personal lives or the world-at-large, it’s easy to fall into the trap of rationalizing that we only have to act ethically toward those with whom we agree. This might be emotionally satisfying, but Judaism demands more than that.
Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (152b) states that we cannot mislead anyone – Jew or non-Jew – in any matter. If we were to cheat other people, particularly in financial dealings, they will say that God chose a nation of thieves and deceivers. This kind of Chilul Hashem (desecration of God’s name) is among the worst of sins. Furthermore, who would want to abide by the Seven Noahide Laws (which were transmitted through us), let alone convert to Judaism, if we act this way? On the other hand, when we conduct ourselves along the highest ethical standards, we create a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of God’s name).
The Chofetz Chaim provides a great example by way of a story told over by his son. There was once an incident involving workers at a Warsaw printing press where some of his books were being prepared for publication. Late in the afternoon on a Friday, one of the workers saw the Chofetz Chaim running down a small side street. It was an odd sight to see him at such an hour because it was almost time for Shabbat. It didn’t take long before word spread about what had happened. The Chofetz Chaim discovered that one of the workers at the printing press left before being paid. In order not to violate the prohibition against not paying a worker’s wages on time (Deuteronomy 24:14-15), the Chofetz Chaim found out the man’s home address and rushed to pay him.
When God speaks to Jacob in Genesis 28:14, He says, “and through you and your descendants shall all the families of the earth be blessed.” This is quite a lofty calling, but one that we can fulfill on any given day by engaging in ethical behavior. If non-Jews have good encounters with Jews, they will feel blessed. However, if non-Jews feel unfairly treated, we inevitably create a terrible Chilul Hashem. From this idea, perhaps we can draw a kal vachomer (an inference from minor to major). If we’re supposed to strive for impeccable behavior around non-Jews, how much more so should we act decently toward one another. Like charity, good behavior should start at home.
Related to this issue, Dennis Prager has an interesting observation. He suggests that one of the most important days in a religious person’s life is when they meet a member of a different religion – or of a different denomination within their own religion – who is both a good and intelligent individual. Such an encounter forces a person to consider that the other group’s followers are not all bad or unintelligent. We’re perfectly free to believe that members of other religions – or of other denominations within Judaism – are theologically flawed. But does that mean they are bad people? Not necessarily. Whether or not they engage in ethical behavior determines the answer to that question.