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,  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?
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.”
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. 22.214.171.124.5.2(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.
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.
This article is one which anyone concerned about Israel should read. Is a translation of an article written by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the Zionist prophet.
“We constantly and very loudly apologize… Instead of turning our backs to the accusers, as there is nothing to apologize for, and nobody to apologize to, we swear again and again that it is not our fault… Isn’t it long overdue to respond to all these and all future accusations, reproaches, suspicions, slanders and denunciations by simply folding our arms and loudly, clearly, coldly and calmly answer with the only argument that is understandable and accessible to this public: ‘Go to Hell!’?
Who are we, to make excuses to them; who are they to interrogate us? What is the purpose of this mock trial over the entire people where the sentence is known in advance? Our habit of constantly and zealously answering to any rabble has already done us a lot of harm and will do much more. … The situation that has been created as a result, tragically confirms a well known saying: “Qui s’excuse s’accuse.” We ourselves have acquainted our neighbors with the thought that for every embezzling Jew it is possible to drag the entire ancient people to answer, a people that was already legislating at the time when the neighbors had not even invented a bast shoe. Every accusation causes among us such a commotion that people unwittingly think, ‘why are they so afraid of everything?’ Apparently their conscience is not clear.’ Exactly because we are ready at every minute to stand at attention, there develops among the people an inescapable view about us, as of some specific thievish tribe. We think that our constant readiness to undergo a search without hesitation and to turn out our pockets, will eventually convince mankind of our nobility; look what gentlemen we are–we do not have anything to hide! This is a terrible mistake. The real gentlemen are the people that will not allow anyone for any reason to search their apartment, their pockets or their soul. Only a person under surveillance is ready for a search at every moment…. This is the only one inevitable conclusion from our maniac reaction to every reproach–to accept responsibility as a people for every action of a Jew, and to make excuses in front of everybody including hell knows who. I consider this system to be false to its very root. We are hated not because we are blamed for everything, but we are blamed for everything because we are not loved…
We may apologize only in rare, unique and extremely important moments when we are completely confident that the Areopagus in front of us really has just intentions and proper competence. We do not have to apologize for anything. We are a people as all other peoples; we do not have any intentions to be better than the rest. As one of the first conditions for equality we demand the right to have our own villains, exactly as other people have them. Yes, we do have provocateurs and draft dodgers, and it is even strange that we have so few of them under current conditions. Other people have also these kind of “good,” and, in addition, they have embezzlers, and pogrom-makers, and torturers–so what– the neighbors live and are not ashamed…. Do our neighbors blush for the Christians in Kishinyov who hammered nails into Jewish babies’ eyes?” Not in the least,– they walk with head raised high and look everybody in the face; they are absolutely right, and this is how it must be, as the persona of a people is royal, and not responsible and is not obliged to apologize…
We do not have to account to anybody, we are not to sit for anybody’s examination and nobody is old enough to call on us to answer. We came before them and will leave after them. We are what we are, we are good for ourselves, we will not change and we do not want to.”
These are the words of Ze’ev Jabotinsky.
(EOZ) This is extraordinarily cool. From Michael Freund in JPost:
This month’s anniversary of the passing in October 1878 (4 Tishrei on the Hebrew calendar) of Rabbi Yehuda Alkalai, a Sephardi Jew from Serbia, presents an opportunity to correct the record and restore the Sephardi impact on Zionist renewal to its rightful place.
While his name may not be overly familiar to most Israelis, his intellectual legacy laid the groundwork for the modern rebirth of Israel.
Though he was born in Sarajevo in 1798, Alkalai’s formative years were spent in Jerusalem, where he delved into ancient Jewish texts and became steeped in Jewish mysticism.
At the young age of 27, he was offered the post of rabbi in the town of Zemun, which is today part of the Serbian capital of Belgrade. At the time, however, it fell within the boundaries of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and straddled the border of Turkish-occupied Serbia.
Within a decade, in 1834, he produced a booklet called Shema Yisrael (Hear, O Israel) proposing something which at the time was considered radical: to create Jewish colonies in the land of Israel as a prelude to redemption.
In other words, Rabbi Alkalai advocated that man take action to bring about Jewish national emancipation.
This notion ran counter to conventional wisdom, which primarily believed that Jews should wait passively for Messianic deliverance.
Nonetheless, he developed the concept further, writing additional books and pamphlets and traveling throughout Europe to spread his message.
IN HIS 1845 work Minhat Yehudah, Rabbi Alkalai wrote, “In the first conquest, under Joshua, the Almighty brought the children of Israel into a land that was prepared: its houses were then full of useful things, its wells were giving water, and its vineyards and olive groves were laden with fruit. This new Redemption will – alas, because of our sins – be different: our land is waste and desolate, and we shall have to build houses, dig wells, and plant vines and olive trees.”
“Redemption,” he wrote, “must come slowly. The land must, by degrees, be built up and prepared.”
To accomplish this, Rabbi Alkalai offered novel, and highly prescient, suggestions, which included the launch of a national fund to purchase land in Israel, the convening of a “Great Assembly” to oversee Jewish national affairs, and a redoubling of efforts to revive Hebrew as a spoken language.
At a time when many Jews were beginning to despair after centuries of persecution, Rabbi Alkalai offered concrete hope.
More importantly, by highlighting practical measures that Jews could take, he empowered people throughout the Jewish world to become involved in a national act of self-redemption which would engender Divine mercy. In 1874, at the age of 76, Rabbi Alkalai and his wife made aliya, settling in Jerusalem to fulfill his life-long dream. He passed away four years later.
In one of those curious twists of fate that even the most inventive novelist could not contrive, one of Rabbi Alkalai’s faithful congregants and most ardent disciples was a man named Simon Loeb Herzl, whose grandson Theodor would later alter the course of Zionist and Jewish history.
Is it possible that Simon Loeb came home from synagogue on the Sabbath, fired up by the rabbi’s sermon about the need for Jews to head to Zion, and shared this passion with his offspring?…
“We, as a people, are properly called Israel,” he once wrote, “only in the land of Israel… Though this venture will begin modestly, its future will be very great.”
Here is a passage from one of Rabbi Alkalai’s works:
Now we pray every day: Let our eyes behold Thy return to Zion in mercy, and if we believe our own words, then upon whom will the Divine Presence become manifest? Upon the trees and the rocks?
Therefore, as the first step to the beginning of redemption of our souls we must return to the Land twenty-two thousand (Jews), the Holy One Blessed Be He to cause the Divine Presence to descend upon them. This most certainly will be followed by His showing us and all of Israel beneficial signs.
Such an idea is hinted at in the Torah: And Jacob came in peace to the city of Shechem... and he bought the parcel of ground where he spread his tent. Why did Jacob buy the land if his only intention was to rest there for a time and then continue on to see his father, Isaac? It is apparent that this act was realized to teach his descendants that the redemption would come about by purchasing the land from its inhabitants. Because he bought the parcel of land it was as if he lived (permanently) on it.
More so, the redemption from Egypt brought the people of Israel to a good and spacious land, one whose wells were already dug, and whose vineyards and olive groves were already planted. Yet, because of our sins, the Land is now empty and desolate and we must, for this redemption, build the houses and dig the wells and plant the vineyards and the olive groves.
In a part of the world where religion had become a defining element of ongoing conflict, there may be even greater reason to cling — consciously or subconsciously — to a distant past.
It’s clear that to these last members of the Egyptian Jewish community that Jewish heritage is immensely important. But amid shrinking numbers and increasing assimilation, their ability to evoke this heritage has withered to a few tangible remnants: the people, the Torah, the food. Ultimately, it isn’t religion at all to which this small remaining cluster of Jews is clinging; it’s to each other.
In a part of the world where religion had become a defining element of ongoing conflict, there may be even greater reason to cling—consciously or subconsciously—to a distant past, to the common identity found in traditions and in ceremony. Yet here, the substance of the religions themselves buried any political identities they bequeath. We had come to the synagogue expecting to find a religious fervor hidden amid a thriving and often hostile Muslim environment. Instead we found little more than a cluster of the elderly, the last of a dying breed—too old and too tired to make any real attempt at a Jewish revival.
…God bless Mubarak; God bless Israel; God bless the Palestinians. Insha’allah, there will be peace.
Sounds like a lot of Jews outside of Egypt. Is it because the rest of the world is getting like Egypt? How many of us still think we can bless the Palestinians for Peace? How many of us are still clinging to Mubarak and the past? These Egyptian Jews sound a lot like the Jews who voted for Obama.
Here’s a video I know you’re going to like.
It’s a video by Im Tirtzu about the centrality of Jerusalem to the Zionist cause. Subtitles by Elder of Ziyon, translated by Nevet Basker of BroaderView,org .
Let’s go to the videotape.