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Using the Tax Code to Punish Settlements: Vindictive, Illiberal, and Unconstitutional

Oct. 10 2016

The self-styled “pro-Israel, pro-peace” lobbying group J Street and its allies are pushing for the Treasury Department to investigate the tax-exempt status of charities that provide aid to Jews living in the West Bank. As Eugene Kontorovich explains, such a move would violate the Constitution and set a pernicious precedent—and is based on completely unfounded presumptions about the settlements:

While J Street claims that its demand is justified on the grounds that private Americans’ support for settlements contravenes “established public policy,” J Street is calling for the administration to do something unprecedented and clearly unconstitutional. To put it simply, J Street et al. are asking that some non-profits be denied tax exemptions because they disagree with the president on diplomatic matters. That’s what going against ”public policy” means here—not violating any statutes, but pursuing goals at odds with the foreign policy of the president. . . .

In its effort to find a legal basis for its illiberal campaign, the most J Street can invoke in favor of its claim of a clear “public policy” is political statements [about West Bank settlements] from the executive branch, and a non-binding and long-rejected 1979 letter from a State Department legal adviser. But as frustrating as this may be to J Street, there is no U.S. law or clearly established U.S. policy which indicates that settlements are illegal. . . .

A State Department memo is not a law or even an agency regulation. . . . No official has ever mistaken the memo for a legal enactment; indeed, a mere two years after the 1979 letter, President Reagan announced that settlements are lawful, and presidential administrations in the 35 years since then have studiously avoided expressing any opinion on the lawfulness of settlements. Meanwhile Congress has passed numerous laws—which do establish U.S. law and policy—that clearly show Israeli settlements are not illegal. . . .

Worse yet for J Street is the fact that even if there were a U.S. policy that Israeli settlement construction violates international law, that policy would have nothing to do with U.S. citizens supporting libraries, schools, and other services in those communities. . . . Most anti-settlement scholars are forced to concede that settlers themselves do not violate international law. . . . And just as certainly there is nothing in the Carter-era State Department letter that claims that charitable contributions by Americans to settlements violate the law. . . .

J Street’s call for a tax inquisition is authoritarian, anti-democratic, unconstitutional, arbitrary, vindictive, and, to put it delicately, uncharitably focused on the Jews.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Constitution, Israel & Zionism, J Street, Settlements, U.S. Foreign policy

Hamas’s Dangerous Escalation in Gaza

June 22 2018

As Hamas has stepped up its attacks on communities near the Gaza Strip—using incendiary devices attached to kites and balloons—Israel has begun to retaliate more forcefully. In response, the terrorist group has begun firing rockets and mortars into Israel. Yoav Limor comments:

What made Wednesday’s rocket salvo different is that ‎unlike previous flare-ups on the border [since 2014], this time it ‎was Hamas operatives who fired at Israel, as opposed ‎to Islamic Jihad or the ‎rogue terrorist group in the coastal enclave. ‎Still, Hamas made sure the attack followed most of ‎the familiar “rules”—only [firing] at night and only at the ‎ communities in the vicinity of Gaza, and apparently while also ‎trying to minimize any casualties, to avoid further ‎escalation. ‎. . .

The first reason [for the shift in tactics] is Israel’s own change of policy ‎with regard to kite terrorism. It took Israel far ‎too long to define the incessant waves of incendiary ‎kites sent over the border as actionable acts of ‎terror, but once it did, the IDF began ‎systematically countering them, including firing ‎warning shots at terrorist kite cells and targeting ‎Hamas assets in Gaza in retaliation.‎

The second reason is Hamas’s own frustration and ‎distress in Gaza. Since the border-riot campaign was ‎launched on March 30, some 150 of its operatives ‎have been killed and the Israeli military has ‎carried out over 100 strikes on Hamas positions in ‎the coastal enclave, all while Hamas has nothing to ‎show for it. ‎In this situation, Hamas is searching for [some sort of victory] by declaring that “bombings will be ‎met with bombings,” as Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum ‎said Wednesday, in order to portray itself as defending Gaza from ‎Israel.‎ . . .

Hamas is banking on Israel opting against a military ‎campaign in Gaza at this time so as not to split its ‎focus from the [developments in Syria], but it is sorely ‎mistaken if it thinks Israel will simply contain ‎kite terrorism or shy away from action given the new ‎equation it has presented. ‎At some point, Israel’s patience will expire.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security