How the IRS Went After a Pro-Israel Group, and Why It Matters

In 2010, a nascent pro-Israel organization called Z Street applied to the Internal Revenue Service for tax-exempt status. The IRS responded by subjecting the organization to greater-than-usual scrutiny, asking extensive questions about its political positions and opening a formal inquiry into whether it had ties to terrorism—thus preventing it from beginning its operations. After the process dragged on for years, Z Street’s founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus and her husband Jerome successfully sued the IRS, resulting in its eventual and only very recent acknowledgement of malpractice. Jonathan Tobin explains what happened:

The Z Street case must be viewed in the context of what came to be known as the IRS scandal. During the first term of the Obama administration, the IRS began subjecting conservative groups that applied for nonprofit status as educational organizations to the sort of special scrutiny not applied to liberal groups. . . . While no direct link between the White House and IRS decisions was ever produced, what followed was very much in line with the administration’s desire to prevent conservatives from taking advantage of the law. But it was not until after the 2010 midterms and President Obama’s re-election in 2012—when the work of those nonprofits might have impacted public opinion—that the controversy was aired and the policy reversed.

That’s where Z Street comes in. It was applying for 501(c)(3) status as a group that sought to educate the public about Israel. But its support for Jewish settlements put it in the cross hairs of federal bureaucrats, who apparently got the message from on high that such an organization was to be put through the wringer.

As was the case with the concerted process slowdown of some conservative groups, the attention given to Z Street was not about whether it was actually eligible for nonprofit status under the law. Rather, it was a function of the Obama administration’s dislike of its particular politics. Z Street was a supporter of the settlement movement at a time when President Obama was determined to force the Israeli government to stop building in the West Bank. . . .

This was not an inadvertent error [by the IRS]. During the course of their lawsuit, the Marcuses uncovered the fact that the IRS was compiling lists of groups that opposed the Obama administration’s policy toward Israel by drawing upon information from viciously anti-Zionist websites like MondoWeiss and Electronic Intifada. The bureaucrats seeking to mold tax policy to fit Obama’s opinions about the Middle East were not only brazenly seeking to politicize something that should be above politics but were also aware that doing so in this manner was wrong since they wrote to each other about avoiding an email trail that could document their intentions.

Read more at JNS

More about: Barack Obama, IRS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Politics

What Israel Can Achieve in Gaza, the Fate of the Hostages, and Planning for the Day After

In a comprehensive analysis, Azar Gat concludes that Israel’s prosecution of the war has so far been successful, and preferable to the alternatives proposed by some knowledgeable critics. (For a different view, see this article by Lazar Berman.) But even if the IDF is coming closer to destroying Hamas, is it any closer to freeing the remaining hostages? Gat writes:

Hamas’s basic demand in return for the release of all the hostages—made clear well before it was declared publicly—is an end to the war and not a ceasefire. This includes the withdrawal of the IDF from the Gaza Strip, restoration of Hamas’s control over it (including international guarantees), and a prisoner exchange on the basis of “all for all.”

Some will say that there must be a middle ground between Hamas’s demands and what Israel can accept. However, Hamas’s main interest is to ensure its survival and continued rule, and it will not let go of its key bargaining chip. Some say that without the return of the hostages—“at any price”—no victory is possible. While this sentiment is understandable, the alternative would be a resounding national defeat. The utmost efforts must be made to rescue as many hostages as possible, and Israel should be ready to pay a heavy price for this goal; but Israel’s capitulation is not an option.

Beyond the great cost in human life that Israel will pay over time for such a deal, Hamas will return to rule the Gaza Strip, repairing its infrastructure of tunnels and rockets, filling its ranks with new recruits, and restoring its defensive and offensive arrays. This poses a critical question for those suggesting that it will be possible to restart the war at a later stage: have they fully considered the human toll should the IDF attempt to reoccupy the areas it would have vacated in the Gaza Strip?

Although Gat is sanguine about the prospects of the current campaign, he throws some cold water on those who hope for an absolute victory:

Militarily, it is possible to destroy Hamas’s command, military units, and infrastructure as a semi-regular military organization. . . . After their destruction in high-intensity fighting, the IDF must prevent Hamas from reviving by continuous action on the ground. As in the West Bank, this project will take years. . . . What the IDF is unlikely to achieve is the elimination of Hamas as a guerrilla force.

Lastly, Gat has some wise words about what will happen to Gaza after the war ends, a subject that has been getting renewed attention since Benjamin Netanyahu presented an outline of a plan to the war cabinet on Thursday. Gat argues that, contrary to the view of the American and European foreign-policy elite, there is no political solution for Gaza. After all, Gaza is in the Middle East, where “there are no solutions, . . . only bad options and options that are much worse.”

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Gaza Strip, Gaza War 2023, Israeli Security