The Fight to Strip Pro-Israel Charities of Tax-Exempt Status

In recent years, T’ruah, a progressive rabbinic advocacy group, has pushed the IRS to revoke the tax-exempt status of charities that, among many other things, offer aid to Israelis living in Jerusalem and the West Bank. As Morton Klein and Elizabeth Burney report, T’ruah seems to have prompted seven members of Congress’s left-wing “squad” to join their efforts.

In July 2021, seven Democratic congressional members—Representatives Rashida Tlaib, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cori Bush, André Carson, Mark Pocan, Ayanna Pressley, and Betty McCollum—wrote to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen demanding revocation of the tax-exempt status of pro-Israel Jewish charities that provide humanitarian aid if some of it helps Jews in . . . Judea and Samaria, as well as parts of Jerusalem.

The Central Fund of Israel (CFI), named specifically in the letter, focuses overwhelmingly on helping the needy and vulnerable: supporting shelters for battered women, medical research, assistance to the poor, and so forth. As for the representatives’ specific accusations, they rest on very shaky ground:

The letter’s primary claims are that CFI funds a group called Ḥemla; that Ḥemla funnels money to a group called Lehava; and that “every year on Jerusalem Day, Lehava and partners organize the Flag March that “terrorizes Palestinians in East Jerusalem.” CFI has never given a penny to Lehava. During the past six years, the only grant CFI made to Ḥemla was for a mere $650, back in 2017. . . . CFI gave nothing to Ḥemla the year before (2016) or since (2018-2022).

Incidentally, contrary to the rabbis’ ridiculous claim that Jerusalem Flag Marches are violent onslaughts of Lehava activists running through the streets “terrorizing Arabs,” the Jerusalem Flag Marches are primarily peaceful occasions, organized by other groups.

Read more at JNS

More about: Anti-Zionism, Congress, Ilhan Omar, US-Israel relations

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy