National Lawyers Guild tells IRS to investigate Jewish National Fund
The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) International Committee submitted a regulatory challenge to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) calling for an investigation into the charity status of the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The challenge was submitted on “Land Day”, an annual commemoration of the 1976 mass protests against land confiscation and the six Arab Israelis who were killed during the demonstrations.
A legal memo explaining why the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status should be revoked was submitted along with the regulatory challenge.
“The IRS should revoke the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) tax-exempt status because it does not have a charitable purpose and engages in activities that violate public policy. JNF is a New York registered, § 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization that enables, subsidizes and facilitates the forced population transfer of Palestinians throughout Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT); destruction and confiscation of Palestinian agricultural land; and settler violence against Palestinian populations. In particular, JNF promotes racist policies like leasing state land “solely for the Jewish people,” thereby excluding non-Jewish Israeli citizens from access to public property. Additionally, JNF has allocated thousands of dunams of land for illegal Israeli settlements. Because these activities actively undermine any enumerated tax-exempt purpose and violate public policy, JNF is not entitled to § 501(c)(3) tax exemption,” the memo said.
The regulatory challenge is part of the Stop the JNF Campaign’s efforts to end the role of the JNF in the displacement of Palestinians. According to NLG International Committee member Suzanne Adely, the NLG is not part of the Stop the JNF campaign, but “as a progressive lawyers association,” the organization offered their support to the campaign.
The Stop the JNF Campaign responded by asking the NLG International Committee for assistance with facilitating a process for pressuring the IRS to review the tax exempt status of the JNF. Using information that the Stop JNF Campaign helped compile, the NLG International Committee completed the regulatory challenge.
“We put all of these facts that we had researched about the activities of JNF, the facts based on their own documents–on their own legal documents–facts based on reports that have been written in Israel and throughout the world, and showed that these facts clearly show us that the Jewish National Fund did not function for a charitable purpose, and also violates public policy within their operation, and given that, the tax exempt status needs to be stripped of the JNF,” Adely said.
Sara Kershnar, founder of the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network and a member of the NLG International Committee, said that she hopes public pressure will compel the IRS to respond to the regulatory challenge.
“We think it’s going to take a lot of public pressure for them to respond. They certainly don’t hesitate to investigate Palestinian and Palestine solidarity organizations when anti-Palestinian rights groups demand that they do. So we’ll see if they are fair and look at all organizations that are questioned,” she said.
According to Kershnar, the IRS might not investigate the JNF because the “IRS is part of the United States government and the United States government is very contradictory with its own policies when it comes to the state of Israel.” However, she believes that if the investigation does happen, the results would be clear.
“If they investigate they will certainly find that the Jewish National Fund’s stated activities are different than their actual activities, and the question is will they enforce their own regulations or are they willing to contradict their own regulations” Kershnar said.
The Stop JNF Campaign is calling for supporters to take part in “Days of Action”, from March 30 to April 18, to pressure the IRS to respond to the regulatory challenge.
The Jewish National Fund did not respond to Palestine in America’s request for comment.