On Palestinian Land Day, the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) submitted a regulatory challenge to the IRS requesting an investigation into the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) on grounds of discrimination and contravention of U.S. policy.
In a legal complaint accompanying the regulatory challenge, the NLG outlined several reasons why the IRS should revoke the JNF’s tax-exempt status, including the fact that the organization does not have a charitable purpose and engages in activities that violate US policy and international law.
The regulatory challenge is part of a larger international Stop the JNF Campaign that seeks to end the JNF’s role in Israel’s continuing displacement of Palestinians. Efforts targeting the JNF are part of a growing boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. The campaign is calling for people to take part in Days of Action from March 30-April 18 (Tax Day) to pressure the IRS to respond to the regulatory challenge and launch an investigation into the JNF.
The JNF’s mandate is to promote racist and discriminatory policies such as forcibly displacing Palestinians from their lands to make way for Jewish-only housing developments, including inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders.. The JNF’s support for settlement activity in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem also means its activities violate longstanding official U.S. policies against settlements, as well as international law.
“The IRS has an obligation to revoke the JNF’s status because of its involvement in displacing Palestinian Bedouins from the Negev Desert and elsewhere, and because of its support for illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” said Andrew Dalack, one of the co-chairs of the NLG’s Palestine Subcommittee and member of the Guild’s International Committee. ”How can the IRS certify with a straight face that the JNF is organized for a charitable purpose when it engages in conduct that violates international law and well-established U.S. foreign policy?“
Founded in 1901, the JNF is a quasi-governmental Israeli agency that has played a major role in the dispossession of the Palestinians people, planting forests to help cover the reality of the more than 400 Palestinian towns and villages destroyed when Israel was created in 1948. Today the JNF continues to play an important role in the dispossession of Palestinians in both Israel and the occupied territories.
“The JNF and it’s Transfer Department in the early 1900s was responsible for removing Palestinians from Palestine,” said Kristin Szremski, director of media and communications for American Muslims for Palestine. “And today the JNF is still planting forests to erase those depopulated Palestinian villages and helping to establish settlements on Palestinian land, in direct contravention of U.S policy and international law. They should not have tax-exempt status.”
The complaint was filed on Land Day because on this day Palestinians commemorate the day in 1976 when Israeli troops killed six Palestinian citizens of Israel who were peacefully protesting the appropriation of their land.
“For nearly 70 years Palestinians have been resisting Israel’s continued theft of our land,” said Nick Sous of the US Palestinian Community Network. “So many Palestinians have been directly impacted by Israel’s stealing their land with the support of the JNF and it is shameful that the IRS actually awards people who donate to support these illegal actions by allowing them to get a tax write-off.”
“One can find little blue JNF boxes in many Jewish households and so many of us put our pennies and dimes into them because we were told we were contributing money to a worthy cause,” said Sylvia Schwarz, of the Stop the JNF Campaign and a Fallen Donor. “We were not told that the JNF is instrumental in removing Palestinians from their homes and denying them their right of return. There is nothing charitable about this.”
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