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Monday, November 29, 2010     GET REAL

IRS questioned pro-Israel group as to 'whether it supports the existence of Israel'

WASHINGTON — American Jewish groups that seek tax-exempt status have been questioned on their attitude toward Israel.


A new Jewish group denied tax exempt status has asserted that other organizations were being questioned by the Internal Revenue Service on their attitude toward Israel. Z Street, which describes itself as a pro-Israeli educational group, has filed a complaint in U.S. federal court that charged the IRS with discrimination.

"We have provided evidence that another organization seeking charitable exemption status was asked by the IRS, in writing, in connection with its application, whether it supports the existence of Israel, and what that organization's religious beliefs are about Israel," Z Street president Lori Lowenthal Marcus said.

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In 2010, the IRS refused to process Z Street's application for tax exemption, Middle East Newsline reported. The IRS was said to have acknowledged that it operated a unit that investigated pro-Israeli groups.

"Engaging in clear viewpoint discrimination, the IRS has explicitly told Z Street, the plaintiff in this case, that it is making this inquiry to determine whether the organization's viewpoints about Israel conflict with positions taken by the current presidential administration," Z Street said in a motion in U.S. federal district court in Philadelphia. "The complaint identifies this practice as the IRS's 'Israel Special Policy.' "

Ms. Marcus said another unidentified Jewish group has also been questioned about its attitude toward Israel. She said the other group focused on Judaism rather than politics and was not involved in lobbying for Israel.

"The other organization is a Jewish one with a religious focus and has nothing to do with Israel at all," Ms. Marcus said. "There is something very serious, and very wrong, in the process the IRS is using to allocate tax exempt determinations, and Z Street is committed to exposing and righting that wrong."

The Z Street motion said the unidentified Jewish group was asked whether it supports "the existence of the land of Israel." The IRS also demanded the "organization's religious belief system towards the land of Israel."

On Nov. 22, Z Street filed a complaint in federal court that charged the IRS with violation of the constitution. The government, in its response, was quoted as saying that it could violate the constitution until it chooses otherwise.

"As every American knows, the U.S. government is bound by the constitution, and it can be hailed into court and ordered to cease unconstitutional action whether it consents or not," Ms. Marcus said. "This evasive measure simply compounds the unconstitutional process by which our effort to achieve tax-exempt status has been, and is being, reviewed."

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