Only hours before Israeli PM Netanyahu’s White House meeting with US President Obama, the New York Times published a major story “Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank“.
The report stated that US Treasury tax breaks have helped West Bank settlers to receive $200 million in tax-free funding from American donors and that it is actually easier to fund settlement outposts that are illegal under Israeli law through the US than Israel due to differences in the law.
The report pinpointed at least 40 American groups that have raised over $200 million in tax-deductible gifts for Jewish settlers in the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem over the past decade.
The settlement enterprise is not a consensus issue even amongst Israel’s supporters and we do not intend to address the issue here. However, we were suspicious of the timing of the release of this story. Did the New York Times deliberately set out to create a new bone of contention between Obama and Netanyahu to further strain relations?
Collusion by the NY Times?
More disturbingly, research by NGO Monitor and a number of bloggers notes that the NY Times report bears a strong resemblance to a campaign launched by the radical left-wing Gush Shalom organization a full year ago, as well as numerous similar statements by members of the radical Israeli NGO network.
In a confidential July 2009 memo, somewhat bizarrely publicly reproduced on an anti-Zionist blog site, Gush Shalom outlines a campaign that:
includes a combination of legal action and public advocacy aimed at denying federal tax exempt (501c3) status to US charities supporting settlement activity. Prioritized first will be organizations directly and openly supporting development and operation of illegal outposts and the Israeli NGOs associated with them.
Gush Shalom doesn’t stop there however, targeting mainstream organizations such as the Jewish National Fund, World Zionist Organization and Nefesh B’Nefesh.
Of personal concern to HonestReporting is the targeting of what Gush Shalom refers to as:
a third group of US organizations — those supporting policies enabling illegal settlement activity through propaganda campaigns. These include, among many others, groups such Stand With Us and The Israel Project.
The organizations mentioned above as well as HonestReporting of course seek to explain Israeli policies and to advocate on Israel’s behalf in the face of a coordinated campaign of demonization and delegitimization. It is a far cry, however, from Gush Shalom’s outrageous description of “American organizations actively engaged in undermining US foreign policy.“
Double Standards and Selective Omission
We were also concerned at the double standards of the New York Times. The paper highlighted a number of non-profit organizations fundraising in the US for settlement causes, many of which are not regarded as part of the mainstream Israeli political consensus.
In light of the above evidence, it is not surprising that the NY Times chose, however, to pay lip service to the many radical non-governmental organizations (NGOs), both Israeli and Palestinian that have also taken advantage of US tax-deductions and federal tax exempt 501(c)(3) status to fund campaigns against Israel that the US government would also certainly not approve of.
The article notes that Americans who give to pro-Palestinian NGOs also receive tax breaks. It claims though, that the settlement issue stands out because of its centrality to the current negotiations. That explanation, however, ignores the fact that some pro-Palestinian NGOs are actively promoting a one state solution or working to delegitimize Israel internationally, undermining the peace process entirely and, with it, US foreign policy.
Addressing this very issue, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor commented:
Many organizations use US tax-exempt status to oppose Israeli government policy, and some are among the leaders of campaigns to demonize and wage political war against Israel. …the article should not have been restricted to reflect a narrow and tendentious political position.
NGOs with 501(c)(3) status that promote anti-Israel agendas, demonization, and “one state” policies that single out Israel include:
Free Gaza Movement
Rachel Corrie Foundation
Palestinian Right to Return Coalition
Deir Yassin Remembered
and a host of other radical groups.
Why has the New York Times become the politicized vehicle for an organization such as Gush Shalom? Has the NY Times willingly allowed itself to be the weapon in the opening salvo of a campaign that seeks to delegitimize not only charitable activities on behalf of Israeli settlements but even those mainstream organizations with US 501(c)(3) status such as HonestReporting that are involved in absolutely transparent and legitimate activities.
Is this why the NY Times failed to concern itself with the radical organizations mentioned by NGO Monitor that have made full use of their US tax-exempt status to attack Israel? Indeed, how much of the NY Times’s supposed investigative journalism was merely fed to its reporters by representatives of NGOs pushing a politicized agenda that fits with that of the NY Times?