All The Tax-Exempt Charities

Pushback against NYT article commences


In the hours since the New York Times published its 5,000-word blockbuster detailing how U.S. law has allowed more than $200 million to be donated, tax-exempt, to American charities that aid Jewish settlement beyond the Green Line, the dominant and most persuasive counter-narrative to emerge is: Tax law exempts donations to nearly all charities, for reasons that have nothing to do with the particular substance of specific charities’ work.

Or, in the tongue-in-cheek words of Slate blogger Tom Scocca, “The secular government of the United States, barred by fundamental Constitutional principles from involvement in religion, has goals and policies that are not identical to the goals and policies of certain religious organizations in the United States. It is as if the church and the state were somehow separated or something.”

NGO Monitor emailed a press release detailing more than a dozen U.S. charities, for which donations are also tax-exempt, that promote “anti-Israel agendas, demonization, and ‘one state’ policies th[at] single out Israel.” These include the Palestinian Right to Return Coalition, Birthright Unplugged, the Rachel Corrie Foundation, International Solidarity Movement, and Free Gaza Movement. (The Times, as well as my post, noted that donations to this last group, which helped sponsor the flotilla, are tax-exempt).

“The scale of funding for these organizations is at least comparable to the $200 million in donations over the past decade,” NGO Monitor asserts.

The corollary to this counterargument goes like this: Since money that goes to these groups is just as tax-exempt as money that goes to groups with completely opposite agendas; and since, as the article reports, pro-settler charities have been long known to accept tax-exempt funds; then why did the New York Times decide to publish a nearly 5,000-word exposé on the front page on the day that Prime Minister Netanyahu made his first friendly trip to the White House in an unusually long time? That question, of course, answers itself. The follow-up—has the Times earnestly, appropriately attempted to drive the conversation, or inappropriately, non-objectively inserted itself into the conversation?—is something readers will have to answer for themselves.

Religious Groups Do Religious Things [Scocca]
Tax-Exempt Funds Aid Settlements in West Bank [NYT]
Earlier: U.S. Donations to Illegal Outposts Are Tax-Exempt

Obama and Bibi Tag-Team for Friendship

Two happy faces, at least for the press

The two heads-of-state today.(Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)

How often do you hear Mark Twain quoted at a high-level diplomatic summit? Not often enough, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to do his part to fix that: In his brief appearance today at the Oval Office with President Obama, Netanyahu announced that, pace Twain, rumors of the demise of the U.S.-Israel relationship are greatly exaggerated. In fact, they’re “flat wrong.” (Video here; transcript here.)

It was the first joint appearance by the two men in months, and a departure from their recent pattern of press blackouts and leaked reports of snubs. But with Israeli-Turkish relations maybe on the (slow) mend and both the Israelis and the Palestinians making refreshingly positive noises about the prospects for moving from proximity talks to direct peace negotiations, whatever topics Netanyahu and Obama needed to discuss, in “robust” fashion, in private—settlements, Iran, nuclear non-proliferation, the World Cup—were evidently overshadowed by the importance, for both, of giving off the impression of being copacetic.

So, in front of an audience limited to the American and Israeli press pool, they sat side by side, Bibi in a black-and-white striped tie and Obama in a red one, tag-teaming to give sunny responses. Is Netanyahu a partner for peace? “I believe that Prime Minister Netanyahu wants peace. I think he’s willing to take risks for peace,” Obama assured. How quickly will things move now that we’re heading into the last few months of the settlement-construction freeze? “When I say the next few weeks, that’s what I mean. The president means that, too,” Netanyahu insisted.

Netanyahu will meet later this afternoon with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who got on the phone earlier today with Netanyahu’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, and with envoy George Mitchell, before joining Netanyahu and Obama for lunch. Tomorrow, Bibi will be in New York to address Jewish leaders at the Plaza Hotel; we’ll have more for you as the week goes on.

Obama, Netanyahu Promise To Work toward Direct Mideast Peace Talks [WaPo]
Obama-Bibi Reset [Politico]

Related: Personal History [Tablet Magazine]

Going Dutch

As World Cup semis begin, we have a new team

Dutch midfielder Wesley Sneijder celebrates a goal against Brazil last week.(Fabrice Coffrini/AFP/Getty Images)

And then there were four. Going into the quarter-finals, Tablet Magazine was rooting for two teams: Ghana and The Netherlands. Ghana was defeated in painful—but truly painfulfashion by Uruguay, 1-1 on penalty kicks. The Netherlands, on the other hand, made brilliant work of perennial favorite Brazil, 2-1.

Uruguay and The Netherlands play today at 2:30 E.S.T.; Spain and Germany, last week’s other two victors, play tomorrow. It should be obvious which is Tablet Magazine’s team now:

Hup, Holland, Hup!

Earlier: Which Squad You Should Root For

Bris, Sashimi-Style

Morimoto caters elaborate affair

Chef Masaharu Morimoto.(A Very Big-Deal Bris)

Recently, socialites Michael and Julianne Wainstein hosted a bris at a tony Meatpacking District space with a powerful guest list, a special drop-in from Israel’s chief rabbi, and catering by TriBeCa’s Morimoto restaurant.

My first question: Was that restaurant’s famed chef, Masaharu Morimoto, asked to slice and dice anything besides fatty tuna?

My second question: Will bris jokes ever get old?

A Very Big-Deal Bris [Page Six]

Vote on Kagan Any Day Now

Would-be justice still has full Senate to go

Elena Kagan.(Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

Elena Kagan’s confirmation hearings before the Senate Judiciary Committee concluded last week, so now we await the inevitable mostly party-line vote sending her to the full Senate, where there will be a bit more wrangling, filibuster threats, maybe one extra controversy we don’t quite know about yet, a vote, and then, finally, a new Supreme Court justice. For now, let us wallow in the “vapid and hollow” process—her words!

• Politico does the Politico-y thing and says that Kagan’s “vapid and hollow” critique has never rang more true, so doesn’t that make her a hypocrite? (Um, no?) [Politico]

• Endorsements!. [Philadelphia Inquirer; WP; Slate; NYT]

• Jeffrey Rosen notes that Kagan would have the seat once held by Justice Louis D. Brandeis (under the same logic that governs, say, lineal championships in boxing: She would replace Stevens, who replaced Douglas, who replaced Brandeis.) Kagan should model herself after Brandeis, adds Rosen, who “eloquently defended [the] economic and moral justice” of Progressive laws. Brandeis, of course, was the High Court’s first Jew; should Kagan be confirmed, she will be the current Court’s third. [NYT]

• I linked to it last week, but please watch Jon Stewart’s take on the Committee’s questions about her “Upper West Side” background.

The word “Senatize” ought to go in the Oxford English Dictionary: “v.: To make something funny unfunny, stilted, and lasting longer than ten seconds.”

Earlier: Kagan Hearings Kick Off

Today on Tablet

An inconvenient friendship, an enduring dance, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, prominent writer and publisher Jason Epstein details his strange, politically divisive, and strongly enduring friendship with Benzion Netanyahu, the uncompromising proto-Likudnik who is significantly to the right even of his son, the prime minister. Prompted by the comments on her last entry, parenting columnist Marjorie Ingall digs up everything you need to know about “A-Ba-Ni-Bi,” the dance familiar to generations of Jewish-camp-goers. The Scroll knows that “Zum Gali Gali” one.

U.S. Exempts Donations to Illegal Outposts

Policy supports settlements, which gov’t opposes

An ultra-Orthodox family in a northern West Bank settlement.(Bar-On/AFP/Getty Images)

The New York Times has a nearly 5,000-word article sure to provoke conversation amid Prime Minister Netanyahu’s meeting at the White House today. It reports that in the past decade U.S. law has allowed the tax-exempt donation of $200 million to further Jewish settlement in the West Bank and East Jerusalem—which the U.S. government opposes.

Most of the money, which must pass through an American charity to become tax-exempt, goes to established settlements near the Green Line that are permitted under Israeli law; two-state endgames typically envision land-swaps that would place these conurbations in Israel proper.

But, to the consternation even of Israeli security officials, smaller (but impactful) amounts of tax-exempt funds flow to illegal outposts inhabited by radical settlers unlikely to leave without a fight.

The Times isn’t breaking this story; if anything, the news is that this dynamic has long been an open secret. “It drove us crazy,” former U.S. Ambassador Daniel C. Kurtzer says. “It was a thing you didn’t talk about in polite company.”

The article will likely prompt closer looks at and arguments over the current state of Israeli settlements and settlement policy; the Obama administration’s relative friendliness to Israel (or lack thereof); and even The New York Times, which pretty clearly intended to publish the piece on the day that was supposed to culminate the months-long reinforcement of U.S.-Israeli ties.

The piece certainly hits home in the context of the typical locution, “I don’t want my tax money going toward” a given cause. (more…)

Daybreak: The Big Meet

Plus Turkey may cut ties, Turkey maintains ties, and more in the news

Netanyahu at the U.S. Ambassador’s residence last week.(Oded Balilty-Pool- Getty Images)

• Today’s the day: Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Obama will meet at the White House; the ensuing discussion and, especially, photo-op are meant to reinforce the countries’ strong ties. [WP]

• U.S. tax law has exempted more than $200 million in donations to U.S. charities that fund Jewish settlements, including illegal outposts. Much more at 10 am. [NYT]

• In advance of the White House meeting, Israel published a list of items now banned from Gaza (before, it published a stricter list of items allowed), and Defense Minister Barak met with Prime Minister Fayyad. [NYT]

• Turkey’s foreign minister explicitly said his country would sever ties if Israel neither apologized for the flotilla raid nor accepted an international probe. [WP]

• Yet there is still substantial trade and even military cooperation between the two countries. [NYT]

• An Arabic daily reported that Palestinian President Abbas offered a land-swap deal to U.S. envoy George Mitchell under which Israel would keep sovereignty over Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter, including the Western Wall. [Haaretz]

Sundown: Fayyad’s Failures

Plus mathematician rejects prize money, and more

Grigori Perelman at work.(Facebook)

Tablet Magazine and The Scroll will be dark on Monday in honor of the Independence Day.

• Amid the almost impossible amount of adoration for Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad (look, the guy is in many ways great, but you would think he walks on water), here is an alternate take. [Carnegie Endowment for International Peace]

• Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev became the first Russian head-of-state to visit Birobidjan, the capital city of the Jewish Autonomous Oblast. [ Iz Neias?]

• Russian mathematician Grigori “Grisha” Perelman, rejected a $1 million prize for solving the Poincaré conjecture. Um, can I have it? [NYT]

• Something, or someone, is wrong when indie rock acts start boycotting Israel. [Jewcy]

• Jon Stewart compiles Republican euphemisms for Elena Kagan’s religious background. [Daily Intel]

• Anti-Semitism in Red Dead Redemption. [Heeb]

Signing off for three days, from—where else?—Politics & Prose. Happy Fourth!

A Children’s Treasury of Mocking Mel Gibson

Like a roast, except not good-natured


We may soon be able to hear Mel Gibson tell the mother of his child that he hopes she gets raped by a gang of black-people-who-are-themselves-lower-forms-of-life. Apparently his ex-girlfriend recorded 30 minutes (30 minutes!) of ranting from Mad Mel. Figure a conservative estimate of three racial epithets per minute, and you’re approaching 100 different colorful ways for Gibson to refer to his fellow human beings.

While you await this smorgasbord of hatred, three items are worth your attention:

• Tablet Magazine contributing editor Ben Greenman—author of the new What He’s Poised To Do—has reposted fragments from Mel! The Musical, which first appeared in 2006. []

• Foster Kamer has a truly ingenious Mel Gibson Quoteable Flow Chart. See what Gibson would say to you! [Village Voice]

• If you have made it to this point in your life without seeing South Park’s “The Passion of the Jew,” today is the day to take 20 minutes and, y’know, rectify that. [South Park Studios]

Larry King’s New Business

You’re not going to believe this

Larry King.(Wikipedia)

Departing CNN host Larry King has a new gig lined up: He recently invested in the Florida-based Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company, which sells technology that enables someone anywhere to replicate Brooklyn tap water for the purpose of making authentic Brooklyn bagels.

Wait, what???

Yes, this company exists. Its apologia pro vita sua reads:

As anyone who has ever been in the New York area knows, Brooklyn bagels have a unique taste and quality. Over many decades, there have been countless attempts, even by experienced New York bagel bakers, to recreate a true “New York bagel” in other cities around the country.

However, no matter how valiant the effort, no one has successfully re-created a true New York bagel until now. The one ingredient with the greatest effect has been missing, which is authentic New York water. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE WATER! The purity, quality and temperature of New York City’s world renowned water completes the perfect recipe for bagels, and replicating the New York water to make the perfect New York bagel has become the holy grail of bagel bakers outside of New York.

The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company’s patented water treatment technology system provides the following unique and key competitive advantages:

• Enables the replication of Brooklyn water– the key ingredient necessary to create the nation’s finest bagel anywhere in the world.

• Designed to provide maintenance-free operation for the franchisee via satellite monitoring of each store’s water system to ensure consistent quality.

• Able to assist local residents, offering up to five gallons of water free, when a boil-water alert is declared.

With this technology, The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company can firmly state that “it’s all about the water.”

I have no words. There are no words.

Larry King Heading Into Bagel Biz; Will He Have To Answer to Nate n’ Al? [Deadline New York]
The Original Brooklyn Water Bagel Company

Does Israel Belong at Gay Pride?

Upcoming Toronto parade begs question

Pride in Israel, 2009.(Flickr)

You’d have to be living on a small, Jew-less island not to know that Jewish communities around the globe are defining and redefining themselves through their orientations toward Israel (hello, Pittsburgh!). What might be less obvious is that, on a smaller scale, LGBT communities are, too.

Exhibit A, at the moment, is a fracas going on in Toronto, which will host its 30th annual Pride parade on Sunday, July 4 (because Canadians hate America). Back in April, the city of Toronto threatened to revoke funding from Toronto Pride if a group called Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (which has participated in previous years) was allowed to march in the parade; a month later, Toronto Pride’s board of directors banned the group. Last week, though, after community members who are being honored at the event announced that they would not accept their awards unless this group was allowed back in, Toronto Pride reversed its ruling—and the outcry switched again to the other side. (more…)

Netherlands Defeats Brazil

The Scroll is one for one today


Well, the guy holding the Israeli flag appears to be a Brazil fan, at least judging by his yellow shirt. But Tablet Magazine’s team in this morning’s match was the Netherlands, and the Netherlands prevailed, 2-1, to advance to the semifinals.

Next, at 2:30 E.S.T.: Ghana v. Uruguay. Go Black Stars!

Earlier: Which Squad You Should Root For

Secret Meeting Sparks Furor

FM Lieberman feuds with PM Netanyahu

Prime Minister Netanyahu earlier this week.(Dan Balilty - Pool/Getty Images)

Quick recap of Israel’s insane coalition politics: Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman and his Yisrael Beiteinu want to pull the government to the right; opposition leader Tzipi Livni and her Kadima would maybe join the government on the condition of replacing Lieberman; Prime Minister Netanyahu needs Lieberman to shore up the right at home, but while Lieberman is Israel’s top diplomat in name, in practice the country’s chief representative to the outside world has been the far more venerable and moderate Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

Bibi’s double books exploded this week with revelations of a secret meeting (for “secret,” read “behind Lieberman’s back”) between Turkey’s foreign minister and Israel’s industry minister in Zurich over the flotilla fallout. So the Turkish foreign minister met not with his Israeli counterpart, as diplomatic protocol would have it, but with Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer—a member of, yup, Barak’s Labor Party. (more…)

Today on Tablet

Zionism goes viral, Jew v. Klan, and more


Today in Tablet Magazine, Irin Carmon gets to the bottom of that pro-Israel Latin American YouTube video you’ve probably seen. In honor of the Fourth, Marc Grossman tells of the time his little Jewish grandmother stood up to the Klan. In his weekly haftorah column, Liel Leibovitz reminds us that we are not promised an easy ride, particularly if we seek justice. And The Scroll will take you into the long weekend.

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