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.