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The Day In Israel: Thurs Nov 25th, 2010

Given that it is Thanksgiving, it seems appropriate that my lead story should be Turkey-related.

Not that we should be thanking them for anything.

Erdogan HaririTurkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived for an official two-day visit in Lebanon Wednesday. Referring once again the IDF flotilla raid in May, he called on Israel to “quit its incitement and stop casting a shadow on peace”.

“We want peace, justice, calm, and security,” Erdogan told his hosts in the presence of reporters. “Turkey will continue to cry out against tyranny and in favor of protection of rights as long as there are people engaging in piracy out at sea. We will protect the innocent, the oppressed, and those whose rights have been squashed.”

Erdogan added that Turkey would aspire to protect the rights of the residents of east Jerusalem and Gaza. “Israel must understand that when there is peace and security in the region, it will benefit as well. If there is war, its civilians will be harmed along with the rest of the region’s citizens,” he said.

And speaking about Thanksgiving, I’m pretty thankful for this.    

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)

3:46PM: More Turkish trash talk:

Turkey will not remain silent if Israel attacks Lebanon or Gaza, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in Beirut on Thursday, as ties between the longtime allies remained at an all-time low.

“Does (Israel) think it can enter Lebanon with the most modern aircraft and tanks to kill women and children, and destroy schools and hospitals, and then expect us to remain silent?” Erdogan said at a conference organised by the Union of Arab Banks.

“Does it think it can use the most modern weapons, phosphorus munitions and cluster bombs to kill children in Gaza and then expect us to remain silent? “We will not be silent and we will support justice by all means available to us.”

The Armenians were unavailable for comment.

1:22PM: Following on from the article in the last update, if you are wondering what the F-35’s vertical takeoff and landing looks like, wonder no longer.

1:12PM: According to this Ynet article, the IDF is stronger than ever, with new developments granting Israel unprecedented military advantage over her enemies.

9:48AM: Sheikh Fawzi al-Zifzaf, chairman of the permanent committee for dialogue at Al-Azhar University in Cairo (the oldest Islamic university in the world) has issued a proclamation lifting an ancient ban on dialogue with Jews.

He said he hoped Tuesday’s announcement would pave the way for better ties between Jews and Muslims.

“The way that we’ve framed it, it’s a bit like dating,” the spokesman said of the declaration.

“We have texted the Jewish world, and we’re waiting for rabbis in Europe and the US to respond. Out of that response we are hoping that there might emerge regular, stable dialogue on the highest level.”

Ok, so they can now text us. But are they allowed to speak with us face-to-face?

9:36AM: Via the IDF Spokesperson Twitter channel:

IDF finds 12cm+7cm knives on Palestinians at security check in Hebron.

Looks like someone’s planning a large Thanksgiving Turkey.

6:08AM: Z Street, an organization devoted to pro-Israel public education, has filed in federal court its opposition to what it calls “the government’s effort to continue violating the US Constitution by discriminating against the organization because its views on Israel and the Middle East differ from those of this government.”

A Pennsylvania Jewish group that has claimed the Internal Revenue Service is targeting pro-Israel groups introduced in federal court today a letter from an IRS agent to another, unnamed organization that tax experts said was likely outside the usual or appropriate scope of an IRS inquiry.

Does your organization support the existence of the land of Israel?” IRS agent Tracy Dornette wrote the organization, according to this week’s court filing, as part of its consideration of the organizations application for tax exempt status. “Describe your organization’s religious belief sytem toward the land of Israel.”

The document emerged in the course of a lawsuit filed in August by Z Street, a hawkish group that casts itself as the Zionist answer to the liberal J Street. Z Street claims that a different IRS agent reviewing its application for tax exempt status said the agency is “carefully scrutinizing organizations that are in any way connected with Israel” and that “a special unit” is determining whether its activities “contradict the Administration’s public policies.'”

The IRS can deny tax exempt status to groups that work against “established public policy,” a precedent established in its denial of a tax exemption to Bob Jones University over racial discrimination, and Z Street is suggesting that the IRS has begun applying some such policy to pro-Israel groups. The State Department has complained of tax exempt contributions to groups that fund weapons and equipment for West Bank settlers, which Z Street co-founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus said Z Street has never come close to doing.

“Given that we have fallen within this net, how big is the net?” she asked.

The agent’s question was contained in correspondence with “a Jewish religious organization” with no stated position on Israel, Z Street says in its court filing. The group’s tax adviser, Z Street says, shared the correspondence with Z Street. Z Street does not know the name of the group and may subpoena the tax adviser, who is no longer cooperating with them, for more information, Marcus said.

Several experts on non-profit tax law said the questions to the organization were unusual, at best, though they were also skeptical of the claim that the IRS is specifically targeting pro-Israel groups.

“The claims go far beyond what should be the IRS’s role,” said Paul Caron a University of Cincinnati law professor and the author of TaxProf Blog.

Ellen Aprill, a law professor at Loyola University in Los Angeles said the second question was “appropriate” in the context of an application seeking a tax exemption on religious grounds.

“The first one is not the way I would want any of my agents to do it,” she said.

Former I.R.S. Commissioner Sheldon Cohen said he was skeptical of Z Street’s motives in its high-profile lawsuit, rather than pursuing its concerns in tax court.

“They were hardly into the process when they screamed rape – nobody lifted the dress yet,” he said, noting that 501(c)3 groups can’t advocate for political positions.

But he called the specific questions “unusual.”

“I’ve never seen that kind of inquiry,” he said.

And Ofer Lion, a California tax lawyer, said he thought the question was probably the work of a misguided agent.

“People who work in the field and have done a lot of these applications have seen these bizarre questions shot back at them more than once,” he said.

Z Street maintains, however, that the questions are more evidence of a broader policy targeting pro-Israel groups. The organization claims that the agency is “improperly considering the political viewpoint of applicants” and engaging in “clear viewpoint discrimination.”

The IRS has sought to dismiss Z Street’s claim on technical grounds. A spokesman said he couldn’t immediately comment on the new filing; in August, a spokesman said he couldn’t comment on an ongoing case.

You can read the document they filed here.

About the author

Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
Picture of David Lange

David Lange

A law school graduate, David Lange transitioned from work in the oil and hi-tech industries into fulltime Israel advocacy. He is a respected commentator and Middle East analyst who has often been cited by the mainstream media
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