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ZOA Criticizes U.S. Government For Giving Tax Breaks To Donors To Hamas-Supporting Viva Palestina

Obama Admin. Ignoring Complaints from

ZOA, Steve Emerson, and Congressional Members

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) criticized the U.S. government for allowing citizens to take a tax deduction for their donations to Viva Palestina, a group that has been providing money and other material support to the terrorist group Hamas in violation of federal law. The ZOA has already expressed deep concern that the U.S. government has failed to investigate Viva Palestina, despite substantial evidence that funds were solicited for Viva Palestina at the University of California, Irvine (UC Irvine) and other U.S. venues, and that Viva Palestina – while claiming to be a humanitarian effort to help the people of Gaza – has been furnishing money and other resources to Hamas in Gaza. Federal law prohibits providing material support and resources to organizations, like Hamas, that have been designated as “Foreign Terrorist Organizations” by the U.S. government.

Beginning in September 2009 and for months thereafter, the ZOA provided disturbing and even frightening information to the Justice Department about Viva Palestina, which should have immediately prompted the Justice Department to investigate whether federal anti-terrorism laws were being violated. The ZOA sent the Justice Department videotape footage showing that funds were solicited for Viva Palestina at UC Irvine on May 21, 2009, by members of a student group called the Muslim Student Union and by the leader of Viva Palestina, George Galloway, an extremist British politician and Israel-basher. The ZOA informed the Justice Department that there were numerous witnesses to this on-campus fundraising who were willing to come forward. In a letter to the ZOA, the Justice Department acknowledged receipt of the ZOA’s information, but did not seek the contact information for these witnesses.

In addition to the information about what occurred at UC Irvine, the ZOA furnished the Justice Department with evidence of Viva Palestina’s support of Hamas. When Galloway arrived in Gaza with the Viva Palestina convoy in March 2009, he gave a public address that was broadcast on Arab television and is widely available on the Internet. In the presence of several senior Hamas officials, Galloway publicly proclaimed, “We are giving you now 100 vehicles and all of the contents, and we make no apology for what I am about to say: We are giving them to the elected government of Palestine [i.e., Hamas], to Prime Minister Ismail Haniya. Here is the money. This is not charity. This is politics” [emphasis added].

In addition, the ZOA provided the Justice Department with evidence that when a Viva Palestina convoy went to Gaza again in July 2009, it again furnished support and resources to Hamas. A rapper known as M1 of Dead Prez was interviewed about his experience on that convoy; his interview was available on line. The rapper said, “What I saw happening was we were giving our resources toward the government of Gaza [i.e., Hamas].”

The ZOA also furnished the Justice Department with a 31-page report about Viva Palestina, which was prepared by nationally-recognized terrorist expert Steve Emerson’s Investigative Project on Terrorism (IPT). The IPT report documents that Viva Palestina’s objective is not charitable but to provide support to Hamas.

Despite all this evidence, there is no indication that the Justice Department initiated an investigation into Viva Palestina and its supporters. The ZOA simply received two letters from the Justice Department acknowledging receipt of information, without any commitment that the Justice Department would be investigating.

On September 28, 2010, Stephen Landman of the IPT testified at a hearing before the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. Landman stated that Viva Palestina “has openly used its resources to prop up the terrorist organization’s [i.e., Hamas’] government in the Gaza Strip.” He testified that over the past two years, Viva Palestina “has continued to flout U.S. terror-financing laws, raising over $200,000 for ‘humanitarian efforts’ at events” in Dallas, Houston, Orlando, Brooklyn, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Overland Park, Kansas. Landman described Viva Palestina’s fundraising for Hamas as “the most brazenly seen” violation of anti-terrorist financing in the U.S. (See description of Landman’s testimony in “Donations to Terrorists are Tax Deductible,” International Business Times, Sept. 29, 2010.)

In October 2009, the ZOA wrote to several members of Congress, alerting them to the fundraising for Viva Palestina at UC Irvine and the alarming possibility that this campus, and possibly others, were used as a base for fundraising for the terrorist group Hamas in violation of U.S. law. In response, U.S. Representative Brad Sherman (D-CA) took action. In December 2009, Congressman Sherman wrote to the Justice Department, as well as to the Department of State and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), urging the government to investigate Viva Palestina’s conduct. In his letter to the IRS, Congressman Sherman reported Viva Palestina’s partnership with an organization called the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organizations/Pastors for Peace (IFCO), whereby donations made to IFCO are then passed along to Viva Palestina. IFCO is a (501)(c)(3) tax-exempt organization and thus donations to the organization are tax deductible. Congressman Sherman urged the IRS to investigate, to determine “whether IFCO has (or has not) acted as fundraising conduit for Viva Palestina.” On information and belief, the IRS has taken no action in response.

The ZOA also alerted U.S. Representative Sue Myrick (R-NC ), the founder of the bipartisan congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus, who also took action. In January 2010, Congresswoman Myrick wrote to Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, calling on the Treasury Department to designate Viva Palestina as a supporter of a Foreign Terrorist Organization, thereby preventing this group from continuing to provide material and/or financial aid to Hamas.

To date, there is no indication that the Treasury Department, the IRS or the Justice Department has taken any action in response to the disturbing evidence about Viva Palestina. Even more egregious, supporters of this pro-terrorist group are being rewarded because our government is giving them tax breaks for their donations to Hamas-supporting Viva Palestina that are made through IFCO.

Morton A. Klein, the ZOA’s National President, and Susan B. Tuchman, Esq., the Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, said, “It is appalling and unacceptable that the U.S. government is being so complacent in response to evidence about Viva Palestina and its ongoing flouting of U.S. anti-terrorism laws. Last April, Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss the work of the Justice Department. He specifically acknowledged the ‘unprecedented threats’ facing our country. Attorney General Holder acknowledged the pledge that he made to every member of that Senate committee, even before he took the oath of office, to ‘vigorously’ combat terrorism and ‘enforce our laws in a non-partisan manner.’ Attorney General Holder also acknowledged that he had promised that ‘the Justice Department would lead with strength and by example, and that we would use every tool available to keep the American people safe.’

“In its abysmal response to Viva Palestina’s terror-supporting activities, the Justice Department has failed on every count and let the American people down. If our government were truly committed to enforcing our laws and combating terrorism, it would have immediately and vigorously investigated Viva Palestina and held it accountable for any illegal conduct. In addition, U.S. taxpayers who contribute to Viva Palestina, whether directly or indirectly, would never have been permitted to abuse our tax system by getting a tax break for their contributions.

“The ZOA praises Congressman Sherman and Congresswoman Myrick for pressuring the U.S. government to put a stop to Viva Palestina’s terror-supporting activities. Each and every one of us who are committed to the war against terrorism must call on our lawmakers to speak out and make it clear to the Obama administration that we simply won’t tolerate the conduct of Viva Palestina and its supporters anymore.

“Why is the Obama administration allowing this terrorist-supporting group to receive tax-deductible funds? Why isn’t the administration investigating the group’s activities and prosecuting its unlawful conduct? Is the Obama administration serious about fighting Islamist terrorism or not?”

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