Should Education for Just Peace in the Middle East be Tax Exempt?
by Bill Levinson
Education for Just Peace in the Middle East is the parent organization of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. As we showed recently, it is trying to orchestrate an international boycott of Israel. Our understanding of the anti-boycott laws are that an organized boycott of any nation friendly to the United States is illegal if it is done in cooperation with a foreign government. (It’s not illegal to boycott any country or business on your own, and we try to avoid buying anything made in China. Only if one coordinates or cooperates with a foreign government do legal problems seem to arise.) We encourage anyone who attends the 6th Annual National Organizers’ Conference at George Mason University to obtain hard evidence of any such cooperation, assuming that it is indeed taking place. We will then forward it, along with a copy of the Web page displayed below, to the appropriate places. Continue reading this article »« Fold this article up
We are not attorneys and cannot give legal advice, but we can provide a link to what the U.S. Government has to say. Note that Education for Just Peace is a corporate “person.”
The antiboycott laws were adopted to encourage, and in specified cases, require U.S. firms to refuse to participate in foreign boycotts that the United States does not sanction. They have the effect of preventing U.S. firms from being used to implement foreign policies of other nations which run counter to U.S. policy.
The Arab League boycott of Israel is the principal foreign economic boycott that U.S. companies must be concerned with today. The antiboycott laws, however, apply to all boycotts imposed by foreign countries that are unsanctioned by the United States.
Who Is Covered by the Laws?
The antiboycott provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) apply to all “U.S. persons,” defined to include individuals and companies located in the United States and their foreign affiliates. These persons are subject to the law when their activities relate to the sale, purchase, or transfer of goods or services (including information) within the United States or between the U.S. and a foreign country. This covers U.S. exports and imports, financing, forwarding and shipping, and certain other transactions that may take place wholly offshore.
Generally, the TRA applies to all U.S. taxpayers (and their related companies). The TRA’s reporting requirements apply to taxpayers’ “operations” in, with, or related to boycotting countries or their nationals. Its penalties apply to those taxpayers with foreign tax credit, foreign subsidiary deferral, FSC (Foreign Sales Corporation), and IC-DISC (Interest Charge-Domestic International Sales Corporation) benefits.
What do the Laws Prohibit?
Conduct that may be penalized under the TRA and/or prohibited under the EAR includes:
* Agreements to refuse or actual refusal to do business with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
* Agreements to discriminate or actual discrimination against other persons based on race, religion, sex, national origin or nationality.
* Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about business relationships with or in Israel or with blacklisted companies.
* Agreements to furnish or actual furnishing of information about the race, religion, sex, or national origin of another person.
Implementing letters of credit containing prohibited boycott terms or conditions.
The TRA does not “prohibit” conduct, but denies tax benefits (”penalizes”) for certain types of boycott-related agreements.
Restrictive Trade Practices or Boycotts
(a) Refusals to do business
PROHIBITION AGAINST REFUSALS TO DO BUSINESS
(1) No United States person may: refuse, knowingly agree to refuse, require any other person to refuse, or knowingly agree to require any other person to refuse, to do business with or in a boycotted country, with any business concern organized under the laws of a boycotted country, with any national or resident of a boycotted country, or with any other person, when such refusal is pursuant to an agreement with the boycotting country, or a requirement of the boycotting country, or a request from or on behalf of the boycotting country.
It looks like what we need to do is obtain evidence (if such evidence actually exists, and that is what we are asking our friends to look for) that Education for Just Peace in the Middle East is cooperating with a foreign government–and steering committee member Huwaida Arraf has said in a letter to the editor that the International Solidarity Movement has contacts with Hamas, a hostile foreign “government.” In addition, any person, corporate or otherwise, that is thinking about cooperating with the “international boycott of Israel” should be cognizant of the following.
(4) A United States person’s use of either a boycott-based list of persons with whom he will not deal (a so-called “blacklist”) or a boycott-based list of persons with whom he will deal (a so-called “whitelist”) constitutes a refusal to do business.
U.S. persons are reminded that requests that are on their face boycott-related or that are for action obviously in furtherance or support of an unsanctioned foreign boycott are subject to the Regulations, irrespective of the country or origin. For example, requests containing references to “blacklisted companies”, “Israel boycott list”, “non-Israeli goods” or other phrases or words indicating boycott purpose would be subject to the appropriate provisions of the Department’s antiboycott regulations.
In addition, we need to examine Education for Just Peace’s discussions of civil disobedience. Do these rise to the level necessary to disqualify the group from being tax exempt according to Rev Rule 75-384, “ACTIVITIES THAT ARE ILLEGAL OR CONTRARY TO PUBLIC POLICY?” This IRS rule says,
Not only is the actual conduct of illegal activities inconsistent with exemption, but the planning and sponsoring of such activities are also incompatible with charity and social welfare. Rev.Rul.75-384 holds that an organization formed to promote world peace that planned and sponsored protest demonstrations at which members were urged to commit acts of civil disobedience did not qualify for IRC 501(c)(3) or (4) exemption. G.C.M.36153, dated January 31,1975, states that because planning and sponsoring illegal acts are in themselves inconsistent with charity and social welfare it is not necessary to determine whether illegal acts were, in fact, committed in connection with the resulting demonstrations or whether such a determination can be made prior to conviction of an accused. However, it is necessary to establish that the planning and sponsorship are attributable to the organization, if exemption is to be denied or revoked on this ground.
Education for Just Peace has, as far as we know, not orchestrated any acts of civil disobedience directly the way the Muslim-American Society has, but there is plenty of material on its Web site that discusses civil disobedience.
Civil disobedience is non-violent direct action that could end in arrest.
• Common forms of civil disobedience are sit-ins or administrative “take overs.” Before you plan any civil disobedience be sure that you have chosen a date, event and action that are noteworthy. Each person participating in the action should have a “support person” who will be responsible for taking care of school, work, family, and media issues for them. Have a media team that will not be participating in the “arrestable” part of the action send out a press release right before it happens and then run video tapes and press statements to news channels afterwards. Contact the media. Establish channels to get the word out about civil disobedience and possible arrest ahead of time (i.e. e-mail lists or phone trees) and provide phone/fax numbers of City Council and the police department for concerned individuals to call and demand you be treated fairly and released. Be sure to select members of your group that are not participating in the action to advocate for you among the student body and be in charge of media.
• Get trained. Before participating in civil disobedience it will be important to be properly trained. There are a number of organizations that provide free or inexpensive non-violent resistance training. It is also essential that everyone participating in the action has agreed on what you are going to do- play out different scenarios and decide what your collective response will be in the different situations. When one person acts out in the moment, everyone’s safety is compromised. Role-playing and practice is important. So is keeping things confidential so that the police won’t find out ahead of time and show up before you do.
These are a few groups that give trainings. They will also be able to point you to more training opportunities or groups in you area . . .
• Be smart. Before participating or planning civil disobedience get in contact with a lawyer at the National Layers Guild or the American Civil Liberties Union to know your rights and what you or members of your group are getting into. Check Out: www.aclu.org, www.nlg.org, and www.midnightspecial.net. Before your action, decide together what you will or will not say to the police if you get arrested- the police are legally allowed to lie in order to manipulate people so get your stories straight with each other.
Depending on the position of your Members of Congress, local organizers should decide whether a protest, vigil, meeting, or nonviolent civil disobedience is the most effective way to express opposition to U.S. support for Israel’s attacks.
The latter does not, however, mean that Education for Just Peace in the Middle East has actually orchestrated an act of civil disobedience, which is probably what is needed to challenge its 501(c)(3) tax exemption. If any of our friends can provide evidence that US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation has orchestrated or planned acts of civil disobedience, please send it to us and/or
Internal Revenue Service
Exempt Organizations Examination Division
1100 Commerce Street
Dallas, TX 75242
(Be sure to mention that Education for Just Peace in the Middle East is the actual corporate entity.) Meanwhile, the following looks interesting:
http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=1142. This is the same conference that will be taking place at George Mason University this week:
4th Annual National Organizers’ Conference
US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation
July 29—August 1, 2005, Atlanta, GA
Civil Disobedience: There were many suggestions, either as direct confrontation with CAT, or as part of a campaign to boycott/divest. In addition to sit-ins, etc. some ideas were encampments on the lawns of CAT board members, blocking work at construction sites using CAT equipment, sit-ins in CAT corporate offices, continuous autonomous actions in Peoria, etc.
Boycotts and divestment: It was felt that we should work for CAT-free-zones all over the country, pushing boycotts and/or divestment on every entity that builds/owns stock. There was also support for approaching Arab and Muslim contractors here and abroad, as well as the Arab League and various governments to boycott CAT equipment. These boycotts should also include CAT clothing lines.
Any attorneys want to weigh in on whether the above statement could be construed as attempting to orchestrate boycott activities in cooperation with the Arab League?