December 10, 2010

A Bribe for Which Both Parties Will Pay

Your December 3 editorial, “A Dangerous Link,” is right on target. The Obama administration’s offer of military assistance to Israel in return for an Israeli commitment for a three-month settlement construction freeze is “not beneficial to either nation.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears bent on extracting as many concessions and offerings from the administration as he can. That the U.S. has to proffer so many extraordinary inducements merely to obtain Israel’s agreement to resume its settlement freeze for such a brief period reinforces the perception, especially in the Middle East, of a weakened America. A weakened or humiliated United States endangers Israel’s security, which, more than at any other time in its history, depends on a strong America as its ally.

In addition, this “unseemly odor of a bribe,” as you put it, may very well lessen support among Americans for their government’s backing Israel diplomatically, economically or militarily. This includes measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons, which is beneficial to both nations.

The writer is a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.

Exclusion of Critics Gives Fodder to Foes

There can be no more striking illustration of the myopia and self-delusion of the organized Jewish leadership regarding global efforts to delegitimize Israel than the fact that no less than five separate panels on this subject at the Jewish Federations of North America’s General Assembly contained not a single critic of Israel’s policies (“Federations Find Youth Outreach Tricky Terrain at Yearly Meeting,” November 19).

They would have us believe that the gathering strength of the global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign — which, while ominous, is both ineffectual and totally one-sided — is purely a manifestation of anti-Semitism or misplaced anti-colonialism and has nothing to do with Israel’s behavior, such as its relentless expansion of settlements in the West Bank and encroachment on Palestinian neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

Unless the new JFNA-sponsored Israel Action Network is prepared to acknowledge and confront Israelis and American Jews with this reality and work seriously, if quietly, to mitigate it, I fear that Israel will continue to provide fodder to those who seek to delegitimize and isolate her.

Investigative Project’s Set-Up Is a Non-Issue

Your November 26 article, “Terror Expert Emerson Feels His Own Heat Over Finances,” does a disservice by focusing on the non-issues raised by The Tennessean newspaper in its report concerning the Investigative Project on Terrorism Foundation’s structure and finances.

The relationship between IPTF and its contractor, SAE, was vetted by experts in the field, including Edward Coleman, a former director of the Internal Revenue Service’s exempt organizations division. Coleman advised IPTF in its application for tax-exempt charitable status and said: “So far as IPTF is paying fair market value to the for-profit, SAE, and the for profit spends this money in furtherance of the exempt purpose of IPTF, and IPTF discloses on its 990 that it gives this money to SAE, if both organizations are headed by the same person, I don’t see the problem.”

IPTF’s publicly available Form 990 filing for 2008 shows how much the foundation spends to further its goal “to research and expose the activities of terrorist networks and supporters in the U.S. and abroad and to educate the public about this threat.” Money paid to IPTF’s contractor is used to provide a website, access to an unparalleled database of millions of documents, travel expenses to cover trials and events, and the expenses involved in producing books and documentary films.

Staff outsourcing arrangements are common in the nonprofit world, and there is nothing improper about this one. Our contractor spends all of the money it receives from IPTF to further the foundation’s tax-exempt purposes, and IPTF has been compliant in its IRS filings.

We provided the IRS with everything it needed to recognize our tax-exempt status. Nothing we have done since then changes our qualification for that status. Anyone who is interested in learning more can read our responses to The Tennessean at our website —

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The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forward.

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December 10, 2010

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