The Rebuilding Alliance: Lobbying for Hamas tax –free?
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
The Rebuilding Alliance (RBA) is yet another of the myriad groups making up the International Solidarity Movement (ISM). Its mission statement says the RBA is “a non-profit” organization that “ rebuilds homes and communities in regions of war and occupation. We advocate for government policies towards these regions based on human rights and international law.” The RBA is a spin off of Medea Benjamin’s Global Exchange.
The RBA’s website reads like a lobbying organization for the Palestinian revolution and even urges readers to go after AIPAC, the Israel lobby. Weekly lobbying activities to Congress are always listed as well as fundraising efforts. While non-profits are permitted minimal lobbying, they must report it to the IRS.
And like other ISM-linked nonprofits, the RBA has not been telling the IRS on its tax returns the extent of its lobbying to mask its violations of tax codes that prohibit lobbying for specific legislation or candidates and engaging in propaganda. That tax-free status costs the rest of us in America every day as the RBA raises money for the Palestinian “revolution” under the guise of charity, since houses allegedly destroyed by the IDF are usually domiciles used by terrorist cells or as bomb factories or are structures built on land owned by Israelis as a form of squatting.
A review of the tax returns of these “pro-Palestinian” groups like the RBA and its website consistently reveals blatant violations of IRS regulations that prohibit excessive lobbying for candidates or legislation, propaganda, or activities that are against US tax laws, violations that should cause the closure of groups like the RBA if the IRS were on the ball.
Below is what the Rebuilding Alliance told the Internal Revenue Service about its activities for July 2003 through June 2004, and July 2004 through June 2005 on its US tax returns. It began by claiming it spent no money on lobbying or legislation in 2004:
On its website the RBA posted specific instructions to stop legislation on House Concurrent Resolution 371, a bill to support Israel’s right to construct a security fence to keep out terrorists and suicide bombers, one of many such “action alerts”.
The RBA instructed its members and anyone viewing the website to call and lobby congress:
Urgent Action Alert
This class action is but one example among so many. Please vote against H. Res 371.
If you can make this call today, who knows what walls will come tumbling down? For more information on the efforts to save these villages, please go to Rebuildingalliance.org.
Donna Baranski-Walker, Director, The Rebuilding Alliance
And RBA did not admit to or detail any of its lobbying activities that it claims changed legislation:
“The Separation Wall was rerouted and the homes are safe for now. Plans are in place to alert press and Congress if need arises…”
“We’re encouraging Americans to take in the personal stories of Palestinian families, to invest in their future by helping them rebuild homes and schools, and to defend their rights in court. And when bulldozers are coming, we know we can save those homes and schools when citizens call Congress to intervene. By building this home in Rachel’s name, and then the next, we are building momentum to prevent what Human Rights Watch called ‘the planned destruction of hundreds more homes’ in Gaza.” Human Rights Watch according to NGO-Monitor.com consistently sides against Israel.
And it includes another templated letter to be sent to individual congressmen.
But of even more importance is the RBA’s direct lobbying for legislation with Congresspersons through conference phone calls. Congresswomen Barbara Boxer and Anna Eshoo have routinely allowed the RBA to lobby directly by phone conference on more than one occasion against specific legislation, including voting to oppose Congress’s legislation to stop funding the Palestinian Authority while Hamas is in charge:
From the RBA website:
Call with Shawn Moore, Assistant to Senator Barbara Boxer
June 7, 2006, 7 am PT, 10 am ET
“Once the call was joined by Shawn, Donna thanked him and thanked Sen. Boxer for her support in getting the troops out of Iraq. Speakers present: Harry Scott, Jerry Merrill and special guest speaker, Husam El Nounou from Gaza Community Mental Health Programme and a representative of the Palestinian Non-Government Organizations network, PNGO.”
“The following points were made by the speakers and participants:
We oppose this bill, though we understand that it will probably pass.
We propose several deletions and amendments to the bill if debate is open:
It places a terrible burden on PA.
The “Jewish State” clause is a hoop no other country who has made peace with Israel has had to jump through.
The sanctuary, and the travel restrictions are too harsh on members of PA.
It represents a collective punishment for the Palestinian people.
NGOs cannot be a replacement for the PA. 70% of doctors are paid through the PA.
The bill is unbalanced. It doesn’t hold Israel accountable or ask anything from the Israelis.
Some of the actions committed by Israeli settlers and IDF should be considered terrorist.
Mr. Husam made the following points:
Palestinians feel that this bill is against them personally.
People go to the extreme when they feel neglected so there will be bad consequences for moderates. * Palestinians cannot make an alternative to the PA. They will be viewed as collaborators if they do.
There is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza now.”
In the above call the RBA even permitted a non-US citizen, a Palestinian named Husam El Nounou to lobby the Senator during the phone call. The PNGO association that El Nounou belongs to has refused to sign a declaration that any funds received from entities like the RBA won’t be used to fund terrorism. Yet the RBA assists one of the PNGO represenatives in the call to lobby Congresswoman Boxer directly. RBA is also not registered as an agent of a foreign entity as they should be. A similar phonecall was placed to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo as well also for lobbying purposes that included Mr. El Nounou.
One other feature of the RBA’s tax returns that is very troubling reveals information about this alleged nonprofit that claims it only “rebuilds homes:” Besides their blatant propaganda and lobbying against Israel, their form 990 notes $43,542 was given to The Gaza Community Mental Health Center in the Gaza Strip where Mr. Nounou works to “build a house,” not his own. What most people don’t realize is that mental health clinics such as that one were set up by and run for Hamas. Since money is fungible once it gets to the Middle East, it’s difficult to know if any of it makes its way to purchasing weapons to roil the war against Israel. In addition, individual Americans are currently under advice from the US government not to do business in the Hamas-controlled Palestinian Authority for this very reason.
It’s a strange mental health clinic that “builds homes.” But it doesn’t seem as strange if one knows that Jess Ghannam, a psychiatrist at UC San Francisco, who also heads Al Awda and the Arab-American anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC) in San Francisco, and who provides logistics and trainers for ISM activists going to the Palestinian Authority to act as human shields for terrorists, is on the Board of Directors of the Gaza Community Mental Health Clinic. Al Awda supports the Hamas agenda of no Israeli state.
The Rebuilding Homes Alliance is just another way to raise and send money to the Hamas-led PA—tax free. The IRS needs to take a hard look at this ISM nonprofit entity that not only costs every US taxpayer money and roils the war in the Middle East indefinitely by working at every turn to strengthen Israel’s enemies seeking the Jewish state’s destruction.