By Lee Kaplan
FrontPageMagazine.com | January 12, 2007
Last year George Rishmawi and Huwaida Arraf, founders of a radical, anti-Israel organization called the International Solidarity Movement, created a study abroad program as a cover to sneak ISM activists into West Bank so that they could act as "human shields" to interfere with Israeli anti-terrorist activities. Now, Rishmawi has created a new media cover to serve a dual purpose for the ISM. ISM activists will pose as "journalists" to get past Israeli border security with funding for them from yet another non-profit. They will claim to be journalists for International Middle East Media Center and the Palestine Center for Rapproachement under the supervision of PFLP activists and ISM founder Ghassan Andoni. They are to pose as "journalists" for NGO's like the Palestinian Center for Rapprochment to get past Israeli border authorities.
Rishmawi's new funding cover is the A. J. Muste Foundation, a registered non-profit based in New York. But there is more to it than meets the eye because the Berkeley, CA, P.O. Box to which ISM supporters can send their tax-deductible donations matches that of the Middle East Children’s Alliance, one of the organizations that the ISM had previously used to launder money in the service of its anti-Israel cause that was reported to the IRS for abuses. The ISM's website tells anyone wishing to donate now to make checks payable to A.J. Muste Foundation in New York and write ISM-USA in the corner but directs the checks be sent to the Middle East Children's Alliance for cashing. In other words, it's business as usual for the ISM.
And that's not the whole story. An investigation of the A.J. Muste tax return reveals the same irregularities and illegal activities that have marked other non-profits funding the ISM and aroused the scrutiny of the IRS for violating their mandates as tax-free organizations. In particular, the foundation has transferred tax-exempt funds to non-exempt entities (like the non-entity ISM); it has made grants to non-exempt entities that encourage non-fili ng or non-payment of federal taxes; and it has issued grants to non-exempt entities that promote civil disobedience. Each of these activities is illegal.
Evidence for these charges is not lacking. For example, the A. J. Muste Foundation website states that “In June, the Muste Institute approved fiscal sponsorship for the International Solidarity Movement's work supporting nonviolent resistance against the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
An article about this is by Patrick Connors, the leader of ISM-NY in New York City who has been arrested and deported from Israel under different identities and was ultimately banned from the country.
The entry on the Muste Foundation website further states: “The International Solidarity Movement (ISM), founded in 2001, is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct action methods and principles.” “Direct action” refers, incidentally, to interference with Israeli security operations. Not only that, the International Solidarity Movement admits openly to contacts with Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) as defined by the U.S. State Department.
In a letter to the Washington Post in February 2006, Huwaida Arraf, a co-founder of the ISM with George Rishmawi, wrote that “(ISM) [is] a movement that I co-founded in the spring of 2001 in the occupied territories of the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem to help draw attention to the human rights abuses suffered by Palestinians as a result of Israel's occupation. The ISM also is a resource for Palestinian nonviolent resistance to the occupation. The ISM believes that average civilians can bring about change, and it tries to unite Palestinians, Israelis and other people in nonviolent resistance to Israel's occu pation policies. ‘When I ‘acknowledged’ that the ISM ‘cooperates with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,’ I was offering concrete examples of the ways in which these groups were engaging in nonviolent resistance.” (Emphasis added.)
Furthermore, Arraf and another ISM leader, Lisa Nessan, both confirmed to me verbally at their last national conference at Georgetown, on record, that ISM works with those same terrorist groups.
All three of the above groups are terrorist organizations in the view of the U.S. State Department. Working with them in in any capacity is therefore illegal. Arraf may excuse the ISM's actions because she claims to be nonviolent, but that’s not the issue. At minimum, her organization is giving logistical aid to terrorist groups. That includes doing human shield work for terrorists who may fire upon the Israeli army conducting anti-terror operations or by ISM activists destroying checkpoints used by the IDF to prevent entrance of suicide bombers into Israel.
The A. J. Muste Memorial Institute, meanwhile, says openly that it funds organizations that cannot get tax exemptions from the IRS, although it qualifies this statement by saying that it provides grants only for activities that would be legally tax-exempt:
Sponsored projects are generally organizations which do not have their own tax-exempt charitable status in the US. Some of these organizations are not directly eligible for tax-exempt status because they carry out or advocate activities which do not meet Internal Revenue Service (IRS) rules for charitable tax-deductions (i.e. tax resistance, draft resistance, civil disobedience, direct action). Others may decide they don't have the time, energy or financial ability to pursue tax-exempt status, or they may feel this status would not be a significant advantage in their work. (Emphasis added.)
The foundation does make the following disclaimer: "The Muste Institute can only direct sponsored grants or contributions to activities which are legal and educational, which do not violate IRS rules and which are within our stated mission." But how to reconcile this with the money for the ISM that works with Hamas? Some of the grants from A. J. Muste also seem to support some very questionable organizations whose activities are "contrary to public policy," like so-called "war tax resistance." On their tax return they list:
(2) Grants to non-exempt entities that encourage non-payment of Federal taxes
WAR RESISTERS LEAGUE New York, NY: $2,000*
This grant goes for the DMZ Network, a project of WRL's Youth & Counter Recruitment Program, providing resources, training. This grant goes for the DMZ Network, a project of WRL's Youth & Counter Recruitment Program, providing resources, training and other assistance to build the capacity of local youth organizers around the US to effectively challenge military recruitment.
The War Resisters League encourages people to not pay Federal income taxes.
Their website further states:
“Resisting war taxes is really very simple — don’t pay all the tax due on your annual Federal income tax form, or don’t pay the Federal excise tax on telephone bills, or both. Summarized below are a few war tax resistance methods. Detailed descriptions can be found in WRL’s War Tax Resistance: A Guide to Withholding Your Support from the Military and through war tax counselors. Contact the National War Tax Resistance Coordinating Committee (NWTRCC) for counselors in your area. The probability of collection or prosecution varies among the methods;
all — except #4 — are illegal. Serious consideration must be given before embarking on these types of resistance.
1) File and refuse to pay your taxes. This involves filling out an IRS income tax return (e.g., Form 1040) and refusing to pay either a token amount of your taxes (e.g., $1, $9.11, $100), some “military” portion (approximately 1% for nuclear warheads, 4% for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, 30% for current military spending, 50% for current and past military spending combined — see WRL’s pie chart for the latest percentages), or the total amount (since a portion of whatever is paid goes largely to the military). Include a letter of explanation with the return.
2) File a blank IRS 1040 income tax return with a note of explanation.
3) Don’t file any Federal income tax returns.”
Also found on their website here:
(3) Grants to non-exempt entities that promote civil disobedience.
COMMITTEE FOR THE RESCUE AND DEVELOPMENT OF VIEQUES
Vieques, Puerto Rico: $2,000
Through education and
civil disobedience, the Committee works to put an end to the US Navy's training exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, and to pressure for demilitarization and cleanup of the island. This grant goes for educational work related to a new nonviolent resistance campaign, "Ocupando Territorio Ocupado" (Occupying Occupied Territory), which seeks to establish a permanent peace presence on the bombing range of Camp Garcia. www.prorescatevieques.org
PEACE ACTION NEW MEXICO
Santa Fe, NM: $1,500
Peace Action New Mexico was founded in July of 1998 as an affiliate of the national Peace Action. This grant goes for educational materials in connection with the local group's annual events marking the anniversaries of the 1945 US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This year Peace Action New Mexico organized a rally in Santa Fe on August 6 and a civil disobedience action at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on August 9. The accompanying leaflets and factsheets focused on building public opinion against LANL's production and stockpiling of components for nuclear weapons, and against LANL's plans to build a biological weapons research laboratory.
CORPORACION JORGE ARTEL Cartagena, Colombia: $2,000. The Jorge Artel Corporation is a non-profit grassroots organization based in the African-descended communities on Colombia’s Atlantic coast. This grant goes for the Civil Disobedience Training and Education Project, carrying out workshops and producing educational materials about the importance of civil disobedience as a form of nonviolent resistance to oppression. The Muste Institute has also agreed to act as fiscal sponsor for the Corporacion Jorge Artel.
And still more here:
In September the Muste Institute provided a $1,500 grant to the St. Louis, Missouri-based Catholic Action Network for Social Justice for their "Instead of War" campaign (see New Grants, below). The campaign is described below by co-coordinator Jenny Truax:
...In the third stage of this campaign, CAN/CTSA assisted in organizing an October 1st nonviolent direct action outside the main gate of the Boeing Missile Plant, just outside of St. Louis. CAN assisted with nonviolent direct action training sessions for participants in this action, as well as logistical and organizational support. Boeing's $500 million contract to produce additional JDAMs (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), is due in October 2002, and the Boeing Plant is currently producing 1,500 JDAMs a month in round-the-clock shifts. The JDAM was one of the most heavily-used munitions during the war in Afghanistan, and current stockpiles must be replenished before any attack on Iraq begins. In addition to disseminating information about these particular weapons, one coalition member, the St. Louis Economic Conversion Pro ject, has provided statistics about the economic consequences of a possible war with Iraq.
Thirty-six people were arrested for civil disobedience in blocking delivery trucks at Boeing's main gate, and the action attracted over 180 participants and national news coverage.
The IRS mandates for nonprofits specifically state that civil disobedience is not an acceptable practice for exemption from taxes and can result in revocation of tax-free status. But given the IRS’s lax enforcement, why should it come as a surprise that A.J. Muste is now providing a means for the ISM, an admitted ally of Hamas, to continue raising funds for efforts to support the goals of the terrorist organization. President Bush just put forth new regulations prohibiting Americans from dealing with the Hamas-led terrorist government in the Palestnian Authority. Maybe the IRS going after the A.J. Muste Foundation would be a first step in enforcement.
Bill Levinson contributed to this report.