State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is seeking federal cooperation for his effort to prevent a group linked to Middle East terrorism from fund raising in New York.
Two officials of Spitzer’s charities bureau recently wrote to the IRS requesting federal intervention in an effort to prevent New York charitable funds from benefiting the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, The Jewish Week has learned.Information from the Israeli government and reports by investigative journalist Steven Emerson and by the Dallas Morning News have suggested that funds raised by the organization have benefited the families of suicide bombers recruited by the Mideast terror group Hamas. More than 10 percent of the organization’s funding in 1992 came from Mousa Abu Marzook, the political director of Hamas, according to IRS records, as reported in the Dallas paper.
“We think there is sufficient evidence to merit a very serious investigation of the issue,” Spitzer told The Jewish Week. “The misuse of charitable status to funnel money to a non-charitable organization is illegal and abhorrent. We will continue to pursue it [with the IRS] and other appropriate agencies.”
According to sources in Spitzer’s office, the HLFRD is not in compliance with state charities law. It has not filed a required disclosure form since 1996. Additionally, the paperwork it has filed does not support the group’s stated goal of “helping needy families for all mankind.” Spitzer estimated that the group’s assets were about $2 million, but Emerson put its holdings at about $5 million.
The foundation did not return a call for comment.Because the group is based in Richardson, Texas, Spitzer says he is asking the IRS to add its powers to the inquiry. “Independently, we can deny them the right to raise funds here in New York, and pursue them civilly, bringing subpoenas against them and imposing individual fines,” said Spitzer. “But we are trying to act in a way that is more comprehensive, acting in conjunction with the IRS.”
An IRS spokesman, who declined to be identified, said that under federal law the agency “can’t confirm or deny” its role in any investigation. But Spitzer said he had not yet received a reply to his July letter from the IRS. “We are still hopeful,” said the attorney general.nLast summer, some Jewish activists were up in arms over Hadassah’s honoring of first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton with a major award — a move they viewed as a partisan boost for a presumptive Senate candidate with a questionable Israel record.Expect more sparks to fly in the next month as the first lady picks up a few new honors tied to the Middle East. On Oct. 25, she’ll be honored by the Tel Aviv Foundation at the Puck Building in New York for her work with children.
In November, she’ll travel to Israel to deliver the third annual Rabin Memorial Lecture. The lecture is sponsored by an independent foundation set up by the prime minister’s office as a memorial to the slain Yitzchak Rabin. Previous lecturers were World Jewish Congress president Edgar Bronfman and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger. During the same Israel trip, the first lady will join Prime Minister Ehud Barak’s wife Nava as an honored guest at a Tel Aviv University forum on youth and violence.
“I am perplexed as to why Israeli institutions would be honoring a woman who has called for an unrestricted, sovereign Palestinian state and has openly invited some of the most anti-Israel and anti-Semitic groups to the White House,” said Morton Klein of the Zionist Organization of America, who also opposed the Hadassah honor.
Helen Freedman, director of Americans for Safe Israel, who led a card-burning protest against Hadassah, says she’ll consult with board members to consider a new demonstration against the New York event.
“Hillary has a lot of friends among the liberal left wing who really don’t know the truth about anything,” said Freedman. “They are convinced she is the reason this peace process keeps getting pushed forward. Meanwhile, there are constant economic boycott threats.”
Clinton’s campaign spokesman, Howard Wolfson, said the first lady was “honored to receive this recognition and proud to be a strong supporter of a safe and secure Israel.”
The Orthodox Union is coming to the defense of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s efforts to suppress an art exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. In a statement, OU president Mandell Ganchrow called the “Sensation” exhibit, which includes dissected animals and a painting of the Virgin Mary containing elephant dung, “cultural pollution.”
“Displaying a religious symbol splattered with dung is deeply offensive and can hardly be said to have any redeeming social or artistic value,” says Ganchrow. “[W]e support those civic leaders who have questioned whether public funds should support this exhibition. … The right of free expression enjoyed by the ‘artist’ is not a right to a government check.”
The City Council passed a recent resolution calling on Burger King International to reverse its decision to close a West Bank restaurant after Arab protests. The resolution was written by the City Comptroller Alan Hevesi.
“This franchise revocation appears to violate the United States Export Administration Act and Department of Commerce regulations, which prohibit United States companies from refusing to do business with anyone because of a foreign boycott,” said Hevesi. The comptroller joined with Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn/Queens) in calling for an investigation by the U.S. government.
“It is time we finally drive the last nail into the Arab boycott of Israel,” said Weiner.