More evidence of former President Barack Obama weaponizing federal agencies against conservatives and advocates of Israel mounts as his Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been exposed for hassling one pro-Israel family for seven years.
After seeking tax-exempt status for their pro-Israel organization Z Street – Z stands for Zion – the Marcus family has struggled against Obama’s IRS for seven years – a process that should have taken no more than three to six months.
Punishment for opposing views
Z Street President and Founder Lori Lowenthal Marcus believes that her non-profit was too friendly with Israel for the Obama administration’ taste, especially with the former president’s pro-Palestinian foreign policy.
"[My husband and I heard] there's a special unit in Washington, D.C., that looks at these applications to determine whether the organization's activities are inconsistent with the Obama administration's policies," Marcus told CBN News. "The IRS officials tried to see whether they could revoke tax-exempt status for organizations that support what are called 'the settlements.’”
In direct opposition to the United Nations’ resolution condemning Israeli settlements in biblical Judea and Samaria, known by many today as the “occupied territories” – a resolution that Obama refused to veto the month before he left office – Z Street promotes the idea that Jews have the right to live anywhere … including towns and cities considered to be “settlements.”
Holding pro-Israel sentiments regarding Israeli housing should not warrant any penalty from the government.
“That's an example of what's called ‘viewpoint discrimination,’ where an organization gets treated differently by the government because its viewpoints are different from the government's positions – in this case, those of the Obama administration in the Middle East,” CBN News reported.
Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies contends that Obama set out to attack those who opposed his pro-Palestinian/anti-Israel policy in the Middle East.
"This was part of an overall campaign being waged by the Obama administration to isolate Israel for its settlement activity," Schanzer explained to CBN News.
Not so fast …
Instead of giving up on the battle against the IRS, the Marcuses applied their legal expertise as attorneys and fought back against the seven-year injustice.
“Z Street sued the IRS, saying the agency was violating their constitutional rights by denying them their application for tax-exempt status as a non-profit group,” CBN News’ Paul Strand informed. “The IRS fought back with all sorts of arguments, all of which were eventually thrown out by courts.”
Marcus noted how she and her husband would not fall for the IRS’s intimidation in their case, as the agency wanted them to believe it was invincible in court.
"[The IRS wanted us to believe], ’Oh, we can't sue them because they're the government’,” Marcus shared. “Excuse me? The Bill of Rights was created to protect citizens from constitutional violations by the government."
Ironically, Obama’s IRS, which supported the Islamic terrorist-run Palestinian Authority, accused Z Street of being promoters of Israeli terrorism.
“The tax agency then hinted that Z Street would be supporting terrorism if it supported Israel,” Strand pointed out.
This argument was amusing to Marcus.
“Israel is a country where terrorism happens to Israelis,” the pro-Israel advocate stressed. “They're not the perpetrators of terrorism."
Z Street was not the only group supporting Israel that Obama’s IRS went after.
“The Marcuses also found during their seven-year battle that the government was asking questions about the views of other pro-Israel non-profit groups,” Strand added.
Instead of asking questions concerning tax status, the IRS prodded for information about specific group’s beliefs about Israel and its place in the Middle East.
"They were asked, 'What are your religious beliefs about the existence of the land of Israel?'” Marcus recounted. “That's astounding that the IRS – anyone at the IRS -- could think that that would be a legitimate question."
IRS banking on low funds
The Marcuses emphasized how the IRS bullies businesses, groups and families without lawyers because they know that they cannot afford to sue them.
"It would have cost close to or over a million dollars," Marcus asserted. "I do know that there were other organizations too afraid to take on the IRS. And I really do understand that. It's a scary place to have as an enemy."
Shortly after the Marcuses and Z Street board members expressed anxiety over being audited forever, the IRS ended up settling the lawsuit on Feb. 1.
"And I'm sure that they thought that they would just grind us to dust, but they didn't realize we're like terriers," Marcus mused. "We got our teeth into the calves of these people and we didn't let go."
Not just the IRS
The State Department is another federal agency under the Obama administration that went after conservatives and advocates of Israel
"[Obama’s State Department] isolated Israel as a policy," Schanzer contended. "The decision to shift toward Iran in particular, also probably the Muslim Brotherhood during the Arab Spring – this was the inclination of those within the State Department and within our diplomatic ranks."
The Obama administration’s U.N.-aligned foreign policy meant American taxpayers were shelling out hundreds of millions of dollars to groups that supported the Palestinians and worked against Israel.
"We provide roughly $600 million a year as U.S. taxpayers to the Palestinians," Schanzer asserted.
Yona Schiffmiller of Israel’s NGO-Monitor noted how funding from USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) should be given to charities, but insisted that where the money goes is very difficult to track.
"We had real issues with the lack of transparency at the State Department," Schiffmiller explained, according to CBN News. "It was very difficult to ascertain which were the organizations receiving funds, what the size of the funds were, and for what purpose. There are instances that we've identified where the money is going to groups who are acting in improper ways."
Marcus asserted that the Obama administration and its predecessors have pushed for a Palestinian state for years.
"I do see those at the State Department continuing to hold what I think are ridiculous views about how to move forward – the peace process should have as its end goal peace," Marcus argued. "And it seems like it's had as its end goal a Palestinian state – regardless of peace for quite a long time."
She noted how groups giving funds to activities in Gaza are quickly approved for 501c3 status, while Z Street has been denied such status for seven years because of its Israel advocacy.
"Now, Gaza is run by Hamas, which is a terrorist organization," Marcus stressed. "It's recognized by the U.S. government as a terror organization. If those groups weren't held up and they stated clearly they were spending money in Gaza, why were we held up?"
The multi-year battle with the IRS was fruitful, but tolling.
"It was mind-blowing, really, that we had to fight the government – the Department of Justice – as it defended the IRS and its unconstitutional actions and discriminating against American citizens who held particular political views," Marcus concluded.
A to Z Street?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Z Street is just one of many organizations targeted by the IRS for having political agendas not aligned with the Obama administration.
“[Z Street wasn’t an isolated incident, but one in] a series of cases brought by groups alleging that their tax-exempt status was delayed by the IRS based on inappropriate criteria, including names and policy positions,” the Justice Department stated, according to United with Israel (UWI).
Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Richard Zuckerman said Obama’s IRS was overstepping its bounds by its intrusive politically motivated inquiries to taxpayers.
“Tax exemption eligibility should be based on whether an organization’s activities fulfill requirements of the law, not a group’s policy positions or the name chosen to reflect those views,” Zuckerman impressed, according to UWI. “The attorneys at the Department of Justice work hard to ensure that all Americans receive equal treatment under the law. Today’s settlement further illustrates this commitment.”
Slap on the wrist?
It is argued that the Z Street lawsuit was little more than a slap on the wrist for the IRS.
“[There was no] punishment of the IRS officials involved, nor sufficient explanation about how much the higher-ups in the Obama administration and the Democratic Party knew about what the IRS was doing,” Breitbart News reported.
The political left is said to have utilized the IRS to push forward its agenda over the years.
“In fact, some of the Democratic leaders who called on the IRS to do exactly what it did remain unapologetic,” Breitbart News Senior Editor-at-Large Joel B. Pollak inserted. “And had Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election, there is no doubt that the Democrats would have tried to pass laws to legalize what the IRS had done.”
Marcus expressed to Israel National News’ Jessica Chelser that under an Obama Justice Department, it is unlikely that her case would have had a victorious outcome.
“I very much doubt ours and the Tea Party cases would have settled had this new administration not been in office,” Marcus posed, according to Breitbart.