Did you read the massive, acres-and-acres-of-newsprint story in the New York Times, in which they documented how American tax policy was underwriting the settlement of the West Bank by right-wing Israeli Jews? It was the kind of “ooh, scary religious people!” piece that the Times just loves, because they really don’t seem to understand how religion works. Slate blogger Tom Scocca smartly dismisses the whole idiotic story as another example of NYT cluelessness. Excerpt:
So: a**holes and violence. Normal times on the West Bank. Why do we care about this today? Because a team of three Times reporters has uncovered a scandal: the religious group that sends the volunteers to Israel enjoys tax breaks, as a nonprofit. It is “a surprising juxtaposition”:
As the American government seeks to end the four-decade Jewish settlement enterprise and foster a Palestinian state in the West Bank, the American Treasury helps sustain the settlements through tax breaks on donations to support them.
The Bible-thumping crazies are inside the Treasury! Or, in other words, the secular government of the United States, barred by fundamental Constitutional principles from involvement in religion, has goals and policies that are not identical to the goals and policies of certain religious organizations in the United States. It is as if the church and the state were somehow separated or something.
(Is giving the churches tax breaks an appropriate way to keep the government and the church out of each other’s business, or is it a self-defeating measure that ends up creating a religious establishment? Worth discussing! Not in this story, though.)
Here are some other things that the Times might discover American nonprofits doing, in direct contradiction of United States government policy:
•Organizing prayer in schools.
•Promoting gender difference.
Rod here. Guess what? Planned Parenthood is a tax-exempt, non-profit organization. So is the Human Rights Campaign, which pushes for the legalization of same-sex marriage. People who give money to these organizations are taking advantage of tax deductions to support abortion rights and gay marriage. Big freaking deal. That’s how non-profits work in under our system. Only on Planet New York Times, when it involves right-wing Israelis and Evangelical American Christians, is this something to have a front-page hissy over. Mind you, my complaint (and Scocca’s) is not that the Israeli settlement policy, or the involvement of some US Christians in advocating it, is right or wrong; it’s that the Times actually thinks it has uncovered news here.