[Fox News] House Republican demands action against US nonprofit whose journalist held Israeli hostages at Gaza home

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Rep. Mike Lawler, R-N.Y., in a recent interview with Fox News Digitalc, demanded that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., and the Biden administration take action to ensure that a U.S. nonprofit behind The Palestine Chronicle no longer receives generous tax benefits after it was discovered that one of its Gaza-based writers harbored several Israeli hostages in his home after the Oct. 7 attack. 

Abdallah Aljamal, described as a “contributor” on The Palestine Chronicle website and who also worked as a spokesman for the Hamas-run labor ministry in Gaza, held Israeli hostages Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrey Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, captive at his family’s home in Nuseirat, Gaza, according to the Israeli Defense Forces. 

Aljamal had regular bylines for the Chronicle during the eight months since the Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel up until June 6, the website shows. 

The IDF released its findings about Aljamal, who was also described as a “Gaza-based reporter and photojournalist” on Al-Jazeera’s website, earlier this month after conducting a raid to rescue the three Israeli men he held captive, and a fourth hostage, 26-year-old Noa Argamani, from locked rooms guarded by Hamas militants in buildings in Nuseirat. The operation to rescue the hostages hidden in a civilian area also reportedly left dozens of Palestinians dead, though the Hamas-controlled health ministry doesn’t distinguish between civilian and militant casualties. An Israeli commando was also killed. 

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Lawler, who sits on the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, is among a chorus of lawmakers demanding that the People’s Media Project, the U.S. nonprofit overseeing The Palestine Chronicle, have its 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status revoked as a result of the findings on Aljamal. 

The congressman told Fox News Digital that he and his colleagues have been concerned from the beginning about nonprofits potentially aiding and abetting terrorist activities, noting how photojournalists were “on the scene almost immediately” after the Oct. 7 attack unfolded and pro-Hamas “propaganda” has swirled online from those affiliated with Hamas in Gaza “to try and sow dissension and turn the world against Israel, as they seek to defend themselves and, you know, get the hostages released.” 

“Obviously, it’s disturbing, but to find out that a journalist, quote unquote, was engaged in the holding of hostages, is deeply troubling. And that’s why, myself and my colleagues have called for the 501(c)(3) status, to be revoked, and to make sure that we certainly, as the United States, government and U.S. taxpayers are not giving benefits, in any way to, entities or organizations affiliated with terrorism,” Lawler said. 

The congressman called on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Justice Department to investigate further. 

“When propaganda, put out by Hamas or by affiliates of Hamas, to try and say, ‘Oh, no, we had nothing to do with it,’ well, whose house did they find these hostages in? I mean, this isn’t rocket science,” Lawler said on Thursday. “This can be pretty easily cleared up. And I think that’s really what it comes down to. From my vantage point, you know, the administration needs to take action here and direct its agencies, the IRS and the Department of Justice, to investigate.” 

“At minimum, obviously the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status should be revoked. But more to the point, the Department of Justice, and the IRS, and other relevant agencies should be conducting an investigation and determine, you know, the knowledge of the leadership of this entity and what they were aware of and when, and what actions they’ve taken,” Lawler said. “Because obviously, they would have to be completely ignorant of what is going on with within their own organization, or complicit. And either way, it is disturbing and troubling and needs to be rectified one way or the other.” 

In a June 10 letter to IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith, R-Mo., wrote to refer the People’s Media Project for revocation of its tax-exempt status. The committee has been conducting a wide-ranging investigation into tax-exempt groups for potential connections to terrorist activities since Oct. 7. 

“This important development suggests that The Palestine Chronicle, which later put out a statement describing Aljamal as ‘one of its contributors’ in Gaza, is at the very least complicit in supporting Hamas, and at worst a full-fledged financier of terrorism in the Middle East,” the letter says. “This revelation, coupled with the fact that The Palestine Chronicle has previously published articles calling Hamas ‘resistance fighters’ and falsely accusing Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ calls into question what People Media Project knew about its operations in the Gaza Strip, whether it ever did any due diligence on hiring Aljamal, whether it has other employees actively holding hostages in Gaza, and whether it employs other members of Hamas.” 

Lawler emphasized that the House had already passed legislation spearheaded by Rep. David Kustoff, R-Tenn., in April that would strip tax-exempt status from any group providing “material support of resources” to Hamas or other designated terrorist groups, but so far, Schumer has failed to take up the bill in the Senate. 

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“We passed it through the House. It is sitting on Chuck Schumer’s desk, another piece of legislation, critical to supporting our allies that Chuck Schumer is just sitting on because of politics,” Lawler told Fox News Digital. “This is a bill that should easily pass. Overwhelmingly, there were only 11 votes against it, the Squad. Everybody else in Congress supported it. So there’s no reason why, you know, this bill shouldn’t pass with overwhelming bipartisan support in the Senate.” 

“Sadly, I think Sen. Schumer is playing politics, and he is deeply concerned about the splintering within the Democratic Party base. And, you know, the fact that you have a pro-Hamas apologist wing of the Democratic Party, in states like Michigan and Minnesota, and they’re concerned about how that will impact their electoral chances in November,” Lawler said. “And so they’re trying not to put bills on the floor that will divide the Democratic Party.” 

Lawler accused Schumer of also sitting on his bill, the Antisemitism Awareness Act, which seeks to require the Department of Education to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism for all of its Title VI violation cases of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. 

The bill, proposed amid mass anti-Israel campus protests, passed overwhelmingly, 320 to 91, through the House, but has yet to be picked up in the Senate. 

“He’s the highest-ranking Jewish official in American history. He should be leading the charge here against antisemitism, against those entities that would seek to attack the state of Israel simply because it’s a Jewish state,” Lawler said. “From my vantage point, it’s a failure of leadership. It’s a failure to stand up for the Jewish people in this country. And to stand up for our allies. And, you know, he needs to act. That’s the bottom line.” 

“Bad behavior doesn’t justify tax benefits. And, you know, this is no different than with these institutions of higher learning. If you’re not going to follow federal law, you’re not entitled to tax benefits, you’re not entitled to taxpayer money,” Lawler said. “Obviously, yes, we protect First Amendment rights as the Antisemitism Awareness Act does. It has constitutional protections written into the bill. It doesn’t prosecute or prohibit or prevent or criminalize. But what it does do is force the Department of Education and force these institutions of higher learning to define what antisemitism is, and use that as the basis of a Title VI violation case.” 

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