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House Republican demands action against US nonprofit whose journalist held Israeli hostages at Gaza home

In a recent interview with Fox News Digital, Rep. Mike Lawler (N.Y., RN.Y.) called on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (N.Y., DN.Y.) and the Biden administration to take action to ensure that the U.S. nonprofit that runs the Palestine Chronicle will no longer receive large tax breaks following the discovery that one of its Gaza-based reporters was harboring several Israeli hostages in his home after the October 7 attacks.

According to the IDF, Abdullah al-Jamal, who was described as a “contributor” on the Palestine Chronicle’s website and who also served as a spokesman for the Hamas-run Ministry of Labor in the Gaza Strip, held Israeli hostages Almog Meir Jan, 22, Andrei Kozlov, 27, and Shlomi Ziv, 41, captive in his family home in Nuseirat, Gaza.

According to its website, Al-Jamal was a regular contributor to the Chronicle for eight months, from the Oct. 7 attacks in southern Israel through June 6.

Earlier this month, the Israel Defense Forces released the results of their investigation into Al-Jamal, who was described on Al Jazeera’s website as a “Gaza-based reporter and photojournalist,” and who led a raid to rescue three Israeli men and a fourth hostage, Noa Al-Ghamani, 26, from a secret room guarded by Hamas fighters in a building in Nuseirat. Dozens of Palestinians were reportedly killed in the operation to rescue the hostages, who were hiding in civilian areas, although the Hamas-controlled Ministry of Health does not distinguish between civilian and combatant casualties. One Israeli special forces member was also killed.

Israeli military strike kills Hamas commander and sniper who took part in October 7 massacre: IDF

Rep. Mike Lawler speaks with reporters after a House Republican Conference meeting on June 4, 2024, at the U.S. Capitol. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Lawler, a member of the House Financial Services and Foreign Affairs committees, is among a group of lawmakers calling for the revocation of the 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status of People’s Media Project, the US non-profit organisation which oversees the Palestine Chronicle, in light of the findings in the Al-Jamal investigation.

The congressman told Fox News Digital that he and his colleagues have been concerned from the beginning that nonprofits may be aiding and abetting terrorism, noting that photojournalists were on the scene shortly after the October 7 attacks began and that Hamas operatives in Gaza were spreading pro-Hamas “propaganda” online “to stomp down and antagonize the world while Israel is trying to defend itself and free the hostages.”

“It is disturbing, of course, but it is extremely disturbing to learn that so-called journalists were involved in hostage taking. That is why my colleagues and I have called for the revocation of our 501(c)(3) status to ensure that the U.S. government and U.S. taxpayers do not benefit in any way to groups or organizations associated with terrorism,” Lawler said.

Lawmakers have called for further investigation from the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice.

“Whose home were the hostages found in when Hamas and Hamas-affiliated groups are touting, ‘No, we have nothing to do with this,'” Lawler said Thursday. “This is easy to figure out, and I think that’s a real problem. From my position, the administration needs to take action and direct agencies like the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Justice to investigate.”

“At the very least, it seems clear that the 501(c)(3)’s tax-exempt status should be revoked. But more importantly, an investigation should be conducted by the Department of Justice, the IRS and other relevant agencies to determine what the leadership of this organization knew, when they knew it, and what actions they took,” Lawler said. “Clearly they are either completely unaware of what is going on within their organization or are complicit. Either way, this is disturbing and troubling and needs to be remedied in some way.”

Poster of rescued Israelis

On June 8, 2024, a billboard was posted in Tel Aviv depicting four Israeli hostages being rescued by Israeli forces. (Jack Guess/AFP via Getty Images)

House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-Missouri) recommended revoking People’s Media Project’s tax-exempt status in a letter dated June 10. The committee has been conducting a wide-ranging investigation since October 7 into potential ties between tax-exempt organizations and terrorist activities.

“This significant development suggests that the Palestine Chronicle, which later issued a statement describing Al-Jamal as ‘one of their donors’ 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 said. “This revelation, coupled with the fact that the Palestine Chronicle previously published articles calling Hamas ‘resistance fighters’ and falsely accusing Israel of ‘ethnic cleansing,’ raises questions about what People Media Project knew about its activities in the Gaza Strip, whether it ever did its due diligence in hiring Al-Jamal, whether it has other employees holding hostages in Gaza, and whether it employs other members of Hamas.”

Lawler noted that the House already passed a bill in April, led by Rep. David Kustoff (R-Tenn.), to strip tax-exempt status from organizations that provide “material resource support” to Hamas and other designated terrorist organizations, but so far Schumer has not taken up the bill in the Senate.

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“We passed a bill in the House, and there’s another important bill on Chuck Schumer’s desk to help our allies that Chuck Schumer is just sitting there for political reasons,” Lawler told Fox News Digital. “This bill should pass easily. It was passed overwhelmingly, with only 11 votes from the Squad against it. Everybody else voted for it. So there’s no reason why this bill wouldn’t pass in the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.”

Israeli hostage rescue

Andrei Kozlov, one of four Israeli hostages rescued in an IDF raid, arrives at Sheba Medical Center in Ramat Gan. (Ilya Yefimovich/Photo Alliance via Getty Images)

“Unfortunately, I think Senator Schumer is playing politics. He’s deeply concerned about dividing the Democratic base, and he’s concerned about how that might affect the November elections because there are pro-Hamas forces in the Democratic Party in states like Michigan and Minnesota,” Lawler said. “So he’s trying to avoid introducing legislation in Congress that would divide the Democratic Party.”

Lawler also criticized Schumer for not considering his bill, the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, which seeks to require the Department of Education to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) interim definition of anti-Semitism in all cases involving violations of Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Israeli forces rescue hostages

Andrey Kozlov and Almog Meir, who were kidnapped by Hamas from the Nova Music Festival on October 7, arrive by helicopter at Sheba Medical Center. (Ilya Yefimovich/Photo Alliance via Getty Images)

The bill, introduced amid large-scale anti-Israel protests on university campuses, passed the House of Representatives by an overwhelming 320-91 vote but has yet to be considered in the Senate.

“He’s the highest-ranking Jewish official in the history of the United States. He should be leading the fight against anti-Semitism and against organizations that seek to attack Israel simply because it’s a Jewish state,” Lawler said. “From my perspective, this is a failure of leadership. He’s not standing up for the Jewish people in this country, he’s not standing up for our allies, and he needs to act. That’s the bottom line.”

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“Bad behavior is no reason for tax benefits, and that goes for higher education institutions, too. If you don’t follow federal law, you don’t qualify for tax benefits, you don’t qualify for taxpayer money,” Lawler said. “Of course, just like with the Anti-Semitism Awareness Act, we protect First Amendment rights. There are constitutional protections built into this bill. It won’t prosecute, it won’t prohibit, it won’t prevent, it won’t criminalize. But what this bill does is force the Department of Education and higher education institutions to define what anti-Semitism is and then make that the basis for a Title VI lawsuit.”