IFCO wins victory in fight against IRS harassment

By Sara Lobman
January 13, 2020

NEW YORK — In an important victory for political rights, the Interreligious Foundation for Community Organization announced Dec. 19 that it had won its fight against revocation of its tax-exempt status by the Internal Revenue Service in 2017.

“As our attorney Martin Stolar noted, this is a vindication of our right to do work in solidarity with the people of Cuba, of Palestine, and to stand up for the voiceless, including prisoners,” Gail Walker, executive director of IFCO, told the Militant Jan. 1.

Since 1992 IFCO has been best known for its yearly “Friendshipment caravans” that bring humanitarian aid and solidarity to the people of Cuba. It also administers a scholarship program that has allowed nearly 200 young people from the United States to graduate as doctors from Cuba’s Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM). They return to the U.S. to offer medical care to those who might do without in working-class communities.

In 2011 the IRS went after IFCO, targeting the group’s backing of a project called Viva Palestina, which organized convoys to bring food and medical supplies to people in the Gaza Strip. Viva Palestina was not on any U.S. government “terrorist” list and was recognized as a legitimate charity by the official Charity Commission in the United Kingdom, where it is based. Nonetheless, U.S. tax officials charged the group had ties to Hamas and terrorism.

The IRS also claimed that the Friendshipment aid caravans to Cuba violate U.S. sanctions against Cuba and cited IFCO’s support for U.S. students attending ELAM.

“This reinstatement “justifies our steadfast commitment to defend the rights of the disenfranchised, the wrongly imprisoned, and the victims of police brutality,” IFCO said in a statement on the victory.