Green Party of Canada asks CRA to revoke Jewish National Fund’s charity status

by: Obert Madondo | Published Friday, June 3, 2016, by The Canadian Progressive

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) national headquarters on 555 MacKenzie Avenue in Ottawa. (Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) national headquarters on 555 MacKenzie Avenue in Ottawa. (Photo: OBERT MADONDO/The Canadian Progressive / Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

The Green Party of Canada is calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund (JNF).

In a resolution passed recently, the Greens listed the JNF’s “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel” and “failure to comply with international human rights law” among the reasons for revocation.

“The JNF is complicit in the continued dispossession of Palestinians from their lands by creating forests and parks on this land in the name of ‘environmentalism'”, says the resolution’s preamble.

According to the Greens:

Under the guise of ‘environmentalism,’ the JNF has forested over the ruins of Palestinian villages in an attempt to ‘greenwash’ non-Jewish dispossession. This includes ‘Canada Park’ which was built over top 3 destroyed Palestinian villages who more than 9000 residents were expelled from their homes. The JNF today continues to displace Bedouins from their ancestral lands to make way for ‘green space’ as well as Jewish-only settlements.

The Canada Revenue Agency is the federal body responsible for ensuring that charities comply with the requirements for charitable registration under the Canada’s Income Tax Act.

The JNF holds charitable status is Canada and can issue tax receipts for donations. The Greens claims that JNF’s charitable status means that “up to 25% of their budget comes from our taxes.”

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According to the human rights group Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), the JNF supports Israel’s discriminatory policies against Palestinians. IJV’s mandate is to “promote a just resolution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties”. Here’s what the organization has to say about the JNF:

Its purpose has always been to acquire land in historic Palestine “for the purpose of settling Jews on such land.” Crucially, this land could never again be sold or leased to non-Jews.

Today, the JNF enjoys charitable status in over 50 countries worldwide, including Canada. While the JNF asserts itself as an environmental NGO, it operates as a quasi-governmental body in Israel.

Through planting trees and supporting agriculture, the JNF claims to be “redeeming the land” and “greening the desert”, but in fact, the JNF’s parks and forests are largely situated over depopulated and demolished Palestinian villages, and therefore, serve as a means of erasing the historical presence of Palestinians, and make it difficult for Palestinians to exercise their right to return to their lands as enshrined under international law.

Today, the JNF is complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories, supporting West Bank settlements and settlers in East Jerusalem. The JNF funds infrastructure for illegal settlements in the Jordan Valley—located deep in the West Bank, as well as in East Jerusalem and other parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. While these settlements expand with the aid of the JNF, more water and lands are being stolen from the Palestinians. In illegally-annexed East Jerusalem, the JNF, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Himnuta, has been evicting Palestinians from their homes and providing these properties to the settler organization, Elad.

According to CBC News, the CRA has conducted “special audits of charities’ political activities” since 2012 “under an $8-million program that initially targeted environmental groups, then expanded to human rights, poverty, religious and other charities.”

A 2009 Toronto Star investigative report, found “rogue charities” among Canada’s 86,000 registered charities. The “rogue charities”, the Star reported, now faced “tough new rules making it easier for the government to suspend or revoke their charitable status.” From April 1, 2014 to March 31, 1015, the CRA conducted 781 audits and revoked the status of 24 charities.

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Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter: @Obiemad