In 2010 the Auditor General apparently called on the Canada Revenue Agency to “investigate or revoke” the Jewish National Fund’s charitable status. But this request seems to have been ignored in deference to a “charity” that has long participated in the erasure of Palestinians’ presence from their historic homeland.
Through an Access to Information request Montreal-based activist Ron Saba recently received dozens of Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) documents concerning the Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada. In probably the most explosive revelation, the “2010 Fall Report of the Auditor General of Canada Chapter 7 - Registered Charities” includes a question to the CRA about revoking the charitable status of the JNF.
Shutting out Palestinian citizens of Israel, JNF lands can only be leased or purchased by Jews. In 1998 a UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights found that the JNF systematically discriminated against Palestinian citizens of Israel. According to the report, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.” In 2005, Israel’s high court came to similar conclusions.
Even the most recent US State Department annual report on Israel notes: “Approximately 93 percent of land was in the public domain, including approximately 12.5 percent owned by the NGO Jewish National Fund (JNF), whose statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”
Instead of launching a proper investigation, CRA officials have prepared misleading responses to those calling on the agency to revoke the JNF’s charitable status. The internal documents suggest the CRA has spent hundreds of hours devising strategies to respond to complaints about the JNF and covering up what Ron Saba has dubbed “the Racist JNF Tax Fraud.”
This public relations strategy is spelled out explicitly in a document of “Media Lines” on the JNF prepared for use by the Canada Revenue Agency’s media handlers. It notes that Saba has been “questioning the legitimacy of the charitable status of the JNF” through a “wide distribution list, including members of Parliament, senators, Canadian and international media and human rights and social justice groups.”
As part of the effort to protect the JNF from scrutiny, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Caitlin Workman emailed former colleagues at the CRA in 2011 suggesting they “monitor” an Independent Jewish Voices sponsored talk in Ottawa. Under the headline “Event you may want to monitor” Workman sent a May 13 communication stating “author of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, will give a talk on Canada and the Jewish National Fund”.
Over the past nine months immigration minister Jason Kenney and foreign minister John Baird have spoken at JNF galas while environment minister Peter Kent toured southern Israel with officials from the organization in December. At the end of the year Prime Minister Stephen Harper is set to be honoured at the JNF Negev Dinner in Toronto, which will be the first time a sitting Canadian prime minister has spoken to a JNF gala in the organization’s 100 year history.
While it’s hard to imagine the CRA under Stephen Harper revoking the JNF’s charitable status, at least without a lengthy and expensive legal battle, the campaign can play an important educational purpose. The organization is at the heart of Israeli apartheid and drawing attention to this institution is a way to discuss the racism intrinsic to Zionism.
Adapted fromThe Lands of the Jewish National Fund by Yves Engler, published on line :