An investigative report by CBC journalist Evan Dyer has discovered that The Jewish National Fund of Canada, one of the country’s long-established charities, has been the subject of a Canada Revenue Agency audit over complaints it violated Canada’s tax rules. A petition is circulating demanding that JNF be stripped of charity status if the audit confirms the law has been broken. Read more.
The Jewish National Fund of Canada is one of Canada’s oldest charitable organizations, raising $13 million in 2017 through donations and special events. It is has a 40 person staff in 9 regional offices. (According to Charity Intelligence Canada, a review agency, its well-connected and high powered CEO earns in excess of $350,000 annually.)
For decades JNF Canada has presented itself as “the caretaker of the land of Israel”, planting trees, building water reservoirs, preparing land for new communities, and building parks and bicycle trails. While a few wealthy donors account for a large part of its revenues, a considerable amount is also raised by individual donations through a “blue box” campaign which appeals mostly to Canadian Jewish families.
But after JNF Canada transfers its money to its parent organization in Israel, things get murky. Charity Intelligence Canada points out that JNF Canada is a very secretive organization, giving it a grade of C- on ‘transparency’. ‘JNF Canada is an ‘utter black box’ when it comes to saying where its money is spent,” Kate Bahen, CEO of Charity Intelligence told CBC journalist Evan Dyer.
Human rights organizations have long complained that a lot of the money collected by JNF Canada is actually used in Israel to plant trees and build parks ON TOP OF Palestinian villages which have been demolished by the Israeli military. One of the most egregious examples is the well known “Canada Park”, built on top of three villages destroyed in 1967. While Israeli forces successfully destroyed the 3 villages, they have not succeeded in erasing the memory of the towns, however.
Another JNF project with a Canadian connection is the Stephen J. Harper bird sanctuary in the Hula Valley in the north of Israel, from which Palestinian Bedouins were expelled in 1948.
Surprising link between JNF Canada and the Israeli military
However, the new revelations in the same CBC report indicate that JNF Canada, in direct violation of Canadian tax guidelines, has sponsored or funded many projects which support the Israeli military.
Megan McKenzie, who lives in Shiloh, Manitoba says she first came across the Jewish National Fund when she was planning a bequest in memory of her nature-loving Jewish grandmother. However, she said was “dumbfounded” to find that the JNF was involved in projects she believed did not conform to Canada’s charitable rules.
McKenzie’s online research on JNF Canada’s parent organization JNF-KKL uncovered extensive details on the charity’s support for the Israeli military, including work on several IDF bases and even contributing to the building of a “security road.”
Petition boosts “Stop the JNF campaign”
In Canada, Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV-C) has launched a petition calling on the “Minister of National Revenue to revoke JNF Canada’s charitable status if (it is) found to be in violation of the Income Tax Act and CRA guidelines and policies.”
“In a little under a week, over 1200 signatures have already been gathered,” notes Corey Balsam, national coordinator for IJV Canada.
The campaign undertaken by IJV in Canada is part of a world wide Stop the JNF campaign, which has had activities in the UK, Germany, France and elsewhere
“If the Canada Revenue Agency revoked JNF’s charitable status it would boost Stop the JNF campaigns elsewhere,” according to Canadian researcher Yves Engler. In the United Kingdom, former Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron withdrew as patron of the JNF and 68 members of parliament have called for a revocation of the organization’s charitable status in that country.
So far, the Canada Revenue Agency has kept the results of its audit secret. But more transparency would seem to be in order both from JNF Canada and from Revenue Canada.
Anyone who agrees that the JNF should have its charity status revoked if the audit finds it is in violation of Canadian law, can sign the IJV “Stop the JNF e-Petition.
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