Legal complaint filed against Canadian charity for donations to Israeli military

A request to revoke the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association’s charitable status is an important step towards lessening Canadian complicity in Palestinian dispossession. Registered Canadian charities provide significant support to Israel and drawing attention to the massive taxpayer subsidy undercuts the Israel lobby.

Last week Palestinian-Canadian refugee Khaled Mouammar and Rabbi David Mivasair submitted a formal legal complaint to the Canada Revenue Agency concerning the charitable status of the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association. The complaint asks the CRA to investigate whether the CZCA’s operations comply with its regulations for registered charities and if not revoke the group’s charitable status.

New Democratic Party Critic for National Revenue Matthew Green echoed the call for the CRA to investigate the CZCA. “If an audit finds that it is breaking the rules it should revoke the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association’s charitable status,” he said.

CRA rules state clearly that “supporting the armed forces of another country is not” charitable yet the Israel Defense Forces website explicitly named the CZCA as an organization “authorized to raise donations for the IDF.” (When Global News reporter Stewart Bell began asking CZCA questions about its ties to the IDF, the Israeli military quickly removed CZCA from its list of international organizations.) In 2019 the CZCA allocated over $1.7 million to YAHAD, which says its “aim is raising funds for IDF soldiers.” CZCA appears to act as a conduit for funds to the Association for the Soldiers of Israel – Canada, which isn’t a registered charity.

CZCA is an egregious example of an organization seemingly defying CRA rules, but it is only one of many. In 2018 the HESEG Foundation, which was established “to recognize and honor the contribution of Lone Soldiers to Israel,” spent more than $9 million in overseas donations. Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel, the Jewish National Fund of Canada, and Beit Halochem Canada (Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel) have also directly or indirectly supported the IDF. A slew of other charities have de facto reltionships with the IDF such as Canadian friends of Technion, which is a university with many ties to the Israeli military, and TanenbaumCHAT, a Toronto high school that organizes fundraisers for active duty Israel soldiers, and holds regular “IDF days.”

Charities that support West Bank settlements also contravene CRA rules from Ottawa. A number of registered charities support settlement projects directly or indirectly, and some have already been sanctioned for this support. Located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Canadian Friends of Ariel University is also a registered charity. So is Christian Friends of Israeli Communities, which says it “provides financial” support to “the Jews currently living in Biblical Israel —the communities of Judea and Samaria” (occupied West Bank).

Similarly, the CRA has a policy of promoting racial equality. Yet the JNF promotes explicitly racist land-use policies in Israel.

Even if Israel wasn’t an apartheid state that regularly bombs its neighbors why should Canadian taxpayers subsidize the symphony, guide dog society, universities, etc. of a country with a per capita GDP equivalent to Canada’s?

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Drawing attention to subsidized charitable donations has an important political/ideological component. It puts the Israel lobby in an uncomfortable position since it is about Canadian law and can be framed as saving taxpayers money. The charities issue undercuts the lobby’s claim that Israel is being ‘singled out’ unfairly, demonstrating that they are in fact ‘singling Israel out’ on the taxpayers’ dime and sometimes in contravention of Canadian law.

There’s another political upside to challenging registered charities. Funds are often raised at public gatherings that function as pro-colonization or pro-IDF rallies. These events often include public figures sensitive to controversy.

A significant share of the funds the CZCA raises come from an annual event they do with the Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada. A few months before the pandemic began, 1,000 people attended an event that “featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble”, reported the Canadian Jewish News. Some public figures likely attended this Israeli military rally.

The CRA needs to investigate Mouammar and Mivasair’s complaint concerning CZCA. If it finds the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association is defying its regulations the group’s charitable status must be revoked.

A version of this article was originally published by the Palestine Chronicle on July 30, 2021, and is reprinted with permission.

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