On Sunday Bill Sloan and I interrupted a Technion Canada fundraiser to challenge its support of the Israeli military and the role of government-subsidized charities in promoting Israeli apartheid.
After entering the room, I declared “Technion Canada supports the Israeli military and the Israeli military’s war crimes. Technion Canada has projects that support the Israeli military. Free Palestine.”
In response a 65-ish man in a suit hustled across the room to punch me in the head. Sloan and many in the audience witnessed the assault. The man’s aggression can be viewed on my video of the incident. This came a week after being slugged in the stomach and head after disrupting a public presentation by Hillel Neuer of the anti-Palestinian UN Watch.
Technion Canada’s Water and Whiskey cocktail fundraiser was $200 per ticket. The publicity for the event highlighted “Sponsorship Opportunities: starting at $1,800. Tax receipts will be issued for the maximum amount allowable under CRA [Canada Revenue Agency] rules.”
A registered charity able to provide tax receipts that can cover about 40% of an individual’s donation, Technion Canada has helped raise huge sums for Israel’s Institute of Technology. According to the 2020 report Who Gives and Who Gets: The Beneficiaries of Private Foundation Philanthropy, the single top recipient of private Canadian foundations between 2014 and 2018 was Technion, which received $89 million. (University of Toronto was the second largest beneficiary at $59 million.)
More than other Israeli universities, Technion has substantial ties to the IDF. “Technion has all but enlisted itself in the Israeli armed forces”, noted a pamphlet by New Yorkers Against the Cornell-Technion Partnership. It has various research and student initiatives with the IDF. Technion, for instance, developed a remote-controlled bulldozer, which the IDF uses to demolish Palestinian homes.
Some Technion Canada funds are specifically allocated to strengthen its ties to the Israeli military. In an April 2021 story titled “Helping Those Who Guard Israel” Technion Canada reported, “Brothers Richard (Rick) and Barry Sacks and their families are long-time Technion supporters. They recently chose to help fund Technion’s Program to Support Students in the IDF, a unique program that provides specialized support to students whose education is interrupted by Miluim [reserve duty] service.”
Technion Canada’s support for the IDF may contravene CRA rules, which state that “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”
The sums raised for Israeli universities are substantial. Canadian Friends of Tel-Aviv University, Canadian Friends of University of Haifa and 10 other similar groups help raise tens of millions of dollars annually for Israeli universities.
(Located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Canadian Friends of Ariel University appears to have recently lost its charitable status. On a page for Friends of Ariel University, the Canada Helps charity database notes, “due toinformation from the Canada Revenue Agency, we cannot accept donations at this time.” It contravenes CRA rules to assist illegal West Bank settlements.)
The subsidies provided to Israel-focused charities ought to be a political scandal. As I’ve detailed elsewhere, many registered charities assist the Israeli military, settlement projects and racist organizations, which should all contravene CRA rules. Beyond that, registered charities raise over a quarter billion dollars a year for initiatives in Israel, which hasa GDP per capita equal to Canada’s.
A recent article in the Journal of White Collar and Corporate Crime offers a window into the scope of the resource transfer and dubious financial practices. In “International Cash Conduits and Real Estate Empires: A Case Study in Canadian Philanthropic Crime” professors Miles Howe and Paul Sylvestre document what they call the “burner charity phenomenon… Much like burner phones, burner charities appear disposable and readily replaceable. Tracking three burner charities (Gates of Mercy, Beth Oloth, and the Jewish Heritage Foundation) across two decades, we outline a relationship of activity and dormancy, wherein once an active burner charity has its charitable status revoked a subsequent burner charity is activated in its place.”
With no website, an address listed in a home and only two active board members, Beth Oloth’s annual fundraising grew from thousands of dollars to $61 million between 2011 and 2017. In addition to acting as a conduit for donations, the CRA revoked Beth Oloth’s charitable status in 2019 for “increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Israeli armed forces” and funding projects in the occupied West Bank. But no one was prosecuted and Beth Oloth activities may have been replaced by another “burner charity”.
Howe and Sylvestre conclude, “in tracking the activity of the Gates of Mercy, Beth Oloth, and the Jewish Heritage Foundations between 2000 and 2020, we have sought to demonstrate a pattern of regulatory violation through which over $400 million in tax-sheltered funds were transferred out of Canada to international agents, or, in the regulatory language of the CRA, ‘non-qualified donees’, located predominantly in Israel and the United States.”
Much of the funds transferred by registered charities to Israel contravene CRA rules. Canada’s revenue agency should be pressed to apply its laws more vigorously on the matter. But more generally should all Canadians be subsidizing individuals’ donations to a wealthy apartheid state?
Even if it means taking a few more punches from Israeli nationalists who have learned from the violence they support in that country, I will continue to challenge Technion Canada and other “charities” enabling Palestinian dispossession.
Beginning November 22 Yves Engler will be touring in southern Ontario, Vancouver Island and the lower mainland.