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Anti-racist groups silent on JNF

JEWISH NATIONAL FUND OF CANADA - JNF honours Dr. Max Glassman

Parliament recently heard a petition criticizing the only explicitly racist registered Canadian charity. Oddly, this important event occurred without help from self-declared antiracist organizations.

Earlier this year Independent Jewish Voices launched a Parliamentary E-Petition that begins by noting that the Jewish National Fund “engages  in discriminatory practices as its landholdings are chartered for exclusively Jewish ownership, lease, and benefit, as noted by the United Nations, the US State Department, a former attorney general of Israel, and the JNF itself.” NDP National Revenue Critic Pierre-Luc Dusseault agreed to sponsor the petition and it far surpassed the needed number of signatures so it was read into the official record. Within 45 days of Dusseault reading the petition in the House of Commons Justin Trudeau’s government was required to formulate an official response to this “call upon the Minister of National Revenue to revoke JNF Canada’s charitable status if found to be in violation of the Income Tax Act and CRA guidelines and policies.”

Last week National Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier responded to the petition without answering the substance of the claims. She stated, “the CRA’s Charities Directorate works and makes decisions regarding a Canadian charity’s status independently from the minister of national revenue.”

Since a CBC expose on the JNF in January there has been an explosion of critical commentary about the organization and support for a campaign that has been simmering below the radar for many years. Montreal daily Le Devoir published a damning article  on the JNF and former donors have published personalized critiques of the JNF in the Times of Israel, Ricochet and Socialist Project. There have been a dozen reports in other Israeli, Arab and left media and the CRA’s subsequent withdrawal  of Beth Oloth’s charitable status — due to its support of the Israeli military — elicited another round of international stories mentioning the CRA’s ongoing audit of the JNF.

For its part, the Canadian Jewish News has published at least five news reports on different elements of the JNF audit. One story focused on IJV gaining support  from politicians for its Stop the JNF campaign. Federal NDP MP Niki Ashton, Ottawa city councillor Shawn Menard and members of the Ontario legislature Rima Berns-McGown and Joel Harden have endorsed  Stop the JNF. Numerous other high-profile individuals, such as Svend Robinson, Noam Chomsky and Libby Davies, as well as over 40 organizations, have endorsed the campaign. Most of the organizations are Palestine focused, but there’s also a number of peace, labour and religious groups. What is startling, however, is the lack of support from self-described antiracist groups.

I was unable to find any criticism of the JNF from Antiracist Canada, Canadian Anti-Hate Network or the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. As such, I emailed to ask if they had ever criticized the JNF. I wrote:

“Hi, I wanted to ask if you are aware of Independent Jewish Voices’ StopJNFCanada Parliamentary E-Petition? To my knowledge the Jewish National Fund is the only explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax write-offs, but, I can find no record of your organization criticizing the JNF’s explicit, structural, racism. Have I missed something? Could you direct me to a statement your organization has made critical of the JNF? If not are you willing to add your voice to their growing campaign to rescind the charitable status of this explicitly racist organization?”

Only Antiracist Canada responded by saying they knew little about the JNF and they would look into it. A week later I asked Canadian Anti-Hate Network and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation whether they “condemn anti-Palestinian racism as conceived and carried out by the Jewish National Fund.” They again failed to respond.

How could any self-respecting antiracist organization refuse to criticize the JNF? Its racism  is well documented and can be discerned from its twitter tag. Furthermore, the JNF is not a marginal organization. The century-old organization has nine offices across Canada and has raised nearly $100 million over the past five years. A number of Canadian prime ministers, including the last two, have attended or spoken at JNF fundraisers.

Any self-respecting antiracist organization should oppose the JNF. As internationally recognized author and physician Gabor Maté put it, “Canadian taxpayers  have no reason to subsidize an organization that makes land available only to one ethnic group, excluding and dispossessing the aboriginal population.”

 

This article was initially published by Canadian Dimension.

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