Tag Archives: Jewish National Fund

Why would NDP foreign affairs critic legitimize Israeli racism?

Should a social democratic party’s spokesperson on foreign affairs address the Israel lobby’s top annual event and legitimize an explicitly racist institution? These are questions those currently vying for leadership of Canada’s New Democratic Party must be pressed to answer.

According to the Canadian Parliament’s recently released disclosure of members’ sponsored travel, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) paid for the New Democratic Party’s foreign affairs spokesperson Hélène Laverdière to speak on a panel at its conference last year.

The notorious anti-Palestinian lobby group spent more than $740 on her flight and accommodation in Washington, DC.

Months after her AIPAC speech, Laverdière participatedin a Jewish National Fund tree-planting ceremony in Jerusalem. During a visit to Israel with Canada’s governor general, Laverdière attended a ceremony with the fund’s world chairman Danny Atar and a number of other top officials.

The Jewish National Fund controls 13 percent of Israel’s land, which was mostly seized from Palestinians forced from their homes by Zionist militias during the 1947-1948 ethnic cleansing known to Palestinians as the Nakba, Arabic for catastrophe.

The JNF systematically discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, who make up a fifth of the population. According to a UN report, Jewish National Fund lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.”

Echoing the UN, a 2012 US State Department report detailing “institutional and societal discrimination” in Israel says the Jewish National Fund “statutes prohibit sale or lease of land to non-Jews.”

If Laverdière doesn’t trust the State Department or the UN’s assessments she could just read the Jewish National Fund’s own website.

Responding to Palestinian citizens’ attempts via the Israeli high court to live on land controlled by the Jewish National Fund, the website explicitly denies their right to do so, despite being supposedly equal Israeli citizens.

The court “has been required to consider petitions that delegitimize the Jewish People’s continued ownership” of the land. The website states that these lawsuits were “directed against the fundamental principles” on which the Jewish National Fund was founded.

The petitions to the court amount to a demand that the JNF, “which serves as trustee for the lands of the Jewish People,” no longer have the “right to make use of these lands for the continuation of the Zionist enterprise in the Land of Israel.”

It adds that over 80 percent of Israeli Jews “prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”

It is a moral outrage that the New Democratic Party foreign affairs spokesperson would legitimize an organization that practices discriminatory land-use policies outlawed in Canada six decades ago.

Laverdière legitimizing the Jewish National Fund and AIPAC reflects the backroom politics that dominate the New Democratic Party. In fact, the issue of Palestinian rights goes to the very heart of democracy within the party.

During the 2015 general election, the New Democratic Party ousted several individuals from running or contesting nominations for parliament because they had defended Palestinian rights on social media.

In the most high profile incident, Morgan Wheeldon was dismissed as a party candidate in Nova Scotia because he accused Israel of committing war crimes during its summer 2014 invasion of Gaza.

More than 2,200 Palestinians, including 551 children, were killed during the Israeli attack.

Leadership candidates must commit to respecting local party democracy and ending the purge against those who defend Palestinian rights. Standing up for Palestinian rights also represents popular will.

A February poll confirms that New Democratic Party members – and most Canadians – are critical of Israel and open to the Palestinian civil society call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) on that country.

According to the poll of 1,000 Canadians, almost 80 percent of those who expressed an opinion said they believe the Palestinians’ call for a boycott is “reasonable.”

In the context of the recent UN Security Council denunciation of settlement building in the West Bank, respondents were also asked “do you believe that some sort of Canadian government sanctions on Israel would be reasonable?”

Eighty-four percent of New Democratic Party supporters responded they were open to sanctioning Israel.

Leadership contenders must be pressed to make their position on Palestinian rights reflect members’ views. A 16 May Facebook post by leading candidate Niki Ashton is an important step.

“For more than 60 years, Palestine has been struggling to simply exist,” Ashton wrote. She added that she was “honored to stand with many in remembering the Nakba” at a recent event in Montreal that was also “a rally in solidarity with those on hunger strike in Palestine today.”

Ashton added: “The NDP must be a voice for human rights, for peace and justice in the Middle East. I am inspired by all those who in our country are part of this struggle for justice.”

In response to criticism from Israel lobby groups and Conservative Party leadership contender Brad Trost, Ashton stood by her participation in the rally.

“One must speak out in the face of injustice, whether here at home or abroad,” she said, and called for Canada to support “a balanced position and a just peace in the Middle East.”

While Ashton’s move is an important step, grassroots activists shouldn’t be naïve about the array of forces, both within and outside the party, that prefer the status quo. Asking nicely will not spark much-needed change.

Before a “youth issues” leadership debate in Montreal in March, the Young New Democrats of Québec asked the party leadership to include a question about Palestine. They refused.

At the upcoming leadership debates Palestine solidarity activists within the party should press the issue.

Contenders need to answer if they believe it is okay for the New Democratic Party foreign affairs spokesperson to speak at AIPAC or legitimize an explicitly racist institution like the Jewish National Fund.

 

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Canada offers tax deduction for promoting ethnic nationalism, war

What do you call an organization that teaches children an exclusive religious or ethnic nationalism and promotes war and other forms of violence to get its way?

Many people would say an extremist group or a right-wing cult. Many people would think we were talking about something like the Ku Klux Klan.

But while the KKK did have a youth corps where children were taught “patriotism” and “Christian values,” but weren’t “brainwashed” – in the words of one “imperial wizard” – we are talking about a group the Canada Revenue Agency finds worthy of awarding tax-deductible status for “charitable” donations.

The Jewish National Fund would also deny “brainwashing” children, but there is no doubt it tries to convince young minds of its exclusivist worldview.

JNF Montreal recently organized a “tree-a-thon” with the stated aim of restoring lands damaged by last year’s forest fires in Israel. Participants were promised “great prizes, great food, great fun,” and students were told they could “earn community service hours.”

The registered “charity” offers various youth education initiatives promoting Zionism, Israel’s state ideology. JNF Canada’s website boasts of how it helps young people “forge an everlasting bond with the land of Israel.”

The JNF has long promoted an expansionist vision of the “land of Israel” – a term that can be found on the Blue Boxes that it uses in fundraisers.

Maps on JNF Blue Boxes distributed in recent years encompass the occupied West Bank. The first map on the Blue Box, designed in 1934, depicted an area reaching from the Mediterranean into present-day Lebanon and Jordan.

Blue Boxes – tins for collecting money – are the mainstay of JNF youth outreach. Over the last century millions of them have been distributed around the world.

An official description explains: “Since its debut in 1901 as JNF’s official fundraising pushke [collection box], the Blue Box has represented JNF and its efforts to develop the land and roads, build communities, strengthen agriculture and create water reservoirs in Israel. It is also a vehicle for educating Jewish youth and involving them in these efforts in order to foster their Zionistic spirit and inspire their support for the State of Israel. For many Jews, the Blue Box is bound up with childhood memories from home and the traditional contributions they made in kindergarten and grade school.”

While youth pursuing “community service” sounds benign, the JNF is, in fact, a racist, colonial institution that has no place in the 21st century. An owner of 13 percent of the land in Israel and with influence over much of the rest, the JNF discriminates against Palestinian citizens who make up one-fifth of the state’s population.

According to a United Nations report from 1998, JNF lands are “chartered to benefit Jews exclusively,” which has led to an “institutionalized form of discrimination.”

For their part, JNF Canada officials are relatively open about the discriminatory character of the organization. In 2009, JNF Canada’s then head Frank Wilson explained, the “JNF are the caretakers of the land of Israel on behalf of its owners, who are the Jewish people everywhere around the world.”

In addition to racist land-use policies, JNF Canada lobbies for war.

Shortly after Israel killed 2,200 Palestinians – mostly civilians – in Gaza during 2014, the JNF brought Shaul Mofaz to speak in Toronto.

As well as being a former defense minister, Mofaz was in charge of the Israeli military from 1998 to 2002. In that capacity, he oversaw the brutal oppression of the second intifada, including a series of attacks on the main cities in the occupied West Bank.

In 2007, the JNF sponsored a cross-Canada speaking tour by Zeev Raz, a colonel who led Israel’s 1981 bombing of Iraq’s nuclear reactor and who has subsequently worked for Israel’s arms industry. The aim of the tour was to build momentum for an attack against Iran.

“Sanctions against Iran are not effective,” Raz argued. “Sanctions are too vulnerable to cheating. The only solution to the Iran problem is for there to be an effort of the US and other forces to invade Iran from the ground.”

JNF Canada has described 2016 as “our best year yet.” More than $21 million was raised.

Similar to other formerly powerful, but now discredited, institutions, the JNF seeks to convince vulnerable young minds of its racist worldview.

It’s time to free the children and abolish the JNF. Or at least revoke its tax-deductible status.

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