Tag Archives: JNF

McGill University ignores its real racism problem

While accusations of student anti-Semitism at McGill draw international headlines, the university administration’s open association with the Jewish National Fund has been ignored.

In the latest iteration of a multi-year smear campaign against Palestine solidarity activists at the university, Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee activist Noah Lew cried “anti-Semitism” after he wasn’t voted on to the Board of Directors of the Students’ Society of McGill University (SSMU). At a General Assembly last month Democratize SSMU sought to impeach the student union’s president Muna Tojiboeva. The ad-hoc student group was angry over her role in suspending an SSMU vice president and adopting a Judicial Board decision that declared a Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution unconstitutional.

(After two close votes, in February 2016 a motion mandating the student union support some BDS demands passed the union’s largest ever General Assembly, but failed an online confirmation vote after the university administration, Montreal’s English media and pro-Israel Jewish groups blitzed students. The resolution’s constitutionality was subsequently challenged.)

At the recent General Assembly Democratize SSMU’s effort to impeach the president failed. While they couldn’t muster the two thirds of votes required to oust the non-Jewish president of the student union, Democratize SSMU succeeded in blocking the re-election of two Board of Directors candidates who supported the effort to outlaw BDS resolutions.

After failing to be re-elected to the Board of Directors Noah Lew claimed he was “blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.” His claim was reported on by the National Post, Montreal Gazette, Global Television, as well as Israeli and Jewish press outlets. McGill Principal Suzanne Fortier sent out two emails to all students and faculty concerning the matter while the SSMU Board of Directors established a committee to investigate anti-Semitism. The affair was even mentioned in the House of Commons.

While a great deal has been written about alleged student anti-Jewish attitudes, the McGill administration’s open association with an explicitly Jewish supremacist organization passes with nary a comment. On November 28 McGill’s Associate Vice-Principal Innovation Angelique Mannella is scheduled to participate in a Jewish National Fund networking event called Tech Shuk, which connects Jewish capitalists with Montreal start-ups in a “Dragon’s Den” style competition. But, the JNF is a racist organization. Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land, it 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.” The JNF oversees discriminatory land use policies in Israel outlawed in this country 60 years ago.

In 2004 long-time McGill Principal Bernard Shapiro was the honoured guest at JNF Montréal’s annual fundraising dinner (two years later the then former University Principal was master of ceremonies at the event). The current president of JNF Montréal, Michael Goodman, was a member of the advisory board of McGill ASD (Autism spectrum disorder). In 2014 McGill gave an honorary degree to Marvin Corber. The University’s press releaseannouncing its two honorary degree recipients cited an award Corber received from the JNF. Corber has been a JNF Montréal campaign advisor and chair of its annual fundraising dinner.

While the university administration’s ties to the JNF are a stark example of its racial bias, McGill is also entangled in other more subtle forms of anti-Palestinianism. The Montréal university has a memorandum of understanding with Tel Aviv University, which claims to be on “the front line of the critical work to maintain Israel’s military and technological edge.” McGill also has a partnership with Technion, which conducts “research and development into military technology that Israel relies on to sustain its occupation of Palestinian land.”

In 2012 the estate of Simon and Ethel Flegg contributed $1 million to McGill’s Jewish Studies department partly for an “education initiative in conjunction with McGill Hillel.” But, the cultural organization turned Israel lobby group refuses to associate with Jews (or others) who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Israel; support boycott of, divestment from, or sanctions against the state of Israel.”

Imagine the outcry if a McGill department accepted a large donation to work with an organization that openly excluded Jews and others who “delegitimize, demonize, or apply a double standard to Palestine and fail to recognize Palestinians’ UN enshrined rights.”

It’s time to discuss the McGill administration’s support for Jewish supremacy in the Middle East.

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Filed under A Propaganda System, Canada and Israel

Canada must stop subsidizing this racist, colonial, institution

Imagine if there were an organization called the White National Fund that raised tens of millions of dollars each year from Canadians to buy land in the US to be held exclusively for people of European descent. WNF land couldn’t be leased or sold to anyone who they didn’t consider “white”. Would it be acceptable to give such an organization charitable status so donors received tax breaks?

While similar exclusionary land policies are its raison d’être, Jewish National Fund apologists in Canada claim it is racist to highlight the organization’s discrimination.

In a recent commentary on Jagmeet Singh’s embrace of imperialist NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière I pointed out that she “participated in a ceremony put on by the head of the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund during a visit to Israel” in November.

An individual on my Facebook had the temerity to respond: “Yves Engler would do well to more thoroughly research the long and positive history, aims and accomplishments of the Jewish National Fund, before branding it with his own thinly veiled anti-Semitism, by describing (and underlining) it as ‘explicitly racist’.” (My “underlining” was a link to supporting evidence.)

The Green Party was smeared in a similar fashion when members proposed a resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because of its discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.” In a National Post op-ed last summer then JNF head Josh Cooper accused the Greens’ of discrimination and a commentary published by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs directly labeled the party “anti-Semitic”.

JNF officials responded in a similar way after a 2013 protest against the organization in Colorado. KKL-JNF World Chairman Efi Stenzler said, “attacks and demonstrations against us [Jews] have picked up momentum of late, we [JNF] are targeted first and foremost because we are helping to realize the Zionist vision.”

The chutzpah of JNF apologists’ beggars belief. JNF racism is not concealed; it is, in fact, the organization’s raison d’être. The US State Department, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the Israeli SupremeCourt are all on record regarding the discriminatory policies of the JNF, which controls 13% of Israel’s land and has significant influence over most of the rest. Indicative of its discrimination against the over 20% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish, JNF Canada’s Twitter tag says it “is the caretaker of the land of Israel, on behalf of its owners  — Jewish people everywhere.” Its parent organization in Israel — the Keren Kayemet LeYisrael — is even more open about its racism. Its website notes that “a survey commissioned by KKL-JNF reveals that over 70% of the Jewish population in Israel opposes allocating KKL-JNF land to non-Jews, while over 80% prefer the definition of Israel as a Jewish state, rather than as the state of all its citizens.”

The JNF is an openly Jewish supremacist organization operating in a Jewish/white supremacist state. Think KKK during Jim Crow in the US South. But, in the JNF’s case proponents of the racist organization smear internationalist/universalist critics as discriminatory!

The JNF provides a stark example of the ethnocratic blinders that Zionism has placed on large swaths of Canada’s Jewish community. Seven decades ago Jewish individuals and groups fought against discriminatory land use policies in this country while today thousands attend JNF fundraisers across the country. In the most famous challenge to discriminatory land covenants, in 1948 Annie Noble decided to sell a cottage in the exclusive Beach O’ Pines subdivision on Lake Huron to Bernie Wolf, who was Jewish. During the sale Wolf’s lawyer realized that the original deed for the property restricted sale to “any person wholly or partly of negro, Asiatic, coloured or Semitic blood.” The deed further explained: “The land and premises herein described shall never be sold, assigned, transferred, leased, rented or in any manner whatsoever alienated to and shall never be occupied or used in any manner whatsoever by any person of the Jewish, Hebrew, Semitic, negro or coloured race or blood, it being the intention and purpose of the Grantor, to restrict the ownership, use, occupation and enjoyment of the said recreational development, including the lands and premises herein described to person of the white or Caucasian race not excluded by this clause.”

Noble and Wolf tried to get the court to declare the restriction invalid but they were opposed by the Beach O’Pines Protective Association. Both a Toronto court and the Ontario Court of Appeal refused to invalidate the racist covenant. But Noble pursued the case — with assistance from the Canadian Jewish Congress — to the Supreme Court of Canada. In a six-to-one decision the highest court reversed the lower courts’ ruling and allowed Noble to purchase the property.

Were the judges who voided the discriminatory land covenant “anti-Caucasian”? Of course not.

If the JNF disappeared or Israel outlawed discriminatory land policies would Israeli Jews become oppressed? Hardly.

But, myself and other Canadian critics haven’t even called for the JNF to be outlawed. Notwithstanding the anti-Semitism smears, the above-mentioned Green Party resolution or Independent Jewish Voices’ JNF campaign simply calls on the Canadian state to stop subsidizing its discrimination (and implicitly for public representatives in this country to stop participating in JNF events). As far as I’m aware, no one has called for the organization to be banned, its executives to be investigated for contravening Canadian law or for the land and assets it controls to be seized.

Eventually the JNF’s charitable status will be revoked. Taxpayers can’t be expected to subsidize discriminatory land-use policies in Israel forever. At some point groups and individuals who claim to oppose racism will stop running scared of “anti-Semitism” insults and will add their voice to Independent Jewish Voices political and legal challenge of the JNF’s charitable status.

For the Palestinian solidarity movement the campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is important beyond winning the specific demand. It draws attention to the racism intrinsic to Zionism and highlights Canada’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.

The campaign to revoke the JNF’s charitable status is simply a call for the Canadian state to stop subsidizing an explicitly racist, colonial, institution. There is nothing anti-Jewish in that.

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Defenders of racism in Israel should not be consulted about racism here

Would an organic farmer ask a fox to help design a security system for her free-range chickens?

A group that stokes Islamophobia and defends an explicitly supremacist organization shouldn’t be part of a Public Consultation on Systemic Discrimination and Racism in Québec. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) should be removed from the “list of selected organizations” for this important initiative.

While groups participating in the just launched consultation are supposed to “develop concrete proposals to combat systemic discrimination and racism”, last summer CIJA campaigned aggressively against a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of an explicitly racist organization. The Green’s motion described the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.” Owner of 13 percent of Israel’s land – mostly seized from Palestinians in 1948 – the JNF systematically discriminates against the 20% of non-Jewish Israeli citizens. JNF racism is not the all too common ‘personal’ or even ‘structural’ variety, rather a legalistic discrimination outlawed in Canada six decades ago.

CIJA and the JNF Canada often work together and sponsor each other’s events. Additionally, JNF Canada CEO Lance Davis previously worked as CIJA’s National Jewish Campus Life director.

Beyond defending racist land-use policies in Israel, CIJA has stigmatized marginalized Canadians by hyping “Islamic terror” and targeting Arab and Muslim community representatives, papers, organizations, etc. In response to a truck attack in Nice, France, last year CIJA declared “Canada is not immune to … Islamist terror” and in February they highlighted, “those strains of Islam that pose a real and imminent threat to Jews around the world.”

In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the region, CIJA demonizes Canadian Arabs and Muslims by constantly accusing them of supporting “terror”. Last week the lobbying arm of Canada’s Jewish Federations said it was “shocked” Ottawa failed to rescind the charitable status of the Islamic Society of British Columbia. CIJA alleges that the Vancouver area mosque supports Hamas, which the federal government considers a terrorist organization but Palestinians (and most of the world) consider a political/resistance organization.

In 2014 CIJA pushed to proscribe as a terrorist entity Mississauga-based IRFAN (International Relief Fund for the Afflicted and Needy). The Jewish group’s press release about the first Canadian-based group ever designated a terrorist organization boasted that “current CIJA board member, the Honourable Stockwell Day … called attention to IRFAN-Canada’s disturbing activities nearly a decade ago.”

In the early 2000s pro-Israel groups and the Conservative Party accused a charity that supported thousands of orphans in a dozen countries of working for Hamas. But, a Canada Revenue Agency audit failed to substantiate the claim. As the two-year audit was about to wrap up at the end of 2004, Stockwell Day and the Canadian Coalition of Democracies (CCD) held a press conference where they accused IRFAN of being a front for Hamas, which prompted a defamation suit (CCD eventually retracted the allegation while Day was protected by parliamentary privilege).

When Day’s Conservatives later took power the CRA renewed their investigation of IRFAN in what appeared to be an effort to prove that Muslim Canadians financed “Hamas terror”. In 2011 the CRA revoked the group’s charitable status, claiming “IRFAN-Canada is an integral part of an international fundraising effort to support Hamas.” A big part of the CRA’s supporting evidence was that IRFAN worked with the Gaza Ministry of Health and Ministry of Telecommunications, which came under Hamas’ direction after they won the 2006 Palestinian legislative election. The Canadian organization tried to send a dialysis machine to Gaza and continued to support orphans in the impoverished territory with the money channelled through the Post Office controlled by the Telecommunications Ministry.

This author cannot claim any detailed knowledge of the charity, but on the surface of it the charge that IRFAN was a front for Hamas makes little sense. First of all, the group was registered with the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank when the Fatah-controlled PA was waging war against Hamas. Are we to believe that CRA officials in Ottawa had a better sense of who supported Hamas then the PA in Ramallah? Additionally, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) viewed the Canadian charity as a legitimate partner. In 2009 IRFAN gave UNRWA $1.2 million to build a school for girls in Battir, a West Bank village.

In a sign of how the campaign against IRFAN stigmatized a marginalized group, the CRA’s findings were used to smear the 2012 edition of the Reviving the Islamic Spirit conference in Toronto because IRFAN was one of 17 sponsors of one of the largest Muslim gatherings in North America.

While quick to attack Arabs and Muslims’ support for “terror” or “anti-Semitism”, CIJA clams up when explicit Jewish Islamophobia is brought to their attention. In 2012 the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) asked for CIJA’s help with an aggressively anti-Muslim textbook used at Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School in Toronto. It described Muslims as “rabid fanatics” with “savage beginnings”, but CIJA refused to respond.

In a more recent example of the group stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, CIJA aligned itself with the backlash against the term “Islamophobia” in bill M-103, which called for collecting data on hate crimes and studying the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” CEO Shimon Fogel said the “wording of M-103 is flawed. Specifically, we are concerned with the word ‘Islamophobia’ because it is misleading, ambiguous, and politically charged.” It takes chutzpah for a Jewish community leader to make this argument since, as Rick Salutin points out, anti-Semitism is a more ambiguous term. But, Fogel would no doubt label as anti-Jewish someone who objected to the term anti-Semitism as “misleading, ambiguous, and politically charged”.

An initiative promoted by committed anti-racist campaigners, the Public Consultation on Systemic Discrimination and Racism in Québec is important. It should not include a group that stokes Islamophobia and defends an explicitly supremacist organization.

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Filed under Canada and Israel

Who do you trust when it comes to NDP leadership candidates?

Like bears attracted to spawning salmon, politicians seek out power. The former needs to build stores of fat to survive the winter, while the latter must attract the resources and support necessary for successful electoral campaigns. Given the survival imperative, neither bear nor politician should be criticized too harshly for what comes naturally. But, the two best ways to judge politicians are by taking a look at whom they choose to gather resources from and what they are prepared to do to get them.

At worst politicians pander to society’s wealthiest and reactionary social forces, further solidifying their grip on the economic and political system. At best they seek out progressive grassroots and labour organizations, collecting the necessary resources from ordinary people while amplifying their influence.

It’s within this context that one should understand Ontario MPP Jagmeet Singh’s trip to Israel with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. At the start of the year the current NDP leadership candidate took an organized trip there and met to discuss it with Galit Baram, Israel’s consul general in Toronto.

The trip and meeting were most likely aimed at allaying particular concerns since in early December Singh was the only member of the Ontario legislature to speak out against a provincial vote to condemn the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. He criticized a CIJA-backed motion supporting the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and rejecting “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.”

When speaking to NDP members recently Singh has repeatedly highlighted that move rather than the CIJA trip or consular visit. Similarly, Singh published eleven tweets about Palestine on July 16. In the best of the lot he stated: “3 yrs ago today the 2014 Gaza War made headlines when 4 Palestinian boys were killed by an Israeli military strike while playing on a beach” and “I stand for Palestinians’ right to freely determine their political status & pursue their economic, social & cultural development.” In response to two questions Independent Jewish Voices and Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East submitted to NDP leadership candidates Singh said, “I would considersupporting the use of targeted sanctions against Israel” and “I would support mandatory labeling of products originating from Israel’s colonies, and excluding these products from the benefits of CIFTA [Canada Israel Free Trade Agreement]. I am also open to considering a ban.”

(In assessing Singh’s responses to their Middle East policy questionnaire IJV gave him a B for third place while CJPME ranked him second with an –A. Niki Ashton received an A+ from both IJV and CJPME.)

Singh clearly wants average NDP members to think he’s opposed to Israeli violence and supportive of Palestinian solidarity activism. Simultaneously, however, he wants to signal to CIJA and Israeli officials that he’ll play ball.

The Palestinian question is particularly tricky for the Brampton-based politician. With some claiming that his open (Sikh) religiosity is a liability in Québec, Singh’s path to becoming leader is largely contingent on convincing members he’s best positioned to expand NDP support among the young and communities of colour. But, younger and darker NDP members/sympathizers largely oppose the current NDP leadership’s de facto support for Israeli expansionism/belligerence. A February poll found that only 17 per cent of Canadian millennials had a positive opinion of the Israeli government versus 37 per cent of those 65 plus. I’m not aware of any Canadian polling by ethnicity on the subject, but US polling provides a window into attitudes here. According to a July Newsweek headline: “Young, Black and Latino Americans Don’t Like Israel” (after the invariable push back the headline was changed to “Why More Young, Black and Latino Americans Than Ever Before Don’t Like Israel”).

To the extent that Singh can rally younger and ethnically diverse folks to the party it would tend to push the NDP towards Palestinian solidarity. On the other hand, Singh is the preferred candidate of much of the party establishment and his candidacy is heavily media-driven. The dominant media and NDP hierarchy are generally hostile to discussing Canada’s complicity in Palestinian dispossession.

At the first six leadership debates there wasn’t a single question related to the NDP’s position on Palestine. While the party hierarchy refuses to debate it, the NDP actually devotes significant energy to the subject. During the 2015 federal election the NDP ousted as many as eight individuals from running or contesting nominations because they defended Palestinian rights on social media. Last year NDP foreign critic Hélène Laverdière spoke at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s (AIPAC) annual conference in Washington and traveled to Israel with Canada’s Governor General where she attended a ceremony put on by the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund (Laverdière is backing Singh for NDP leader). Many party officials – 20 federal NDP MPs, according to a 2014 iPolitics calculation – have gone on all-expense paid trips to that country with an Israeli nationalist organization.

So, party representatives can travel halfway across the globe to investigate the conflict and individuals chosen by local riding associations can be removed for their opinions on the issue, but the subject doesn’t warrant debate.

If Singh wins the leadership will he expend the energy needed to shake up the established order on this issue?

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Filed under Canada and Israel