Canada’s Double Standards

Canada’s tax system currently subsidizes Israeli settlements that Ottawa deems illegal; however, the Conservative government says there’s nothing that can be done about it.

In June of last year, Guelph activist, Dan Maitland, emailed Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon concerning Canada Park, a Jewish National Fund of Canada initiative built on land Israel occupied after the June 1967 War. Three Palestinian villages (Beit Nuba, Imwas and Yalu) were demolished to make way for the park.

A few weeks ago Maitland received a reply from Keith Ashfield, Minister of National Revenue, who refused to discuss the particulars of the case but provided “general information about registered charities and the occupied territories.” Ashfield wrote that “the fact that charitable activities take place in the occupied territories is not a barrier to acquiring or maintaining charitable status.”

This means Canadian organizations can openly fundraise for settlements Ottawa (officially) deems illegal under international law and get the government to pay up to a third of the cost through tax credits for donations. To justify the government’s position, Ashfield cited a September 2002 Federal Court of Appeal case (Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel v. Minister of National Revenue), which reversed the Canadian Revenue Agency’s previous position.

The exact amount is not known but it’s safe to assume that millions of Canadian dollars make their way to Israeli settlements every year. In 1997, when it was more of a legal grey area, tax lawyer David Drache claimed that “there are hundreds of [Canadian] organizations … supporting organizations directly or indirectly beyond the Green Line,” referring to the internationally-recognized armistice line between Israel and the occupied West Bank.

In the late 1990s, Israel’s largest settler group, Yesha, raised more than $700,000 a year in Canada. When former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited in the mid-1990s, the Canadian Arab Federation’s Jehad Aliweiwi said he “left with more than $1 million in tax-deductible funds, with no secret as to the destination.” Through the 1990s the Press Foundation was probably the largest known source of funds for settlements, raising as much as $5 million annually for settlers in the occupied West Bank town of Hebron and in the occupied Golan Heights, which was captured from Syria in 1967.

Illegal settlements are not the only questionable activities in Israel that Canadians subsidize through their tax system. A mid-1990s survey found more than 300 registered Canadian charities with ties to Israel, a relatively wealthy country. Every year Canadians send a few hundred million dollars worth of tax-deductible donations to Israeli universities, parks, immigration initiatives and, more controversially, “charities” that aid the Israeli army in one way or another.

One example is Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel or Beit Halochem (Canada), which brings soldiers singled out as heroes by the Israeli military on trips to Canada. Many Canadians, including the Charles R. Bronfman Foundation, support the Libi Fund — “The Fund For Strengthening Israel’s Defense.” In early 2008, Major Gil Chemke, a member of the Israel’s elite search and rescue team, toured the country on behalf of the Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel (CMDAI), which operates in the occupied West Bank. Established to assist wounded soldiers and the population during disasters, CMDAI has raised millions of dollars. Chemke drummed up financial contributions for CMDAI by showing “behind-the-scenes video footage of a rescue operation in Lebanon for a female air crew member whose helicopter was shot down by Hizballah” during Israel’s 2006 invasion of Lebanon.

Established in 1971, the Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada (ASI) provides financial and moral support to active duty soldiers. In 2009, ASI (Canada) — which provides tax receipts through the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association — and El Al airlines granted a 50 percent discount on flights to Israel from Canada for families of “lone soldiers” who join the Israeli military.

While it’s legal — and government will foot part of the bill — to finance charities linked to a foreign army responsible for numerous war crimes and settlements that contravene international law, Ottawa has made it illegal for Canadians to aid a hospital operated by the elected Hamas government.

Ottawa’s post-11 September 2001 terrorist list makes it illegal to financially assist Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade, the Abu Nidal Organization, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, the Palestine Liberation Front, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and groups associated with these organizations. Only one Israeli group, the marginal Kahane Chai, is on the list.

On 25 December, Hamas criticized Canada for re-listing it a “terrorist” entity. “The decision is a clear bias to Israel,” Hamas spokesman, Fawzi Barhoum, told Xinhua. “This encourages Israel to commit more crimes against the Palestinian people.”

Ottawa makes it difficult for Canadians to support many Palestinian groups all the while subsidizing expansionist and militaristic Israeli institutions. Canadians of good conscience should protest and demand change.

Yves Engler is the author of 12 books. His latest book is Stand on Guard for Whom?: A People's History of the Canadian Military . Read other articles by Yves.

8 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Ismail Zayid said on January 14th, 2011 at 12:01pm #

    Yves Engler sums up very well the hypocrisy and complicity of our governments, past and present, in allowing our tax-dollars to be contributed towards manifestations of the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and the war crimes that go on there.

    I have, personally, been writing, for over more than 30 years, to our Canadian Revenue Agency ministers, prime ministers and other authorities about the infamy called “Canada Park”, referred to above, without receiving any significant response. This infamy was brought about by the Canadian Jewish National Fund [JNF], using our tax dollars, and being allowed to remain as a registered charity in Canada. This park was established on the ruins of the three xillages Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba [my own hometown]. These three villages were systematically dynamited and bulldozed, in June 1967, on the direct orders of Yitzhak rabin, the then Israeli army chief of staff, after being occupied without a single shot being fired, in the war of aggression waged by Israel on June 5, 1967. This is a war crime, as correctly described by international authorities including Israeli prominent authors and political figures.

    To associate Canada’s name with this infamy and war crime, brings dishonour to Canada’s name.

  2. Rehmat said on January 14th, 2011 at 3:16pm #

    Well – if Americans have been paying ‘Kosher tax’ for decades – why should not the Israeli poodle Stephen Harper follow in Canada’s neighbors?

    Canada Park, a 7,500 acre recreation area covered with pine forest – a few kilometres north-west of Jerusalem has spectacular panaromas, woodland paths, mountain-bike trails, caves and idyllic picnic areas. This park was built at the cost of US$15 million by the Zionist organization, the Jewish National Fund (Canada), an Israeli government arm for confiscating Natives’ land for the Jewish settlers. Most of the Canadian Jews, Christians and others, who donated for the construction of this park – did not know the history of the land on which this park was built – the history of three Palestinian villages of Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba – whose two mosques, one church, a graveyard and one school were destroyed by the invading Jewish soldiers who occupied this part of West Bank in 1967. The 10,000 descendants of Palestinian inhabitants of those three villages – expelled by the Israel Occupation Force (IOF) – mostly live in refugee camps in East Jerusalem and near Ramallah.

    Historians who are very critical of the Zionist movement, such as Dr. Ilan Pappe (an Israeli Jewish professor at British University of Dexter)), claim that disregarding the existence of Palestinian villages is part of a deliberate effort to erase their history in favor of creating a new one that suits the Zionist narrative of a country that was barren, and only flourished thanks to groups like the JNF. In a study he published, Pappe analyzes the information that JNF provides on several sites, including the Biria Forest, the Jerusalem Forest, the area of Ramat Menashe and the Sataf site near Jerusalem. “The Palestinian orchards are presented as a product of nature, and the history of Palestine is relocated to the period of the Bible and the Talmud,” he writes in his discussion of the site of the village of Ein Zeitun in the Biria Forest……”

  3. mary said on January 16th, 2011 at 9:54am #

    Off topic but I just wanted to say RIP for Susannah York who died on Friday from bone marrow cancer. She was a brilliant and beautiful actress. I remember her especially as Alice in They Shoot Horses Dont’ They?

    Apart from her professional life she was an active campaigner for nuclear disarmanent and for the release of Mordecai Vanunu, a prisoner of the Zionist Israelis for 18 years.


    This is one of the many comments on the Guardian obituary with which I concur.

    ‘Susannah York was a magnificent actress who was utterly mesmerising on screen, combining as she did a palpable sense of her vulnerability with a core of absolute inner strength. And what a truly beautiful voice she had! She was bold and took on really challenging and demanding roles. We hear alot about the “bravery” of some actors – but dedicating her performance in Israel to Mordechai Vannunu – now that was brave and utterly laudable! Thank-You and R.I.P. Susannah.’

  4. jay08701 said on January 16th, 2011 at 11:53am #

    The argument is fallacious. Tax breaks do not equal funding.

  5. hayate said on January 16th, 2011 at 1:29pm #

    That’s sad about Susannah York passing, I didn’t know she was sick. She was one of my favourite actresses. I didn’t know about her politics, either, now I admire her even more.

  6. mary said on January 16th, 2011 at 1:45pm #

    Rehmat – Pappé is at the University of Exeter, not Dexter. One of the rare supporters of a one state ‘solution’. Solutions everywhere you look nowadays but still the wars, torture, oppression and occupations go on.


  7. mary said on January 16th, 2011 at 2:30pm #

    A reminder of the story of Dr Ismail Zayid, who comments here and on other articles, and whose home lies in ruins under Canada Park. My brother has a copy of his film and said earlier after I sent this article –

    ‘The first commentator is an haematologist? from Nova Scotia who came from Beit (Castle) Nuba. He is on an excellent film I have that CBS made. He comes across as a wonderful man. He holds up the key to his home. David ‘


  8. jayn0t said on January 16th, 2011 at 4:49pm #

    There’s a Zionist campaign against the movie “The King’s Speech” getting an Oscar.
    It seems that the alleged Nazi sympathies of the royal family in the thirties were
    a. efforts to avoid war, and
    b. attempts to prevent Jews attacking the Palestinians