South Africa Puts Canada to Shame Regarding Palestine

Like Canada, South Africa is a former British colony and settler state. But the divide between these two countries regarding the world’s most aggressive ongoing European colonialism is stark. While Pretoria assists Palestinians by advocating the boycott of a cultural event, Canadians subsidize huge private donations to a wealthy apartheid state.

On November 13 the Azrieli Foundation and Weizmann Canada published a full-page ad in the Globe and Mail about a US $50 (C$64 million) million Azrieli donation to the Israel based Weizmann Institute of Science. The ad boasted that the Azrieli Foundation had previously donated US$80 million to the Weizmann Institute.

The Weizmann Institute is located in Rehovot, which was established partly on the remnants of Zarnuqa, a Palestinian village de-populated by Zionist forces in 1948. The Weizmann Institute has also worked with the Israeli military.

At the same time as Globe and Mail readers were learning about the largest charitable foundation in Canada donating to Israel, the South African government withdrew its support for the Miss South Africa pageant due to its planned participation in the upcoming Miss Universe contest to be held in Israel. Reigning Miss South Africa, Lalela Mswane, is under significant pressure to boycott a country that imposes a system of apartheid worse than Blacks faced in South Africa. Decrying Israel’s treatment of Palestinians, Miss Greece recently pulled out, as have Miss Malaysia, Barbados, Morocco, Laos and Indonesia (it’s unclear if their decisions were driven by the pandemic).

But one doesn’t have to support Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions to question the Azrieli Foundation donation and advertisement. About half of the Azrieli foundation’s costs are likely covered by taxpayers. Why are taxpayers subsidizing donations by a billionaire family to a country with a per capita GDP equal to Canada’s? Does the Israeli state subsidize donations to Canadian institutes?

Taxpayers would also be on the hook for a share of the cost of the Saturday Globe and Mail ad, which probably cost upwards of $50,000. What is “charitable” about promoting a wealthy foundation’s donation to an institute in a colonial outpost in the Middle East?

Israel-focused registered charities spend significant sums on advertising. On September 4, Canadian Shaare Zedek Hospital Foundation published a full-page ad in the National Post while the Jewish National Fund has advertised in the Ottawa Citizen. A significant amount of advertising in the Canadian Jewish News came from registered charities.

Since 1989 the Azrieli Foundation, which has $2 billion in assets, has given hundreds of millions of dollars to Israeli initiatives. In October Canada’s largest foundation donated $15.6 million to the National Autism Research Centre of Israel and in 2015 it gave Bar-Ilan University $50 million. The Azrieli Foundation has financed projects that benefit the Israeli military, such as Beit Halochem Canada (Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel), and the racist Jewish National Fund, which set up an Azrieli Park in Sderot. In 2011 the Azrielis made a controversial donation to Im Tirtzu, a hardline Israeli-nationalist organization that an Israeli court said had “fascist” features.

Canadian charities send a quarter billion dollars a year to Israel. They’ve channeled over $5 billion to Israel since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967. Taxpayers would likely have covered over $1.5 billion of that sum. As Israel becomes wealthier Canadian government subsidized donations continue unabated. Will the Canada Revenue Agency re-evaluate the charitable status of two hundred organizations focused on funnelling money to Israel if that country’s GDP per capita surpasses Canada’s?

In April Human Rights Watch concluded that Israeli authorities were “committing the crimes against humanity of apartheid”. In January B’Tselem published “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”. 2021 is the 54th year of what Canada, and most every government, officially consider Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank.

Registered charities represent Canada’s most significant contribution to Palestinian dispossession. While the Canada Revenue Agency subsidizes large sums of donations to Israel, the South African government is calling for its beauty pageant to boycott Israel. One country seems to have learned that all forms of colonialism should be opposed.

Which is on the right side of history?

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.