Charity targeted: Demonstrators say JNF fundraising an obstacle to Middle East peace
Dina Awad (Toronto - NOW Magazine) - Two hundred activists braved winter’s blasts December 2 and took to the sidewalk in front of the Sheraton Hotel on Queen to protest the Jewish National Fund’s annual gala. The dinner honouring local phil-antropist Miles S. Nadal was part of a $7 million fundraising effort to refurbish Israel’s Ayalon/Canada Park, which the JNF calls “a mosaic of heritage and nature providing people with the ultimate outdoor experience.” But protestors from the 13 different groups present on this wet and snowy night had a different take: they described the 1,000-acre nature spread as an obstacle to future peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Besides the fact that the park arguably extends into the West Bank, the pines of the green space tower over land that was once the Palestinian villages of Imwas and Yalu. The two, plus Beit Nuba, which is adjacent to the park, were razed by Israel in the 1967 war. Chanting and carrying pictures of the destroyed villages, speakers charged that the Canadian government was subsidizing the displacement of people via charitable tax deductions.
Reena Katz, a member of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, told the crowd, “The JNF is fundraising to support the ethnic cleansing of Palestinian villages in the West Bank” – actions that our tax money should not be supporting.
“The Canadian public has a right to know the truth behind Canada Park. They need to know that the JNF is helping to reinforce the status quo of Palestinian dispossession,” she said.
Khaled Mouammar, director of the Canadian Arab Federation, asked why the JNF was allowed to “continue business as usual” getting Canadian charitable tax deductions when the confiscation of land is illegal under international law and traumatizes the Palestinian collective memory.
How do the feds see the issue? When NOW calls the Canada Revenue Agency a few days after the demo, spokesperson Béatrice Fénelon explains that there is no clear public policy prohibiting charitable projects on the West Bank.
In the absence of such legislation, she says, “the CRA cannot treat the fact that such activities occur in the Occupied Territories as a barrier to their charitable status.”