RNA - The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) revealed on Friday that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada was being audited for using charitable donations to build infrastructure for the Israeli forces and fund illegal construction in the occupied West Bank.
CBC said the JNF of Canada, one of the country's long-established charities, has been the subject of a Canada Revenue Agency audit after a complaint was filed in October 2017.
The national broadcaster added that the charity had provided finance for numerous projects in Israel over the last few years, such as infrastructure plans in Israeli air and naval bases as well as funding security roads along borders with Syria and Lebanon.
Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) regards the activities in breach of the country’s law which prohibits charitable funds from supporting a foreign army.
The agency says funding for projects intended to increase the "effectiveness and efficiency" of a foreign military cannot be considered charitable and therefore should not be tax-deductible.
"While no law bars a Canadian citizen from writing a cheque directly to Israel's Ministry of Defense, rules do ban tax-exempt charities from issuing tax receipts for such donations, and also ban donors from claiming tax deductions for them," CBC said.
Moreover, the JNF of Canada was reported to have contributed directly to the construction of at least one illegal hilltop settler outpost, Givat Oz VeGaon, which is illegal under international laws.
The national broadcaster said 15 million dollars of tax-deductible Canadian funds had also been allocated for building JNF Canada's flagship project, Canada Park, along with a new adjacent illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank.
The park was built on the occupied territory, over the ruins of three Palestinian villages which Israeli forces demolished back in 1967 as well as the lands of a fourth.
The complaint, submitted to Canada Revenue Agency, was lodged with the support of Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), which presented detailed evidence that JNF Canada works in violation of the Income Tax Act and contravenes Canadian foreign policy in numerous ways.
"It is unconscionable that Canadians are subsidizing an organization that has used tax-deductible donations to support the Israeli military, especially when that army has killed nearly 200 unarmed protesters in Gaza this past year, including medical personnel, members of the media and children," said Canadian Rabbi David Mivasair, one of the complainants.
The IJV, a group that supports Palestinian rights, has long spearheaded a "Stop the JNF" campaign, seeking to strip the organization of its charitable status in Canada.
"JNF Canada has funded well over a dozen projects to support the IDF in the last few years alone, and has officially partnered with the IDF and the Israeli Ministry of Defense," the group said on its website.
The IJV also said the charity group had planted trees in the occupied Palestinian territories, thus helping Israeli regime to cement its control over those areas in violation of international law.
"Through taking control of lands in the [occupied Palestinian territories], these projects entrench Israel’s over fifty-year-long military occupation, making a just peace much more difficult to achieve," the group said.
"No Canadian organization, let alone one with charitable status, should be sponsoring projects that create facts on the ground in favor of an occupying power, and which – in violation of international law – change the physical character of occupied territory," it added.
Lance Davis, the CEO of the Canadian agency, announced in an email to CBC News that the organization stopped funding projects affiliated with the Israeli military in 2016 after it had been informed of the revenue agency’s guidelines.
"To be clear, we no longer fund projects located on IDF [Israeli military] land and JNF Canada operates in accordance with CRA regulations governing its status as a charitable organization," Davis wrote.
Low marks for transparency
Charity Intelligence, a Toronto-based NGO that produces a report rating Canadian charities on their transparency and efficiency in spending donors' money, said the JNF of Canada received a "mark of zero" for financial transparency.
"Any Canadian donor who knows of JNF automatically thinks of planting trees. And there is a lot more to JNF than planting trees," Kate Bahen, head of Charity Intelligence, told CBC.
"We have absolutely no information on how much it's spent planting trees, how much goes for irrigation, or education, or how much is diverted to military bases. And that information, I think, is critical, and it's not provided to Canadian donors," she added.
About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 illegal settlements built since the 1967 Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds.
Palestinians want the West Bank as part of a future independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem al-Quds as its capital.
The last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014. Among the major sticking points in those negotiations was Israel’s continued settlement expansion on Palestinian territories.