Canadian Jewish charity under fire for funding projects linked to IDF

Report says JNF of Canada stopped funding the enterprises in 2016.

Jewish National Fund of Canada  (photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
Jewish National Fund of Canada
(photo credit: YOUTUBE SCREENSHOT)
Canada’s oldest and largest Jewish charity, the Jewish National Fund of Canada, is the subject of a Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) audit following a complaint that it used donations for projects linked to the IDF, Canada’s CBC News has reported.
According to the report, the JNF said it stopped funding projects linked to the IDF in 2016 and disclosed to donors that it had been under audit last year.
“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,” the report by Canada’s public broadcaster read.
In October 2017, a complaint was filed by Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) which presented detailed evidence that the charity had been violating Canada’s Income Tax Act as well as Canadian foreign policy.
“Currently, the Government of Canada is putting the interests of JNF Canada above those of Canadian taxpayers, and above the interests of our country,” read the complaint by IJV, adding, “The time has come for the Government of Canada to make the lawful decision to initiate the revocation of JNF Canada’s charitable status.”
On its website, the CRA clearly states that some activities may not be charitable when carried out in a country other than Canada, “for example, increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”
In addition, CRA noted, “The courts have also established that a charity’s purposes and activities must not violate officially declared and implemented Canadian public policy.”
On the website of JNF Canada’s Israeli parent organization, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL-JNF), the charity says it “directs 100% of its charitable dollars to support the Land of Israel” with programs that include, among others, education, tourism, recreation, road building, community development and security.
All areas in which the charity works are accessible on the JNF’s website except for security, which one needs a password to access.
But a quick look at KKL’s website shows that over the years, JNF Canada funded dozens of projects to support the IDF, including the new IDF training-base city in the Negev and the development of the Bat Galim naval training base complex area in Haifa.
“KKL-JNF has played a role in the green development of the new IDF training-base city that is currently being established in the Negev,” read an article on KKL’s website. “This activity accords well with KKL-JNF’s objective of changing the community map of the Negev, where it is involved in a number of turning-point projects designed to attract a young quality population to the area.”
The article was referring to another project of an outdoor fitness area at a Gadna military base in Sde Boker in southern Israel. Israel’s Gadna program prepares youth for military service.
“KKL-JNF mobilizes its Friends throughout the world to help provide optimal conditions for Israel’s soldiers. We landscape IDF camps, provide them with exercise facilities and construct pleasant shady corners where parents can meet and sit quietly with their sons and daughters who are serving in the army,” the article continued.
Other projects recently funded by charitable donations was to build a playground and soccer fields for children living on the Hatzerim Air Force Base outside Beersheba in June 2016, as well as the creation of a meeting space at the Palmahim Air Force Base near Rishon Lezion that same year.
JNF Canada has also funded security roads along Israel’s borders with Lebanon, the Gaza Strip and in the Negev for the past 30 years to “assist IDF patrols and local defense coordinators in protecting local residents.”
According to KKL-JNF, some 500 km. (310 miles) of security roads around the Gaza Strip had to be rehabilitated following Operation Protective Edge in 2014, at a cost of around NIS 50 million.
“The areas marked on the map in red are the most dangerous, and the defense forces instructed us to begin the work in those places. KKL-JNF personnel are equipped with flak jackets, just like soldiers, and IDF patrols accompany us while the work is being done,” KKL-JNF Southern Region Construction Unit director Yoram Peretz was quoted as saying at the time.
When contacted by The Jerusalem Post, the IDF Spokesperson’s Unit declined to comment on the report, saying Israel’s military has nothing to say about Canadian tax laws.