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JNF Canada under audit for using donations to fund Israeli army projects: Report

Jewish National Fund of Canada is being audited for using charitable donations to fund Israeli military projects, CBC News reports
JNF Canada says it stopped funding Israeli army projects in 2016 (AFP/File photo)

The Jewish National Fund of Canada is being audited by the country's federal tax agency for allegedly funnelling charitable donations to fund Israeli army projects, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

One of Canada's major charities, JNF Canada has funded infrastructure projects on Israeli army, air and naval bases, CBC News said on Friday.

The organisation disclosed to its donors last year that it was under an audit by the Canada Revenue Agency, CBC reported.

"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 national broadcaster said.

Among several projects, CBC reported that JNF Canada helped fund an outdoor fitness area at the Gadna military base in Sde Boker, in the Negev desert region of southern Israel.

Citing documents produced by JNF Canada's parent organisation in Israel, Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (KKL), CBC News said the JNF's Canadian branch has also helped fund "the new planned IDF Training Base City in the Negev".

JNF Canada donations have also gone to support the development of a training complex and auditorium at Bat Galim Naval Base, as well as training and conferences at the same base, and a "mess-hall type facility" for squadrons at both Palmachim Air Force Base and Nevatim Air Force Base.

JNF Canada's involvement in projects in the occupied Palestinian territories were also featured in the CBC News report.

The organisation's missions also contributed directly to the construction of at least one hilltop settler outpost, Givat Oz VeGaon, which is illegal under international and Israeli laws, the news organisation said.

JNF Canada says it stopped funding army projects in 2016

In an email, JNF Canada's CEO Lance Davis told CBC News that the organisation stopped funding projects affiliated with the Israeli army in 2016 after it was informed of the CRA's guidelines.

"To be clear, we no longer fund projects located on IDF [Israeli army] land and JNF Canada operates in accordance with CRA regulations governing its status as a charitable organisation," Davis wrote.

Still, both the Israeli and Canadian branches of the JNF have been accused of being complicit in Israel's forced removal of Palestinians from their homes, as well as discriminatory land allocation policies, for decades.

JNF Canada funded the creation of Canada Park, a sprawling nature reserve about 25km from Jerusalem built on the rubble of three Palestinian villages that were forcibly depopulated by the Israeli army in the 1967 war.

The original Palestinian residents of those villages - Yalu, Imwas and Beit Nuba - were forcibly removed from the area and most, if not all, have been prevented from returning.

No Canadian organisation, let alone one with charitable status, should be sponsoring projects that create facts on the ground in favour of an occupying power

- Independent Jewish Voices Canada

Independent Jewish Voices Canada, a group that supports Palestinian rights, has spearheaded a "Stop the JNF" campaign, seeking to strip the organisation of its charitable status in Canada.

In 2017, the group helped four Canadians file a complaint with the CRA and the Canadian Minister of National Revenue requesting that JNF Canada no longer be allowed to operate as a charity.

"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 Defence," the group says on its website.

IJV-Canada also said the JNF has planted trees in the occupied Palestinian territories, thus helping Israel 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 50-year-long military occupation, making a just peace much more difficult to achieve," the group says.

"No Canadian organisation, let alone one with charitable status, should be sponsoring projects that create facts on the ground in favour of an occupying power, and which – in violation of international law – change the physical character of occupied territory."