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Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) is disturbed that the Canadian government is spending public funds and resorting to unprecedented political tactics to protect the charitable status of the controversial Jewish National Fund (JNF) from public scrutiny. Foreign Affairs have gone so far as to promote the ‘monitoring’ of an IJV event criticizing the JNF. IJV is working towards exposing the discriminatory nature of the JNF, which is affecting one of the JNF’s charitable branches here in Canada.

JNF-Canada is a registered charity, despite the JNF being a quasi-governmental organization in Israel that discriminates against non-Jews in its land-holdings, and supports illegal Israeli settlers and settlement infrastructure in Palestinian territories.

According to documents recently released under Access to Information legislation, Foreign Affairs spokesperson Caitlin Workman called on the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) to “monitor” a 2011 IJV event in Ottawa. Under the headline “Event you may want to monitor,” Caitlin Workman sent a May 13 communication stating: “author of the Black Book of Canadian Foreign Policy, Yves Engler, will give a talk on Canada and the Jewish National Fund.”

“It is highly unusual for our government to protect a foreign-based charity by seeking to undermine a Canadian organization’s campaign to challenge its charitable status,” stated IJV spokesperson, Tyler Levitan.

The CRA is fully aware that the JNF’s activities contravene Canadian public policy. Other documents uncovered as part of the Access to Information request reveal that the CRA produced a document called “Questions and Answers: 2010 Fall Report of the Auditor General of Canada Chapter 7 – Registered Charities”. In this document, they ask themselves: “If a registered charity undertakes illegal activities abroad, what action will the CRA take? Will the CRA investigate or revoke the registered status of the Jewish National Fund?” Unfortunately, the Auditor General has yet to ask the CRA this question, despite having knowledge of the JNF’s illegal activities abroad. 

“Internal documents suggest Canada Revenue Agency employees have spent hundreds of hours following and crafting responses to complaints about the Jewish National Fund, rather than following their self-admitted claims of the JNF’s illegal activities abroad,” said IJV spokesperson Tyler Levitan. “This is a shocking and political misuse of the Canada Revenue Agency’s mandate by the Harper government.”

In what appears to be a quid pro quo, the JNF will be honouring Stephen Harper at its main fundraising Gala on December 1st in Toronto. “It is scandalous that the Harper government uses undemocratic tactics to defend an openly discriminatory organization, uses public money to shield the JNF’s behaviour from public scrutiny, and then has the chutzpah to collude with the JNF to glamorize the Prime Minister at its upcoming Gala. Coming on the heels of the Quebec corruption inquiry into political and mafia collusion, the Harper government’s intertwined relationship with the JNF does not pass the smell test,” concludes Levitan.

IJV is calling on Canadians to demand accountability from the government for this blatant misuse of public funds and political interference. It is essential to our democracy that the CRA be allowed to act independently of the ideological demands of the Harper government and to investigate the legality of the JNF’s charitable status.