No matter what government officials say, Canada has enthusiastically supported Israel’s dispossession. Canadian backing of Israel includes arms sales, a free-trade agreement, security forces collaboration, diplomatic visits and comments, as well as various other forms of diplomatic, economic and security relations. It also includes numerous unconventional forms of backing for the apartheid regime.
At the start of the year Israel’s leading human rights group B’Tselem released the report, “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid.” Two weeks ago Human Rights Watch published a long report saying Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “amounted to the crimes of apartheid.”
Since then, Israel has ramped up its efforts to ethnically cleanse East Jerusalem, attacked the Al-Aqsa mosque, targeted its Arab citizens, killed Palestinians in the West Bank and begun once again to “mow the lawn” in Gaza, which has left at least 192, including 58 children, dead.
To placate Israel and its supporters, the “anti-racist” Trudeau government withdrew Canada from a major United Nations forum on combating racism this month. In November it appointed a prominent anti-Palestinian to a newly created “special envoy” position to combat antisemitism. Two years ago it adopted a definition of antisemitism created to shield Israel from criticism. To protect Israel’s regime, Trudeau has repeatedly condemned social justice activists on university campuses.
The current government expanded a trade agreement that applies Israel’s customs laws in the occupied West Bank. Ottawa has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to stop Canadian consumers from knowing where two wines are produced to obscure illegal Israeli land theft. Isolating itself from the vast majority of the world, the Trudeau government has defended Israel against criticism at the UN more than 50 times.
In a deepening of the criminalization of Palestinian political life, Trudeau added an eighth Palestinian organization to Canada’s terrorist list. It also maintained the listing of the first ever Canadian-based group designated a terrorist organization, which was anointed as such because it engaged in the ghastly act of supporting orphans and a hospital in Gaza through official (Hamas-controlled) channels.
Even the “aid” Canada has given to Palestinians is designed to advance Israel’s control. In a unique historical dynamic, Canadian aid and military trainers have supported the creation of a Palestinian security force to enforce Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.
In what could be considered an act of treason, Canada’s top diplomat in Israel organized a pizza party in January 2020 for Canadians fighting in that country’s military. Government officials have also ignored illegal recruitment for the Israeli military in Canada.
But these examples are less important than another form of Canadian support for Israel. Though it receives little attention, tax deductible charitable donations are the most consequential and politically unjustifiable Canadian contribution to a state and movement seeking to eliminate Palestinians.
In 2018 registered Canadian charities raised over a quarter-billion dollars for Israel-focused projects. Since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967, billions of dollars in subsidized donations have gone to Israel. In 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated that Canadians sent more than $100 million a year to Israel and possibly as much as $200 million. Assuming $100 million has been sent to Israel yearly since 1967 and with approximately 30 per cent of the $5.4 billion total subsidized by the taxpayer, that’s around $1.7 billion in Canadian public support.
There’s little discussion of the public funds that have gone to Israel through charitable donations. With the exception of the campaign to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada, which won a partial victory recently, there’s been almost no activism targeting Canadian charitable support for Israel. This despite some of these donations violating Canadian charity law. Funds supporting West Bank settlements, explicitly racist institutions and the Israeli military probably contravene Canada Revenue Agency regulations.
While not against current Canada Revenue Agency regulations, there’s a strong argument to be made against Canadian taxpayers subsidizing donations to hospitals, universities, etc. in “Israel proper.” Is it right for all Canadians to pay a share of some individuals’ donations to a country with a GDP equal to Canada’s?
How many Canadian charities funnel money to Sweden or Japan? Is the Israeli government subsidizing Canadian orchestras, museums, guide dog centres, nature conservatories, universities, and hospitals?
(Among the many registered charities that raised over a quarter–billion dollars for Israel-focused projects in 2018 are Canadian Friends of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, Canadian Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Canadian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Canadian Association For Labour Israel and Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum.)
The Canadian government offers innumerable forms of support to the racist, violent regime. Canadians of conscience must register their opposition and work to end this country’s contribution to Palestinian dispossession.
Yves Engler is a Montreal-based writer and political activist.
Image credit: Adam Scotti/PMO