Canada revokes Jewish group’s charity status, citing funds for IDF, settlements

Canada revokes Jewish group’s charity status, citing funds for IDF, settlements

Tax authorities say Beth Oloth’s donations to Israeli pre-military seminaries aid military, other monies went to settlements

The Canadian parliament building  in Ottawa, Canada (MarcBruxelle/iStock)
The Canadian parliament building in Ottawa, Canada (MarcBruxelle/iStock)

Canadian tax authorities have revoked the charity status of a Jewish organization, saying its activities have supported the Israel Defense Forces and West Bank settlements, Canadian media reported Monday.

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) earlier this month stripped the Beth Oloth Charitable Organization of its status, after 39 years of operation, Global News reported. The Jewish National Fund of Canada was also under investigation.

The Toronto-based Globe and Mail newspaper last year ranked Beth Oloth 62nd on the list of the largest charities in Canada by tax-receipted donations.

The website said Beth Oloth was “currently unable to receive donations.”

The CRA explained that Beth Oloth donated to Israeli prearmy seminaries, known in Hebrew as “mechinot,” and that it considered those donations aid to the operations of Israel’s military. Canadian law bars registered charities from donating funds to foreign armies.

“It is our position that these pre-army mechinot exist to provide support to the Israel Defense Forces, and that funds forwarded to these mechinot are therefore in support of foreign armed forces,” Global News quoted the CRA as saying.

It added that the CRA said Beth Oloth also donated CAD 1.2 million (USD 900,000) to recipients in West Bank settlements, adding that it goes against Ottawa’s policy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Beth Oloth says its aim is “to stimulate interest in providing higher Jewish education and Jewish religious training for the perpetuation of the Jewish religion and the training of teachers of Jewish religion.”

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported earlier this month that the Jewish National Fund of Canada had been referred to the CRA following a complaint that it used donations to build infrastructure for the IDF, in violation of Canada’s tax rules.

The JNF funds numerous projects in Israel, such as reforestation efforts in areas hit by wildfires and the construction of playgrounds for special needs children, but has also funded infrastructure projects on Israeli military bases.

According to the website, JNF Canada raised $9.5 million in 2017.

CBC said the organization had disclosed to donors last year that it was under audit by the CRA and that it ceased funding those projects in 2016.

Canada officially opposes Israel’s West Bank settlements and says they are “a serious obstacle to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.” CRA policy statement CSP-P13 states: “The courts have held that an organization is not charitable in law if its activities are contrary to public policy.”

CBC said the investigation against the JNF was opened following a complaint filed in 2017 by Independent Jewish Voices Canada, a group that supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel and has tried in the past to have JNF Canada’s charitable status revoked.

The CRA revoked the charitable status of a mosque in August for promoting hate, but Canadian governments have long supported JNF Canada. In 2013, its Negev Dinner honored then-prime minister Stephen Harper.

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