Anti-racist organizations remain silent on the JNF
Parliament will soon hear a petition criticizing the only explicitly racist registered Canadian charity. Oddly, this important event will occur without help from self-declared anti-racist organizations.
Recently Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) launched a parliamentary e-petition that begins by noting that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) “engages in discriminatory practices as its landholdings are chartered for exclusively Jewish ownership, lease, and benefit, as noted by the United Nations, the US State Department, a former attorney general of Israel, and the JNF itself.” NDP national revenue critic Pierre-Luc Dusseault agreed to sponsor the petition and it has already reached the required number of 500 signatures so it will be read into the official record. Within 45 days of Dusseault reading the petition in the House of Commons Justin Trudeau’s government is supposed to formulate an official response to this “call upon the Minister of National Revenue to revoke JNF Canada’s charitable status if found to be in violation of the Income Tax Act and [Canadian Revenue Agency] CRA guidelines and policies.”
Since CBC’s expose on the JNF in January there has been an explosion of critical commentary about the organization and support for a campaign that has been simmering below the surface for many years. Montreal daily Le Devoir published a damning article on the JNF and former donors have published personalized critiques in the Times of Israel, Ricochet and Socialist Project’s The Bullet. There have been a dozen reports in other Israeli, Arab and left media outlets and the CRA’s subsequent withdrawal of Beth Oloth’s charitable status – due to its support of the Israeli military – elicited another round of international focus on CRA’s ongoing audit of the JNF.
For its part, the Canadian Jewish News has published at least four news reports on different elements of the JNF audit. One story focused on IJV gaining support from politicians for its Stop the JNF campaign. Federal NDP MP Niki Ashton, Ottawa city councillor Shawn Menard and members of the Ontario legislature Rima Berns-McGown and Joel Harden have endorsed Stop the JNF. Numerous other high-profile individuals, such as Svend Robinson, Noam Chomsky and Libby Davies, as well as over 40 organizations, have endorsed the campaign. Most of the organizations are Palestine-focused, but there’s also a number of peace, labour and religious groups.
What is startling, however, is the lack of support from self-described anti-racist groups.
I was unable to find any criticism of the JNF from Anti-Racist Canada, Canadian Anti-Hate Network or the Canadian Race Relations Foundation. As such, I emailed to ask if they had ever criticized the JNF. I wrote:
Hi, I wanted to ask if you are aware of Independent Jewish Voices’ StopJNFCanada parliamentary e-petition? To my knowledge the Jewish National Fund is the only explicitly racist institution sanctioned by the Canadian state to give tax writeoffs, but, I can find no record of your organization criticizing the JNF’s explicit, structural racism. Have I missed something? Could you direct me to a statement your organization has made critical of the JNF? If not are you willing to add your voice to their growing campaign to rescind the charitable status of this explicitly racist organization?
Only Anti-Racist Canada responded by saying they knew little about the JNF and they would look into it. A week later I asked Canadian Anti-Hate Network and the Canadian Race Relations Foundation whether they “condemn anti-Palestinian racism as conceived and carried out by the Jewish National Fund?” They again failed to respond.
How could any self-respecting anti-racist organization refuse to criticize the JNF? Its racism is well documented and can be discerned from its Twitter tag. Furthermore, the JNF is not a marginal organization. The century-old organization has nine offices across Canada and has raised nearly $100 million over the past five years. A number of Canadian prime ministers, including the last two, have attended or spoken at JNF fundraisers.
Any self-respecting anti-racist organization should oppose the JNF. As internationally recognized author and physician Gabor Maté put it, “Canadian taxpayers have no reason to subsidize an organization that makes land available only to one ethnic group, excluding and dispossessing the aboriginal population.”
Yves Engler has been dubbed “one of the most important voices on the Canadian Left today” (Briarpatch), “in the mould of I.F. Stone” (Globe and Mail), and “part of that rare but growing group of social critics unafraid to confront Canada’s self-satisfied myths” (Quill & Quire). He has published nine books.