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Why are Canadian charitable donations going to Israel’s military?

Little-known organization raising millions in tax-deductible funds to support the Israeli military in contravention of CRA rules

Canadian PoliticsHuman Rights

Former Israeli President Reuven Rivlin salutes members of the Israel Defense Forces during the 72nd anniversary of the founding of the country. Photo from Twitter.

Funding other countries’ militaries is not a charitable activity according to Canadian tax law. Yet some organizations granted charitable status by the Canada Revenue Agency funnel their donations to the Israel Defense Forces in clear violation of CRA regulations. Because donations are tax deductible, Canadian taxpayers are essentially subsidizing the IDF—whether they want to or not.

Today we submitted a formal complaint to the CRA regarding the charitable status of a little-known organization called the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association (CZCA). We detail how the CZCA raises and disburses millions in tax-deductible funds to support the Israeli military in contravention of CRA rules.

Groups that grant tax credits are prohibited from supporting other countries’ militaries. According to CRA guidelines, “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”

Yet, the Israel Defense Forces website names CZCA as one of six international organizations “authorized to raise donations for the IDF.” In 2019, the CZCA allocated over $1.7 million to an organization in Israel called Yahad (United for Israel’s Soldiers), which is run by a retired Israeli General and Colonel. Yahad’s stated aim is “raising funds for IDF soldiers.” Its website boasts that “with all overhead costs financed by Israel’s Ministry of Defense, 100% of all donations are utilized for their objectives without any overhead.”

CZCA appears to act as a fundraising conduit for the Association for the Soldiers of Israel – Canada (ASI–Canada), which doesn’t have charitable status. The two groups have the same phone number, fax number and address as well as a joint administrator, Suellen Boyd, and project coordinator Mandy Gnesin. Even CZCA and ASI—Canada’s logos are similar.

The two groups regularly co-organize events, which usually include Israeli soldiers. The theme of their 2018 gala dinner was “70 Years of the IDF: An Evening of Song and Celebration in Support of the Soldiers and their Families.”

ASI-Canada describes itself as “the only non-profit organization in Canada supporting the wellbeing of Israeli soldiers on active duty” and states that it “remains in constant contact with the IDF to better respond to the soldiers’ needs.” The group says it is the “Canadian partner of Yahad.”

CZCA is one of dozens of registered charities in Canada that raise funds for Israel, which has a per capita GDP roughly equal to Canada’s. In 2018 Canadian taxpayer-subsidized charities sent over a quarter billion dollars to Israel. Canadian groups likely spend tens of millions of dollars on projects that support the Israeli military, explicitly racist institutions and West Bank settlements, which contravene CRA regulations.

In 2019 the CRA revoked the charitable status of the Beth Oloth Charitable Organization. The CRA made that decision because Beth Oloth was “increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Israeli armed forces” and funded projects in the occupied West Bank. Additionally, the small group’s annual fundraising grew rapidly from thousands of dollars to $61 million, suggesting it was acting as a “conduit” for other groups. CZCA disbursements to Yahad went from $3,734 in 2017 to well over $1.7 million two years later.

The CRA needs to investigate whether CZCA is complying with its regulations for registered charities. If it is found to be violating the law, the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association’s charitable status must be revoked.

Click here to send an email to the Canada Revenue Agency and ask them to investigate whether the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association is complying with its regulations.

Khaled Mouammar is a Canadian Palestinian refugee who was forced to flee his homeland in 1948.

Rabbi David Mivasair lived in Israel for four years, is rabbi emeritus of the Ahavat Olam Synagogue in Vancouver and a member of Independent Jewish Voices.

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