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Open letter: Stop subsidizing genocide

Not one cent of Canadian tax dollars should be funding genocide

Canadian PoliticsMiddle EastWar ZonesHuman Rights

Pro-Palestine rally in Helsinki, Finland, October 21, 2023. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The following open letter has been signed by Gabor Maté, Yann Martel, Linda McQuaig, Roger Waters, Monia Mazigh, Desmond Cole, Libby Davies, Alex Neve Richard Falk, Michael Lynk, Sarah Jama, and many others. To see the full list of signatories, click here.

Dear Minister of National Revenue Marie-Claude Bibeau and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau,

Days after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to “immediately halt” its military offensive in Rafah, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) attacked the besieged city, killing dozens of women and children at a displaced persons camp. The atrocity is the latest crime in a campaign that’s left at least 40,000 Palestinians dead, 80,000 injured and two million displaced. In the eight months since Hamas’ October 7, 2023 attacks, Israel has destroyed nearly half of all buildings, water sources, and agricultural land in Gaza.

At the same time, the Netanyahu government has intensified its settlement construction and violence in the occupied West Bank. Meanwhile, Israel has detained nearly 9,000 Palestinians since October 7.

Taxpayer-subsidized charitable donations may well be Canada’s most important contribution to Palestinian dispossession,” begins a recent parliamentary petition drawing attention to an under-appreciated phenomenon. More than 200 registered Canadian charities funnel a quarter of a billion dollars a year to projects in Israel. Many of these groups finance projects that support the Israeli military and West Bank settlements in contravention of Canada Revenue Agency rules.

As detailed in a recent letter sent by NDP revenue critic Niki Ashton to National Revenue Minister Bibeau, subsidized Canadian funds have gone to extremist settler organization Regavim, which was co-founded by far-right Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich. Additionally, Canadians have funded a group that has been involved in blocking aid trucks to Gaza, as well as one that promotes soldiers planting Israeli flags in Gaza and a campaign stating: “Victory for Israel! Demolish. Enter. Remain in Gaza!

Over the past 17 years, the HESEG Foundation, which was founded by Canadian CEOs Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman in 2005, has raised nearly $200 million to assist non-Israelis who join the IDF, even though CRA rules state clearly that “supporting the armed forces of another country is not” charitable activity. Another registered charity, the Canadian Zionist Cultural Association, has raised $50 million since 1992 despite an IDF website listing it as an international organization “authorized to raise donations” for the Israeli military.

In the past year, formal complaints have been submitted to the CRA detailing how a dozen different Israel-focused charities—with over $100 million in annual revenue—violate CRA rules. Several Canadian charities have provided funding to the Duvdevan Foundation, an Israeli charity that claims to offer support to current members of the “Duvdevan” undercover unit of the IDF which, among other operations, has engaged in extrajudicial assassinations of Palestinians.

Amidst the slaughter and starvation in Gaza, the role charitable organizations play in Palestinian dispossession is increasingly being questioned. Ten thousand Canadians recently signed a parliamentary petition to “investigate all Canadian charities providing funds to illegal Israeli settlement activity and/or the Israeli military.” At the same time, prominent US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just endorsed, “Not On Our Dime!: Ending NY Funding of Israeli Settler Violence Act,” which would revoke the tax-exempt status of groups assisting illegal settlements and Israel’s armed forces.

In posting her letter to Minister Bibeau demanding an investigation of “charities funding Israeli military operations in Gaza and illegal Israeli settlements,” Niki Ashton concluded, “not one cent of Canadian tax dollars should be funding genocide.”

We agree. The CRA must enforce its rules on registered charities assisting the Israeli military and illegal West Bank settlements.

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