Imagine that during the period of Jim Crow, a Canadian political party had polled its members about pressing Ottawa to stop subsidizing U.S. racism, only to be smeared by an organization driving the discrimination. But, instead of relishing the attacks, party leaders sought to placate the racist group by inviting it to address their convention, which the said group refused, while claiming discrimination.
This hard-to-fathom scenario mirrors the scrimmage between the Jewish National Fund of Canada and the Green Party since members put forward a resolution calling for the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the JNF’s charitable status because it practices “institutional discrimination against non-Jewish citizens of Israel” by purchasing tracts of land and leasing only to Jews, excluding Palestinian citizens. It controls 13 per cent of Israel’s land.
The first round of a multipronged voting process resulted in over 60 per cent of voters approving the resolution, which means it could be adopted at the party’s convention in early August. (A concurrent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution received nearly 60 per cent approval and will be subject to amendments at convention.)
In a last-ditch bid to overturn these results and circumvent the Green Party’s use of one member, one vote, the head of the JNF penned a furious National Post op-ed last week.
“Among the various reasons I won’t be addressing the Green Party of Canada’s upcoming convention is the fact that I was invited by the party to do so on a Saturday — a surprising (and some would say insensitive) invitation for a Jewish organization,” wrote Josh Cooper, JNF’s chief executive officer. It takes nerve for the leader of an explicitly racist organization to claim that an opportunity to defend his institution is discriminatory because it takes place on a weekend.
A Green Party spokesperson said the party “was first made aware of Mr. Cooper’s concerns regarding our Convention timing via his oped in the National Post. The Party subsequently reached out to Mr. Cooper and offered to discuss an alternative time in which he could attend; Mr. Cooper declined this invitation.”
Unable to respond to charges of discrimination in the JNF’s land-use policies, Cooper all but accused the Greens of anti-Semitism. He claimed a Jewish official with the Green Party had faced an “onslaught of hateful accusations” a couple of years ago, cited a former Green candidate who denies the Nazi Holocaust and questioned whether the party is inclusive. Cooper also argued that the JNF resolution would damage the Greens, “driving the party to the far margins of Canadian discourse” and turning it into “a marginal activist group.”
“What’s ultimately at stake is the Green party’s future in Canadian politics,” warned Cooper. “Will the Greens reclaim their party from fringe anti-Israel ideologues and conspiracy theorists?”
Cooper’s “conspiracy theorists” include the U.S. State Department, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Israeli Supreme Court and 70 British MPs. They are all on record regarding the JNF, which discriminates against the 20 per cent of Israelis who aren’t Jewish.
JNF racism manifests not as the all-too-common personal or even structural variety, but as a legalistic form largely outlawed in North America half a century ago. And today’s primary victims of JNF racism are not the exiled Palestinians, nor those locked up in Gaza or under military occupation in the West Bank, but the small number of Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.
The strongest legal argument for rescinding JNF–Canada’s charitable status is that its parent organization’s discriminatory land-use policies contravene the Canadian Human Rights Act and a Canada Revenue Agency policy statement that names racial equality as an objective of charitable policy.
But, as mentioned in the Green Party resolution, JNF Canada also built a park on land that Israel illegally occupied after the June War of 1967. Three Palestinian villages were demolished to make way for what is called Canada Park.
JNF Canada has also been directly complicit in at least two other important instances of Palestinian dispossession. In the late 1920s JNF Canada spearheaded a highly controversial land acquisition that drove a thousand-person Bedouin community from territory it had tilled for centuries, and in the 1980s the organization helped finance an Israeli campaign to “Judaize” the Galilee, the majority Arab northern region of Israel.
Established internationally in 1901 and nine years later in Canada, the JNF was the principal tool of Zionist colonization before the creation of the Israeli state. In the early 1900s it bought land from absentee property owners and drove out the Palestinians working it. In 1940 a director with the JNF, Yossef Weitz, said, “The only solution is to transfer the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries. Not a single village or a single tribe must be let off.” Much of the JNF’s land, on which a large part of Israel’s population now lives, was stolen from Palestinians during the 1947-48 war.
Embracing the call
While Shabbat is the reason Cooper gave for bypassing the Green convention, the Jewish Defense League won’t be resting Friday to Saturday evening.
Banned in the United States and Israel for a series of killings, the JDL promotes a violent form of Jewish nationalism. The recently formed Canadian chapter of the JDL has announced that it will protest the Green convention. “The Green Party of Canada has been taken over by hard core Jew haters,” says a post on its website. “The Jewish Defence League will always confront anti Jewish gangs whereever [sic] and whenever they appear.”
In the face of these wild attacks, Elizabeth May and rest of the Green leadership need to stop equivocating on Palestinian rights. Past efforts to mollify groups such as the JNF and JDL have only emboldened them. It is time to show these bullies that the Greens won’t be intimidated by respecting the will of the membership and embracing the call for the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the JNF’s charitable status.
Yves Engler is the author of eight books. His latest is Canada in Africa: 300 Years of Aid and Exploitation.