Want to learn more about the JNF and why we're exposing and challenging its activities? Read on.
What is the Jewish National Fund (JNF)?
The JNF, known in Hebrew as Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael (and hereby referred to as KKL-JNF), was created in 1901 at the Fifth Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland. Its objective was to purchase land in historic Palestine for the exclusive settlement of Jewish immigrants to the area.
Beyond purchasing land — which was primarily inhabited by non-Jewish Palestinians — KKL-JNF played an instrumental role in the violent campaign of displacement and dispossession of the Palestinian people (otherwise known as the Nakba), leading up to and directly following Israel’s declaration of statehood. In addition to partaking in the dispossession of Palestinians, KKL-JNF has been central towards erasing any traces of a historic Palestinian presence, covering over the ruins of an estimated 89 depopulated and demolished Palestinian village sites with trees and recreational parks.
Currently, KKL-JNF is the largest landowner in Israel after the Israeli state, holding roughly 13% of the land on behalf of Jewish-Israelis and Jews living elsewhere. Meanwhile, 25% of Israel’s citizenry is non-Jewish. This has led the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the U.S. State Department; and even Israel’s own High Court, to identify KKL-JNF as being guilty of practicing institutional discrimination. In KKL-JNF’s own words, excerpted from its response to a petition filed in Israel's High Court — which was protesting KKL-JNF’s land-leasing policies and practices — it believes that:
Does JNF Canada violate Canadian law?
Among numerous issues, JNF Canada’s governing document does not meet the requirements of the Income Tax Act (the Act) in that it does not disclose a legitimate charitable purpose. JNF Canada has never identified an actual charitable purpose in their governing document or to the CRA, contrary to CRA Guideline Document CG-019 - How To Draft Purposes for Charitable Registration. JNF Canada’s administrative practices are in breach of the Act and contrary to CRA guideline document, CG-002 - Canadian Registered Charities Carrying Out Activities Outside Canada, with regard to the direction and control of projects in Israel/Palestine, as JNF Canada appears to be acting as a conduit for funds to KKL-JNF, which is a non-qualified donee.
JNF Canada is in violation of the Act and common law in that it engages in activities that do not meet the public benefit requirement as stated in CRA policy statement, CPS-024 - Guidelines for Registering a Charity: Meeting the Public Benefit Test. JNF Canada’s purported intermediary, KKL-JNF, engages in discriminatory practices. In the Negev and Galilee regions, JNF Canada has funded projects that are harmful towards non-Jews, making them unable to result in a net public benefit. JNF Canada is in violation of the Act, common law, and CG-002 as it supports a foreign armed force. This support includes the building of roads and other infrastructure that is either entirely or primarily for the benefit of the Israel Defense Forces.
Why Stop the JNF?
Although first created to purchase land to build a Jewish State in Palestine, KKL-JNF is most commonly known for its century-old campaign to plant a tree in Israel to "make the desert bloom’’ and its other Zionist advertising around the world. Although marketed as an environmental organization, KKL-JNF is the largest landowner in Israel: they hold title to 13% of the country, as well as other pieces in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Rather than being purchased legally, approximately half of KKL-JNF's current properties were transferred to them by the Israeli government in 1949-1956 and again in 1965.
The Palestinians who used to live there were not consulted in the process and were never offered financial or land compensation. In the past century, KKL-JNF and its branches abroad have planted millions of trees and created many parks, which is a remarkable environmental achievement. But it has also used its forests to keep Palestinians from returning to what is left of their homes and villages, and even intentionally choosing to plant pine trees to make the soil acidic and unable to grow food. In Israel, KKL-JNF has been charged with corruption by the State Comptroller and has faced numerous Supreme Court lawsuits due to its explicitly discriminatory practices. KKL-JNF continues to exert control over more and more Palestinian lands each year, including illegally obtaining land taken by force in the West Bank and Negev, regardless of the ownership and history of the families that are pushed out.
What is the Jewish National Fund of Canada?
JNF Canada is considered to be an “office” of KKL-JNF by the latter organization. However, JNF Canada has also been described as an “agency” of KKL-JNF, a “division” of KKL-JNF, and a “branch” of KKL-JNF. JNF Canada officially incorporated as a non-profit organization on March 19, 1962 under the name Jewish National Fund of Canada (Keren Kayemeth Le’Israel) Inc. Its stated purpose, which is also its declared charitable purpose, is: “To create, provide, enlarge and administer a fund to be made up of voluntary contributions from the Jewish community and others, to be used for charitable purposes.” JNF Canada received its notice of registration from the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) on January 1, 1967.
Is JNF Canada complicit in violations of international law?
JNF Canada is complicit in violations of international law by funding the establishment of changes to the physical character of occupied territories. Most egregiously, JNF Canada’s flagship project, Canada Park, is situated over the ruins of depopulated and demolished Palestinian villages in the West Bank. These initiatives help Israel to effectively annex land within occupied territories, and in the cases of East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, deepen control over land already annexed illegally.
How is JNF Canada's charitable status being challenged?
Several human rights advocates have come together to submit an official complaint to the Minister of National Revenue, and to senior officials in the CRA, detailing JNF Canada’s breaches of Canadian law and complicity in violations of international law, and requesting that the Honourable Minister therefore initiate revocation of JNF Canada’s charitable status. We call upon all Canadians to join us in demanding that our government uphold the law.