Why Does Canada Revenue Agency Allow Tax Deductions for Help Killing Palestinians?

Gaza reels under new massacres carried out by the Israeli army. (Photo: via Eye on Palestine)

By Yves Engler

Israeli universities are assisting a military slaughtering of Palestinians and all Canadians are subsidizing them. We must end this huge financial contribution that should run afoul of charity rules.

In Israel, the alliance between the military and academia has grown significantly in recent months. To enable students to participate in the Gaza genocide, Israeli universities paused classes for two and half months. At the start of the year, the country’s universities and military came to an agreement to restart classes. The schools will grant various benefits to reservists killing Palestinians.

The alliance between the army and academia is longstanding. In an October 4 article headlined “It’ll turn campus into an army base: Tel Aviv University to host soldiers’ program” 972 Magazine described a $4 million three-year deal TAU signed with the occupation force (IOF) to train hundreds of soldiers. Through the Erez program cadets will wear their uniforms on campus (initially they were to carry guns), the military can demand information on students and “the academic staff will refrain from offensive statements toward the IDF soldiers studying at the institution… [including] statements concerning their military service in the IDF.”

The dean of TAU’s Faculty of Humanities praised the program. Rachel Gali Cinamon said, “I don’t think there is another army in the world that does such a thing, that trains soldiers in humanistic values during military service.”

The 972 Magazine article cites some other examples of the IOF’s ties to academia. It notes: “Cooperation between Israeli universities and the army is not new. Ben-Gurion University of the Negev teaches cadets who are taking their pilots course; the University of Haifa awards degrees to three military colleges, including the army’s Command and Staff College; the Hebrew University of Jerusalem offers the Havatzalot program for future intelligence officers; and TAU itself already hosts the Arazim program, whose goal is to place outstanding technological-mathematical research students into the army’s intelligence and cyber defense divisions.”

So, what has this to do with Canadians?

The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) has effectively granted IOF-supporting universities charitable status, notably the ability to offer donors’ tax receipts. The CRA has a special category for international universities.

The idea is that people should be able to get a tax deduction when donating to their alma mater or a university that would “ordinarily include Canadian students in its student body.” In other words, Canadian taxpayers can subsidize educational institutions that train Canadians.

But when it comes to Israeli universities the number of fundraising groups and sums raised is far beyond individuals donating to their alma mater or the number of Canadians studying there. While the universities have been empowered to offer Canadian donors tax credits, they also have fundraising branches in this country. Canadian Friends of Tel-Aviv University, Canadian Friends of the University of Haifa, Canadian Friends of Hebrew University, Canadian Friends of Ben-Gurion University, Canadian Friends of Bar Ilan University, Weizmann Canada and Technion Canada help raise money for Israeli universities. And the sums raised are astounding.

Last month, Canadian billionaire Sylvan Adams gave$135 million ($US 100 million) to Ben-Gurion University at a Canadian Friends of Ben-Gurion University gala. According to the 2021 report Who Gives and Who Gets: The Beneficiaries of Private Foundation Philanthropy, the single top recipient of private Canadian foundations between 2014 and 2018 was Israel’s Technion, which received $89 million.

By my calculation, Canadians raised half a billion dollars for Israeli universities over the past decade. Around a third of that sum was likely covered by taxpayers.

In other words, Canadians are subsidizing universities with extensive ties to a genocidal force. Beyond that, the registered Canadian charities often instigate initiatives specifically to strengthen the Israeli military. As I detail here and here, Canadian Friends of Hebrew University and Technion Canada have instigated many IOF focused initiatives. Canadian Friends of the University of Haifa also funds an IDF training initiative. For its part, Canadian Friends of Haifa University is listed as a funder of an initiative that “form the backbone of the IDF’s elite training program”.

Yet, according to CRA rules, registered charities are not allowed to support another country’s military. CRA guidelines state that “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”

The CRA should be investigating whether the various Canadian fundraising branches of Israeli universities are violating existing regulations. If they aren’t found to be, the government should introduce new regulations to stop subsidies going to universities assisting a force committing genocide.

There is a precedent for revoking the charitable status of an Israeli university’s Canadian fundraising group. Located in the West Bank settlement of Ariel, Canadian Friends of Ariel University lost its charitable status about two years ago. On a page for Friends of Ariel University, the Canada Helps charity database notes, “due to information from the Canada Revenue Agency, we cannot accept donations at this time.”

It contravenes CRA rules to assist illegal West Bank settlements since Revenue Agency policy states that “an organization is not charitable in law if its activities are contrary to public policy.” The federal government officially considers West Bank settlements illegal and “a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

Over the past three months Israeli forces have killed over three hundred in the West Bank while stealing more Palestinian land. The country’s military regularly bombs Lebanon and Syria. In Gaza it is committing genocide.

Canadians must stop subsidizing this rogue, apartheid, state. If one supports the Palestinian civil society’s call for BDS (Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions) they should be seeking to halt — criminalize through sanction — the flow of funds from Canada to Israel. At the moment the wealth transfer is not only allowed, but also subsidized by taxpayers.

If someone wants to send their money to a foreign university assisting a genocidal military that’s unfortunate. Criminal is the word to use when all Canadians are made to subsidize a foreign military.

 – Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website: yvesengler.com.

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