Imagine during Jim Crow a Canadian political party polled its members about pressing Ottawa to stop subsidizing US 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 them to address their convention, which the said organization refused, claiming… discrimination.
This hard to fathom scenario mirrors the Jewish National Fund of Canada/Green Party scrimmage 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.” In the first round of a multipronged voting process, 62% of party members green lighted the JNF resolution, 24% yellow lighted it and 15% red lighted it. (A similar number green lighted a concurrent Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions resolution.)
So, in a last ditch bid to overturn these results and circumvent the party’s one member one vote structure, JNF President Josh Cooper penned a furious National Post op-ed last week. It began by stating, “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.” It takes Chutzpah for the leader of an explicitly racist organization to claim an opportunity to defend his institution is discriminatory because the convention takes place on a weekend.
(I emailed and phoned Cooper to ask if he ever works between Friday and Saturday sundown. He failed to respond. A Green Party spokesperson said, “the GPC 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 it discriminates in land-use policies, Cooper all but accused the Greens of anti-Semitism. He claimed a Jewish Green official recently faced an “onslaught of hateful accusations”, cited a former Green candidate who denies the Nazi Holocaust and questioned whether the party is “inclusive”. Cooper also argued 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?”
But, Cooper’s “conspiracy theorists” include the US State Department, UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Israeli Supreme Court and 70 British MPs. They are all on record regarding JNF, which controls 13% of Israel’s land and has significant influence over most of the rest, discrimination towards the 20% of Israelis who aren’t Jewish. (JNF racism is not the all too common ‘personal’ or even ‘structural’ variety, rather a legalistic discrimination largely outlawed in North America half a century ago. And today’s primary victims of JNF racism are not the Palestinian exiled, nor those locked up in Gaza or under military occupation in the West Bank, but the small number of ‘lucky’ Palestinians with Israeli citizenship.)
The strongest legal argument for rescinding JNF–Canada’s charitable status is its parent organization’s discriminatory land-use policies, which contravenes the Canadian Human Rights Act and a Canada Revenue Agency Policy Statement that calls racial equality an objective of charitable policy. But, the Green Party resolution also cites Canada Park, which JNF–Canada built on land Israel illegally occupied after the June 1967 War (three Palestinian villages were demolished to make way for the 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 1000 person Bedouin community from land it had tilled for centuries and in the 1980s JNF–Canada helped finance an Israeli government campaign to “Judaize” the Galilee, the largely Arab northern region of Israel.
Established internationally in 1901 and nine years later in Canada, the JNF was the principle tool of Zionist colonization before the creation of the state. In the early 1900s it bought land from absentee property owners and drove out the Palestinians tilling it. In 1940 the head of the JNF Settlement Department, 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 most of Israel’s population now lives, was stolen from Palestinians during the 1947/48 war.
While Shabbat is the reason Cooper gives for bypassing the Green convention, the Jewish Defence League won’t be resting Friday to Saturday evening. Banned in the US and Israel for a series of killings, JDL – Canada announced on its website they would protest the convention because “the Green Party of Canada has been taken over by hard core Jew haters… The Jewish Defence League will always confront anti Jewish gangs whereever and whenever they appear.” In another post to fundraise for travel from Toronto to Ottawa, the group wrote, “JDL will not allow the Green Party of Canada to incite hatred.”
In the face of these wild attacks Elizabeth May and the Green leadership needs to stop equivocating on Palestinian rights. Past efforts to mollify the JNF, B’nai B’rith, JDL etc. have only emboldened these groups. It is time to show these bullies you 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.