Charitable donations for genocide?

By Dave McKee  

It pays to be a charitable organization in Canada. The status allows you to issue tax receipts to donors who, especially if they’re the wealthy ones who make huge contributions, can get big breaks on their income taxes.

Of course, tax breaks for charitable donations aren’t completely unreasonable. After all, to get charitable status, an organization has to be committed to some kind of socially helpful cause. Like healthcare, or environmental cleanup, or human rights, or international development, or humanitarian aid.

And genocide?

Recently, a group of Palestine solidarity organizations initiated a letter writing campaign to get the Canada Revenue Agency to investigate a charitable organization, the HESEG Foundation, which they believe may be violating the rules and providing funding for the Israeli military.

The solidarity groups – Canadian Foreign Policy Institute (CFPI), Just Peace Advocates (JPA), Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU) and Ontario Palestinian Rights Association (OPRA) – point out that HESEG assists non-Israelis joining that country’s military even though CRA rules preclude assisting foreign militaries.

As Israel continues its genocidal siege of Gaza, Canadian taxpayers could find themselves subsidizing that brutality in the form of tax rebates for “charitable” donations to HESEG.

HESEG was created in 2005 with the stated purpose of providing free tuition to former “lone soldiers” the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), so that they can remain in Israel and study following their military service. The term “lone soldier” refers to a member of the IDF who does not have family support in Israel. In 2022, there were around 7000 lone soldiers from more than 60 countries active in the IDF.

The CRA has specific rules which prohibit charitable organizations from supporting foreign militaries. Specifically, the agency states that “it is charitable to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces, but it is not charitable to support the armed forces of another country.”

The CRA’s insistence that the Canadian military is worthy of charitable donations is suspect, but its prohibition of foreign militaries is quite appropriate – especially if that country is engaged in, as the International Court of Justice ruled, “plausible genocide” in its military actions.

Given the whole purpose of the HESEG Foundation would seem to be to support a foreign military, it is the CRA’s responsibility to investigate it.

This is especially important in light of the ICJ’s decision that Israel is committing a plausible genocide. That ruling was made according to the 1948 Genocide Convention, to which Canada is a signatory. As such, Canada is itself compelled to take action to prevent Israel’s (plausible) genocide in Gaza. That action must include an arms embargo with Israel, diplomatic pressure on Israel to demand an immediate and permanent ceasefire and withdrawal from Gaza, and a stop to any and all financial or material support to the Israeli military.

And if the Genocide Convention isn’t convincing enough, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which applies to both state actors and private individuals, makes it an offence to “aid, abet or otherwise assist” in the commission of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

In February, the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians – Canada (ICJP Canada) provided the Canadian government with notice of intent to seek the prosecution of Canadian officials who are allegedly complicit in Israel’s war crimes. ICJP Canada is also considering expanding the scope of its initiative to pursue accountability of Canadian companies who are allegedly complicit in Israel’s war crimes.

Certainly, if the Canadian government continues to ignore the possibility that charitable organizations here are funding the Israeli military, both the government and the donors would be complicit in war crimes and (plausible) genocide.

And taxpayers in Canada are footing the bill.

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