On December 2nd, two hundred people from a host of community organizations braved the first snowstorm of the winter to protest the Jewish National Fund (JNF) annual Negev Dinner held at the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Toronto. This year’s JNF dinner aimed to raise 7 million dollars for the refurbishment of the illegal “Canada Park”. Protesters denounced fund raising for the park, which is built on the destroyed Palestinian villages of Beit Nuba, Yallu and Imwas seized and destroyed by the Israeli military in 1967. The 10,000 Palestinian residents of these villages were expelled and have been denied the right to return to their homes for the past 40-years. In 1973, the Canadian branch of the JNF raised $15-million to establish “Canada Park” as a ‘picnic area’ build on top of the destroyed Palestinian villages.
Protesters welcomed dinner guests with powerful chants denouncing Israeli Apartheid and large pictures of the
destroyed villages that “Canada Park” has replaced. Representatives of community organizations spoke against
fund raising for Israeli Apartheid. Reena Katz from the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation (JWCEO) argued that “it is unconscionable for the JNF of Canada to continue to fund raise for such a monument to ethnic cleansing and racism.” Samir Jabour, speaking on behalf of Palestine House, added “it is shameful that the JNF enjoys charitable status in Canada and that such outrages are subsidized by taxpayers – we are here to demand that the Canadian state revoke the charitable status of the JNF.”
Khaled Mouamar, president of the Canadian Arab Federation stressed in his speech to the crowd that “according to the Fourth Geneva Convention, the forcible displacement of people and destruction of property belonging to those under occupation are war-crimes. Despite this the JNF of Canada continues with business-as-usual, receiving Canadian government support.” The JNF has obtained charitable status in Canada by posing as an environmentalist organization, which means that the Canadian government reimburses a portion of donations made to the JNF.
The reality is that the JNF is one of the key instruments of Israeli Apartheid. The zionist movement has always
aimed to take control of as much Palestinian land and as few indigenous Palestinians as possible. The JNF was
established in 1901 to acquire Palestinian land that would be for Jewish use only. In 1948, the JNF had control of less than 7% of the land. In that year the state of Israel was created by ethnically cleansing about 85% of the Palestinians from their homes and lands. Much of the land that belongs to Palestinian refugees was deemed
‘absentee property’ and tranferred to the JNF. The rest of the stolen land was trasferred to the Israel Land
Authority (ILA). Half of the board members of the ILA are appointed by the JNF. The JNF plants trees, (as Israel continues to uproot Palestinian olive groves), in order to hide the remains of over 500 Palestinian villages destroyed in and since the Nakba (catastrophe) of 1948.
Significanlty, board members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees in Ontario were present at the picket,
including CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan. This is consistent with CUPE Ontario’s Resolution 50 , adopted
democratically at the union convention, to educate membership about the apartheid-like policies of the
Israeli state and to support the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
Another inspiring moment of the evening, that points to the growing movement against Israeli Apartheid, was the announcement of the new group: Highschools Against Israeli Apartheid (HAIA). Highschool students were present at the protest carrying beautiful banners with Naji al Ali’s famous Handala to signify that the JNF will not get away with the theft of refugee property.
The protest was organized by a broad coalition of community groups including Palestine House, Canadian Arab
Federation, Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation (JWCEO), Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid (CAIA), Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA), Not in Our Name – Jewish Voices Against Israel’s Wars (NION), Yosher-Jewish Social Justice Network, No One is Illegal, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), Labour for Palestine, New Socialist Group, Toronto Coalition to Stop the War, Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC) and Educators for Peace and Justice (EPJ).
Organizing groups will continue the campaign to strip the JNF of its charitable status in Canada. To help with these efforts contact the committee at [email protected]