A little-known Jewish charity is refuting claims that it is violating federal regulations by supporting Israel’s military.
The Toronto-based Canadian Zionist Cultural Association (CZCA) told The CJN it has been a registered charity in accordance with its charter and the Income Tax Act for decades, and “operates fully in compliance with Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) rules and regulations for registered charities.”
The statement comes on the heels of the latest salvo from anti-Israel activists: A complaint asking the CRA to investigate whether the CZCA complies with regulations for registered charities, and if not, to revoke its charitable status.
New Democratic Party revenue critic Matthew Green, a Hamilton MP, is reportedly also asking the CRA to investigate the CZCA. The CJN was unable to confirm Green’s involvement. His office said he was not available for comment.
The 160-page complaint—the first 39 pages of which concern the CZCA’s tax status, with the rest taken up by a report on Israel’s alleged human rights violations against Palestinians last year, coupled with a lengthy legal analysis of Israel’s military offensive in Gaza in 2014—was submitted to the minister of revenue on July 30 by Canadian-Palestinian activist Khaled Mouammar and Rabbi David Mivasair, a member of Independent Jewish Voices of Canada, a group that supports boycotting Israel.
“It is our expectation that if an audit confirms the information (in the complaint), the result will be to commence the formal process of revoking the charitable status of the CZCA,” the submission states.
Central is the allegation that the CZCA’s support of Israel’s military violates the CRA’s charity guidelines. The submission notes 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.”
Also suspect, the complaint alleges, is the CZCA’s ties to two other groups: Yahad – United for Israel’s Soldiers, an Israel-based charity that raises money for Israeli soldiers’ welfare, education, and for retreats and counseling for bereaved families; and the Association for the Soldiers of Israel – Canada (ASI-Canada), also based in Toronto, which helps fund programs and services to improve Israeli soldiers’ “welfare and well-being,” says its website.
ASI-Canada, which does not have charitable status, is “the only non-profit organization in Canada supporting the wellbeing of Israeli soldiers on active duty,” says its website, which adds that the group is Yahad’s Canadian partner.
The complaint alleges that the CZCA is a fundraising arm of ASI-Canada, and even if it isn’t, its financial support for the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) violates federal law, Canadian public policy, and CRA guidelines and policy statements.
The complaint adds that in 2019, the CZCA allocated over $1.7 million to Yahad, and that the CZCA “appears to be acting as a conduit for Yahad.” The submission points out that ASI-Canada and the CZCA share the same administrators, address and phone number, and “regularly” host events together.
The claims in the submission are “entirely inaccurate” and “false and misleading,” Suellen Boyd, the CZCA’s administrator, told The CJN via email.
She said the organization’s focus is to provide support to veterans and families of IDF soldiers in financial need, as well as widows, orphans, parents, and siblings of Israeli soldiers killed in the line of duty. CZCA has helped “tens of thousands” of people in its existence, Boyd said.
Supported programs include camps for families of fallen soldiers, scholarships for IDF veterans in need of financial aid, and grocery vouchers for families of soldiers in need, Boyd explained.
Food vouchers worth 300 shekels (about $120 CAN) are provided before Rosh Hashanah and Passover and were distributed during the COVID pandemic last year.
The scholarship, worth $20,000, provides IDF veterans with four years of study toward an engineering degree at the Shamoon College of Engineering in Ashdod.
Boyd said ASI-Canada is “fully separate” from CZCA, with different programs and accounting. An “important and fundamental difference” between the two is that while ASI-Canada is a non-profit, unlike CZCA, it is not a registered Canadian charity and cannot issue tax receipts for donations, Boyd pointed out.
She denied that CZCA donations go to ASI-Canada’s projects, and said the charity shares office space with ASI-Canada in order to reduce costs.
As for Yahad, Boyd cited CRA rules that a charity which transfers funds to projects outside Canada should have an agency agreement with an intermediate, or agent, in the country where the programs take place.
The agent implements the Canadian charity’s projects, and the charity has to direct, control and supervise the agent while the projects are implemented, Boyd explained. She said Yahad serves as an agent in Israel for implementing some of CZCA projects, pursuant to an agency agreement “as mandated by CRA.”
Yahad is CZCA’s agent for these projects “because it has the resources, skills and knowledge of the region that CZCA needs in order to implement these projects,” said Boyd.
“CZCA does not donate to Yahad’s projects,” she went on. “Yahad delivers CZCA’s projects. To do this, CZCA transfers funds to Yahad in order to allow Yahad to implement these programs.”
As CZCA’s agent, Yahad receives and disburses funds from the Canadian charity “in accordance with CZCA’s directions and supervision.”
Yahad has other projects that are not considered charitable in Canada. “CZCA’s funds do not go toward these projects in any way,” Boyd said.
Also part of the complaint to the CRA is that the IDF website listed the CZCA as one of six foreign organizations “authorized to raise donations for the IDF.”
“We were very surprised when it was pointed out to us that CZCA’s name appeared on the IDF’s website,” said Boyd. “We have no idea who put CZCA’s name on that website under the donation title.”
She said the charity asked for its name to be removed from the website. It later was.
In an email to The CJN, the CRA said confidentiality rules prevent it from commenting on specific cases. The agency confirmed that the CZCA is a registered charity.
A search of charities shows that the CZCA’s revenues at the end of 2019 were nearly $3.5 million, while expenses were $2.7 million. The group was registered as a charity on Jan. 1, 1980.
In the year ending 2019, total expenditures on activities, programs and projects carried on outside Canada by CZCA, excluding gifts to qualified donees, was nearly $1.8 million, records show.
CRA records list the CZCA’s activities as running a camp for bereaved families in Israel; building and furnishing a kindergarten and synagogue in Israel; providing scholarships for high school students; providing food packages for needy families; and running a ski school. It has added a kayaking school for wounded IDF veterans to provide physical rehabilitation.
Those behind the complaint to the CRA have rich histories of anti-Israel activism.
In 2009, Mouammar called then Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney a “professional whore” for supporting Israel, prompting Kenney to pull a federal grant of $447,000 to the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF), of which Mouammar was president.
Three years earlier, the CAF, also then led by Mouammar, called on Ottawa to remove Hamas and Hezbollah—which it described as “legitimate political parties”—from Canada’s list of terrorist groups, saying that if any group deserved to be on the list of banned organizations, it’s the IDF.
Also in 2006, Mouammar was accused of circulating a flyer at the Liberal leadership convention denouncing candidate Bob Rae for having spoken to the Jewish National Fund and because his wife was vice-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, which supports “Israeli apartheid.”
For his part, Mivasair still faces a criminal charge for dumping red paint on the steps of the Toronto building that houses Israel’s consulate to protest Israel’s actions in the fighting with Hamas in May.
Mivasair and Green, the Hamilton NDP MP, also teamed up in April to launch a parliamentary petition asking the federal justice department to investigate whether the IDF is illegally recruiting in Canada. As of this writing, the petition has over 7,700 signatures.
In 2019, Mivasair initiated a parliamentary petition calling on Ottawa to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund.
A year ago, Green found himself under fire for falsely tweeting that Israel had demolished a COVID testing centre in the Palestinian city of Hebron. He later deleted the tweet but did not apologize for it.
In related news, B’nai Brith Canada has called on the CRA to revoke the charitable status of the Muslim Association of Canada (MAC) for inviting an extremist preacher to address its members, unless the MAC apologizes.
Tareq al-Suwaidan, an Islamist activist from Kuwait whose history of antisemitic remarks was flagged by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) last week, had been scheduled to address the Muslim Student Leadership Conference, hosted Aug. 6-8 by the MAC, B’nai Brith noted in a news release on Aug. 11.
Al-Suwaidan was listed on the MAC’s website as a speaker at the virtual conference. But on the same day as CIJA’s allegations about him appeared, his name and image were scrubbed from the site, and the MAC lashed out at CIJA for spreading “false claims.”
B’nai Brith said it has unearthed more extremist antisemitic comments al-Suwaidan has made, and said the MAC hosted a lecture by him in late 2020.
B’nai Brith has written to the CRA and federal Revenue Minister Diane Lebouthillier demanding that the MAC’s charitable status be revoked “unless it issues a full and unequivocal apology for its invitations to al-Suwaidan and promises not to associate with him ever again.”