Canadian Charities Must Not Be Allowed to Promote Anti-Palestinian Racism

Palestinian demonstration in Toronto, commemorating Land Day. (Photo: Paul Salvatori)

By Paul Salvatori

I recently returned to the website of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation (CAEF), which I first wrote about here.

On its homepage, I immediately saw more anti-Palestinian racism and disinformation. It was hard to miss, accompanied by propaganda-type graphics.

Above the graphics was a statement by CAEF (capitalized and emboldened words are as they appear in the original statement):

“Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Independent Jewish Voices, Palestinian Solidarity Lie.

“Israel is NOT an Apartheid State, but there is an apartheid movement in the Middle East; it has various names, including Hamas, Islamic Jihad, The Palestinian Authority, Fatah, Palestinian Liberation Organization. It purports to be about establishing a state called Palestine which doesn’t yet exist. Its goal is to be Judenfrei [free or “cleansed” of Jews]. Do we need another anti-Jewish country?”

I’ve been visiting the site since I published my first article on CAEF to see if there are any hints at all of their being cautioned or asked to remove, such as by elected officials I messaged or spoke with directly, hateful lies about Palestine they’ve been publishing. But the statement above either indicates they haven’t or if they have they didn’t listen.

The statement also reflects CAEF’s constant misframing of either Palestinian organizations or those that support Palestinian justice as a Nazi-esque threat (“Judenfrei” historically refers to Nazi attempts to rid the world of Jews). The intent here is to not only discredit them but induce contempt for those such organizations of course represent: the Palestinian people.

It recalls a philosophical observation made by Aldous Huxley in The Devils of Loudun: A Study in the Psychology of Power, Politics, and Mystical Religion in the France of Cardinal Richelieu:

“For us [modern society], Radical Evil has ceased to be something metaphysical and has become political or economic. And that Radical Evil now incarnates itself, not in sorcerers and magicians (for we like to think of ourselves as positivists), but in the representatives of some hated class or nation. The springs of action and the rationalizations have undergone a certain change; but the hatreds motivated and the ferocities justified as all too familiar.”

In CAEF’s perverse worldview, the “hated class or nation” is, respectively, defenders of Palestine and Palestine itself. They are the “Radical Evil” that must disappear for the safety and well-being of Israel as if a blameless victim. Moreover by asking, “Do we need another anti-Jewish country?” (referring to Palestine), CAEF reinforces the lie that at the heart of such evil is antisemitism, wholly sidestepping any discussion or acknowledgment of Israel’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people and their right to resist under international law.

What business does any group that advances this lie have, calling itself “educational”?

At the time of writing, I have emailed: Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau; Foreign Affairs Minister, Mélanie Joly; Diversity, Inclusion and Youth Minister, Ahmed Hussen; Mayor of Toronto John Tory. I also saw the latter two in-person to address my concerns about CAEF, asking whether they would publicly denounce—not unlike Minister Hussen did in August against a member of a Canadian group expressing antisemitism—their express anti-Palestinian racism.

Mayor Tory said he’d have to first read the article I wrote on CAEF, as well as the anti-Palestinian open letter they wrote him (it’s unclear whether he read it before I provided him a copy, in addition to my article) before he could make a decision. Minister Hussen gave me no answer. None of the politicians mentioned ever replied to me by email to even discuss the anti-Palestinian racism of CAEF, my purpose for contacting them, to begin with.

Among other things I fail to see how such lack of accountability, amounting to being stonewalled for weeks now, is appropriate in Canadian society which—often through its politicians—vaunts itself as “democratic.”

What is troublesome about CAEF is not simply its anti-Palestinian racism, which alone ought to bother any person of conscience. It’s that it somehow managed for reasons that aren’t clear to become a registered Canadian charity, presenting itself as an “educational” one at that.

This is something a lawyer, involved in or supportive of Palestinian justice efforts, may want to look into. Not being a lawyer I’m of course not in a position to say whether CAEF is breaking any laws by how it disingenuously presents itself. That being said they are certainly unethical.

We generally expect registered charities to improve society instead of, as anti-Palestinian and all forms of racism do, harm it. That’s what hate groups do. And CAEF—the more I learn about it—resembles that more than charity, deriving from the Latin caritas—love for humankind.

Regardless of how compassionate it is a registered charity, at least in Canada, has to legally provide some “public benefit.” As the Canadian federal government’s guidelines on the matter state:

“It is well established in law that all organizations that want to be registered as a charity under the [Canadian Income Tax] Act must ensure that their purposes are directed to the public benefit. This requirement attaches to all categories of charity. …

The requirement of public benefit involves the application of a two-part test…:

  • The first part of the test generally requires that a tangible benefit be conferred, directly or indirectly. …
  • The second part of the test requires that the benefit have a public character, that is, be directed to the public or a sufficient section of the public

The ‘benefit’ aspect of the test concerns whether the charitable purpose under consideration is directed towards achieving a universal good that is not harmful to the public—a socially useful endeavour.”

One of the main reasons I approached Mayor Tory, in particular, was not because I learned that he was visiting one of my favorite Italian bakeries in Toronto, close to where I live and so didn’t require much from me physically. It was to impress on him, contrary to the benefit described in the test, that CAEF is hurting Toronto.

As there is no room for antisemitism in the city, a position he formally endorsed by helping launch a recent campaign on the issue, so there is no room for anti-Palestinian racism, let alone groups that promote it under the reprehensible guise of “education.” If we ignore or normalize that our society is effectively saying that Palestinians are lesser or non-persons.

Education involves directly challenging such a racist view. That not only includes in its express form, represented by the falsehoods that CAEF has and continues to publish. It also means pushing back against those, such as the Israeli state and its apologists, who misframe Palestinians as a “security threat”, “terrorists”, and troublemakers that must be contained to ensure that “survival” of Israel.

Such dishonest reductionism further invites animus against Palestinians, potentially undermining the urgency with which the international community must respond to and help upend their oppression.

For the same reason, I’m asking you again, Mayor Tory—during this time of your reelection where a leader ought to reflect the values they emphatically endorse, as you have against racism—will you publicly denounce CAEF? Or disappointingly continue, like your fellow Canadian politicians, to remain silent?

Toronto must be welcoming to all.

- Paul Salvatori is a Toronto-based journalist, community worker and artist. Much of his work on Palestine involves public education, such as through his recently created interview series, “Palestine in Perspective” (The Dark Room Podcast), where he speaks with writers, scholars and activists. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.
(The Palestine Chronicle is a registered 501(c)3 organization, thus, all donations are tax deductible.)
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