By Yves Engler
Amnesty International’s recent conclusion that Israel is committing “the crime of apartheid against Palestinians” should galvanize opposition to Canada’s most significant form of support for the “apartheid” state. Some 200 registered Canadian charities raise over a quarter billion dollars a year for projects that directly or indirectly subjugate Palestinians. Through tax receipts and other tax benefits, the government subsidizes up to 50% of these donations despite many of these charities contravening Canada Revenue Agency regulations that forbid support for foreign militaries and West Bank settlements.
For example, Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University (CFHU) raises millions of dollars a year in support of a school with a campus in East Jerusalem and strong ties to the Israeli military. CFHU also directly sponsors initiatives that support the IDF.
Part of Hebrew University (HU) is on land in East Jerusalem that Zionist forces seized in 1948 and 1967. At neighboring HU’s Mount Scopus campus, the Palestinian Village of Issawiyeh was expropriated to host dormitories and other facilities for HU students. While it is in a largely Palestinian area, HU is “dotted with Jewish nationalist iconography”, reports Somdeep Sen, a Professor of International Development Studies at Roskilde University. “A sign on a wall on campus dedicated by the American Friends of Hebrew University declares HUJI a ‘university of the Jewish people’. Another sign says that research and teaching at the university is conducted for ‘the benefit of Israel [and] the Jewish people.’”
HU has significant and long-standing ties to the Israeli military. It awarded scholarships to students who signed up for IDF combat units during Israel’s violent outbursts in 2002 and operates a training center for Military Intelligence officers. To maintain the IDF’s technological edge, cadets have studied for degrees in physics, math or computer science at HU for over 40 years. The university provides the IDF with academic information on students enrolled in the Talpiot program. In a story on Talpiot, Jason Gewirtz writes, “the opening years of the program saw the students first and foremost as soldiers…. They wore uniforms to their classes at Hebrew University and took shifts guarding Talpiot’s section of the Hebrew University campus.”
In 2019 HU began offering a three-year training for future IDF intelligence officers. Students in the Havatzalot program live in a former university residence only accessible by biometric identification. Regular university employees need advanced permission to enter the area.
Funneling Canadian taxpayer-subsidized funds to an Israeli university supporting the IDF and occupation should lead to questions about CFHU’s charitable status. But the registered charity with chapters in seven cities across the country also channels funds to initiatives specifically designed to support the IDF. In April 2018 Ottawa CFHU “launched the Ottawa Scholarship Fund in support of reserve duty soldiers studying at The Hebrew University.” At the event, according to CFHU’s annual report, “four students shared their inspiring stories from their military service and explained what it means to be a reserve duty soldier in the IDF.”
A 2019 story on the registered charity’s website noted, “Help CFHU send former IDF combat soldiers to university” while an ongoing funding pitch says, “Donate in support of CFHU’s scholarship campaign for soldiers studying at Hebrew University”. In July 2021 wealthy Calgarian Lenny Shapiro financed a number of CFHU “scholarships for students who have served in the IDF.” CFHU and HU matched a portion of Shapiro’s unspecified contribution.
CFHU has partnered with the Duvdevan Foundation on a number of scholarships and public relations initiatives. According to the Duvdevan Foundation, “the Duvdevan Unit was established in June 1986, with the understanding that a specific and intelligent warfare method needed to be developed to deal with Judea and Samaria’s [West Bank] security incidents.” CFHU has organized a number of fundraisers centered on presentations by former soldiers in a unit, which regularly kills Palestinians.
To get a sense of the charity’s political outlook, a CFHU meeting last April began with a message from General Hertzi Halevi, commander of Israel’s Southern Command, who spoke largely about the dangers of Iran and Hamas. CFHU also promotes its events with a map that includes all of the West Bank as part of Israel.
Most Canadian taxpayers would be shocked to learn they are subsidizing a group raising funds for a university enmeshed in Israeli colonialism and militarism. They would be completely outraged by CFHU’s support for initiatives that directly assist the Israeli military and contravene the rules for registered charities.
So, why hasn’t the Canada Revenue Agency audited Canadian Friends of the Hebrew University and ended this shameful and illegal support for Israeli apartheid?