Canadian Government Accuses Leading Jewish Charity of Supporting IDF and West Bank Settlements

Canadian government revokes charity status of 'Beth Oloth' due to donations to pre-army institutions in Israel, which it says 'were not charitable under Canadian law'

File photo: A new housing project in the West Bank settlement of Naale, January 1, 2019.
Ariel Schalit,AP

WASHINGTON – A prominent Jewish organization in Canada lost its status as a charity for tax purposes after the Canadian government accused it of supporting the Israeli military and donating to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, according to a report published on Monday in the Canadian news website “Global News.”

The report stated that a charity called “Beth Oloth”, which had a revenue of tens of millions of dollars in 2017, lost its charity status after the Canadian government came to a conclusion that “some of its activities were not charitable under Canadian law, such as ‘increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Israeli armed forces.’”

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One example mentioned in the report is that the charity group supported Israeli “mechinot”, a network of informal education institutions that offer something similar to a gap year to 18 year-old Israelis ahead of their military service. There are dozens of mechinot in Israel that represent different ideological, religious and political factions in society, and they differ in the level of involvement by military authorities in the education and training offered to their students.

According to the report, the Canadian Revenue Agency saw Beth Oloth’s support of mechinot as problematic, stating that “It is our position that these pre-army mechinot exist to provide support to the Israel Defense Forces, and that funds forwarded to these mechinot are therefore in support of foreign armed forces.”

Beth Oloth claimed in response that it only supported religious teachings in mechinot, and that this activity has nothing to do with military affairs. The revenue agency rejected this claim, stating that “our position remains that support for pre-army mechinot, which includes support for teachers, represents support for the armed forces of another country, which is not charitable in law.”

The revenue agency also criticized Beth Oloth for sending donations to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, stating that “providing assistance to Israeli settlements in the occupied territories serves to encourage and enhance the permanency of the infrastructure and settlements and therefore is contrary to Canada’s public policy and international law on this issue.”