First, Jewish federations in the U.S. crossed the line — the Green Line — in allowing charitable dollars to help Jews in the West Bank and Gaza.
Now, it’s Canada’s turn.
Beating back an effort by the Canadian government to deny the use of charitable funds beyond the Green Line, the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals ruled last month that charitable dollars may be used anyplace in Israel. The ruling came in a case in which the Canadian Magen David Adom (Red Cross) challenged a decision of the Customs and Revenue Agency to strip it of its tax-exempt status.
Following an online petition drive and media reports of the government’s intentions, the national president of CMDA, Joseph Bitton said an agreement in principle was reached with the government that would keep the organization operating as usual. This year, it raised $4.7 million for MDA in Israel.
Arthur Drache, CMDA’s lawyer, said, “The issue of the Green Line [Israel’s pre-1967 border] has been a big issue for hundreds of Canadian Jewish charities.”
The government claimed that because ambulances bought with Canadian contributions were used in the territories, it violated Canadian public policy. On July 10, 2001, it notified CMDA that its charitable status was being revoked.
The organization obtained a stay after it challenged the decision in court.
Although the appeals court upheld the right of charities to go beyond the Green Line, it sustained the government’s decision to revoke CMDA’s tax-exempt status because it allowed one of its ambulances in June 1999 to be given to the Israel Defense Forces, which the government said was illegal.
“They seemed to realize that maybe they should not have done it,” Bitton said of the revocation.
He said he signed a document Monday promising that CMDA would occasionally ask the location of the ambulances it donates and that it would have control over decisions to take ambulances out of service. He said Magen David Adom in Israel agreed to the provision.
Bitton added that he hoped to have a signed agreement with the government by Nov. 13 that would avoid the necessity of pursuing an appeal.