קרן הקיימת בקנדה הפסיקה להעביר תרומות
לפרוייקטים צבאיים בישראל לאור חקירה מתמשכת של רשות המיסוי הקנדית (סי.אר.איי). זאת
עלי פי תחקיר של רשת השידור הטלוויזיה של קנדה (הסי.בי.סי).
רשות המיסוי הקנדית בודקת מזה מספר שנים את פעילותה
של קרן קיימת קנדה, לאור מידע שהתקבל לידיה כי הארגון עבר על כללי המס הקנדי למתן
תרומות מצד קרנות צדקה. קרן קיימת קנדה כך התברר תרמה כספים לפרוייקטים הקשורים
לצה”ל בניגוד לכללי המס בקנדה. במקרה כזה קרן קיימת קנדה לא זכאית לפטור במס,
וכן גם התורמים שלה עצמם לא זכאים לפטורים במס.
יש לציין כי קרן קייימת קנדה לא העבירה תרומות
לרכישת ציוד צבאי לצה”ל, אלה תמכה בעיקר פרוייקטים ותשתיות צבאיות, לשיפור הביטחון
וחיי הקהילה של החיילים במדים ובני משפחותיהם, אך לפי חוקי המיסוי בקנדה גם זה
אסור. מנכ”ל קרן קיימת קנדה לאנס דיוויס לא ענה על בקשתי באמצעות אימייל, לקבל
את תגובתו בנושא המדובר.
דיוויס כן הודיע לכתב חדשות של רשת השידור
הקנדית כי קרן קיימת קנדה הודיעה לתורמיה, כי היא הפסיקה לתמוך בפרוייקטים צבאיים
בישראל כבר לפני כשנתיים. זאת, לאחר שהתברר לארגון כי הוא נמצא תחת ביקורת של רשות
לפי מסמכים ופרסומים רבים של קרן קיימת קנדה,
הארגון תמך לאורך השנים בפרוייקטים רבים הקשורים בצה”ל וחייליו. ובהם: פיתוח
של בסיס הדרכה בנגב. פיתוח של כיתות לימוד, אולם אירועים וחדר הקרנות בסיס של חיל
הים בבת גלים. שיפוץ והרחבת אולם אירועים ומועדון לחיילים בבסיסי חיל האוויר
בפלמחים ונבטים. הקמת מגרש משחקים עבור ילדים (שמתגוררים עם בני משפחותיהם) בבסיס
חצרים של חיל האוויר. שידרוג מרכז מבקרים, שיפוץ הכיכר המרכזית והמרכז ארצי
לאימונים בבסיס צאלים. הקמת מתקני נוחות לחיילים בשדה תל נוף של חיל האוויר. עזרה
בהקמת כביש ביטחוני בקדש ברנע (ליד הגבול המצרי) לשיפור הנגישות לכוחות הביטחון של
ישראל. עבודות לשיפור כבישים ביטחוניים של כוחות הביטחון באזורי הגבול בנגב
המערבי. בניית נקודות מפגש ירוקות בבסיסים צבאיים לאפשר לחיילים לראות את בני
משפחתם בנוחות. וכן עזרה ותמיכה בצעירים בבתי הספר התיכוניים במסגרת הכשרתם הקדם
צבאית (פרוייקט גדנ”ע).
עוד מתברר שקרן קיימת קנדה תמכה אף בפרוייקטים
ששנמצאים מעבר לקו הירוק. ממשלת קנדה מתנגדת לבנייה ישראלית של התנחלויות כשטחים הכבושים
לדבריה, שהן הפרה של אמנת ג’נבה הרביעית. עוד קובעת ממשלת קנדה כי:
“ההתנחלויות הישראליות בשטחים הן המכשלון חמור להשגת שלום כולל, צודק ובר
קיימא”. בית המשפט בקנדה קבע כי ארגוני צדקה קנדיים לא יכולים לפעול בניגוד
בין פרוייקטים בשטחים שמעבר לקו הירוק שקרן
קיימת קנדה תמכה בהם: פיתוח החפירות הארכיאולוגיות של האולם המרכזי במנהרות הכותל
בירושלים, העברה של תרומות לפני כארבע שנים לרכישת כלים להכנת הקרקע לבניית מאחז בגבעת
עוז, שהוגדר אפילו על ידי ממשלת ישראל כבלתי חוקי. ופיתוח הפרוייקט הגדול ביותר של
הארגון הקנדי בישראל – פארק קנדה ליד לטרון. רופא קנדי (בפנסיה) שנולד באחד הכפרים
הפלסטינים עליו נבנה פארק קנדה, התלוננן פני רשות המיסים הקנדית על תרומות של קרן
קיימת קנדה לפרוייקט.
יצויין כי במאי לפני כשנתיים ביקרה בישראל משלחת
של קרן קיימת קנדה, ברשות דיוויס. חברי המשלחת ביקרו בין היתר בבסיס צה”ל
בצהלים ובבסיס משמר הגבול במכמש, שאליהם הועברו תרומות מהארגון.
Itay Exlroad as Dancer Soldier. (photo by Giora Bejach, Courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)
An audacious work of art that melds raw emotion and absurdist allegory into a blistering assessment of contemporary Israel, Samuel Maoz’s Foxtrot deserves to be seen and demands to be discussed.
Winner of the Silver Lion at the Venice Film Festival – where Maoz’s taut debut, Lebanon, won the Golden Lion in 2009 – and eight Ophir Awards (Israel’s Oscars), including best film, director and actor, Foxtrot uses a small-scale story to examine some of Israel’s deepest issues: the concept of military sacrifice, the oppression of Palestinians and the legacy of the Holocaust.
Skilfully strewn with ironies all the way to the final shot, Foxtrot was shortlisted for the Academy Award for best foreign language film but did not receive a nomination.
The film begins with a middle-aged man (the sublime Lior Ashkenazi, who played a fictitious prime minister last year in Norman and Yitzhak Rabin in this month’s 7 Days in Entebbe) opening his door to the worst possible news for a father with a son in the army. Even as the gravity of the situation and the intensity of his response wallops us in the face and grabs us by the collar, Maoz counter-intuitively undercuts the emotional naturalism with precision camerawork and a stylized set design.
It appears, at first, that the filmmaker is evoking the surreal, detached and alienating experience of being struck with a life-changing bulletin. But we get the nagging feeling, from Ashkenazi’s character’s black-humour interactions with the army representatives to the off-centre introductions of his wife and daughter, that there’s more on tap than the melodrama of domestic tragedy.
Indeed, Maoz pulls the rug out from under us, then cuts from the climate-controlled setting of a high-in-the-sky condo to an isolated checkpoint in the barren, forgotten north of Israel. This is where the son, Yonatan, is assigned the “mission” of guarding a remote, nonessential road with a handful of other bored young men.
The tilted shipping container that comprises the soldiers’ base and barracks fronts on a puddle-strewn mudfield, which they must trudge across to the checkpoint. The roadblock itself is cartoonishly minimalist, resembling a set you’d see onstage more than a military installation, and putting us in mind of surrealist (anti-)war films like Apocalypse Now and Catch-22.
Nothing happens in this God-forsaken spot, and everything happens here. Each detail has significance, though one must pay close attention because it may not be clear until events play out. In fact, the meaning of a close-up or sound cue often remains obscure until the movie is over, at which point the viewer is required to arrive at his or her interpretation.
Two key events occur at Yonatan’s base: one at the checkpoint involving a carload of Palestinians heading home from a party and the other in the barracks when the soldiers are killing lonely downtime. The latter scene, in which Yonatan relates an anecdote from his father’s youth, is the most astonishing passage in this taboo-trampling movie.
Yonatan has rendered his memory into a graphic novel, and Maoz brings it to life in the form of animation. This harrowing episode connects the Holocaust – and the self-reliance, persistence, shared sacrifice and residual faith that survivors applied to building the Jewish state – to a modern Israel, where idealism has curdled into a pursuit of temporary pleasures, and worse offences.
To be sure, in every land and every age, older generations castigate young people for ignoring tradition and abandoning their core values. But this parable takes place in Israel, so Yonatan’s father’s hormone-driven rashness hearkens to Esau swapping his birthright for a bowl of stew.
Threaded through Foxtrot is a critique of Israel’s leaders for maintaining a culture of cynicism and corruption that results in the unnecessary deaths of young soldiers. Furthermore, each loss is described as heroic regardless of the circumstances.
This is not unique to Israel, of course, but it’s harder to push back against the military spin when you’re a small country surrounded by enemies than a superpower. Maoz satirizes PR functionaries in the opening scene, in fact, and never stops spearing sacred cows.
Maoz’s triumph, finally, thanks in large measure to Ashkenazi’s unexpectedly vulnerable performance, is tracking the human cost amid the not-quite-real scenarios and sociopolitical commentary. Foxtrot is an altogether remarkable work, not least because it is a beautiful film about ugly truths.
Foxtrot is in Hebrew with English subtitles, runs 113 minutes and is rated R for some sexual content, including graphic images and brief drug use. It opens at Vancity Theatre on March 23, and runs to April 1.
Michael Foxis a writer and film critic living in San Francisco.
Pierre Trudeau once compared living next to the United States to sleeping with an elephant. “No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt,” Trudeau told the Washington press in 1969.
The former PM’s son, current Prime Minister Justin Trudeau seems to be recognizing that, under the leadership of President Donald Trump, the beast is as uneven-tempered as it has been in living memory.
The United States is currently led by a man whose foreign policy compass swings from tweet to tweet. There is no way to predict what position he will take next, having repeatedly besmirched NATO and other agencies of internationalism. The European powers have explicitly or implicitly taken the once-unthinkable position of deeming the United States no longer a dependable ally.
In successive major policy speeches last week, Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland and Minister of National Defence Harjit Sajjan laid out somewhat new directions for the Canadian government, both seeming to concur, at least implicitly, that the United States is not the reliable ally it once was.
Sajjan promised a $62 billion boost to defence spending over 20 years, which would seem to be good news for Trump, who has criticized NATO member-nations for not pulling their weight. However, it came on the heels of Freeland’s speech a day earlier, in which she expressed concern that Americans seem prepared to “shrug off the burden of world leadership.”
It is easy to criticize American leadership – under any administration – and, admittedly, while the possibility of U.S. intervention might have given some dictators and oppressors cause for pause, American power has also strengthened dictators and oppressors when it has been in their interests. Nonetheless, the abdication of American leadership creates a frightening vacuum.
Jewish tradition includes the value of lo ta’amod al dam rei’echa, the prohibition against passivity in the face of violence to others. This rather universal concept seems likely to be diminished under the Trump presidency.
“The fact that our friend and ally has come to question the very worth of its mantle of global leadership puts in sharper focus the need for the rest of us to set our own clear and sovereign course,” Freeland told MPs. “To say this is not controversial: it is a fact.” She added: “To put it plainly: Canadian diplomacy and development sometimes require the backing of hard power.”
This is a stark shift in Canadian policy of the past 40 or so years. Without openly saying so, Canadians have been happy to keep military budgets low, knowing that our neighbour would have our back if push came to shove. Canada has little to fear in the form of foreign invasion, although our sovereignty in the Arctic could come under threat by Russia (or even the United States) at almost anytime.
More immediately, what our deflection of military might has created is a limited ability to act in ways on the world stage that reflect Canada’s stated values, which include the pursuit of justice (in Jewish tradition, bakesh shalom v’rodfehu) and the protection of human dignity. Again, when faced with Russian aggression in Ukraine and the Middle East, or with the barbarity of ISIS, or civil war in Syria, or countless other tragic flashpoints globally, Canada has been satisfied to allow our closest ally to set the terms on the ground.
We have been able to have our cake and eat it, too, for many years, calling our approach “soft power,” which means moral suasion based on a degree of global respect Canada has achieved, while leaving “hard power” to our NATO allies. Our role in Afghanistan is an exception, and a source of pride for those who believe that the people of that country should live free from oppressive entities.
This is an imperfect example, of course, since Afghanistan remains riven by terrorism and political division. That average Afghanis, particularly women and minorities, are better off now than under the Taliban is unquestionable. While our presence there has had tangible results, in the global context, it is a somewhat symbolic engagement. Our military has limited capacity to engage similarly in another theatre and would certainly be stretched to the limit if we were to be called into two or more conflicts.
Canada does not – and should not – aspire to be a global military powerhouse. But to maintain self-defence capabilities and to act on our values in a difficult world – at a time when the great power we counted on to do this on our behalf is recanting – requires us to make financial commitments.
We must balance these commitments with our ability to fund social programs and other policies of national pride. Any increased international role should be focused on trying to prevent conflicts, supporting peace efforts and on providing humanitarian and other economic aid.
The Grade 1-3 class of Israeli dancers from Richmond Jewish Day School who participated in Festival Ha’Rikud on May 14. See more photos below. (photo by Lauren Kramer)
In every community, and ours is no exception, there are folks who frequently capture the spotlight for their work while others quietly get things done behind the scenes, flying below the media radar. In our Kibitz & Schmooze profile, we try to highlight members of our community who are doing outstanding, admirable and mention-worthy work out of view of the general public. If you know of profile subjects who fit this description, please email [email protected].
For Victoria resident Ed Fitch, the Canadian Armed Forces did more than make him a major-general. It made him more of a Jew.
Growing up in Montreal, Fitch says he took his Judaism for granted. At 17, when he joined the armed forces, it was a wake-up call. “I realized if I didn’t respect my own religion, how could I expect anyone else to? It was the beginning of my journey to become more Jewish,” he says.
Fitch was open about his Judaism and, over the course of an illustrious career that saw him rise high through the ranks, he helped create institutional change that would benefit other Jews, too. There had last been a Jewish chaplain in the forces in 1945, and Fitch was determined to change that. “I made a proposal to the armed forces’ governing body for chaplains in 2003, and I asked them, do you want to be followers or leaders? Build it, and they will come!”
The result was the appointment of Rabbi Chaim Mendelsohn to chaplaincy and, a few years later, the succession of Rabbi Captain Lazer Danziger. “Rabbi Danziger will be leading Shabbat services at Alberta’s Area Support Unit Wainwright (one of the country’s busiest army bases) … with a full minyan!” Fitch says with delight.
Fitch’s proposal didn’t just benefit Jews in the armed forces. Today, there’s a Muslim chaplain serving, as well.
Fitch served Canada for 43 years in a career that spanned from 1966 through to his semi-retirement in 2006. During that time, he received the Meritorious Service Medal for his work in the former Yugoslavia, facilitating NATO’s entry. He was also appointed an Officer of the Order of Military Merit in June 1999, the military equivalent of the Order of Canada.
As a colonel in the mid-1990s, Fitch was in the former Yugoslavia when the United Nations’ peacekeeping force, of which he was part, was contracted out to NATO. “It was an astounding change that had never happened before: an in-place transition from a UN command to a NATO command,” he reflects. “It was December 1995 when we all removed our UN badges and rolled over to this NATO force, with a completely different set of rules. As a combat engineer on the land force, I was the guy on the ground preparing for the incoming 50,000 troops who needed minefields cleared, bridges built and accommodations created.”
At 50, Fitch was promoted to brigadier general and was in command of a division of 12,000 members of the military and civilians, and a land mass that stretched from Thunder Bay to Vancouver Island and up into the Arctic. “My staff enjoyed telling me that it was the largest military district in the world – happily, a fairly benign one,” he jokes. The division’s responsibilities were domestic – attending to forest fires and tornadoes – as well as deployed operations, and Fitch regularly prepared troops of 1,000 to 2,000 to fly to Bosnia, Afghanistan and other countries where they were needed.
In 2001, Fitch was appointed major-general, a rank third from the top in the Canadian Armed Forces, and relocated to Ottawa. Here, he supervised planning the restructuring and modernization of Canada’s army reserves.
Fitch had just relocated to Victoria when, in 2006, he was called up from the Supplementary Reserve in support of Operation PODIUM, the Canadian Armed Forces’ support to the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics. His primary duty was the leadership of the Games Red Team, a project in which he and his team synthesized a terrorist cell and created practice scenarios to prepare Olympics planning staff for a potential attack.
“Our goal was to improve the capacity of the armed forces to deal with some potentially devastating situations,” he explains. “The model behind it is, train hard, fight easy. We disciplined ourselves to be real and started giving Olympics planning staff gentle problems, upping the ante to present them with tougher and tougher problems.”
When asked if he ever experienced antisemitism in the armed forces, Fitch says that his rise through the ranks is evidence there is none. “What the forces did with me proves there is no antisemitism,” he says. “I think the Canadian Armed Forces is the purest meritocracy in this country.”
After the Winter Olympics, when his full retirement came into effect, Fitch dedicated himself to community work. As a qualified civil engineer, he was instrumental in helping with the construction of the Centre for Jewish Life and Learning (Chabad), the first new synagogue to be built on the island since 1863. He volunteers with the Victoria Jewish Cemetery Trust and the Vancouver Island Chevra Kadisha, and serves as chair of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs’ national community security committee. He’s been house committee chair and treasurer of Congregation Emanu-El and a board member of the Jewish Historical Society of British Columbia.
The 14th annual Festival Ha’Rikud took place at the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver May 12-14 and Israeli dancers from Richmond Jewish Day School (RJDS), Vancouver Talmud Torah, Temple Sholom, Or Chadash, Orr Ktanim and a group from Miami entertained a packed house in two performances. The theme for this year’s festival was friendship and a celebration of Israeli culture in its Canadian context, in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday. Dancers delivered polished performances that testified to many hours’ practice and a great fondness for Israeli folk dancing.