On Sunday June 14th, the Jewish National Fund held their annual fundraising banquet in Vancouver at the Four Seasons Hotel. The JNF is one of the primary organizations responsible for the historic and ongoing colonization of Palestinian lands for the development of Jewish-only settlement. This has resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, and contributed to the apartheid system in Israel. Despite its racist history and policies, the JNF is granted status as a charity in Canada, enabling it to raise millions of dollars through tax-deductible donations, including at the annual fundraising dinners held across Canada.
At this year’s ‘Negev Dinner’, two local activists succeeded in entering the Park Ballroom of the Four Seasons Hotel where the event was held, disrupting the sold-out dinner by passing out information on the role of the JNF in Israeli apartheid and images from Israeli incursions into the Gaza Strip. Soon after hotel security was alerted, three security personnel acting on behalf of the Jewish Federation of Vancouver grabbed a woman in an attempt to stop her from handing out the leaflets.
At this time, while being forcibly restrained by security guards, a fourth person who identified herself as Jewish Federation Security approached and proceeded to yank on a fist-full of her hair. While attempting to defend herself, she was forcibly removed from the hall and arrested by hotel security. After being taken to the hotel lobby, she was then notified that the Vancouver Police were on their way and she was going to be charged with assault.
The other activist who had not yet been identified by security remained close-by to monitor the situation while attempting to avoid a more brutal targetting as a Palestinian man.
The woman who had been arrested at this point managed to wrestle out of one of the handcuffs and escape from the hotel. She was chased down across the street by security from both Four Seasons and the Jewish Federation of Vancouver, who tackled her, rearrested her, and brutally moved her back to the hotel.
Upon arrival, the Vancouver Police said she was being charged with assault, and began collecting testimony from the security officer who had allegedly been assaulted, as well as from all other security personnel involved. Numerous threats were made by one of the VPD officers, who stated that she was being charged with “hate crimes” for distributing materials “targeting the the Jewish community”, and that he would ensure that she “would never set foot on an airplane again”.
After police completed their initial investigation, she was ultimately released without charge based on the assurance that she would not return to the JNF event.
Despite the swift response of security, the action succeeded in disrupting the sold-out, $100/plate dinner that brought together Vancouver’s most influential Zionist supporters, reminding them of the growing movement in support of the continued resistance of the Palestinian people to Israeli occupation and apartheid, and includes challenging the ability of the JNF to fundraise internationally for the dispossession of Palestinians from their land under the guise of “charity”.