This year’s edition of the Israel Truth Week conference took place on March 5 and 6 at Victory International Church in Hamilton. Started two years ago by Mark Vandermaas as a response to the intimidation of Jewish students at a local university, the event has grown in popularity despite the fact that the mainstream media haven’t paid enough attention to it.
Unlike other Israel events, which try to keep the discussion in the realm of the political correctness, ITW is unabashedly polemical. It coincides with the notorious Israeli Apartheid Week, which might have lost its lustre over the last few years, but still provides platform to people hostile to Israel, who use the “anti-Zionism” as a mask to hide their disdain for Israel and the Jewish people in general.
That became very clear in Mark Vandermaas’ opening presentation. He explained how his awareness about the issues of anti-Semitism grew out of his activism in Caledonia. In that small town native extremists occupied illegally land and terrorized the local population for years, emboldened by police inaction in the name of “keeping the peace.”
The occupiers have been actively supported in many different ways by communists, anarchists, union activists and other assorted leftists. In 2006 the Palestinian flag was flown over the occupied site along with the Mohawk Warrior and Six Nations flags. The comparison between the fight of the native militants and the Arab fight against Israel was used in the native propaganda at the time.
In other pictures that Mark showed I saw a few old “friends” who had been involved in several causes simultaneously. There was Tom Keefer, a union activist at York University, a place known as a hotbed of anti-Israeli activities. Tom is an almost constant presence at most of the demonstrations in Caledonia.
Then there was Ali Mallah, marching with Mohawk “warriors” and Hezbollah supporters. That may seem a strange choice of an event for a CUPE and Canadian Labour Congress official, who also has a high position at the Canadian Arab Federation, but those who are familiar with these organization the support for extremist causes shouldn’t be a surprise.
And things are not limited just to words – the militant native rhetoric can become the starting point of the transition to Islamic terrorism. An example Mark gave was with a Saskatchewan Cree young man, who started as a Mohawk Warrior militant at Caledonia and ended up as an Islamic jihadist.
Mark’s position about the connection between native extremism and anti-Semitism was shared by the other activists in Caledonia – many of them took part in the conference.
The program was intense, with many featured speakers, and it would be difficult to cover everything, but I’ll try to provide some highlights. Two students, Zachary Paikin (from The Student Israel-Advocacy Program) and Atara Messinger (from McMaster University) covered the issues of campus anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish activities and the tools and measures to combat them.
Two of the speakers made the case for defense of Israel from two different points of view. Rabbi Jonathan Hausman (Ahavath Torah Congregation, Stoughton, MA) spoke from Jewish perspective, although his point of view was broader than that. Israel is not only the land of the Jewish people, in which they have restored the state taken from them. It also plays a special role as a beacon of democracy in an area dominated by theocracy and dictatorships. The tolerance and openness in Israel have provided a fertile ground for development of science. The achievements of the Israeli science exceed everything achieved in the neighbouring countries.
The Christian case for Israel was made by Pastor Kingsley Osei from Victory International Church.
He traced the common ground of Judaism and Christianity, as outlined in the Bible. He also talked about the support of the Christian groups and churches for the state of Israel and praised the way in which the Christian holy places are guarded there.
An important part of the conference was fundraising for ALYN Hospital. I have never heard of that place before and it’s no wonder why – the existence of such institutions doesn’t fit the narrative about Israel as an evil militaristic country and it’s naturally ignored.
ALYN is Israel’s main rehabilitation centre for physically disabled children. The acronym stands either for Aguda L’ezra Yeladim Nechim (Organization to Help Disabled Children, in Hebrew) or All the Love You Need. Thousands of children with different, often severe, disabilities are helped every year.
In videos presented by Cathy Lanyard, President of Canadian Friends of ALYN Hospital, we saw the work and the everyday life at the hospital. Frankly, that was painful to watch – many of the kids come to the hospital after accidents or suffering from neuromuscular and congenital diseases, which make simple activities like walking, standing, eating or even sitting nearly impossible.
The hospital provides rehabilitation through expensive technology designed to aid every particular health problem those kids may have. They also have highly qualified staff of doctors, nurses, and therapists, who provide multi-disciplinary rehabilitation. But that’s not the only care provided – taking into account the unique emotional needs of the children, the management puts in an effort to reduce the hospital “feel” of the institution. The spaces are made to look like playgrounds and the therapists are helped by clowns and pet animals that create an environment which speeds up the recovery.
It’s ironic that while Israel is demonized as an “apartheid state”, that hospital shows a very different picture. It accepts children in need from all nationalities, religions and races. Due to their disabilities, the children often stay at the hospital with other family members. You can see here Jewish, Christian and Muslim families staying together and helping each other.
There were other speakers, who covered the problems of Israel and the Middle East. Salomon Benzimra from Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights (CILR) spoke about the Jewish people’s rights to the land of Israel from historical and legal perspective. A very interesting presentation on IAW on campus made Prof. Lawrence Hart from McMaster University. As a South African, who grew up under the apartheid, he provided a convincing perspective on how absurd it is to compare Israel to South Africa. Lt.-Col. Jonathan D. Halevi covered in detail the issue of the peace in the Middle East. These presentations will be covered in separate posts.
The first day concluded with a video lecture by Dr. Bill Warner on political Islam. His scientific approach to the Muslim scriptures showed why he is hated so much by the US Muslim fanatics. After the lecture he responded to questions from the audience.
Urgent issues prevented me from attending the second day, but I heard that many prominent speakers appeared on that day as well, including Rev. Majed El Shafie (from One Free World International), a fearless fighter for the rights of the Christians in Muslim countries.
The event was impressive and well organized, though like with everything else, there is always room for improvement. Maybe next year the organizers could consider moving the main event to Toronto. That would make it easier for the foreign speakers to attend. It will also attract a larger audience, thus spreading the truth about Israel among more people. And when more people are present, a worthy cause like the ALYN Hospital would get more attention, more popularity and naturally, more money.
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