The 2014 edition of the annual Israel Truth Week Conference took place last Sunday in the Lodzer Synagogue in Toronto. The attendance this year was even higher – the hall was full and the staff had to bring more chairs to accommodate all the guests.
The speaker line-up of the conference was remarkable and it kept the attention of attendees for a really long time – from 10 a.m. to after 7 p.m. Two main themes were covered by the speakers. The first one included the real facts about Israel from a historical and political point of view. The second main topic was the modern anti-Semitism and the ways to combat it. The event was very well organized, with security provided by JDL-Canada.
A new feature this year was the trade fair, where different organizations and businesses promoted their causes. Among the presenters were Freedom Press, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem, the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research and others.
I recorded most of the presentations and will be posting the videos later this week. This post provides only the highlights from the presentations. Ilana Shneider from the Canada-Israel Friendship Association (one of the organizers) made a short introduction, in which she explained why such events are important – confronting the slanderous propaganda against Israel requires knowledge and experience, which could be learned from experts.
This year’s conference was in honour of Howard Grief, a remarkable Israeli legal historian, who wrote the pioneering work The Legal Foundation and Borders of Israel under International Law, a book that placed in public discourse the previously ignored issue of the legal rights of the Jewish people. His nephew Eric Grief shared his memories about the remarkable scholar.
Another goal of the conference was to support Israel’s Ambulance Service through the organization Canadian Magen David Adom for Israel. Its administrative co-ordinator Iris Ehrent told us the story of the Israeli emergency services. Not only do they have challenges due to the unique situation in Israel and the constant pressure from militants and terrorists, but they also had to deal with hostility and anti-Semitism (only in 2006 did they become a member of the Red Cross). The ambulance service relies on many volunteers, who often risk their lives helping people during terrorist attacks.
Mark Vandermaas, the founder of the ITW, presented each and every speaker before theirs talks, adding his personal thoughts and comments from his unique perspective of being simultaneously equal rights activist for Caledonia and an outspoken Israel advocate.
The Israeli-Canadian writer and journalist Judy Oron shared a very touching personal story. After the Ethiopian Jews were transported to Israel over 20 years ago, she accepted in her family a young Ethiopian girl. According to her birth family, her sister was presumed dead in Ethiopia. However, Judy’s adopted daughter suffered from the agonizing thought that her sister was still alive. Judy believed her and went to Ethiopia to look for the missing sister – she found her alive, although the girl was sold into slavery, so she had to buy her out. Once they arrived in Israel, it took years for the girl to recover from the emotional and physical scars. Eventually, the rescued sister decided to share her story with the world. Judy Oron helped her to do so by writing the novel Cry of the Giraffe, which tells her ordeal.
After that remarkable story of compassion, the next speaker brought us back into the ugly reality of the Middle East. Lt. Col. (IDF, Ret.) Jonathan Halevi has been monitoring the Arab extremism and terrorism for years. It has been to his advantage that he speaks several of the languages spoken in the Middle East, so he has access to original sources that spread very different information from the sanitized propaganda in English fed to the gullible West. In his presentation he explained the deeply rooted anti-Semitism, which is an integral part of the education in Gaza and the West Bank. The Western educational institutions often are oblivious to the fact that they collaborate with universities controlled by Hamas or Islamic Jihad (as it is the case with the Al-Quds University).
An important perspective on anti-Semitism was provided by Dimitri Bazos and Aleysha O’Hare, both of them students at the University of Toronto. They shared their experience and observations of the anti-Israeli activism on campus. That activism often crosses the line of political criticism and turns into promotion of anti-Jewish initiatives and intimidation of Jewish students at the Canadian universities.
Alan Herman represented the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, an organization dedicated to studying modern anti-Semitism and popularizing the achievements of Israel and the Jewish people. His topic also dealt with the situation in the Canadian universities. He covered in detail the CIJR program aimed at equipping students with the knowledge and skills to confront effectively anti-Semitism on campus. A co-presenter on the same issue was Amnon Zohar, an Israeli-Canadian entrepreneur, who shared first-hand impressions of campus Jew-hatred, gained after going through the ordeal of studying political science at the notorious York University.
Shobie Kapoor (from the Canadian Patriotic Society) covered a little-known topic – the Jews in India and the attitude toward them. Although the Jewish minority there has always been small, it has been treated with respect in the Hinduist society. The Hindus and the Jews have the common experience of being persecuted by Islam. Shobie shared the experience of her own family that lived in what before the partition of India was known as Pakistan. Forced to flee, they barely survived the ordeal.
Daniel Amzallag, a paramedic and trainer, vividly described the challenges that Israel’s ambulance service has to face every day. The Arab hostility often materializes in attacks and terror acts, where the paramedics have to react quickly to save the victims and they often become targets of the terrorists. He gave an emotional testimony of a fatal bomb attack, during which he and other volunteers were injured while taking people to safety.
The afternoon session began on a sad note – we honoured the victims of the Arab-Palestinian terror while watching a video presented by Evgenia and Lev Rachevsky. There were no images in it; just the names of the nearly 2,000 who perished in bombings and shootings rolled on the screen for over two minutes.
For the first time ever a politician addressed the ITW Conference. That was the Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak (Ward 10, York Centre), who praised the initiative of spreading the truth about Israel and explained what the Toronto City Council was doing to combat anti-Semitism.
The next few speakers covered from different angles the issue of the legitimacy of the Jewish state and the ideological clash between Arabs and Israelis on that topic.
The tireless promoter of the truth about the legality of Israel as a state and author of The Jewish People’s Rights to the Land of Israel, Salomon Benzimra (from Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights), spoke first. He presented a brief review of the documents and events that laid down the legal framework, which made the restoration of the Jewish state possible – from the Balfour Declaration to the San Remo Conference and the creation of the Mandate for Palestine. He also explained how to counter from a logical legal point of view the attempts to attack the validity of those legal rights, which have never been dismissed or overthrown by any international body.
Renanah Goldhar-Gemeiner, an Israel land rights activist, has dedicated years of her life to make the Government of Canada aware of the truth about the country and especially about the status of Judea and Samaria. She admitted that although her petition about the issue has been acknowledged, there is still a lot to be done to correct some misleading statements that influence Canada’s position of Israel and the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Yehidit Shier-Weisberg (from the Legal Forum for the Land of Israel) covered in detail the misrepresentation of the historical facts about Israel, specifically the presence of the Jewish people in those lands for thousands of years, which now many Arabs deny. The same is valid about the name of Palestine, a Roman term describing those lands, which is now used to invent a “country” and portray the Arabs there as “Palestinians”.
Richard Bass, a lecturer and author of Israel in World Relations: Are Land-for-Peace and Two-State Solutions Practical Strategies for Peace, also traced the historical background of Israel and the conflicts, but his emphasis was on the security of the country. When politicians like Obama speak about resolving the conflict around the “1967 Borders” (which actually are the 1949 Armistice Lines) and are enthusiastically supported by people in Israel and abroad, they don’t really understand what that would mean for the future of Israel.
Through pictures and maps, Bass explained the topography, which would allow the terrorists from the future Palestinian state to reach with rockets any city or village in Israel within a minute from the mountains overseeing Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. All power plants will be vulnerable and the Ben Gurion International Airports should be closed because the airplanes would become an easy target. Under similar circumstances Israel had to shut down a major airport near Jerusalem – the airplanes were shot at frequently by Arab terrorists.
The last segment of the conference covered the practical side of confronting anti-Semitism. That ideology is not spread only in written form, but is also a part of many hostile events, which need to be confronted in real time on the streets.
Meir Weinstein (National Director JDL-Canada) shared alarming facts about the anti-Semitism in Canada. In 1980’s-1990’s he was an active Nazi-hunter and fought against the neo-Nazi anti-Semitism. He thought at the time that after the influence of those groups diminished, he could retire. However, the rise of Muslim organizations influenced by Al-Qaeda, Iran and the Muslim Brotherhood gave a new life to Jew-hatred in Canada. The political correctness often paralyzes the attempts to expose and confront those organizations. What is even more disturbing is that major Jewish organizations in Canada downplay or ignore that danger. It is not difficult to see that this policy is not going to appease the anti-Semites – it failed in Europe, which now has the highest level of anti-Semitism since World War II. It is only a matter of time to see the same in Canada.
Mark Vandermaas covered in his presentation the necessity of spreading the truth about Israel. Now the emphasis is on finding solutions to the conflict and in most cases the people involved in that quest either have very vague idea about the historical and legal facts or operate on the basis of outright lies about Israel. It’s no wonder that no reasonable solution could be found. Unless the truth about the legal and historical rights of the Jewish people is understood and accepted universally, there will be no solid foundation for achieving peace and stability in that area of the Middle East.
Gary McHale, the famous advocate for the rule of law in Caledonia and author of Victory in the No-Go Zone, spoke about the power of the individual resistance against lawlessness using the non-violent methods of Martin Luther King Jr. He gave as an example his struggle in Caledonia, where he started with his wife Christine a confrontation against a seemingly hopeless situation – violent native criminals terrorized the local population for months with the silent support of the OPP, which didn’t want to get involved. Gary managed to attract more supporters and turn the things around using the Canadian laws, which the police ignored.
Despite of being arrested 9 times and charged with non-existent crimes, he succeeded to win all his court battles against the highly-paid government lawyers, even without legal education. The Canadian laws provide many opportunities for the individual citizens to affirm and defend their rights – you just need to be aware of them. The same methods could be used to combat anti-Semitism, especially on campus, where currently many groups make the lives of the Jewish students difficult and try to impose anti-Jewish administrative decisions and rules.
Although the conference continued longer than expected and we had to cut a few breaks to accommodate all speakers, the presenters kept the audience’s attention active to the end.
As I mentioned in the beginning, all major presentations will be shown in separate videos. The ITW Conference played again its important role of presenting the facts about Israel and the conflict in the Middle East to even larger audience.
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