Yesterday’s JSpace conference in Toronto caused quite a stir in the Jewish community. Nothing unusual here – clashes of opinions among Jewish individuals and organizations are common. They are a part of the spirit of discussion and dialogue that allowed the Jews to advance.
However, the opinions of the people involved in the conference require special attention due to the fact that they hardly contribute to any kind of advancement.
Its title was enough to ring a huge bell – FOR ISRAEL’S SAKE – RAISING THE VOICE OF PROGRESSIVE ZIONISTS IN CANADA. When the adjective “progressive” is attached to an organization or idea, in nine cases out of ten, we are dealing with rich do-gooders detached from reality or bean-sprout-eating vegans on bicycles wearing helmets with tiny rear-view mirrors, who are clueless about their own lives, but have plenty of ideas on how to run other people’s lives.
I understand that they want to “reclaim” the word Zionist, which has become, among the Muslim Jew-haters, the code word to describe the Jews negatively without being accused of anti-Semitism. The problem is that whether you are a progressive, regressive or plain Zionist, they’ll still hate you with the same passion.
It doesn’t matter that the odd interpretation of Zionism by some of the participants includes giving up Israeli land, renouncing the Jewish nature of the Israeli state, abolishing the Law of Return and turning Israel into a “multicultural” state. That is not going to make them more popular among Jew-haters, but it would definitely hurt the 6 million Jews living in Israel.
The way those “enlightened Zionists” operate reminds me of an old Woody Allen joke: “We were married by a Reform rabbi in Long Island. A very Reform rabbi. A Nazi.” I am far from suggesting that those “reformers” are Nazis, but they are so clueless that the end effect of their reforms may well result in the destruction of Israel. That self-deception makes them so dangerous. In contrast, the idiots from Neturei Karta are much more open and honest – they tell you upfront that they want Israel destroyed, so it is clear who you are dealing with.
Even with those ideas, I could’ve dismissed the group as another loony entity like the types that protest every Friday at the Israeli Consulate in Toronto. What made things worse this time was the participation of the Consul General of Israel D.J. Schneeweiss. It was announced in the conference program: “Greetings and Opening Remarks – D.J. Schneeweiss, Consul General of Israel.” If he appeared as Mr. Schneeweiss, private citizen, that wouldn’t have been a problem. Unfortunately, that’s how the diplomacy works – when a senior diplomat takes part (as such) in an event, it is always interpreted as a government endorsement of that event. To be fair, I should add that one of the protesters told me that when he contacted the Consulate to express his concern, he found out the staff wasn’t aware of who the participants in the conference were (sloppy research is not an excuse).
The presence of Howard English, Senior Vice President of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), was also puzzling. A representative of the largest Jewish advocacy group in Canada should’ve been aware of the ideas promoted at the conference, especially if we assume that this part of his bio is correct:
“Howard is a passionate pro-Israel advocate, with particular expertise in the global onslaught against Israel’s existence and anti-Israel campus activity.”
That was the main reason why JDL-Canada decided to picket the conference. The latter took place in a multi-faith centre at the University of Toronto, where they proudly displayed pictures of faith groups, among which was the Muslim Students Association (Muslim Brotherhood’s gift to Canada) and if interested, you were invited to study the Koran with a twist.
After spending some time outside, the protesters from JDL-Canada entered the building. Despite the fact that the police were weary of them, the protest was peaceful, as usual. Many participants in the conference engaged in discussions and debates with them, including some of the speakers.
Now let’s see who the people of JSpace are. In the bio of one of them we see:
“Hania Amad is currently a very active participant in a group entitled “Together in Hope”, co-founded by Arab and Jewish women. The group aims, through dialogue, to address such issues as the Law of Return, and Nationality Law as they relate to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and how can both sides work together to reduce these tensions.”
To anybody even vaguely familiar with the discussions about the Law of Return and the Nationality Law, it is clear that they aim at reducing the Jewish immigration to Israel and abolishing the Jewish nature of the state, which since the Balfour Declaration was supposed to be a home of the Jewish people.
Dr. Karen Mock, the leader of JSpace, a ‘human rights’ consultant, has her own history of associating with Islamic extremist groups. Last year the blogger Blazingcatfur uncovered another document spreading anti-Semitic hatred – a textbook used at the East End Madrassah (EEM) in Toronto (you can read it here).
Not surprisingly, the police and the Human Rights Commission chose to ignore the case. Karen Mock, together with CAIR Canada, defended the Islamic Group behind the EEM in the report “CAIR-CAN Welcomes Report Exonerating Toronto School of Promoting Hate.” That despite the fact that many Jewish organizations condemned the curriculum. That’s not a surprise either, she has good connections with the shia organization behind the madrassah, the Jaffari Center – in November 2010, Karen Mock participated along with one of its leaders, Imam Syed Mohammed Rizvi, at the Center’s “twinning programs”.
Recently, on January 24, JSpace and the Canadian Arab/Jewish Leadership Dialogue Group held a joint event. According to the coverage published on their website, “the panelists were Raja Khouri and Karen Mock, founders and co-chairs of the group, and longtime members Maurice Green and Jareer (Jerry) Khouri.”
JSpace very openly states where they stand on the issue of the “apartheid state”:
“Among the differences between the two communities are inevitable disagreements over the Israel-Palestine conflict. A good example of the impact of effective dialogue was their discussion of the tension and anger over calling Israel an ‘apartheid state’. Learning more about the rights of Arab citizens of Israel (eg to vote, to hold elected office, etc.), the Arab members agreed that Israel itself was not an apartheid state. However, after hearing the experiences of a Jewish member’s 40 minute trip down a super highway from Ben Gurion Airport to her apartment in Jerusalem, and an Arab member’s 2 ½ hour trip, including several demeaning checkpoints, the same day from the airport to visit his family in Ramallah, Jewish members agreed that in the West Bank, Arabs live an apartheid-like existence. So by being able to go to deeper levels of dialogue, terminology is changed and understanding is enhanced. Maurice Green said what comes out when you respect and trust each other is honest conversation through which people come to appreciate why you hold the views you do.”
Let me ask again – is it appropriate for the Consulate of Israel to engage with people, who hold such views?
Raja Khouri, the person mentioned in the January event, was also present at the conference. He is a former president of the Canadian Arab Federation, which was defunded by the Canadian government for a good reason. It is a prominent sponsor of anti-Israel demonstrations, which often feature people waving Hamas and Hezbollah flags. Some of the participants in those events even call for the state of Israel to be wiped off the face of the earth.
Among the speakers at the JSpace conference we also see Joan Garson from New Israel Fund of Canada. It is more appropriate to call it Anti-Israel Fund of Canada.
That organization actively supports anti-Israeli activities. According to the NGO Monitor, five grantees of the fund – Machsom Watch, Coalition of Women for Peace, Women Against Violence, Social TV, and Mossawa – signed a letter calling for divestment from Israeli companies, which was sent to the Norwegian Government Pension Fund.
NIF funded NGOs and their groups were featured prominently in the Goldstone report, which focused on alleged Israeli “war crimes” in the 2009 Gaza war. The report relied for information on them, mentioning B’Tselem more than 56 times; Adalah, 38; and Breaking the Silence, 27.
The honour to present the Christians at the conference was given to “The Very Rev. the Hon. Lois M Wilson – former Moderator, United Church of Canada.” As a Christian, I feel insulted, because out of dozens of churches and denominations, which fully support Israel, JSpace picked the church with the worst anti-Israeli record.
Last year the United Church of Canada adopted a report, which later became a basis for their policies on Israel.
Here is what the church clergy demanded from Israel:
“calls on Israel to dismantle settlements within the occupied territories;
calls on Israel to dismantle the separation barrier in all sections where it crosses over the Green Line;
challenges Christian beliefs that theologically justify the occupation;
advises against a comprehensive boycott of Israel and Israeli goods and products;
calls for an economic boycott directed exclusively against settlement products that can be identified as produced in or related to the settlements or the occupied territories.”
In order to comply with that, Israel has to open its borders to all terrorists and close the businesses that employ many Arabs in Judea and Samaria. I wonder again how the Consul and the CIJA Vice President felt in the presence of a leader of such “tolerant” church.
The undisputed star of the conference was Peter Beinart, “an Associate Professor of Journalism and Political Science at The City University of New York, Senior Political Writer for The Daily Beast-Newsweek, and Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation.” He is author of “The Crisis of Zionism” (2012), which could hardly be seen as Israel-friendly.
His point of view is that Israel should give up all disputed territories. Places like Hebron have historical significance for the Jews, but Israel has no sovereignty over them and has to write them off. All Arabs must be accepted and provided with citizenship in Israel, which would make the country more democratic. The old legal framework adopted by the League of Nations is outdated and meaningless, everything in Beinart’s opinions starts with the Declaration of Independence of Israel.
When challenged to a debate by Meir Weinstein, Beinart cheerfully agreed to talk and share his program for destruction of the country, in which he doesn’t live. You can see most of the debate in the video. Bernie Farber was so impressed that he tweeted about the event. Too bad he didn’t hear what Beinart really had to say.
It was a shame that JDL-Canada was the only organization with the courage to protest the event. It was even more shameful that representatives of Israel and organizations supposed to protect Israel’s interests endorsed and supported the conference.
I don’t know if those “reformers” are blind, clueless or simply have bad intentions. It is a delusion to think that resolving the conflict between Israel and the Arabs would improve the situation. Even if they establish a state in Judea and Samaria, they’ll immediately start a campaign to get the rest (“From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” as it goes in the popular slogan).
The problem is not the conflict; the problem is the anti-Semitism, one of the oldest prejudices in the world. No amount of compromise would overcome it; it will exist even if Israel is gone. That is why it is so important to maintain the country strong, because it is the only place, which could provide safety to the Jews. Turning Israel (or any other country) into a “multicultural paradise” with an Arab majority is not going to bring democracy. History (including the recent Arab Spring disaster) has shown that democracy in the Arab societies is possible only as a mob rule, hostile to all minorities.
It is easy for those bicycle socialists and rich activists to disperse their idiotic advice from the safety of Canada. Unlike them, the people of Israel live in the real world, surrounded by several Muslim countries, which may explode at any moment with unpredictable consequences. The Israeli government should concentrate on protecting its citizens from that danger, instead of supporting shady organizations like JSpace.
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