Monday, 28 December 2009

Who will succeed Kyle Rae?

Longtime Toronto City Councillor Kyle Rae announced earlier this month that he will not be running for re-election in 2010. Rae was originally elected in 1991 after beating Adonica Huggins Sherona Hall for the NDP nomination in what is now Toronto Centre Ward 27. Rae filled an opening created by then city councillor Jack Layton's decision to run for mayor. Rae left the NDP in 1993 1994 to protest the Bob Rae government's decision to not whip his caucus to vote for same-sex benefits and allow a free vote instead - which failed due to several NDP MPPs voting with the Opposition. Since then, he's essentially been a Liberal in all but name supporting Liberal candidates such as George Smitherman, Bill Graham and, ironically, Bob Rae. Kyle has also been a general disappointment by supporting the closure of homeless shelters in his ward, backing policing against homeless people sleeping in parks, supporting the creation of Dundas Square as a privatized, commercial playground rather than a genuine public square and holding swank fundraising parties at College Park's exclusive Eaton Auditorium.

Despite his background as Executive Director of the 519 Community Centre in the 1980s, Rae has been, in practice, a city councillor for Rosedale and downtown condos rather than the poorer tenants of his ward.

The NDP has largely withdrawn from being an organized entity in municipal politics and will not be holding a meeting to nominate an NDP candidate in Ward 27.

So far, four individuals have emerged as likely candidates in next year's contest;

*Helen Kennedy is a former East York councillor and was subsequently Olivia Chow's longtime executive assistant when she was city councillor in Ward 20 (Trinity Spadina). When Chow moved to federal politics, Kennedy won a bitter contest against Tam Goosen for the NDP nomination to succeed Chow in the 2006 municipal election and went on to lose an equally bitter contest against Adam Vaughan. She is now executive director of Egale Canada, a national GLBT rights organization.
*El-Farouk Khaki, a lawyer, human rights activist, 2009 Grand Marshall of the Pride Parade and past NDP candidate in Toronto Centre, says his candidacy is not likely but that he's not closed the door to the possibility.
*Chris Phibbs is a senior advisor to David Miller and was executive assistant to Kyle Rae from 1992 to 2003 when she ran and lost as a candidate in Riverdale in the 2003 municipal election against NDPer Paula Fletcher. She has reportedly ruled herself out of the race.
*Enza "Supermodel" Anderson is a transgendered activist and media personality who ran for mayor in 2000 as a novelty candidate and came in third with 13,000 votes. She ran against Rae in 2003 and won 15% of the vote. She was grand marshall of the 2008 Pride Parade.
*Susan Gapka is also a transgendered activist and a representative of the Ontario NDP's LGBT caucus on the party's provincial executive. She ran against Rae in 2006 winning 4.8% of the vote.
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Friday, 13 November 2009

Holocaust survivors vs B'nai Brith Canada

One of the things I find most offensive is when people trivialize the Holocaust by making specious analogies to it for political purposes. It bothers me when the left does it as well as the right. Unfortunately, there is a growing trend among Zionist groups and the Israeli government to engage in this practice. Over the years, Yassir Arafat, Hamas, Saddam Hussein, Ahmadinejad have all been compared to Hilter and there've been warnnings that another Holocaust is around the corner if they are not stopped. Of course, Zionist politicians don't stop there, they've even compared each other to Hitler and/or the Nazis, whether it's Ben Gurion referring to right wing Revisionist Zionist leader Vladimir Jabotinsky as "Vladimir Hilter" or right wing Zionist spraypainting the words "Yitzhak Rabin = Hitler" near the slain leader's memorial.

The increasingly comical fringe group, B'nai Brith Canada, is the latest group to engage in the practice of insulting Shoa survivors by taking out a full page ad in the National Post comparing Muslims to Nazis earning them a strong rebuke from Holocaust survivors as reported in this article by the Jewish Telegraphic Association press service:

B’nai Brith ad raises survivors’ ire
November 12, 2009

TORONTO (JTA) -- A full-page newspaper ad placed by B'nai Brith Canada that equated radical Islam with Nazism has raised the ire of Holocaust survivors and a group that promotes Jewish-Muslim ties.

Headlined "The Unholy Alliance," the ad, which ran in the Nov. 9 edition of the pro-Israel National Post, noted the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the widespread pogroms in Germany on the night on Nov. 8-9, 1938. It showed a photograph of the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem meeting with Adolf Hitler, and noted the "common objectives of Nazism and radical Islam: Killing Canadian men and women on the battlefield, incitement of children through schools and media, annihilation of world Jewry, and subjugation of every one else, [and] world domination."

The ad solicited tax-deductible donations to B'nai B'rith Canada.

The topic of open line radio shows and hundreds of blog postings, the ad drew an irate response from the group Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors. "We survivors have fought everybody that tries to trivialize the Shoah. We get very, very angry when it is done by Jewish leaders. I think that they should know better," said the organization's co-president, Sidney Zoltak.

It is "horrible for a survivor to hear that anybody is compared to the evil of the leaders of Nazism," Zoltak said, but added: "We can see clearly the danger of extremism in the Muslim world. We have to be vigilant. We know what can happen when we become indifferent. [But] to compare the situation between now and then is not healthy. I'm upset about it."

Barbara Landau, co-chair of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims, questioned the ad's timing two days before Remembrance Day and in advance of the second annual Weekend of Twinning of Synagogues and Mosques. "My first thought was 'why?'" she said. "It was so distressing."

B'nai B'rith Executive Vice President Frank Dimant defended the ad, saying positive reaction to it outweighed the negative by "about 80 to 20. It seems there are a lot of people out there who are waiting for this kind of strong messaging."

Dimant said the ad was "intended to wake people up." He alluded to Iran's threats against Israel as a possible "future holocaust unless we stop it. I don't think any survivor will say that these people are not speaking about the genocide of the Jewish people."
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Saturday, 19 September 2009

IJV's response to the National Post article

Re: Church Helped Fund 'Anti-jewish' Group, Sept. 17.

Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber characterizes it as "shocking, outrageous, shameful and scandalous" that a Christian church contributed money to the founding event of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). We disagree. It is completely appropriate for churches and other organizations to collaborate with groups like ours in the pursuit of social justice.

Mr. Farber claims that IJV is "anti-Zionist" and "anti-Jewish."

We are proudly Jewish. Our members include Holocaust survivors and their children, religious as well as secular Jews, and Jews who have dedicated their lives to fighting anti-Semitism as well as all other forms of racism. We span a broad spectrum of views from strongly Zionist to strongly anti-Zionist. But we all support the principles of universal human rights, international law, and opposition to any form of racism, including anti-Semitism. We believe that both Palestinians and Israelis have the right to peaceful and secure lives. We adhere to the great Jewish tradition of dissent, debate and pursuit of universal social justice.

Independent Jewish Voices is very much in the mainstream, providing a voice for the growing number of those within the Jewish community and beyond who are critical of Israel's human rights violations. It is Mr. Farber and the Canadian Jewish Congress who find themselves increasingly on the margins.

Sid Shniad, co-chair Independent Jewish Voices, Surrey, B. C.
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Saturday, 30 May 2009

Censoring Israel's critics

I was going to write something on B'nai Brith's attempt to have Queers Against Apartheid banned from this year's Pride Parade and tie it together with other recent attempts to censor opinion on Israel - namely the shameful blacklisting of artist Reena Katz by the Canadian Jewish Congress/United Jewish Appeal affiliated Koffler Centre, B'nai Brith's attempt to have Seven Jewish Children banned in Toronto, Peter Shurman's attempt to have the Ontario legislature censure Israel Apartheid Week, protests against York's upcoming conference on one and two state solutions to the Israel/Palestine conflict etc... and then I saw Antonia Zerbisias' brilliant post on her Broadside blog which expands and annotates her recent column on the QuAIA affair. I will try to write something of my own soon but at the moment I have little to add to what Antonia's said so take a look.
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Sunday, 24 May 2009

Turnout for "Walk with Israel" down again!

Anyone who doubts that support for Israel among Canadian Jews is dropping need only to look at the turnout for Toronto's annual "Walk with Israel" - the Toronto United Jewish Appeal's major fundraiser for the year. The intensification of pro-Israel advocacy efforts and mounting shrillness on Israel by the Canadian Jewish Congress has not resulted in a deepening of feeling for Israel by Jews. Rather, the horrors of the Gaza conflict has caused a growing number of Jews to question Israeli policies or at least doubt them enough not to come running when self-appointed leaders of the community come calling. This year about half as many answered the UJA/CJC's call as did four years ago.

Walk with Israel (Toronto) turnout:

2006 - 20,000

2008 - 15,000

2009 - 12,000

In a related item, the Toronto Star yesterday published an excellent piece on the 90th anniversary of the Canadian Jewish Congress - highlighting the fact that the CJC is out of touch with a large segment of the Jewish community because of it's narrow pro-Israel stance:

Has Jewish group forgotten its roots? Critics say Canadian Jewish Congress has clout in top circles, but not in community
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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Two Jewish cultural workers, 30,000 opinions: A public statement from artist Reena Katz and curator Kim Simon

The following statement has been released by Reena Katz and her curator, Mona Filip, regarding the Koffler Centre's disgraceful decision to "dissociate" themselves from Katz not because of her art but because of her political associations:

Two Jewish cultural workers, 30,000 opinions: A public statement from artist Reena Katz and curator Kim Simon

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2009

It is with absolute outrage and a deep sadness that we write this statement regarding our experience working with the Koffler Centre of the Arts. As a Jewish curator and Jewish artist, we were invited by the Koffler to develop a project in early 2008. Since April of last year we have been working closely on an off-site exhibition wholeheartedly approved by Koffler curator Mona Filip, Koffler Executive Director Lori Starr and the Koffler Arts Advisory Committee.

Slated to open on May 20th 2009, the project, entitled each hand as they are called, is an ambitious and considered series of ephemeral gestures reflective of life in Toronto's historic Kensington Market. The project consists of sonic and visual performances, brings elders from Toronto's Jewish community into conversation and play with students from Ryerson Public School, and involves a series of vivid posters designed by Cecilica Berkovic sited throughout the Kensington neighborhood. This beautiful, smart and tender project reflects a deep commitment to animating a dialogue between aspects of Toronto's diverse Jewish/Yiddish history and its fascinating contact with other cultures. Through a queer framing of social history, this dialogue draws on the current social and economic space of Kensington Market, the trans-cultural game of Mah-Jongg, and the fusion music of the North American Yiddish song.

THE FACTS: Late on Thursday, May 7th we received an email requesting our attendance at an urgent meeting with Lori Starr and Mona Filip, scheduled for Friday, May 8th at 9:00 AM. When we inquired about the agenda of the meeting, Filip refused to answer. The next morning, twelve days before the scheduled opening of a project involving over seventy participants, we attended the meeting. We were shocked to learn that the Koffler would be dissociating itself from Katz and our project solely on the basis of her political affiliations they said they had discovered on the Internet. Of particular concern was Katz's participation in Israeli Apartheid Week. Starr made a verbal offer to honor the full funding of the project while removing the Koffler's name, logo and URL from any related material.

Before leaving the meeting we requested a discussion with the Koffler Board of Directors and Starr agreed to take the request under advisement. The one -hour meeting ended with many questions unanswered, and it was agreed that we would be in contact again with the Koffler on Monday, May 12th about whether and how to continue such a difficult working relationship. In less than one hour after this meeting, the Koffler and its parent organization United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto (UJA) issued separate public statements of dissociation from Katz.

FROM KIM SIMON, CURATOR: Now distributed to an international network, the Koffler and UJA's statements are a hypocritical, inaccurate account of Katz's work for human rights in Palestine. They constitute an irresponsible, inflammatory and slanderous attempt to discredit Katz and by extension her work as an artist. After a year of dialogue with us, to be summarily dismissed by Star and Filip without opportunity for discussion is shocking to say the least.

The Koffler had full knowledge of the work Katz has done over the course of a year to develop close relationships enabling dialogue and collaboration with numerous organizations and individuals participating in her exhibition.

While verbally agreeing to continue funding for the exhibition, the Koffler's reprehensible and uniquely unprofessional conduct has in effect placed the project in jeopardy. At this time, several key collaborators in the project have withdrawn their participation due to the discomfort directly caused by the Koffler and UJA statements.

In their public dissociation from Katz's exhibition, not on the basis of the aesthetics and content of the work but rather on the presumed opinions of the artist, the Koffler has entered into a practice of cultural blocklisting reminiscent of the 1950s and McCarthyism. I cannot overstate my disappointment in this institution that claims its mission as strengthening "identity and community while fostering an appreciation of difference." The Koffler's dissociation with Katz is a complete undermining of open dialogue within the Jewish community of Toronto and a great disservice to the Toronto cultural community, and the greater community of this city. As a condition for receiving financial support, the City of Toronto requires all organizations to follow policies that clearly prohibit discrimination and harassment on the basis of political affiliation. The Koffler Centre for the Arts has unwisely chosen to follow a different course and thus effectively rendered itself an undemocratic cultural space.

Katz is a person for whom I have deep respect. It has been my honor and privilege to work with her, learn from her and debate with her. I am appalled and heartbroken over the manner in which she has been treated by the Koffler Centre for the Arts.

FROM REENA KATZ, ARTIST: I come from a family of many Holocaust Survivors. My elders' stories of resistance and survival have deeply informed my visual and sound work. In a number of Jewish contexts, I was taught to embrace tolerance and fight racism in all its forms. It is this wisdom and ethical rooting that informs my art practice as well as my activism.

My relational, sound and sculptural work have a consistent reference to oral archive, Yiddish texts, Jewish 
metaphor, and culturally specific imagery.

Starting at age 16, I studied Yiddish with my great-aunts, both of whom lived at the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care, a participating organization in the project. I have been a student, teacher, and performer of Yiddish and Klezmer for the past 14 years. I have worked within Jewish, multi-faith, and secular forums to educate around anti-Semitism, racism, homophobia, and sexism.

I bring an irreverent, creative, and queer voice to my Jewish cultural work, critiquing and transforming traditions into contemporary praxis. My projects build bridges between the diverse communities I am a part of, forming my esteemed reputation as a community-based artist. It repulses me that I have to justify my practice here, as I sit falsely accused. I am as Jewish as they come, and not the Jew the Koffler claims me to be.

Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) and its organizers do not act to delegitimize Israel, but rather, "to educate people about the nature of Israel as an apartheid system and to build Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns as part of a growing global BDS movement." I have not stated that I advocate for the "extinction of Israel as a Jewish State" as the Koffler's statement claims. What I do state publicly is that I am an anti-Zionist Jew. This is an ideological stance, not one that determines any specific outcome for the contemporary state of Israel. I consider the Koffler's press release a blatant misrepresentation of my position as well as that of IAW.

I do not expect the Koffler or the UJA to agree with my political leanings. The issue here is the silence because of my political affiliations, and the stonewalling of internal dissent and debate within our cultural institutions. I am deeply committed to open discussion both within Jewish communities and with Palestinian, Arab, and Muslim communities worldwide. Dissent and discourse are crucial parts of this now global conversation; silencing and blocklisting are cowardly and toxic. At no point along the way was I asked to represent myself, my ideas, or the mandates of the groups I belong to, despite amicable, almost daily contacts with Filip for many months.

One of the first steps towards dialogue and understanding is upholding the rights of expression and free association. The arts especially, are fertile ground on which communities can come together with respect and creative vision. Cultural workers and artists must be allowed to speak honestly, stir passions, disturb - as well as kindle - justice and peace.

MOVING FORWARD: Since the release of the Koffler and UJA statements we have received overwhelming support from an international community of artists, curators, public arts organizations, educators and organizers. We greatly appreciate your attention to this matter. In further consideration we suggest you continue to question what is at stake in the Koffler's decision. We respectfully request your support in the form of continued dialogue with each other and a critical inquiry regarding all forms of support to the Koffler Center of the Arts.

Rest assured that the presentation of each hand as they are called will go on, even if this means an amendment to the original project. We look forward to inviting you to the opening.

Please visit our blog at and the eachhand Facebook page which will be up and running by May 12, 2009. For any questions or comments, please contact Reena Katz and Kim Simon at
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Sunday, 10 May 2009

Complain to Koffler Centre's financial backers for their blacklisting of an anti-Zionist Jewish artist

According to Koffler's website the CIBC is a major financial backer of the Koffler Centre. If Koffler is going to attack, slander and blacklist Jewish artists think it's a good idea to complain to Koffler's funders for their actions (they also receive taxpayer money) as they are inconsistent with the basic rights of artists.

Date: Sun, May 10, 2009 at 11:53 AM
Subject: To CIBC Wood Gundy re your financial support of the Koffler Centre

Dear CIBC,

It is my understanding that you are a major financial supporter of the Koffler Centre. While it is admirable that you are trying to contribute to the cultural and artistic community I suggest you reconsider your support of this particular institution given their blacklisting of Jewish artist Reena Katz not for her art but for her personal political views and associations. This oppressive behaviour by Koffler and their attack on the right of artists to their political beliefs and their right of free association is inconsistent with basic artistic values and renders them unworthy of support.

For more information on Koffler's discreditable conduct please see this article in Sunday's Toronto Star (pasted below):
Kensington Market exhibit stirs controversy among Jews

Yours truly,
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Koffler Centre persecutes Jewish artist

On May 8, the Koffler Centre for the Arts issued a press release announcing that they are "disassociating themselves" from an art exhibition by Toronto artist Reena Katz which is being installed at Kensington Market later this month. They are rejecting Katz not for the content of her work but because of her personal political beliefs, namely "Reena Katz’s public support for and association with Israel Apartheid Week." This is nothing less than blacklisting and the Koffler Centre should be ashamed of itself, particularly when one considers not only the number of Jewish artists and performers who suffered due to McCarthyist blacklisting in the 1950s but also the generations of Jews, in the arts as well as in the professions and various trades, who were denied employment not because of the quality or content of their work but because of their personal beliefs.

According to the Koffler Centre's press release
"As a Jewish cultural institution, an agency of UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, the Koffler Centre of the Arts will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state. The Koffler considers the existence and well-being of Israel as a Jewish state to be one of its core values." Katz replies in an article in today's Toronto Star saying, "I have said that I'm an anti-Zionist Jew. So they are conflating the state of Israel with Zionism. I'm speaking to an ideology when I speak about Zionism. They're speaking about a Jewish state."

Partisans of the UJA, CJC and B'nai Brith like pretend that Jewish critics of Israel are either assimilated Jews who reject their heritage and only speak out against Zionism so they can gain acceptance from the non-Jewish left or are, worse, apostates, the fact is that opposition to Zionism within the Jewish community is as old and as established as Zionism itself and that the most adamant of Zionism's Jewish opponents base their opposition on religious grounds. Others do so based on Jewish philisophical traditions of humanitarianism and universalism.

Reena Katz is one of the most Jewish people I've met. Her work is infused with Jewish sensibilities and themes. She is not only a visual and sonic artist but a musician who fronted the Klemzer band Promegranate for a number of years. She describes her upcoming exhibit as a(n) homage to my Jewish roots and the Jewish roots of Kensington Market." The Koffler Centre recognized this as well. According to their now removed write up of the event (still available online thank's to Google's cache feature):

each hand as they are called reflects on Toronto’s Kensington Market as the vibrant site of multiple public cultural histories, layered with personal stories and fragmented by the movement of time. Katz approaches the culture of the Market through the lens of her own memory and experience of Kensington, coming out as a young, politically engaged, queer woman. Taking the ephemeral nature of experience in urban space to heart, through a series of solo and collaborative performances, temporary installations, community projects and public posters, Katz works with the notion of transition and movement. each hand as they are called captures the spirit of the Market on any given day, filled with passing but memorable vignettes.

Roaming, live vocal performances insert an experimental soundtrack of assimilation, anachronism and hybridity into the urban landscape of the Market. Based on the jazz-fusion music of Yiddish speaking sister duos from the 60s, Katz’s haunting compositions are a combination of popular music, Yiddish classics and jazz, composed backwards for female duets. The resulting absurdist vocals create a hybrid language of calls and beckoning within the Market streetscape.

A community-based component of the project involves Katz working with residents from the Terraces at Baycrest and grade eight students from Ryerson Community Public School. Together, their working process will highlight Kensington as the important meeting point of Jewish and Chinese culture through the game of Mah Jongg, a game originating in East Asian communities which migrated and was popularized with North American Jewish women during the 1920s. The project culminates in a public day of inter-generational Mah Jongg in the Market’s Bellevue Park on June 7 (rain date: June 14).

In addition, Katz performs solo against the backdrop of Kensington Market’s tense relationship to urban development. At odd and unexpected hours, she will be seen working on temporary structures, building and deconstructing scaffolding in previously undisclosed locations. Katz’s scaffold performances gesture to the incredible labour history of the area, positioning the act of construction as obstruction and to memory itself as construct.

While each of Katz’s performative and social gestures are ephemeral, each hand as they are called will have a constant presence in the market through a series of interrelated street posters, designed by Katz in collaboration with award winning designer and artist Cecilia Berkovic. The posters provide additional context for the project while inserting a distinct visual presence amongst the eclectic mix of band-posters, announcements about lost pets, and other posted ephemera populating the Market.
Reena Katz isn't being blacklisted because her views on Israel somehow make her anti-Semitic (they don't), she's being blacklisted because she is too Jewish for the Koffler Centre and the United Jewish Appeal.

To complain about this outrage email the following people:,,,,,,

This is what Reena has to say on the matter:

Dear friends, family, comrades and colleagues;

Most of you know that I've been working on a site-specific commission for the Koffler Gallery in Kensington Market, set to open on May 20th. Kim Simon is an independent curator, who found me and proposed my work to the Koffler last year. She has been my main creative (and now political) ally in the process.

Today, at 9am Kim and I were informed by Lori Starr (Koffler executive director) and Mona Philip (Koffler curator) that the Koffler is disassociating from the exhibition: removing their name and URL's from any further outreach materials, exhibition posters and press.

Their Board of Directors, along with their major funder - The UJA of Greater Toronto - has decided that they "will not associate with an artist who publicly advocates the extinction of Israel as a Jewish state".

In our meeting with Lori and Mona this morning, it was made clear that their decision is based on my involvement specifically with Israeli Apartheid Week. Lori was explicit that it isn't me they object to, but the public statements I've made on behalf of specific organizations. Seeing this as a moment of potential change, I proposed a meeting with their Board, in which I would explain the true mandate of Israeli Apartheid Week, CAIA, and the Jewish Women's Committee to End the Occupation - now known as Women in Solidarity with Palestine.

Why now?
A year ago, Kim asked Mona directly if Koffler would have a problem showing my work considering my solidarity with Palestine. Mona was clear that since the project didn't deal with the issue, Koffler would stand behind it. Indeed, after a year of having access to my website, CV, Facebook page and any Google search results, it wasn't until this week that they chose to look at my Facebook page, and found a link to Israel Apartheid Week.

What the?
This weekend, I am working with Kim Simon, the independent curator on the project to respond to Koffler's press release (click on it to link there) with our own press release in response. It's evident they are acting out of fear. Fear of critique of Israel from within the Jewish community, fear of the repercussions of standing by an artist who is affiliated with justice for Palestinians.

Nu, so, what now?
They have offered to continue the project's $20,000 funding - without attaching to it institutionally in any way. An interesting proposal indeed. The project is quite extensive, and involves youth from Ryerson Community Public School, Seniors from Baycrest Centre, The Element Choir, solo vocalists and a number of stores, homes and cultural institutions in Kensington Market. Of course, I don't want to cancel the project but feel very uncertain at this time of how I want to proceed with it. Kim and I are putting thought to this, and plan to have a decision on Sunday. I am interested in taking this up politically, and strategizing around the best way to do that.

Until then, I would greatly appreciate your support in sending the Koffler messages. This is clearly an attempt by a mainstream Jewish institutions to stifle dissent within our community, and the art world in general. Please cc me on anything you send. Also, talk about it to anyone you know - especially arts organizations and their members. I'll be in touch soon with our press release.

With love and justice,

And here is an excellent letter from activist Henry Lowi:

Subject: Reena Katz unfairly targetted by Koffler Centre
Date: Sat, 9 May 2009 22:28:12 +0000

Lori Starr,

Executive Director, Koffler Centre of the Arts

Dear Ms Starr:

I read your announcement about the Reena Katz exhibition.[i]

I have known Reena Katz since she was a teacher in a Jewish Sunday School. I consulted her many years ago about violin lessons for my daughter. She referred us to the best violin teacher in Toronto.

I am well aware of Reena’s activism in solidarity with the oppressed people of Palestine. I know that Reena is motivated by an acute consciousness of the history of Jewish suffering and persecution (and culture!), and a commitment that “Never Again!”, to anyone, anywhere.

Despite the Koffler mandate, [ii] you are taking sides in a political issue. Your position is symptomatic of a kind of panic that is overtaking pro-Zionist organizations. Your panic is based on the painful awareness that you have placed yourselves on the side of injustice and oppression, an uncomfortable position for a Jew to inhabit.

The atrocity committed recently by the State of Israel against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip has drawn the attention of the whole world. It is well documented. [iii] It has been compared to the Sharpeville massacre in South Africa.[iv] The whole world has seen how the Palestinians -- virtually unarmed, isolated, and poorly led -- are being systematically massacred by a well-armed military power that enjoys unlimited military, political and economic support.[v] Strong feelings of solidarity have been aroused.

You are untouched by those feelings of solidarity.

Most Jewish community organizations remained silent in the face of the atrocities and the ongoing blockade of Gaza. Unfortunately for you, all decent people, all lovers of humanity noticed the silence of the Jewish organizations. Fortunately, all also noticed that Jewish dissidents -- Righteous Jews, upholders of our traditions of struggle against injustice -- spoke out.[vi][vi(b)]

Reena Katz is one of those Jewish dissidents.

The Jewish community is split. The split will deepen. On one side, you will find those who uphold the values of solidarity, decency, culture, and human rights. On the other side will be the supporters of murder, racism, and apartheid. All will have to choose their side,

You have chosen your side.

By dissociating yourselves from Reena Katz’s artistic work, for political reasons, you are engaging in a form of cultural boycott. As you know, progressive Palestinian grassroots popular organizations have called for a boycott of Israeli cultural and academic institutions.[vii] Peace-seeking Israelis support the boycott.[viii][viii(b)] Solidarity-minded Canadians, like author Naomi Klein, support the boycott.[ix] Faced with the boycott, Zionist apologists howl about “singling out Israelis because they are Israelis”, “anti-Semitism”, and the like.[x] They lie.

The Zionists lie, but they are in a panic. Fewer and fewer people are impressed by Zionist lies. More and more are impressed by the inevitable parallels between Israel’s genocidal conduct and the conduct of other oppressive regimes.

Solidarity with Palestine will grow, while disdain for Zionism and its supporters will grow.

You are singling out Reena Katz because she is a decent human being who speaks out against the oppression of fellow human beings. You have done so very publicly, making it very clear where you stand, and with whom you stand.

Reena Katz’s Israeli and Palestinian comrades pay a heavy price for their activism.[xi],[xii],[xiii],[xiv] They know that justice is on their side. They will win. Palestine will be free. Arts and culture will flourish. Jews and Arabs will live together, in peace, as equals.


Henry Lowi

And go see the show at Kensington Market beginning May 20!
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Thursday, 30 April 2009

Tell me why (I don't like Mondays)

Or "National Post deathwatch part 23"

National Post stops Monday editions in summer

As CanWest sinks further and further into debt and tries desperately to stave off its creditors the company has announced that its flagship newspaper will not be publishing on Mondays through the summer. Think of this as the Aspers' version of "Rae Days".

Post publishers Paul Godfrey and Gordon Fisher are trying to put the best face they can on this move stating in their Note to Readers that "this change is in some respects simply a return to what used to be the norm. Financial Post, the 102-year-old heart of our newspaper, prospered for years as a Tuesday-to-Saturday publication." Somehow, I think most Post employees and readers don't see this retreat as a nod to nostalgia.

As CanWest tries to sell of non core assets and dead weight in an attempt to remain solvent the Aspers will have to, sooner rather than later, decide the ultimate fate of the National Post which has never once returned a profit in its ten year history. Chances are that by the end of the summer it won't be just Mondays on which the Post won't be publishing.
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Thursday, 16 April 2009

Is the Canada-Israel Committee spying on the left?

It would seem so according to a CIC document obtained by Dr. Dawg which outlines a 2008 plan by the CIC to monitor and attempt to discredit Palestinian supporters. This is somewhat reminiscent of the scanadal several years ago when the US Anti-Defamation League was found to be spying on the left.
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Thursday, 9 April 2009

Order of Canada revoked from disgraced recipient

No, convicted felon Conrad Black still has his gong.

The disgraced figure who has been stripped of his Order of Canada is T. Sher Singh, a prominent Guelph lawyer who was appointed to the order in 2001. Singh was expelled from the Law Society of Upper Canada in 2007 after he "failed to serve clients, mishandled trust funds, misappropriated $2,000 from a client and continued to practise after being suspended in November 2005." The Toronto Star reported earlier this week that Singh's Order of Canada was revoked in December 2008 "pursuant to the Law Society of Upper Canada finding Mr. Singh guilty of professional misconduct and revoking his licence to practise law."

There is no indication that Singh was either criminally charged or convicted for his misdeeds.

So here's the question, if someone can have their Order of Canada taken away as a result of being disciplined by a professional body for misconduct then why does Conrad Black still have his Order when he has been rendered a much more severe judgment by a criminal court?

If you are no longer deemed worthy of an honour for having misappropriated $2,000 and being expelled from the Law Society of Upper Canada, then certainly committing a $6.1 million fraud and being sentenced to 6 1/2 years in prison is automatic cause for being de-orderized?

Conrad Black has lost every appeal and the Supreme Court of the United States appears to have passed up its option to consider Black's case a month ago. So why does Black still have the Order of Canada?
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Anti-Semitism in Venezuela? Not so much. (But who will tell Irwin Cotler?)

In January of this year, the anti-Chavez crowd was breathlessly claiming that the vandalisation of a synagogue in Caracas was evidence of a wave of anti-Semitism in Venezuela and despite the lack of any evidence linking the crime to the government, it was widely implied that the attack was a result of official anti-Semitism in the upper ranks of Venezuela's socialist government.

While the attempt to link the government to the attack was facile and opportunistic the simple fact that a synagogue was firebombed was a legitimately worrisome development.

The attack has reached mythic proportions here. Despite the fact that the burglars were busted in February after one of them confessed, Liberal MP Irwin Cotler rose in the House of Commons on April Fool's Day to table a petition decrying the "the escalating state-backed anti-Semitism in Venezuela" with what he called the "firebombing" of the synagogue as exhibit number 1. This despite the fact that not only was the synagogue not firebombed but, as you are about to learn, it had nothing to do with anti-Semitism, let alone "state-backed anti-Semitism".

The original act received a lot of media attention in North America (and some exaggeration with Irwin Cotler claiming the temple was firebombed). What has received far less notice is the denouement - it seems that the incident was not motivated by anti-Semitism but by greed and a personal dispute.

The robbery was in fact planned by the Rabbi's bodyguard after his employer had denied his request for a loan. The accompanying vandalism was an attempt by the robbers to cover their tracks and misdirect investigators.

Incidentally, as has been pointed out by a correspondent on Norman Finkelstein's blog, Caracas' biggest mosque was robbed last month. Curiously, neither the North American media nor Mr. Cotler have suggested that this act was a result of state-sponsored Islamophobia.
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Wednesday, 8 April 2009

Court rules on CAF injunction

Recently Jason Kenney, the Clown Prince of Cabinet, announced he was cutting of government funding to the Canadian Arab Federation because of its stance on the recent Gaza war - accusing CAF of being anti-Semitic. CAF went to court to seek an injunction to continue the funding. The court ruled today and while the emergency injunction was not granted since the ESL program CAF ran can be run by other groups the ruling does open the way for Kenney's decision to be overturned when a full hearing into the matter is held. Here is the conclusion of Justice Kellen's ruling.


[30] Does the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration have the right to cancel the contract with the Canadian Arab Federation for this ESL program for new Canadians because its president made public comments attacking the Minister’s political positions and personal character? Is it appropriate for government to cancel the contract because the Canadian Arab Federation loudly protests the Israeli invasion of Palestine, and calls a Canadian cabinet minister a name for not opposing the Israeli invasion?

[31] Being a target of public criticism is part of holding political office. If the Minister decided to cancel the English as a Second Language funding contract for the Canadian Arab community simply because he was called a name in the heat of a political protest against the Israeli attacks in Gaza, his decision should not stand. It was not unexpected that the Arab community would be repulsed by Israel’s invasion of Gaza. Naturally, the Arab community was upset that the Canadian government did not strongly protest this attack. Many reputable Canadian Jews were similarly opposed to Israel’s attack on Gaza.

[32] However, the Court recognizes that Mr. Kenney alleges that the Canadian Arab Federation is racist, anti-Semitic, and a supporter of a terrorist organization and that it was for these reasons that he cancelled the contract, and not because he was called a name.

[33] Regardless of his reasons for cancelling the funding contract, the Minister clearly owes a duty to the Canadian Arab Federation to give them notice that he intends to cancel the contract, provide the reasons for cancelling the contract, and give the Canadian Arab Federation an opportunity to respond before making his decision. The Minister may have breached the duty of fairness in this regard. For that reason the Minister’s decision may be set aside by the Court after a full hearing. This is a serious issue, an elementary principle of administrative law, and the Minister and his officials must act according to the law.

[34] In this case the Minister has made arrangements so that the CAF employees working exclusively on the LINC contract will continue to be employed and the LINC program will continue. Accordingly, the employees of the Canadian Arab Federation and the community that it serves will not suffer irreparable harm. As a result, the Court will not grant an interim injunction. At the same time, this application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision can proceed and the Canadian Arab Federation may obtain a decision declaring that the Minister’s decision was illegal. Following that, the Canadian Arab Federation may be entitled to commence an action for damages, but that is all in the future.

[35] On the other hand, at the full hearing of this application to set aside the decision of Minister Kenney, the Minister’s evidence may satisfy the Court the applicant should not be extended funding for the reasons cited by Mr. Kenney, namely anti-Semitism, hate mongering and support of terrorism. The Court will decide this question after a full hearing of the evidence on both sides.

[36] For these reasons, this motion for an interim injunction must be dismissed.

The full decision can be found here.
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Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Israeli wine boycott - the video

This past Sunday the group Not in Our Name - Jews Against Zionism (NION) staged a demonstration outside of the Summerhill LCBO in support of a boycott of Israeli wine. The NIONists urge instead the purchase of kosher wine from outside of Israel. The Jewish Defence League, Bnai Brith, and United Jewish Appeal organized a counter rally that brought out several hundred pro-Israel demonstrators to purchase Israeli wine in hopes of defeating the boycott. The real goal of the NION campaign, however, wasn't to deny Israel a few thousand dollars of wine sales at one outlet but to raise awareness. Uninvolved people, reading in the Toronto Sun about the intimidation utilized by the pro-Israel demonstraters were also informed about the boycott and some of them may now decide to read labels the next time they go to the store and give a pass to Israeli products.

How can a report with the following lede possibly be read by an objective person as being anything but an indictment of the counter-rally?

They shouted 'Shame!' and 'Jew-haters!' at the small group of Jewish protesters who yesterday called for a boycott of Israeli wines at a midtown liquor store.

Hundreds of pro-Israeli Jews descended on the Summerhill LCBO to counter a group of about 30 pro-Palestinian Jews who urged a boycott of Israeli wines ahead of this week's Passover Seder dinner.

"Jew-haters go home!" the pro-Israeli protesters shouted at the Palestinian sympathizers, who had planned to protest from 1 to 3 p.m.

But the rally was cut short at about 2:30 when police, concerned the crowd could get out of control, asked the pro-Palestinian side to end the protest, said Smadar Carmon, of Not In Our Name, a Jewish group critical of Israel's handling of the Palestinian situation.

The Zionists accomplished what the Nionists could not have done on their own - they created a situation that generated negative media coverage that revealed the aggressiveness and abuse used by Israel's supporters againist their opponents, particularly against dissenting Jews. The story also spread word of the general boycott of Israeli goods in both a Toronto Sun report (Jewish groups clash at LCBO) and the UPI pickup Toronto Jews clash over Israeli wines. During the Gaza war the media often characterized demonstrations as "Jews vs Palestinian" when, in fact, many of the participants in the pro-Gaza demos were Jews. This wasn't a problem this time as both major reports on the boycott demo, including the UPI report, highlighted the fact that the Jewish community is divided on the issue of Israel.

Even the Canadian Coalition for Democracies, a far-right anti-Muslim group linked to federal politicians such as Peter Kent and Tony Clement, got into the act. CCD front man Alastair Gordon posted pictures on his website of the rally, including shots taken by a stalker who followed the NIONists to a restaurant in order to take pictures of them while eating at a private establishment - a rather juvenile attempt at intimidation. (you'll have to scroll down within the frame to see the two pictures in question or check this page on the CCD site.)

Generally, the boycott campaign is having success:

Israeli exports hit by European boycotts after attacks on Gaza
- a report in the British Guardian this week tells us " Israel Manufacturers Association reported that 21% of 90 local exporters who were questioned had felt a drop in demand due to boycotts, mostly from the UK and Scandinavian countries. Last month, a report from the Israel Export Institute reported that 10% of 400 polled exporters received order cancellation notices this year, because of Israel's assault on Gaza."

And even the Motorola campaign, which some have derided as hopeless, has borne fruit:
Motorola Sells Israel Bomb Division as National Boycott Campaign Advances

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Friday, 3 April 2009

Meir Weinstein of JDL nailed by CBC Radio News World at Six

CBC Radio News has a report this evening on Meir Weinstein and the Jewish Defence League. Where other media outlets have failed to dig further into Weinstein's past or that of the JDL the CBC managed to put Weinstein on the spot. Weinstein tries to wiggle away with some rather disingenuous excuses as well as outright lies but I'll provide a dissection a little later. But first, here's a rush transcript of tonight's CBC Radio News report on Meir Weinstein and l'affaire Galloway:

Bernie McNamee: There's another twist tonight in the George Galloway saga. The controversial British MP was refused entry to Canada because of his alleged support for the Palestinian militant group Hamas. now it turns out the man claiming credit for tipping off immigration officials is Meir Weinstein. Galloway's supporters say Weinstein himself was a spokesperson for a Jewish extremist group on Canada's list of banned terrorist organizations. Our security correspondent Bill Gillespie has the story.

Channel 4 News presenter: Banned from Canada and branded a threat to national security George Galloway says he'll fight a shameful decision.

Bill Gillespie: Britain's Channel 4 led their newscast this week with the Galloway affair. In fact, they brought Galloway and Meir Weinstein together to butt heads on a trans-Atlantic video link.

Meir Weinstein (on C4): We are extremely determined to uncover any proxy agents of Hamas.

Galloway (on C4): You don't have to uncover me, I'm an open book.

Bill Gillespie: Ottawa's decision to ban Galloway came four hours after Weinstein held a news conference alleging that the British MP had provided material support for Hamas, a banned terrorist organization in Canada but Galloway's supporters in the blogosphere say Weinstein himself was once a member of a Jewish terrorist group. In 1994 he was identified in a Canadian Press article as a spokesperson for the Kach Party, also known as Kahane Chai. A Kach member in Israel had just massacred more than 50 Palestinian worshippers. Weinstein refused to condemn the attack. He doesn't deny making the statement but he denies ever being a member of Kach.

Meir Weinstein: I've never been a member of Kach or Kahane Chai.

Gillespie: Canada, the US, and the European Union later put Kach and Kahane Chai on their list of banned terrorist organizations. Weinstein denies any connection between Kach and his present group, the Jewish Defence League of Canada. But left-wing bloggers who support Galloway point out that the logos of both groups - a clenched fist in an embedded Star of David - are almost identical. Weinstein says Kach stole the logo from the JDL.

Meir Weinstein: Um, that's the logo of the Jewish Defence League so they took it from the Jewish Defence League but again I don't dictate to them what they're going to do or anything like that.

Gillespie: But bloggers also discovered a link on Weinstein's Facebook page to a chat group called "Death to Arabs". Weinstein says the link was sent to him in Hebrew and he added it not knowing what it said. He has since deleted it. But despite his best efforts he didn't succeed in keeping Galloway from his speaking engagements in Canada.

Galloway (Toronto speech): You won't be able to hide behind your immigration officials who can't speak up for themselves.

Gillespie: The pro-Palestinian group in Toronto that invited Galloway beamed him into a packed church on an internet video link. Bill Gillespie, CBC News, Toronto.

1) Kach stole the JDL's logo? Come on Meir, why not give the actual explanation which is that the JDL was founded in 1968 in New York by Meir Kahane who moved to Israel in 1971 where he founded the Kach Party a few years later. They have the same logo because they are both founded and led by Kahane (who remained the JDL's mentor long after he founded Kach). Is Weinstein accusing Kahane of stealing the logo from himself? Secondly, as Bill Gillespie reported Weinstein himself was a Kach spokesperson in North America (Weinstein didn't deny this, he simply equivocated by saying he was never a Kach "member"). As for there being no connection between Kach, Kahane Chai and the JDL - that's just a bald-faced lie. Apart from having the same founder and leader in the person of Kahane, even after Kahane's death his successor as JDL leader, Irv Rubin, raised funds for Kach/Kahane Chai and promoted the terrorist group.

2) Unfortunately Bill Gillespie didn't report on the JDL's own well documented history of terrorism or the fact that JDL leader Irv Rubin and his deputy, Earl Krugel were arrested in 2001 for plotting to blow up a mosque in Los Angeles (Rubin had been in Montreal months before trying to set up a Montreal JDL chapter). Krugel was convicted - Rubin escaped justice by killing himself in prison.

3) "Weinstein says the link (to join the "Death to the Arabs" Facebook group) was sent to him in Hebrew and he added it not knowing what it said." Now I just laughed when I heard this. Weinstein has been an observant Jew, by his reckoning, since the late 1970s and even claims to have served in the Israeli military but he can't read Hebrew? I have to give him credit though, this was somewhat more believable than Weinstein's original explanation which was that the Iranians somehow planted the link on his page.

Let's hope Gillespie, and the rest of the media, follow up on this. According to the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terror (START) the JDL was for many years the second most active domestic terrorist group in the United States. There's no reason for the Canadian media to let them off the hook or for any of us to tolerate their attempts to influence Jason Kenney or the Canadian government.

UPDATED: The report is now up on YouTube:

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Galloway sues Farber, CTV, Kenney, Velshi

On Wednesday, I was the first to report that British MP George Galloway was suing Bernie Farber and CTV for libel. Today, Canadian Press reports on this and adds that he will also be suing Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Alykhan Velshi for remarks they made about him.

This should get interesting. Let's home he finds cause to add the human troglodyte Meir Weinstein to the list.
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Wednesday, 1 April 2009

George Galloway suing Bernie Farber and CTV

Word out of Montreal tonight that George Galloway made public during his webcast to Concordia tonight that he has launched a devamation lawsuit against Canadian Jewish Congress CEO Bernie Farber and CTV for defamation uttered in an interview.

UPDATE: Galloway repeated the news in his webcast to Ottawa and the National Post has picked up the story.
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Friday, 20 March 2009

Kenney vs Velshi

Reading the New York Times' lexicological take on Canada's decision to bar British anti-war MP George Galloway from entering our fair land, I'm left wondering about the dynamics in the relationship between Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney and his aide Alykhan Velshi. It's quite clear who the brains is in the outfit. Velshi reaches back three centuries to find what he feels is the right word to describe Galloway as an "infandous street corner Cromwell." Infandous, which according to the Oxford English Dictionary hasn't been used in English since 1708, means something approximating 'unspeakable' or 'too odious to be mentioned'. Meanwhile Kenney, in an interview with Channel 4 News in Britain was somewhat less articulate telling the presenter that he isn't going to let Galloway "pee on our carpet". Kenney's language better reflects the actual thought processes of the government as the decision to bar Galloway from entry is infantile. Of course, we shouldn't assume that Velshi's seeming ability to find just the right arcane word is a result of a love of language - it may be the product of a love of death metal which, given our government's ideology, is not out of the question.
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Monday, 16 March 2009

Jewish Canadians Concerned about Suppression of Criticism of Israel

This statement was rejected by both the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail (as an op-ed). Please help this important statement get into broad circulation - pass it on to your networks (faculty, community, MPs, university presidents, unions etc.). You may also wish to write to the Star and Globe and express your dismay that they have chosen not to publish it.

Over 150 Jewish Canadians signed a statement expressing their concerns about the campaign to suppress criticism of Israel that is being carried on within Canada. The signatories include many prominent Canadians, including Ursula Franklin O.C., Anton Kuerti O.C., Naomi Klein, Dr. Gabor Mate, and professors Meyer Brownstone (recipient of Pearson Peace Medal), Natalie Zemon Davis, Michael Neumann, and Judy Rebick. *

The signatories are particularly concerned that unfounded accusations of anti-Semitism deflect attention from Israel’s accountability for what many have called war crimes in Gaza. They state that B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have led campaigns to silence criticism of Israel on university campuses, in labor unions and in other groups. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff unquestioningly echo the views of these particular Jewish organizations.

They strongly state that they are against all expressions of racism. While firmly committed to resisting any form of prejudice against Jewish people, their statement explicitly states that these spurious allegations of anti-Semitism bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind.

The statement underlines the immeasurable suffering and injustice to the
Palestinian people due to the severe poverty, daily humiliations, and military invasions inflicted by the State of Israel.

James Deutsch, M.D., Ph.D.

Judith Deutsch, M.S.W., R.S.W.
Miriam Garfinkle, M.D.

Statement: Jewish Canadians Concerned about Suppression of Criticism of

We are Jewish Canadians concerned about all expressions of racism, anti-Semitism, and social injustice. We believe that the Holocaust legacy "Never again" means never again for all peoples. It is a tragic turn of history that the State of Israel, with its ideals of democracy and its dream of being a safe haven for Jewish people, causes immeasurable suffering and injustice to the Palestinian people.

We are appalled by recent attempts of prominent Jewish organizations and leading Canadian politicians to silence protest against the State of Israel. We are alarmed by the escalation of fear tactics. Charges that those organizing Israel Apartheid Week or supporting an academic boycott of Israel are anti-Semites promoting hatred bring the anti-Communist terror of the 1950s vividly to mind. We believe this serves to deflect attention from Israel’s flagrant violations of international humanitarian law.

B’nai Brith and the Canadian Jewish Congress have pressured university presidents and administrations to silence debate and discussion specifically regarding Palestine/Israel. In a full-page ad in a national newspaper, B’nai Brith urged donors to withhold funds from universities because "anti-Semitic hate fests" were being allowed on campuses. Immigration Minister Jason Kenney and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff have echoed these arguments. While university administrators have resisted demands to shut down Israel Apartheid week, some Ontario university presidents have bowed to this disinformation campaign by suspending and fining students, confiscating posters, and infringing on free speech.

We do not believe that Israel acts in self-defense. Israel is the largest recipient of US foreign aid, receiving $3 million/day. It has the fourth strongest army in the world. Before the invasion of Gaza on 27 December 2008, Israel’s siege had already created a humanitarian catastrophe there,
with severe impoverishment, malnutrition, and destroyed infrastructure. It is crucial that forums for discussion of Israel’s accountability to the international community for what many have called war crimes be allowed to proceed unrestricted by specious claims of anti-Semitism.

We recognize that anti-Semitism is a reality in Canada as elsewhere, and we are fully committed to resisting any act of hatred against Jews. At the same time, we condemn false charges of anti-Semitism against student organizations, unions, and other groups and people exercising their
democratic right to freedom of speech and association regarding legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.


Abigail Bakan, Adam Balsam, Sharon Baltman, Julia Barnett, Lainie Basman, Jody Berland, Sam Blatt, Geri Blinik, Anita Block, Elizabeth Block, Sheila Block, Hannah Briemberg, Mark Brill, Stephen Brot, Meyer Brownstone, Eliza Burroughs, Smadar Carmon, Gyda Chud, Charles P. Cohen, Nathalie Cohen, David Copeland, Natalie Zemon Davis, Eliza Deutsch, James Deutsch, Judith Deutsch, Abbe Edelson, Jack Etkin, Elle Flanders, Danielle Frank, Ursula Franklin, Dan Freeman-Maloy, Miriam Garfinkle, Alisa Gayle, Jack Gegenberg, Mark Golden, Brenda Goldstein, Sue Goldstein, Cy Gonick, Marnina Gonick, Rachel Gotthilf, Amy Gottleib, Kevin A. Gould, Daina Green, Lisa Frances Greenspoon, Ricardo Grinspun, Cathy Gulkin, Rachel Gurofsky, Deboran Guterman, Yesse Gutman, Freda Guttman, Judy Haiven, Michael Hanna-Fein, Jean Hanson, Jan Heynen, Maria Heynen, Adam Hofmann, Jake Javanshir, Jeannie Kamins, Marylin Kanee, Howard S. Kaplan, Gilda Katz. Maxine Kaufman-Lacusta, Mira Khazzam, Bonnie Sher Klein, Mark Klein, Martin Klein, Naomi Klein, Joshua Katz-Rosene, Ryan Katz-Rosene, Judy Koch, Anton Kuerti, Jason Kunin, Aaron Lakoff, Michael Lambek, Natalie LaRoche, Richard Borshay Lee, Andy Lehrer, Gabriel Levin, Gabriel Levine, Joel Lexchin, Kim Linekin, Abby Lippman, Lee Lorch, Martin Lukacs, Audrey Macklin, Elise Maltin, Richard Marcuse, Wayne Mark, Gabor Mate, Arthur Milner, Anna Miransky, Dorit Naaman, Joanne Naiman, Neil Naiman, Michael Neumann, David-Marc Newman, David Noble, Clare O’Connor, Robin Ostow, Andre W. Payant, Jenny Peto, Simone Powell, Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, Fabienne Presentey, Yacov Rabkin, Diana Ralph, Naomi Rankin, Judy Rebick, Ester Reiter, Jillian Rogin, Richard Roman, Joseph Rosen, Herman Rosenfeld, Martha Roth, Marty Roth, Ruben Roth, E.Natalie Rothman, B. Sack, Ben Saifer, Miriam Sampaio, Jacob Scheir, Fred Schloessinger, Alan Sears, Shlomit Segal, Edward H. Shaffer, Noa Shaindlinger, Ray Shankman, Eva Sharell, Elliot Shek, Sid Shniad, Max Silverman, Samuel Singer, Elizabeth Solloway, Susan Starkman, Greg Starr, Jonathan Sterne, Jeremy Stolow, Rhonda Sussman, Vera Szoke, Joe Tannenbaum, Howard Tessler, Marion Traub-Werner, Ceyda Turan, Sandra Tychsen, Cheryl Wagner, Jon McPhedran Waitzer, David Wall, Naomi Binder Wall, Kathy Wazana, Karen Weisberg, Barry Weisleder, Paul Weinberg, Judith Weisman, Suzanne Weiss, Abraham Weizfeld, Ernie Yacub, B.H. Yael, Yedida Zalik, Melvin Zimmerman
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Zionism is the problem

Here's an excellent op-ed from Sunday's LA Times:

Zionism is the problem

The Zionist ideal of a Jewish state is keeping Israelis and Palestinians from living in peace.
By Ben Ehrenreich
March 15, 2009
It's hard to imagine now, but in 1944, six years after Kristallnacht, Lessing J. Rosenwald, president of the American Council for Judaism, felt comfortable equating the Zionist ideal of Jewish statehood with "the concept of a racial state -- the Hitlerian concept." For most of the last century, a principled opposition to Zionism was a mainstream stance within American Judaism.

Even after the foundation of Israel, anti-Zionism was not a particularly heretical position. Assimilated Reform Jews like Rosenwald believed that Judaism should remain a matter of religious rather than political allegiance; the ultra-Orthodox saw Jewish statehood as an impious attempt to "push the hand of God"; and Marxist Jews -- my grandparents among them -- tended to see Zionism, and all nationalisms, as a distraction from the more essential struggle between classes.

To be Jewish, I was raised to believe, meant understanding oneself as a member of a tribe that over and over had been cast out, mistreated, slaughtered. Millenniums of oppression that preceded it did not entitle us to a homeland or a right to self-defense that superseded anyone else's. If they offered us anything exceptional, it was a perspective on oppression and an obligation born of the prophetic tradition: to act on behalf of the oppressed and to cry out at the oppressor.

For the last several decades, though, it has been all but impossible to cry out against the Israeli state without being smeared as an anti-Semite, or worse. To question not just Israel's actions, but the Zionist tenets on which the state is founded, has for too long been regarded an almost unspeakable blasphemy.

Yet it is no longer possible to believe with an honest conscience that the deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live and die in Gaza and the West Bank come as the result of specific policies, leaders or parties on either side of the impasse. The problem is fundamental: Founding a modern state on a single ethnic or religious identity in a territory that is ethnically and religiously diverse leads inexorably either to politics of exclusion (think of the 139-square-mile prison camp that Gaza has become) or to wholesale ethnic cleansing. Put simply, the problem is Zionism.

It has been argued that Zionism is an anachronism, a leftover ideology from the era of 19th century romantic nationalisms wedged uncomfortably into 21st century geopolitics. But Zionism is not merely outdated. Even before 1948, one of its basic oversights was readily apparent: the presence of Palestinians in Palestine. That led some of the most prominent Jewish thinkers of the last century, many of them Zionists, to balk at the idea of Jewish statehood. The Brit Shalom movement -- founded in 1925 and supported at various times by Martin Buber, Hannah Arendt and Gershom Scholem -- argued for a secular, binational state in Palestine in which Jews and Arabs would be accorded equal status. Their concerns were both moral and pragmatic. The establishment of a Jewish state, Buber feared, would mean "premeditated national suicide."

The fate Buber foresaw is upon us: a nation that has lived in a state of war for decades, a quarter-million Arab citizens with second-class status and more than 5 million Palestinians deprived of the most basic political and human rights. If two decades ago comparisons to the South African apartheid system felt like hyperbole, they now feel charitable. The white South African regime, for all its crimes, never attacked the Bantustans with anything like the destructive power Israel visited on Gaza in December and January, when nearly1,300 Palestinians were killed, one-third of them children.

Israeli policies have rendered the once apparently inevitable two-state solution less and less feasible. Years of Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank and East Jerusalem have methodically diminished the viability of a Palestinian state. Israel's new prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, has even refused to endorse the idea of an independent Palestinian state, which suggests an immediate future of more of the same: more settlements, more punitive assaults.

All of this has led to a revival of the Brit Shalom idea of a single, secular binational state in which Jews and Arabs have equal political rights. The obstacles are, of course, enormous. They include not just a powerful Israeli attachment to the idea of an exclusively Jewish state, but its Palestinian analogue: Hamas' ideal of Islamic rule. Both sides would have to find assurance that their security was guaranteed. What precise shape such a state would take -- a strict, vote-by-vote democracy or a more complex federalist system -- would involve years of painful negotiation, wiser leaders than now exist and an uncompromising commitment from the rest of the world, particularly from the United States.

Meanwhile, the characterization of anti-Zionism as an "epidemic" more dangerous than anti-Semitism reveals only the unsustainability of the position into which Israel's apologists have been forced. Faced with international condemnation, they seek to limit the discourse, to erect walls that delineate what can and can't be said.

It's not working. Opposing Zionism is neither anti-Semitic nor particularly radical. It requires only that we take our own values seriously and no longer, as the book of Amos has it, "turn justice into wormwood and hurl righteousness to the ground."

Establishing a secular, pluralist, democratic government in Israel and Palestine would of course mean the abandonment of the Zionist dream. It might also mean the only salvation for the Jewish ideals of justice that date back to Jeremiah.

Ben Ehrenreich is the author of the novel "The Suitors."
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