Week of July 31, 2014
Time to wake up
What other country on this planet would advise their enemy of their impending attack and be told to get out of harm’s way?
If your country was being shelled by rockets, would you show restraint, or would you retaliate after so many years of negotiation and continued bombardment in order to protect your citizens?
Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East, and yet it is always condemned for actually wanting peace, while helping countries with environmental concerns, medical assistance, new technology, etc.
Even after the Egyptian government had a proposal on the table to help negotiate a ceasefire, the Israeli government agreed, but Hamas turned it down. Now, is that protecting your citizens or putting them in life-threatening positions?
Please wake up, world, and see the perpetrators for what they truly are, terrorists.
Frank A. Wilson
Proud to be in Israel
How can I describe the past week in Israel? A thousand rockets fired, seven friends on my program returned home to North America, five experiences in the bomb shelter and one worried mother later, I am still here in Israel.
Why am I still here? Am I crazy? Stubborn? Blind? Despite all the chaos in the news right now, my reasons for staying are not political or religious.
I am here because I am proud of my work at the Jerusalem Business Networking Forum. I am proud to be working on a program alongside 50 other college students contributing to cancer research, sustainable business, high-tech development, smart-energy saving and neurobiology breakthroughs. I am proud that I am part of a team whose contributions will not only improve Israel but the entire world. I am proud to be working in a place that created the first mobile chips, cancer treatments and Iron Dome defence system. While I do not agree with all of Israel’s political actions, I am proud to be in Israel right now.
Onward Israel intern
CIJA needs transparency
I would like to comment on Michael Diamond’s article (“CIJA must choose its battles carefully,”July 24). On paper, that sounds terrific. But who makes the decision as to what battle is worthy?
Once upon a time there were elected representatives to Jewish community leadership. Now there is a self-appointed group called the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs that is three times larger and answers to no one but themselves.
Why not work for a more transparent CIJA with input and accountability from, and to, the larger community rather than for just a few special friends?
The magic of summer camp
I just had to write in response to the Rabbi 2 Rabbi’s conversation about the Jewish summer camp experience (“How good are your canoes, O Jacob!” July 24).
My experience at Jewish summer camp was magical for many reasons. I came from a small northern Quebec town with few Jews. My chance to go to camp came only because my mother was a nurse and she took a summer job at Camp Hagshama near Perth, Ont., in exchange for bringing me and my two younger brothers (and my dog) along.
When I first arrived I thought I had died and gone to heaven – a heaven where everybody was Jewish!
The list of things I learned and experienced there, things that made a lifelong impression, is long and remembered in exquisite detail. Things such as being taught Hebrew songs in the dining room after every meal by May Polsky, a beautiful strawberry blond-haired counsellor with a gorgeous singing voice, singing them while seated in a circle together around a crackling campfire at night, composing and singing rousing bunk songs, raising and lowering the Israeli flag at mifkad every day and singing Hatikvah around the flagpole.
Nothing in my life affected me more deeply than my summers at camp, which seeded and nurtured my Zionist roots, and helped me to define and experience what was so precious to me about being Jewish.
We must act for refugees
The shared history and tenets of the Jewish faith call us to speak out against injustice – and too many refugees in Canada today are facing injustice. Federal government laws and policies are harming refugees, including measures that discriminate between individuals seeking refuge in Canada and deny health care to pregnant women and sick children. This latter policy has been deemed “cruel and unusual” by the Federal Court. In the absence of an outspoken and co-ordinated voice from the Jewish community, the Jewish-Refugee Action Network (JRAN) has endeavoured to be that voice.
We are encouraged by the response of many members of the community to our advocacy efforts, particularly the Free Lulu campaign. However, as JRAN board member Bernie Farber recently noted in The Canadian Jewish News,(“It’s time for Jewish leadership to lead,” July 3), some organizations which purport to speak on behalf of the community have been frustratingly silent on the federal government’s treatment of refugees.
The Canadian Jewish community is a vibrant and diverse one. No single voice can pretend to speak on its behalf. Differing views contribute to a robust democracy and we are capable of distinguishing between policy positions on support for Israel and mistreatment of refugees.
We launched JRAN because the rights and well-being of refugees in Canada are at risk. On this issue, we have not been shy in standing up to the federal Conservative government.
For JRAN, it is a matter of humanitarianism before partisanship.
Michelle Landsberg and Stephen Lewis
Honorary co-chairs, Jewish - Refugee Action Network
Kulanu speaks out
Promoting hatred and homophobic stereotypes is unacceptable. Homophobia has strong parallels with anti-Semitism. Historically, these two kinds of hatred have gone hand in hand and come from the same source: fear of difference.
Gay kids grow up in straight society and experience enormous heterosexual influence. Straight kids, when exposed to gender and sexual orientation differences, will not suddenly turn gay. Armand Benhaim, in his letter to the editor (“Beware of gay pride,” July 10), claims that sweet words like “inclusion,” “pride,” “tolerance” and “acceptance” will “convert” our children to become gay. We believe the opposite is true. When our children are exposed to difference, they will become more educated, more tolerant and more ethical. And through this, we hope they will become better Jews.
Many people in the Jewish community have gay children. These kids and their families need the support of our community. By reinforcing homophobic sentiment, which emanates from prejudice and ignorance, our community hurts and alienates its gay members. This behaviour leaves these families vulnerable, and often puts their gay children in psychological and physical danger, including the potential for suicide. When the Jewish community demonstrates support for its gay kids and their families, they save lives.
Gay Jews are not “strangers”, and we do not have a separate agenda. On the contrary, we represent a vital part of the Jewish community.
At Kulanu Toronto, we work closely with queer Jews and our allies. We invite everyone who is interested in our organization to attend our social, cultural and educational events, to meet and talk to our members, and to hear our personal stories. For more information about Kulanu Toronto, please visit kulanutoronto.org or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shlomo Gleibman, education chair
Justine Apple, executive director
New meaning of ‘war crimes’
When four Palestinian children were unfortunately killed while playing on a Gaza beach during an Israeli naval bombardment, a Hamas spokesman incredulously asked: “Isn’t that a war crime?”
No sir, it is but a tragic consequence of the war you forced upon the democratic State of Israel with your constant aggression.
The term war crime can be more accurately used to describe Hamas’ indiscriminately firing thousands of rockets and missiles at Israeli civilian population centres since taking over Gaza several years ago.
War crimes would constitute Hamas’ practice of embedding rocket launchers and other armaments among the Palestinian civilian infrastructure, for example, in homes, hospitals, mosques, schools, etc., and using Palestinian civilians as human shields against Israeli return fire.
A war crime is Hamas firing on the Israeli nuclear reactor at Dimona regardless of the disastrous consequences it would have, if destroyed, for the entire Middle East region as well as worldwide.
The terrorist organization Hamas, now part of the Palestinian unity government, is absolutely no stranger when it comes to war crimes, having already committed them so often in the past themselves!
Turkey’s smear campaign
I am completely and utterly appalled at the animus that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has demonstrated for some time toward Israel. What a travesty that Erdogan is slowly transforming Israel, which was once a true ally of Turkey with common interests, into an enemy since his tenure as prime minister.
His recent accusations that Israel is carrying out “state terrorism,” committing “systematic genocide,” and “barbarism that surpasses Hitler,” are beyond the pale for a world leader. Erdogan’s deliberate use of highly inflammatory rhetoric while wilfully ignoring the facts on the ground is extremely revealing.
Erdogan has sacrificed a history of good relations between Turkey and Israel, which were formalized in 1949. Turkey had accorded the highest priority to military, strategic and diplomatic co-operation with Israel. And both countries shared concerns about the regional instabilities in the Middle East, including frequent exchanges of information about common enemies in the region – Iraq, Syria and post-Islamic Iran.
Instead of the wonderful possibilities for the advancement of the Turkish people, Turkey has quietly become a harbour for terrorism finance under Erdogan’s watch.
Is it any wonder that recently angry mobs of Turks were shouting anti-Israel slogans outside of the Israeli consulate in Istanbul? While Erdogan cannot be held directly responsible, he can be held accountable for the ongoing smear campaign against Israel and the engendering of seething hatred on the street that is threatening to spill over into violence. Instead of adopting policies and views that encourage Israelis and Palestinians to move toward peaceful relations, he is perpetuating greater hostilities between the two peoples and bolstering anti-Semitism among the Arab world at large, destabilizing the whole region in the process – and all for personal gain.
Now Erdogan thinks he can be a serious broker in the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians? If this weren’t so tragic, I would laugh. Erdogan has exposed his true colours, and I for one am not drinking the Kool-Aid!