Independent Jewish Voices (Canada)

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Independent Jewish Voices (Canada)
Abbreviation IJV
Formation 2008
Type Organizations based in Canada
Legal status Active
Purpose Human rights, advocacy
Region served Canada
Membership 493 (2014)[1]
Official language English, French
Co-ordinator Scott Weinstein
Campaigns
Co-ordinator
Tyler Levitan
Staff 1
Website www.independentjewishvoices.ca

Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) (IJV(C)) describes itself as representing Jews in Canada who have in common a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights.The organization was founded in 2008 as a result of the national Independent Jewish Canadian Conference.

IJV(C) promotes the expression of alternative Jewish voices, particularly in respect of the grave situation in the Middle East, which threatens the future of both Israelis and Palestinians as well as the stability of the whole region. It is guided by the following principles:

  1. Human rights are universal and indivisible and should be upheld without exception. This is as applicable in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as it is elsewhere.
  2. Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives.
  3. Peace and stability require the willingness of all parties to the conflict to comply with international law.
  4. There is no justification for any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia, in any circumstance.
  5. The battle against anti-Semitism is vital and is threatened whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic.[2]

Positions[edit]

IJV(C) wants Israeli policies to be in accord with international law and human rights. This includes withdrawing from land Israel occupied after the Six-Day War in 1967, respecting the universal right of refugees to return to their homes or receive compensation, dismantling the Separation Wall and Israeli settlements on the West Bank and Golan Heights, and correcting laws and practices within Israel which allegedly discriminate against the rights of non-Jews.[3]

IJV has not adopted a stance on the question of a one-state solution versus a two-state solution, but believes that with any solution, it is crucial for Israelis and Palestinians to have fully equal rights.[1]

First National Conference[edit]

The Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians along with independent activists held a national Independent Jewish Canadians Conference on March 28-30, 2008 with Naomi Klein as its keynote speaker.[4] The participants affirmed their support for international law, its opposition to all forms or racism (including anti-Semitism and Islamophobia), and pledged to counter the view that any criticism of Israel's government and military policies is automatically racist. Specifically, IJV(C) opposed the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza which commenced in 1967.[5] The Principles adopted at the conference support the view that:

"There is no justification for any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia, in any circumstance. The battle against anti-Semitism is vital, and it is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic."[6]

The conference passed a resolution creating an interim steering committee that would found a national progressive Jewish organization. The steering committee adopted the name Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) shortly afterwards. ACJC co-founder Eibie Weizfeld split with the new group and continues to lead an organization called ACJC which is unconnected with IJV.

The seven stated goals of IJV(C) are:

  1. To give Jewish Canadians an alternative that works for peace and justice
  2. To challenge the Jewish establishment's views on the Middle East
  3. To open up discussion about Israeli government and military actions
  4. To support the right of Canadians to discuss Israeli policies without fear of being accused of anti-Semitism
  5. To promote contacts with Muslims and Arabs in Canada and to demonstrate that we can work together for peace
  6. To oppose wars of aggression
  7. To work in solidarity with the peace movements and war resisters within Israel[7]

Support for Boycott of Israel[edit]

In June 2009, the IJV reportedly became the first national Jewish organization to join an international campaign in support for a the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS)" against Israel. IJV stated that it will:

"Support the Palestinian call for a campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and complies with the precepts of international law, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194."[8][9]

On pro-Israel advocacy[edit]

In an article written for the Winnipeg Free Press and reprinted widely since, IJV(C) member Jason Kunin wrote that "pro-Israel advocacy depends upon on the active dissemination of Islamophobia. Not surprisingly, engendering hatred in this manner inflames anti-Jewish sentiment among Arabs and Muslims. None of this is a recipe for making Jews safe" and that "Defenders of Israel often argue that Israel is forced to do what it does — to destroy people's homes, to keep them under the boot of occupation, to seal them into walled ghettos, to brutalize them daily with military incursions and random checkpoints — to protect its citizens from Palestinian violence."[10]

In an interview with the Ryerson Free Press in July 2009, then IJV co-chair Diana Ralph expressed confidence that "progressive Jews in alliance with other pro-justice groups had the potential to build a movement powerful enough to expose, weaken and eventually defeat the Canadian Israel lobby." Ralph also claimed that "in spite of heavy pro-Israel propaganda, most Jews are far more progressive than the Israel lobby which claims to speak for them." [11]

2008-2009 Gaza War[edit]

IJV opposed the Gaza War. In a press release issued at the beginning of the conflict, the group stated that:

"[Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) condemns this murderous escalation of violence by the Israeli government. Diana Ralph, IJV Coordinator calls this assault “completely disproportionate to the unsupportable firing of Qassam rockets by Hamas fighters which killed one Israeli. It’s important to put this into the context of the deadly siege of Gaza by the Israeli forces, which continued in violation of the terms of the recent six month truce between Israel and Gaza. In the ethics of violent conflicts, it is the responsibility of the force wielding power - the Israeli government in this case - to create the conditions for a just peace.”[12]

IJV participated in the Code Pink delegation which brought humanitarian relief to the territory in May 2009.[13]

Allegations against Israeli government[edit]

In April 2008, then-IJV Coordinator Diana Ralph stated that "I think there's lots of evidence that suicide bombings and violence coming from Palestinians are often planned, and directly provoked, by the Israeli government. And when they [Palestinians] react, the Israeli government uses that as an excuse to massively overreact. So I think taking down the wall would actually increase Israeli security. Obviously, Israel is the instigating power."[14][15]

IJV criticism of the Canadian Jewish Congress[edit]

The IJV has been highly critical of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC). In an interview with the Kelowna Daily Courier, Sid Shniad, co-chairman of the IJV Canada, accused the CJC of "playing the anti-Semitic card ... because they don‘t have a lot else. They want to intimidate; they want to shut (the debate) down. They want people to avert their eyes when it comes to the ongoing crisis there to allow them to do what they have been doing." He further added that the CJC is "playing a losing game. They‘re placing themselves on the wrong side of the issue of free speech. It can't be won. You don't win people‘s hearts and minds by telling them to shut up and go away." He also stated that it was "outrageous" that Bernie Farber, CEO of the CJC, attended a conference of the United Church of Canada (UCC) "to try to shut down this debate." [16]

Canadian Jewish Congress criticism of IJV[edit]

The Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) has often criticized IJV(C). Bernie Farber, chief executive of the CJC, states that "no one ever says Israel is perfect" and predicted the fledgling group will have trouble finding support. Farber stated that the alliance "will remain a rump on the edge of Jewish society."[17] "In January 2010, Farber described the IJV as calls a "fringe group" that spews "vile, anti-Zionist" rhetoric.[18]

Controversy over Diana Ralph[edit]

In 2009, a minor controversy ensued when the National Post publicized former IJV co-ordinator Diana Ralph's contribution of a chapter to The Hidden History of 9-11,[19] in which she wrote that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were being used by the United States government as a pretext to "seize control of Eurasia, and thereby the entire world." She also wrote that "It is difficult to draw another conclusion than that Bush's associates organized the 9/11 attacks to kick-start popular support for this war" and that "The 'war on terror' is a concept modelled on Israel's assaults on Palestinians to provide a cover for campaigns of territorial conquest."[20]

Howard Davidson, a member of the IJV steering committee, stated that Ralph's past has "nothing to do with the IJV" and that "The positions of Diana Ralph stated in those articles do not represent the positions of the IJV."[20]

Shortly after the National Post article, Ralph stepped down as IJV's co-ordinator and was replaced by Scott Weinstein.

Criticism of Stephen Harper[edit]

In 2010 Canada's bid for a seat on the UN Security Council failed. Prime Minister Stephen Harper blamed "a rising tide of antisemitism". Diana Ralph for Independent Jewish Voices said: "The fact the Holocaust was a terrible crime and terrible tragedy . . . it has absolutely nothing to do with justifying similar — not similar in the sense of the same scope — violations of human rights and of the people of Palestine."[21] Writing in The Spectator, Melanie Phillips described Independent Jewish Voices as "...those obnoxious Finklers ... part of that broader coalition of hatred which should surely be called Jews for Injustice Against Jews".[22]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "CJN Feature: Making space for critical voices". Canadian Jewish News. September 16, 2014. Retrieved September 17, 2014. 
  2. ^ IJV Basis of Unity, Adopted at the Independent Canadian Jewish Conference, April 27, 2008
  3. ^ IJV Positions - VJI Prises de positions
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ http://www.newswire.ca/en/releases/archive/July2007/03/c3437.html
  6. ^ http://www.canpalnet-ottawa.org/ACJC_Statement.html
  7. ^ http://www.nion.ca/pdf/acjc-conference-callout.pdf
  8. ^ Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) Joins BDS Campaign Against Israel by Independent Jewish Voices (Canada), The Activist Magazine, June 24, 2009.
  9. ^ National Canadian Jewish organization votes to boycott Israel, Press release, Independent Jewish Voices (Published in the Electronicintifada, June 18, 2009.
  10. ^ "Criticizing Israel is not an act of bigotry". Arab American News. 2007-03-10. 
  11. ^ Jewish group embraces boycott, makes history, Ryerson Free Press, July 16, 2009.
  12. ^ INDEPENDENT JEWISH VOICES CONDEMNS ISRAEL’S GAZA MASSACRE, December 28, 2008
  13. ^ Delegations with IJV member Sandra Ruch enter Gaza from Rafah, IJV Statement, May 26, 2009.
  14. ^ United Church vows more care in funding by Kathryn Blaze Carlson, National Post, Tuesday, September 22, 2009.
  15. ^ A New Jewish Group by Dave Gordon, The Jewish Independent, April 18, 2008.
  16. ^ Church braces for debate by J.P. Squire, Kelowna Daily Courier, August 10, 2009.[dead link]
  17. ^ Laidlaw, Stuart (April 12, 2008). "A different vision for Israel". Toronto Star. Retrieved May 5, 2010. 
  18. ^ United Church, Jewish group try to reconcile by Kathryn Blaze Carlson, National Post, Friday, January 29, 2010.
  19. ^ Paul Zermebka (2006). The hidden history of 9-11-2001. Elsevier JAI.
  20. ^ a b United Church vows more care in funding by Kathryn Blaze Carlson, National Post, September 22, 2009.
  21. ^ Anti-Semitism on the Rise Here and Abroad, PM Says The Star (Canada) 8 November 2010, accessed 11 November 2010
  22. ^ Melanie Phillips, Jews for Injustice against Jews, The Spectator, 9 November 2010, accessed 11 November 2010

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]