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"Is there no limit to what Canadian Jewish leaders will tolerate from Israel? Wrong question. Is there any level of iniquity they'll fail to celebrate?"
-- Gerald Caplan, Canadian Jewish journalist, education and broadcasting critic, and onetime National Secretary of Canada's social democratic NDP Party 


May 13, 1990


by Gerald Caplan

LEADERS of Canada's Jewish community are doing a profound disservice to Canadian Jewry and the state of Israel. By either blessing, or justifying, or remaining silent about every reprehensible actvity of both the Israeli government and Israeli extremists, they undermine their own credibility in the eyes of many thoughtful Canadians, Jews included.

Their behaviour is not only immoral; it is counter-productive.

Never mind the routine beatings, torture, killings and harassment of Palestinians by Jews. Take the recent move of 150 Israeli fundamentalists, surreptitiously subsidized by the Shamir government, into the old Christian quarter of Jerusalem. The mayor of Jerusalem [Teddy Kollek], a Jew, calls it 'stupid and ignorant.' The American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the principal pro-Israel lobby in the U.S., warns that American Jews may now cut back their financial support of Israel. The director of the Anti-Defamation League of the B'nai Brith in the U.S. calls the settlement 'provocative and insensitive,' while the president of the American Jewish Congress is 'appalled' by the move.

Then, there's Canada. The Canadian Jewish Congress issues a statement reaffirming its belief that Jews have a right to live in any part of Israel. The Canada-Israel Committee affirms this same right but with the mealy-mouthed qualification that 'the manner in which recent events have unfolded is disquieting.'

And worst of all: The Canadian B'nai Brith. A B'nai Brith delegation of 20 Jewish leaders from across Canada, in Israel when the Jerusalem issue explodes, are ready, aye ready, to perform as mindless cheerleaders. 'We support,' a spokesperson says, 'what the duly elected government of Israel does' -- a peculiarly witless and uninformed principle.

And to demonstrate the boundless nature of their irresponsibility, the delegation then visits and pays homage at a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank that had been founded by Rabbi Moshe Levinger. Levinger, a fanatical leader of Israel's Jewish settler movement and a bigot who calls Arabs 'dogs,' was just convicted of killing an unarmed, unthreatening Palestinian shopkeeper.

Is there no limit to what Canadian Jewish leaders will tolerate from Israel? Wrong question. Is there any level of iniquity they'll fail to celebrate? Is there a more monstrous Israeli figure than Ari Sharon, chauvinist, ultra-hawk, architect of the 1982 invasion of Lebanon who failed, an Israeli commission of enquiry found, to prevent the bloody massacre by Israel's Lebanese allies of more than 700 helpless Palestinians in the Shatilla and Sabra refugee camps?

Not ghastly enough, it seems, for the Canadian Friends of the Jerusalem College of Technology, whose board has chosen to invite Sharon to speak at a Toronto fund raising event. What kind of message does this invitation send to Canadians, I asked their official spokesperson. 'We're not politically naive or stupid,' he replied. 'The board weighed all the considerations before deciding. There were lots of considerations involved here.'

So the question remains: Is there any act of 'the duly elected government of Israel' that will shame the leaders of Canadian Jewry into saying, with Jewish leaders in America and in Israel itself: 'Enough is enough. You are despoiling every great historic tradition of Judaism?'

When Israel renewed diplomatic relations with Ethiopia earlier this year, it was revealed they would also be sending military advisers and arms, including cluster bombs, to Menghistu's demented, murderous regime. Was there a peep of concern, let alone dissent, from the Canadian Jewish establishment for this heinous act? Has there been even an eyebrow raised at the inimate 15-year collaboration between Israel and [pre-Mandella] South Africa, actively promoted by the leaders of both major Israeli parties, involving not only commercial trade but weapons development, military co-operation and joint nuclear research, very possibly the joint testing of a nuclear bomb.

'Because of their historic experience,' writes Irving Abella in A Coat of Many Colors, his new history of Canadian Jewry, 'Jews have tended to be sensitive to oppression and to threats to religious and political freedom.' Except, it appears, in Canada and Israel.

Yet, those of us who dare speak out for traditional Jewish values are rewarded with menacing and abusive midnight phone calls. Why pick on us? Why not harass instead those 780 American Jewish leaders who, according to a recent poll by the Israel-Diaspora Institute, are overwhelmingly opposed to the most fundamental Israeli policies of recent years?

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