The provocative documentary “Between Two Worlds” was shown. It chronicles events after the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival showed the movie, Rachel Corrie, about an American peace activist killed in Israel. Larry Anklewicz, former Program Director of the Toronto Jewish Film Festival then lead a post-film discussion relating to issue in Canada and how much provocative information can be better handled. Hashomer Hatzair was very generous in providing the venue and other assistance.
See information related to October 6 Conference on its own page
September 22, 2013
JSpace Coordinating Committee Chair, Issie Lyon, and Vice-Chair, Harry Schachter, spoke at Bloor United Church in Toronto. In August 2012 the United Church affirmed a controversial motion supporting a boycott of goods produced in Israeli settlements on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem. This September 22 event provided JSpaceCanada with a change to dialogue with one downtown Church.
Issie and Harry shared JSpaces’s position which is against any boycotts. Liz Tinker, Chair of the Social Action Committee of Bloor Street United Church moderated the session. Asking Issie and Harry a series of questions about JSpaceCanada’s positions on boycotts and related issues before opening up the dialogue to questions from the floor.
Both parties got a better sense of each other’s perspective and desire for a peaceful resolution of the conflict but disagreed on the most likely successful strategy for reaching the common goal. Members of the Church are responding to requests for support of a boycott from Christian Palestinians. We countered that boycotts alienate Israelis and would most likely stiffen their resolve to resist outside pressure.
There was expression of interest for further dialogue and to learn more on the part of both JSpaceCanada and the Church.
Comment from Bloor Street United Church
Issie, thank you very much for doing the Bloor Street(UnitedChurch)event yesterday, along with Harry. I know you had to run off quickly after the event, which meant I didn’t get a chance to thank you then. I thought it went very well. We had a good turnout of over 30 people, about as large as one might expect for this type of event. Those who came and asked questions represented the range of views within Bloor Street, which contributed to the effectiveness of the event as a learning experience for the congregation. I think a number of people found the JSpace perspective to be new and intriguing and the information and arguments you presented expanded our understanding. All in all, well done!
Doug (Welwood) (via Email Sept 23, 2013)
On June 26 2013 JSpace Walked with Israel for UJA
Event on January 24 2013:
COURAGEOUS CONVERSATIONS ~ ARAB JEWISH DIALOGUE
· How can Canadian Arabs and Jews meet to mend historic divides?
· How do we reduce conflict and improve understanding between our communities?
· How can we counter hatred and promote human rights for all here and in Israel?
These were the questions addressed at a joint event sponsored by JSpaceCanada and the Canadian Arab/Jewish Leadership Dialogue Group on Thursday, January 24.
Representatives of the Dialogue Group described their experiences over the past few years to an engaged and attentive audience at the Barbara Frum Library in north Toronto.
The panelists were Raja Khouri and Karen Mock, founders and co-chairs of the group, and longtime members Maurice Green and Jareer (Jerry) Khouri. The discussion was moderated by broadcaster Ralph Benmergui, who identifies as a Jew born in an Arab country (Morocco), and who is a recent member of the Dialogue Group.
Raja Khouri explained the dialogue group, founded in 2007, provides a model for the mainstream communities, emphasizing the importance of building relationships in order to work together for the common good. He told the gathering that what really instigated the concept was that our communities were becoming more and more polarized, and this was particularly manifested in conflicts on campuses. “Was this the best we can do as Canadians?” he asked. He decided there had to be a better way. “That’s when we began the dialogue and reaching out. The common ground was human rights, and recognizing the other’s narrative, lived experiences and legitimacy.”
Karen Mock added that the idea for dialogue group was born when she was chair of the Attorney General’s Hate Crimes Community Working Group in 2006. Raja Khouri, former President of the Canadian Arab Federation, and Bernie Farber, then Executive Director of the Canadian Jewish Congress, were both members of the Committee; and once they got to know each other better, they began to talk to each other to diffuse conflict situations between their two communities when they arose. Once they had a relationship, they didn’t try to resolve conflicts here in the media or by arguing publicly, but by working out practical resolutions to meet both groups’ needs.
“I approached Raja with the idea that we should start an Arab/Jewish group to have the ‘courageous conversations’, since Arabs and Palestinians were not coming to any of the other groups, such as Muslim Jewish dialogues or interfaith groups, blocked by the ‘elephant in the room’, the Middle East conflict,” said Mock. “We decided to see if we could put together a group with people who had credibility in both communities, but not officially representing any official organizations, to begin the journey.”
The members of the panel all spoke of the importance of being able to put themselves in each other’s place, but also described the difficulty in achieving understanding and respect for the other’s point of view. Raja Khouri told the audience, “There’s a perceived orthodoxy on each side; and any person who speaks outside the orthodoxy is endangering themselves. I’ve been attacked by some in my own community, as have Jewish members whose opinions don’t mirror the so-called mainstream. In terms of the honesty of the discussion, it takes a long time to get there, and it took us approximately two years to build the foundation of trust before branching out to others.”
Jareer Khouri said that most people in the Arab community believe the Jewish community is ‘monochromatic’ when it comes to Israel, and they need to know there is a range of opinions and behaviours and identities. For the Arab community to hear other voices is important, and the same is true for the other side.
Raja Khouri added that we have to move away from the impression that no criticism of Israeli policy is possible in the Jewish community, and we also dispel the impression that Arabs don’t criticize events and policies in the Arab world. Karen Mock added that the dialogue makes it clear that legitimate criticism of Israeli government policy is not antisemitic, at the same time clarifying the meaning of Zionism as Jewish self-determination.
Among the differences between the two communities are inevitable disagreements over the Israel-Palestine conflict. A good example of the impact of effective dialogue was their discussion of the tension and anger over calling Israel an ‘apartheid state’. Learning more about the rights of Arab citizens of Israel (eg to vote, to hold elected office, etc.), the Arab members agreed that Israel itself was not an apartheid state. However, after hearing the experiences of a Jewish member’s 40 minute trip down a super highway from Ben Gurion Airport to her apartment in Jerusalem, and an Arab member’s 2 ½ hour trip, including several demeaning checkpoints, the same day from the airport to visit his family in Ramallah, Jewish members agreed that in the West Bank, Arabs live an apartheid-like existence. So by being able to go to deeper levels of dialogue, terminology is changed and understanding is enhanced. Maurice Green said what comes out when you respect and trust each other is honest conversation through which people come to appreciate why you hold the views you do.
During a lively question and answer session, one audience member emphasized that action was better than talk. He advocated joint projects by people in the Arab and Jewish communities. “We have to do things side by side,” he said, “instead of face to face”. Maurice Green agreed, “If you get enough people together to benefit a third party, that is a way to start.” Members of the dialogue group then described some of the actions they have taken together, to walk the talk.
There was consensus among members of the audience that there should be more such opportunities for members of both communities to meet and have “courageous conversations”.
In conclusion, Karen Mock added “You have to go beyond tolerance to acceptance and respect. Our words are meaningless if we don’t work towards building an infrastructure for peace, starting with building relationships.”
ON OCTOBER 9, 2012 HON. PAUL DEWAR SPOKE AT JSPACECANADA EVENT AT MNJCC
On Oct 9, 2012, Paul Dewar, Foreign Affairs Critic for the NDP, spoke in front of a packed crowd at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre. Dewar described his vision for Canada’s role in promoting peace in the region and offered some practical measures to help Canada get there. This was the second in JSpaceCanada’s speaker series entitled “Israel, Palestine, and the future of Canada’s Foreign Policy”. [See summary of Bob Rae's remarks from June 2011 below.]
Introductions: Sarah MacRitchie and Mika Gang, youth members of the JSpaceCanada Coordinating Committee, opened the event and moderated the question and answer session at the conclusion of Dewar’s talk. Francine Dick, also on the coordinating committee, introduced Paul Dewar, stating his mother, Marion Dewar, also a politician was an inspiration to her as a young feminist. Before beginning his political career, Paul was an elementary school teacher noted for his award winning work with special needs children. Later he served on the executive of the Ottawa-Carleton Elementary Teachers Federation, where he no doubt fine tuned his political skills. Paul was elected as an MP for Ottawa Centre in 2006, re-elected in 2008 and re-elected again in 2011, when he won with over half the popular vote. Paul currently serves as opposition critic for Foreign Affairs, a position which keeps him very busy as there is certainly much to oppose and criticize.
Paul Dewar speaks: Dewar opened with a vote of thanks to JSpaceCanada, and stressed the importance of the organization:
“I welcome the effort to have this kind of dialogue not only with those who agree with you, but those who disagree with you as well. It has been hard for people to discuss these issues, including young people trying to discuss them on campus — so thank you JSpaceCanada for creating this space and opportunity for dialogue. As the Foreign Affairs spokesperson today I welcome the opportunity to have a dialogue. It is critical that we find spaces to discuss strategies for finding sustainable solutions to peace in the Middle East.”
Paul began with a story about his personal connection to peace building:
“I grew up in Ottawa in an area that would be considered a suburb. Growing up, I was far away from the Middle East conflict. But I grew up to be appreciative of the situation because of my neighbours – Jewish and Arab. The conflict was far away from our daily lives, but the amazing part for me was that our neighbours got along perfectly well. As a young boy it made me strongly believe that Jews and Arabs are not destined to dislike and mistrust each other. It was true in my neighbourhood. I saw it. And I thought, why not in the Middle East? The essential premise that peace among Jews and Arabs is possible is my underlying belief. And I am committed to peaceful coexistence between Jews and Arabs both here and in the Middle East”
Setting the stage for peace
“This event reminds us that we must reach out to find partners, maintain respect and make sure that achieving peace is not about scoring political points. Peace is possible, and it is our responsibility to achieve it. Our official policy as a party clearly states that we will work with partners for peace and justice in Israel and Palestine.
“Canada has much to contribute to achieving lasting peace and prosperity in the region. Under the current government we have not played the constructive leadership role towards achieving that goal. The context of this talk is the spirit of change and renewal that has absorbed the Middle East in the past 2 years. The ‘Arab Spring’ has created a new context for this goal who could have predicted such a seismic shift? In December 2010, a 26-year old vendor with no money and no connections to power in Tunisia felt so helpless against the regime in his country that as a last desperate act he set himself on fire. So many people in the region identified with this merchant’s desire to have oneself recognized as a human being with dignity — something we take for granted here.
“You can be sure that the governments were all caught off guard with what happened in Tunisia and then Egypt, Libya, Syria, Morocco, Lebanon…. where people continue to refuse to bow down. In all of these countries we hear the voices of people who for the first time dare to say they want justice and peace; people who defied extremists to cast their votes. The desire to determine one’s destiny is universal. And, it comes at high cost.”
“We can imagine the Middle East free of conflict. We can imagine those young people who use the latest technologies to break the barriers. The path to democracy and peace is hope. The other path is fear , with a democratic façade, but in reality re-entrenchment of extremist narratives, nuclear proliferation, more conflict and more lives lost. Canada must not be a bystander. We must commit ourselves to what lies ahead. This is where our values as Canadians can be promoted and projected. We know what peace and security look like.
Key steps to pursuing peace in the Middle East
1. Security in the region through renewed negotiations and reconciliation for two states living side by side with 1967 borders and appropriate land swaps.
“When Peres was visiting Ottawa, he said ‘we know the way, what we need is the will’. I say, if we don’t find the will we risk losing the way. Further delays undermine public support. Peace Now executives said the general population on both sides recognizes that no other realistic models for peace exist; but as time goes by, it becomes more difficult to imagine peace talks. The longer without peace talks, the longer without resolution. We need to act now and not let it slip through our hands. Responsible leadership does not undermine the only sustainable solution for peace, it strengthens it. We need to promote it, not just support it. True peace this time will require trust building and reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. Canada must be a leader in that process. NDP are working for partners in peace for that reason, respecting the partners and bringing them to the table.
2. Nuclear non-proliferation as a priority for regional security.
“The region is filled with conflict, with Iran’s nuclear ambitions posing a real threat to peace and security and a risk to stability in the region. We must ensure that Iran does not develop nuclear weapons and at the same time we must avoid military conflict with Iran. We cannot ignore them as long as they spread antisemitism and threaten Israel. Nuclear non-proliferation is a priority for NDP. A pre-emptive strike is not the answer. We will promote these values, work with partners and work toward multi-lateral agreements. Canada should be part of the ongoing negotiations and active with the UN. But our lack of involvement in recent years prevented our being part of the Security Council. We need to regain our credibility internationally.
3. Supporting emerging democracies.
“We must help the emergence of fledgling democracies in the Arab world; but democracy is a lot more than the ballot box. The dreams and aspiration of the Arab Spring must be supported by helping to develop constitutions and institutions that promote and protect the universal values of peace and democracy. This will not be realized while corruption continues to occur and minority rights and women’s rights are undermined. Our country has much to contribute to emerging democracies. We have managed to maintain peace and prosperity. If willing, we can offer practical solutions to other nations. We must be part of that success story by supporting economic growth and recovery. By doing so, we can open up markets for our own economy. In this historic moment in the Middle East, we stand between hope and extremism; and Canada’s principles of peace, order and good government can guide us to a path of hope.”
Q & A moderated by Sarah MacRitchie and Mika Gang
Q: Does nuclear-free zone in the Middle East include Israel?
A: Yes, there is already a process with ongoing discussion of these issues. It is not going to happen tomorrow, but if we are going to see stability in the region we have to rid it of the nuclear threat. There are countries that chose not to have nuclear arms and countries that support it.
Q: What is your plan B?
A: There is no plan B, there is urgency! If we don’t do this now and wait longer, we lose our shot at the only plan that exists – the 2-state solution with previous borders and appropriate land swaps. I don’t think anyone who has looked at the issue on the ground has come up with a viable plan B. Canada needs to join others and not just to state our position but to push for it.
Q: What can we do to educate others about the real role of the UN and re-gain Canada’s credibility and role in peacekeeping, considering the current anti-UN propaganda and the powers operating today?
This is a good question. In his speech to the UN, John Baird quoted Khalil Gibran, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr… but it was all out of context. That speech was more about wagging the finger but not about what we are going to do about it. We need to show Canadians that our own constructs of peace have merit in the eyes of the world. We helped build the UN! Why not quote some prominent Canadian contributors to the UN, like John Humphreys? We have to convince Canadians that it is better being there than not. Let’s support the model we have or come up with a better one. Canada is now ranked 52nd among the peacekeeping countries, whereas we used to be first. We have a lot to offer on the ground. Canada is needed there to support a mission to train on the ground. We need to focus on what it is we can do, and talk about our history in connection to the UN and be proud of it.
Q: Could you distinguish your stance on the Middle East conflict from that of Bob Rae who spoke previously at JSpaceCanada event? It sounds similar.
A: Our focus right now is to push this forward and get Canada more involved. The Liberal party may not disagree, but I have not heard them talk about nuclear non-proliferation for example. We should be doing the work. Right now we have to get to international sites on other tickets. How we do it is probably the distinguishing characteristic.
Q: When it comes to a potential war with Iran, where is the “red line”?
A: Nuclear-free Middle East means stopping the advancement of Iran with regards to nuclear weapons, but it also means avoiding military conflict. The problem with the red line is it assumes you can put one down. The question needs to be, how do we avoid further nuclear acquisition? I want to see Canada pursuing nuclear non-proliferation, yet we are not doing it. We have some of the best minds in the world. We are a non-nuclear state. Why not push that more?
I must underline the importance of avoiding a military strike on Iran. Change does not happen overnight. The sanctions on Iran are starting to work, at the same time the technology is being further developed. If we note this is happening, we should note that it should be stopped.
Q: Should promoting a two-state solution include energetic denunciation of the settlement activity? There is even dissention within Israel on this issue. Has the NDP noted the shift in Canadian public opinion against the settlements?
A: Addressing the international law includes the settlements. Let’s work towards finding partnerships for peace. We know the settlements are illegal; we need to focus on what can stop it. We must focus on what is possible. It is not helpful to continue to do what has already been done and proved ineffective. We need to replicate strategies that have been successful, such as the Norway example. There are those who use any opportunities to criticize Iran, and this sometimes could be seen as not dealing with the real issue which is focusing on peace negotiations. Let’s look as what is possible and what we want to achieve. Let’s focus on the policy and position we do have — anything else could be seen as a distraction.
Q: How can we boost our pride, identity and credibility as Canadians internationally, given some of the decisions of the current administration?
A: We do it by engaging, by promoting our arts, culture and our students abroad. By showing up, by having people out in the world engaging and reclaiming who we are as Canadians. The conflicts have changed, but the need for conflict resolution has not. There is a lot of innovation needing to be done in peace building and conflict resolution. We should be leaders in this area.
Q The current government’s position on the Middle East has been on their website for years, but what is new and what has been done?
A: We are focused on action. It is not about simply supporting a two-state solution, it is about doing something to get there. There is urgency. We need to demand of our government, no matter what colour it is, to stop the rhetoric and move to real action.
Q: How can we be heard by the extreme left and extreme right when their interests are invested in issues like corporate interests and real-estate developments?
A: To quote Joe Clark: “Trade only gets you so far. Diplomacy takes you further and to where you want to go.” We can look at what has been done on the ground in the region itself for effective strategies and solutions. Sometimes the diversity of opinions in Israel is greater than here. We need to disagree respectfully as opposed to using value judgements about the people doing the work.
Q: How can Canada be an effective arbitrator in the region given our perceived alignment with the US and some of the anti-Western sentiments? I am concerned about our reputation abroad.
A: We need to focus on developing our lifelines – numerous networks of people in Canada and around the world. I think people still believe in Canada, and they can still criticize our government while believing in us. My question to you is, what can you do about our reputation? I want Canada to be the country that people can knock on its door and say ‘we need help, please come!’ And we are the country who can do it, because if not us then who?
Thank you to Paul Dewar, MP: Eduardo Harari, a member of the JSpaceCanada Coordinating Committee, gave the vote of thanks to Mr. Dewar, to a vigorous round of applause and presented him with a framed series of beautiful photos from Israel and Jordan, taken by our own Nan Weiner.
June 10, 2012
Read content of speech by the Honourable Bob Rae, Interim Leader of the Liberal Party on “Israel, the Palestinians, and the Future of Canadian Foreign Policy in the Middle East” by clicking on “Foreign Policy series” above.
JSpaceCanada joins UJA Walk for Israel on May 21, 2012
JSpaceCanada talks at Narayever Synagogue
On January 16, two members of the JSpaceCanada coordinating committee spoke at the Narayever Synagogue about JSpace. There was a lively discussion about our positions on a number of items (see the Where We Stand page on this website) as the speakers answers questions from the audience.
JSpaceCanada held house meetings in Novemeber 2011 where people were able to get together to discuss relevant issues about Israel. From this a need was identified for additional house meetings to develop some answers to questions from friends and family about the situation in Israel. These meetings will be scheduled in the new year.
OVERFLOW AUDIENCE HEARS PENSLAR TALK ON OCTOBER 4 2011
A large and attentive audience heard Dr. Derek Penslar speak at an event sponsored by JSpaceCanada on Tuesday, October 4th in Toronto.
Dr. Penslar’s topic was “Israel 1947, Palestine 2011?” He focused on how the study of history can help us understand the positions of both Israel and the Palestinian Authority in the Mideast conflict, and he clarified some of the most widespread misunderstandings and misrepresentations about the history of the region.
Dr. Penslar was kind enough to stay after his talk and answer all the questions. Dr. Penslar is the Samuel Zacks Professor of Jewish History at the University of Toronto. He will be taking up a post next year as the first chair of Israel studies at Oxford University.
JSPACECANADA MARCHED WITH KULANU AT THE PRIDE PARADE
JSpaceCanada marched in the Toronto Gay Pride Parade alongside Kulanu, Toronto’s only Jewish lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization. It was a way of showing our support for Israel and for gay rights. The Pride Parade has been a focus of anti-Israel agitation in recent years, and we wanted to make sure that other voices were heard for Israel, and our banners seen.
JSpaceCanada held its first public meeting at the Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre in downtown Toronto on June 13, 2011.
The meeting was a tremendous success with 65 people in attendance. Spokesperson Issie Lyon outlined JSpaceCanada’s goals and Nora Gold led an informative question and answer session emphasizing how we can strengthen the progressive pro-Israel voice in Canada.