Where is the Israeli Community?
Posted Mon, Dec 28, 2009

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has once again arrived at 180 Bloor Street in Toronto. Outside the offices of the Israeli Consulate stood two groups of protesters opposite one another, one supporting the Palestinians and the other supporting Israel. The demonstration took place on Sunday, December 27 to mark the first anniversary of the war in Gaza (Operation Cast Lead). Hundreds of protesters arrived in buses organized by Palestine House in Mississauga, and others were recruited through contact groups on the Internet, who outlined the details about the protest and provided detailed instructions on which actions to take. The protesters who carried Palestinian flags shouted against “racist” Israel and its apartheid policy in Palestinian territories, and called to lift the siege on Gaza, to support Palestinian freedom, and to support an Intifada. “Viva Palestina, Viva Intifida” shouted the protesters, some of which were a part of left-wing extremist Jewish groups who identify with the Palestinians in their struggle against Israel. Next to Palestinian, Chinese and USSR flags, one protester was seen proudly carrying the Hizbollah flag, which is listed as a terrorist organization in Canada.
A heated debate occurred when a group of protesters identified with the Palestinians approached a group supporting Israel and a “battle” of words ensued, with one group condemning Israel and the other condemning Palestinian terrorism. A large number of RCMP officers and cavalry were on scene in order to secure the event and avoid friction between protesters. Traffic on Bloor Street continued smoothly. After approximately one hour, the anti-Israeli group left the lawn of the ROM and continued to march eastward along Bloor Street, all the while inflaming the crowd by shouting calls against Israel.

The pro-Israeli group was relatively small. Prominent among them were activists of the Jewish Defence League (JDL). The protesters carried Israeli and Canadian flags as well as posters supporting Israel, and emphasizing that the IDF is the most ethical army in the world while condemning Palestinian terrorism. One of the protesters, a 40 year-old woman, told Shalom Life that she decided to participate in the protest after she heard about the anti-Israel protest. She arrived on the scene in order to show that the Jewish community does not remain silent against the false propaganda against Israel. “As far as I’m concerned this is a mission, and I plan on arriving at more protests, rain or shine. We cannot be quiet against those who ignore or identify with terrorism. It’s not just an Israeli issue, it’s a national Canadian interest,” said the woman who preferred to remain anonymous.

Gloomy thoughts about the Israeli “community” and “hasbara”

Disappointment. This word summarizes my feelings about the coverage of the protests outside the Israeli Consulate. The anti-Israel campaign is taking root and becoming stronger, and opposite it were only a handful of pro-Israel activists. The presence of the Israeli Canadian community was especially poor and stands in complete opposite to the “recruitment” of large numbers of people when they are called upon to participate in a ski day for the entire family, while being promised free entry to the ski lodge. The priorities are clear and this is not the first time that the Israeli “community” has disappointed. Palestine House was properly prepared for the protest, and the response was impressive, but the Israeli side chose to be absent. The question is where are the organizations who are supposed to lead the Israeli community? What is their purpose? What is their role and how do they contribute to the unification of the community? Does the Israeli community even exist? Where has Israeli PR (hasbara) disappeared?

The pro-Israeli protest was archaic in the messages it tried to pass. Waving Israeli flags was a mistake. Israeli flags can be waved in Israel. As Canadian citizens, our stance against Palestinian propaganda should be based on a Canadian viewpoint and on Canadian interests. Opposite the Palestinian protesters should stand Jewish and non-Jewish protesters who are carrying only Canadian flags, singing the Canadian national anthem and calling the Canadian government to continue its determined policy against terrorist groups such as Hamas and Hizbollah. Surrendering to terrorism or siding with terrorist groups does not serve Canada’s interests and stands in contradition to its basic values. This is the basis for the friendship and close relations between Israel and Canada. The foreign agenda should be left to those pro-Palestinian groups who are waving flags of Palestine and Hizbollah.

Jonathan Dahoh-Halevi
Fellow and senior researcher at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs , head of research of the Orient Research Group Ltd., investigative journalist and an activist in the Jewish and Israeli communities.

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