Vancouver rabbi joins protest outside CBC building in support of Canadian Boat to Gaza

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      As about three dozen people mingle in front of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation building in advance of a political protest, one man stands out among the crowd. Whereas almost everyone on this hot Vancouver day is dressed casually in T-shirts and some are wearing shorts, he is wearing a pressed white shirt, a tie, and dress pants.

      On top of his head is a yarmulke, reflecting his Jewish faith. He is there to voice his support for the people aboard a boat called the Tahrir, which is challenging Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The vessel, which is financially supported by a nonprofit group called the Canadian Boat to Gaza, has been prevented from leaving the island of Crete by the Greek government.

      He identifies himself as Rabbi David Mivasair of the Ahavat Olam Synagogue. When I ask if he can write down the spelling of the synagogue, he declines because it’s the Jewish Sabbath. The word Sabbath has its origins in the Hebrew version of to rest.

      “I came today because I think it’s a compelling moral necessity to be here and to support the flotillas that are trying to open the siege that Israel has put on Gaza for years now,” Rabbi Mivasair tells me. “I feel like I have more responsibility because I’m a Jew and Jewish religious leader and a teacher. I just think I have to be here.”

      When I ask how his public stance is viewed by other Vancouver rabbis, he offers up a gentle smile.

      “They’re vociferously opposed,” he acknowledges. “They don’t understand why I would do this. The organized Jewish community, of course, feels a need for various reasons to present a position of supporting everything and anything Israel does. So they don’t want anyone within the Jewish community or identified within the Jewish community, to disagree with that.”

      He’s not the only Jewish person present, and points to others in the crowd who share his faith. In Vancouver, there are groups such as Jews for a Just Peace and Independent Jewish Voices, which have publicly disagreed with the Canada-Israel Committee, B’Nai B’rith Canada, the Canadian Jewish Congress, and other organizations that often speak in the media on behalf of the Canadian Jewish community.

      I ask Rabbi Mivasair what percentage of the Jewish population in Vancouver might disagree with the views of the Canada-Israel Committee, which largely supports the government of Israel.

      “I think the majority of the Jewish people in the Vancouver area are very disturbed by what Israel is doing in Gaza, but spokespeople for the organizations that have claimed to speak for us don’t allow that to be known,” he maintains. “Most Jewish people don’t participate in the organized Jewish community. And part of the reason is that politically, they are so far apart.”

      This leads me to inquire why organized Jewish groups appear to have allied themselves so closely with the Israeli coalition government led by Prime Minister Bejamin Netanyahu.

      “I think it’s basically kind of ethnic solidarity and a lot of the echoes of the Holocaust, [and] fear of repeated anti-Semitism,” Rabbi Mivasair replies. “It’s a multigenerational kind of conditioning to support the people that pose themselves as acting for the Jews, and not showing any fragmentation. It’s not something inherently based on the situation as it is.”

      At this point, I pull two books out of my knapsack, both published in 2010, which offer radically divergent views of the degree of discrimination against Jewish people both in Canada and in other countries. I’m curious to know if he has read either of them.

      Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (The Canadian Charger) is a series of essays by Canadian academics, writers, and organizations, including Independent Jewish Voices. The various contributors, including some Jewish writers, argue that there is a pernicious effort in Canada to criminalize criticism of the state of Israel as being anti-Semitic.

      The editor, University of Guelph English and theatre studies professor Michael Keefer, devotes one chapter to the sordid history of anti-Semitism in Canada. He tells the story of Jewish refugees from Nazism being denied entry into the country. Keefer also notes there were limits on Jewish university enrollments, refusals of Jewish memberships into clubs, and prohibitions on Jews owning property in certain neighbourhoods.

      In another essay, Keefer acknowledges that Jews are being “disproportionately targeted by hate-mongers”. However, he then dissects data showing a sharp spike in anti-Semitic incidents in recent years in Canada and other countries, and claims that the statistics have been inflated because of they way the numbers are being collected. Then he concludes this essay with a claim that Conservative cabinet minister Jason Kenney and Liberal MP and former justice minister Irwin Cotler, who spearheaded the creation of the parliamentary committee, are “trying to panic Canadians into acquiescing in a draconian clamping down on democratic debate and free expression in this country”.

      Furthermore, Keefer alleges, “They are doing so under blatantly false pretenses.”

      The other book, A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad (Random House), by Israeli academic Robert S. Wistrich, argues that there is widespread hatred of Jews in western countries and the Muslim world. Wistrich alleges that this includes “self-hatred” by left-wing Jewish academics—such as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein, and Illan Pappe—who, in his opinion, undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state.

      “Self-hating Jews, whatever their motives for betraying their own people and negating its history, have throughout the ages provided invaluable ammunition for the anti-Semites,” Wistrich writes. “That still remains the bottom line today.”

      His final chapter (before the epilogue) describes in detail how Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s “apocalyptic worldview”, which involves accelerating the reappearance of the “Hidden Imam” [also known as the “Mahdi”], poses a deadly threat to Israel. Wistrich explains how the Iranian government has cultivated and promoted Holocaust denial and that Ahmadinejad and the country’s supreme religious leader, Ayotollah Ali Khamenei, have both publicly promoted the destruction of Israel.

      “Ahmadinejad is personally convinced that he has been chosen by the Mahdi to prepare the path for the projected end of the world—a vision that includes the extermination of the Jews ”˜in the last Hour’,” Wistrich writes in A Lethal Obsession.

      He notes that this scenario resembles the Christian apocalypse, which talks of Armageddon, but emphasizes a key difference: Christian fundamentalists see the return of the Jews to Israel as a positive sign, whereas “for most Iranian Shiite Muslims, for the Palestinians, and for the rest of the Sunni Arab world, the establishment of Israel in 1948 was the great naqba. The Jewish conquest of Jerusalem during the Six-Day War was the devil’s work.”

      In Wistrich’s view, there are great parallels between Nazism, which led to the attempt to exterminate European Jews, and what’s taking place in Iran today.

      Rabbi Mivasair says he’s heard of both books. “I would not minimize the reality of ant-Semitism,” he states. “But I do think Canadian Jewish organizations play on it and actually maximize hints of anti-Semitism to portray them as great threats that we all must be in solidarity to defend ourselves against.”

      I then mention that Wistrich sees Iran as posing an extremely serious threat to Israel. The rabbi disagrees.

      “I don’t see it as serious at all,” he says. “I think that’s a fabricated fear that’s used to manipulate people politically. There are Israeli strategists who agree with me.”

      Follow Charlie Smith on Twitter at twitter.com/csmithstraight.

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      20 Comments

      Tim Bus

      Jul 3, 2011 at 10:11am

      "At this point, I pull two books out of my knapsack,..."
      CS always wanders around with such books?
      "Rabbi Mivasair says he’s heard of both books."
      But, obviously not read them, or he would have said.
      Or he has read them, but was scared of being
      drawn into a discussion.

      Rabbi Mivasair is a pompous, arrogant nudnik,
      who fawns on the likes of Ilan Pappe,
      so probably Chomsky and Finkelstein as well.
      I'm not aware of any of those 'august' men quoting Mivasair!

      He knows that he should be studying Torah on the Sabbath, or even more so, teaching it, in his case.
      And getting ready for, and traveling to, and being part of a demonstration could be equated as work,
      about which, he seemed to be keen to show his piety.

      9 13Rating: -4

      Charlie Smith

      Jul 3, 2011 at 10:19am

      Tim Bus,

      I almost always have books in my knapsack. I was in the Oakridge library and came across A Lethal Obsession: Anti-Semitism from Antiquity to the Global Jihad. It had a book-jacket blurb by Ron Rosenbaum, who wrote an outstanding book called Explaining Hitler. I thought if Rosenbaum liked the book, I should see what it said.

      The book was also endorsed by Irwin Cotler. I had already read much of the Keefer-edited book, and I wanted to see a detailed argument from the other side.

      It was a coincidence that I had these books in my knapsack when I met Rabbi Mivasair.

      I had no idea that he would be there when I wandered over to the demonstration after attending an event at the Vancouver Public Library about a mural chronicling the history of the Downtown Eastside.

      Charlie Smith

      Ahmed Rabani

      Jul 3, 2011 at 11:35am

      I think that will be a good idea for Mr Charles Smith to interview a Palestinian that is against this fake- political issue of the blockade, and make better journalism to describe the real situation, where the Israeli governement is providing Real help to gaza thru the legal way,. just need to check oout you tube to get a better picture.

      Steve Y

      Jul 3, 2011 at 12:05pm

      Newsflash: Rabbi's can be complete morons as well. People can say that Israel is cruel to the palestinians but the simple fact is this: If Israel had lost the six day war, the yom kippur war, the war of israeli independence or the lebannon war, we would be reading about Jewish people in history books because there wouldn't be any left. And that is absolute truth.

      Canadian_For_Peace

      Jul 3, 2011 at 12:07pm

      I applaud righteous people who stand up for Justice & Peace wherever that maybe, whether in Gaza, Israel, Africa, Canada,China, USA or anywhere else.

      I am NOT an ARABIST, I am NOT pro-War/Violence, I am NOT against the sovereign State of Israel or ANY other State, I am FOR a peaceful settlement of the Palestinian / Israeli War / Killing Cycle.

      The far right wing supporters of the State of Israel sanctioned Ghetto camp living of all Palestinians, actually engaged by both Israel & Iran on opposite sides.

      Iran via it's proxy terror group(s) Hamas/Hezbollah etc are killing innocent people, mostly Palestinians & Israelis, in a viscous cycle of War & so called targeted killings.

      The right wing Neo-Cons are moving the Israeli State toward WWII Germany type of prosecution of a targeted group.

      - The Check Points for one specific ethnic Group and the separation via Walls & separate Roads into Jerusalem by the Israel i State against the Palestinian Civilian Population, where Women have given birth at the checkpoints waiting to cross it.

      Since the beginning of the second Intifada, a Palestinian uprising against Israeli military occupation, in September 2000, 68 pregnant Palestinian women gave birth at Israeli checkpoints, leading to 34 miscarriages and the deaths of four women, according to the Health Ministry’s September report.

      Source... United Nations Report...Jan., 2010...

      http://unispal.un.org/UNISPAL.NSF/0/DB42057AFC92874E852576C40052D61E

      Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the issue of

      Palestinian pregnant women giving birth at Israeli checkpoints*

      - The herding of a civilian population into a long term Ghetto, [shades of Warsaw WWII]

      Source...Wikipedia/History...

      The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of the ghettos in Nazi-occupied Europe, located in the territory of General Government in occupied Poland during World War II.

      The Warsaw Ghetto was established by the German Governor-General Hans Frank on October 16, 1940. Frank ordered Jews in Warsaw and its suburbs rounded up and herded into the Ghetto.

      - The appropriation of Property by force [settlements] ala WWII Germany against the innocent Civilian Jewish population.

      Source...http://www.history.allianz.com/history/sp/en/themen/kapitel4/index_4.html

      In 1945 the assets of the Jewish population had either been almost completely destroyed or split up among the profiteers. The state, Nazi institutions, individual party officials, companies or private individuals had appropriated the former property of the Jewish population.

      In 1945 the assets of the Jewish population had either been almost completely destroyed or split up among the profiteers. The state, Nazi institutions, individual party officials, companies or private individuals had appropriated the former property of the Jewish population.

      - The blockade against Humanitarian aid for a Civilian population by Force killing Foreign Nationals engaged in a peaceful mostly Food & Medicine Operation, ala Germany WWII against the civilian Jewish population.

      Israelis & indeed those of the Jewish faith are day by day on the receiving end of hostility including the disturbing rise in Anti-Semitic attitudes & violence Worldwide due to the Unresolved Palestinian / Israel stand-off.

      Why should we as Canadians care for Peace in this so called "Holy" Land so far away?

      Due to the high risk of the Middle East being set on fire engaging in War both Civil & vs each other dragging the rest of us into it.

      Indeed the likely hood of Wacko Iran going Nuclear is frighteningly very high with both Russian & Chinese support, a Nuclear Israel retaliating, drawing in Russia etc etc, all very bad for us even far away in Canada.

      The ONLY long term Security is a Peaceful settlement or an IMPOSED / ENFORCED UN Peace, driving out the War elements including the very dangerous Iran supported terror Groups in the region including in Lebanon.

      Tim Bus

      Jul 3, 2011 at 12:23pm

      Thank you for your answer Charlie.
      I appreciate you're taking the time.

      Do you think you could have clarified for GS readers,
      that Keefer is a 9/11 troofer, and that The Canadian Charger
      is an islamic e-magazine run by Mohammed Elmasry,
      late of The Canadian Islamic Congress?

      I.e., Keefer has very strong views,
      slanted in a certain direction.
      His book should be read with that in mind.
      I believe that most neutral readers will pick up his bias,
      without any preconception (prejudice, if you will),
      but those with the same or similar bias, or mindset,
      will use parts as a weapon, against Jews and Israel.

      Sebastian Milller

      Jul 3, 2011 at 12:26pm

      David Mivasair is no more a rabbi than the Pope is.

      Taxpayers R Us

      Jul 3, 2011 at 5:27pm

      I lived in Israel, near the West Bank for a year a number of years ago.

      I am not a Jew or descendent from Jewish people.

      All that I know is when someone has a neighbour hell-bent on destroying them, denies their right to existence, straps bombs to their own children in the hope of maybe taking out another single - or a few hundred other of their neighbours, they have much bigger issues than anyone in the relatively peaceful West can understand or solve.

      If I had people firing explosives at the kids in my yard, I'd be treating the people responsible a hundred times worse than how Israel is treating its enemies.

      The rest of the middle east couldn't care less about Palestine and the issues surrounding it.

      As for the flotillas - the first people who condemned the blockade are Hamas. Do the math.

      zissa ramani facebook

      Jul 3, 2011 at 7:30pm

      In the Ultra Orthodox world many Rabbis know it is against the Torah and Jewish laws to persecute humans in the name of Israel. Israel can only have came from peace and from G-D not from men taking by murder WAR for that is written.--
      The Arabs and or Muslims are Semitic historically in race language and cultural. They are members of the family tribe of Abraham and follow the same G-D as Jews.--Allah is G-d or Hashem--

      Majority of people claiming to be Jews moving to the Occupied Territories Gaza Strip kicking Palestinians from homes that are bulldozed stolen as a thief. Are majority CONVERTS from radicalized Mormons and other religions acting like Jews from the royal book to profit and persecute Arabs or Muslims due to race hating.--

      This is a problem for Jews from the only blood line. As before the holocaust CONVERTS came into the community and became ZIONIST not Jews. After time hate directed to Jews because of the Jewish laws Mother by Jewish or be a convert jealous set in as now from the CONVERTS and they abuse blood Jews in the community as well as Arabs and Muslims they hate. The CONVERTS are causing trouble in Israel now for blood Jews and around the world soon they will run away.--

      Jews and Arabs or Muslims have lived with each other for thousands of years and helped each other. The Zionist stopped that. Now blood line Jews are trying to mend that relationship again as Arabs and Muslims are kin to each other.--

      Sen. Harry Reid Las Vegas Mormon Utah LDS Church is CONVERTING and paying Rabbis to CONVERT. This is done for radical reason to bring about there own cause.--

      Chabad is CONVERTING and moving CONVERTS to the Occupied Terrorists, causing trouble as in the book called THE KINGS TORAH written by a CONVERT deranged Rabbi radical indoctrinated by racial CONVERT ideas language by CONVERTS who believe they own something they do not the land of the Palestinians--

      Just to make it clear it is OK to be a CONVERT but not for ZIONIST hate and power over another race.

      Jack Chivo Ph.D.

      Jul 3, 2011 at 8:13pm

      There are some problems with Mivasair, whom I know for some time.!.

      1. His views represent the consensus of the Jewish community, the same way, Mao's views represented the views of the Chinese budhists, or Stalin''s views represented the ideology of Russian Christian Orthodox!

      2. He has always demonstrated for the Palestinians, but NEVER for the Chechens in Russia, the Arabs in Lybia, the Kurds in Syria or Turkey!!

      Also the rights of the persecuted Coptic Christians in Egypt!

      3. He often supports the "rights" of Palestinian Arab refugees, but NEVER the rights of Jewish refugeees kicked out of Moslem countries after 48-49.

      Just some simple facts:

      Before WW2 there were 150,000 Jews in Egypt, about 40,000 in Lybia, over 80,000 in Algeria, to give some examples.

      Nowadays there are NO Jews in Lybia or Algeria and less than 100 (One hundred!!) in Egypt.

      After 1949, there were a bit more that 150,000 Palestinian Arabs left in Israel. Their number has grown to 1.7 millions!!!

      Who is practicing "Ethnic cleansing"????

      As for Mivasair, I wrote to him a few years suggesting that both of us together release a statement supporting the rights of Jewish and Palestinian refugeees.

      His response, which I still have in my "in box":

      "Not interested"!!!

      Which says it all!!