March 28-30, 2008 saw the historic creation of a new Canadian organization. This organization was established to offer a progressive alternative to the Zionist lobbying of the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith and Canada Israel Committee, and to bring together progressive, alternative Jewish voices in Canada.
Editor's note: According to Diana Ralph, the organization doesn't have a name yet, and is still going by Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC).
Here is a collection of documents on the new organization:
March 27, 2008
Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians
Independent Jewish Canadians meet to form alternative to Canadian Jewish Congress; Naomi Klein to kick off conference
More than 100 Jewish activists from across Canada will gather March 28-30th in Toronto at a conference to form a network of anti-occupation groups dedicated to building real peace and justice in the Middle East.
Convened by the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC), the conference will gather Canadian Jews belonging to 18 groups who are coming together to challenge the views of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee and B’nai Brith, along with the Stephen Harper government—all of whom uncritically support the Israeli government’s violations of international and humanitarian law.
Author Naomi Klein will kick off the conference this Friday evening with a talk entitled “The challenges facing us: Why we need a Canadian Jewish progressive movement”. The meeting is being held at the Steelworkers’ Hall, 25 Cecil St. in Toronto.
Participants share a common opposition to Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and siege of Gaza as well as the Harper government’s one-sided approach to the crisis in the region. The meeting will also include non-Jewish allies who share the ACJC’s concern about what is happening in the West Bank and Gaza and who wish to work together with the ACJC in common pursuit of a lasting peace, based on justice for all of the peoples of the region. They include Katherine Nastovsky, Canadian Union of Public Employees; Deborah Bourke, Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Vicky Obedkoff, United Church; Khaled Moummar, Canadian Arab Federation; and Chris Jones, Canadian Peace Alliance.
Media are invited to hear Naomi Klein as well as a panel of representatives from international Jewish organizations that share ACJC’s concerns about the Middle East including:
• Jewish Voice for Peace from the U.S.
• Brit Tzedek v’Shalom from the U.S.
• Independent Jewish Voices from the U.K.
• The International Jewish Solidarity Network
• European Jews For Just Peace
Date: Friday March 28, 2008
Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Steelworkers’ Hall
25 Cecil Street, Toronto
Conference spokespeople will also be available for interviews on the formation of the new group at the close of the conference on Sunday March 31st at 2:30 p.m. at the Steelworkers’ Hall.
For further information, please contact: ACJC Administrative Council & Conference Coordinators:
Diane Ralph: 613-314-1805
Sid Shniad: 604-314-5589
*Toronto: Independent Jewish Canadians unite to create alternative to the CJC*
More than 100 Jews from 26 cities across Canada met March 28-30 to form an organization committed to promoting real peace and justice in the Middle East. Convened by the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians (ACJC), the conference brought together Canadian Jews belonging to 18 different groups to offer an alternative to the uncritical support of Israeli policies by the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canada-Israel Committee and B’nei Brith, as well as those of the Harper government. The new organization will instead advocate for Canadian policies which respect international and humanitarian law.
Award-winning Jewish-Canadian author Naomi Klein presented the keynote address, “Whatever you do, don’t be normal.” She called on Canada’s Jews to challenge Israel’s “normalization” of policies such as torture, targeted assassinations, collective punishment, and permanent war in the name of security. Israel, she explained, depends heavily on both its tourism and its security industries. These are inherently in conflict: for tourists, it needs to project an image of peaceful normalcy, but to justify its demand for massive military aid and uncritical support for its aggressive treatment of Palestinians, it needs to claim to be immanently in peril. So it is trying to convince the world that it can deliver security through a permanent war on terror. Canada’s Harper government is enthusiastically signing onto this dangerous model. For example, she pointed to Israel’s plan to pilot an Israel Brand campaign in Toronto. Klein urged progressive Jews to expose the ugly reality beneath the slick Israeli tourism image.
Representatives of progressive Jewish national groups in the US, the UK, and France all described riding a “tidal wave” of Jewish opposition to Israeli mistreatment of Palestinian people. Although they represented a spectrum of perspectives, all enthusiastically welcomed a solidarity relationship with the emerging Canadian independent Jewish movement. Speakers included Glen Hauer of Jewish Voice for Peace (the United States), Sue Swartz of Brit Tzedek v’Shalom (the United States), Brian Klug of Independent Jewish Voices (Great Britain), Mariana Viturro and Rivka Bar Zohar of the International Jewish Solidarity Network, and Richard Wagman representing both the European Jews for a Just Peace and l’Union Juive Française pour la Paix.
Representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, the Canadian Arab Federation and the Canadian Peace Alliance also called for a pan-Canadian progressive Jewish voice which can stand in solidarity with their anti-occupation resolutions and calls for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against companies profiting from the Israeli occupation. Sid Ryan, President of CUPE Ontario, described the harassment he and his entire extended family has suffered since he pioneered CUPE’s call for targeted sanctions against the Israeli occupation. “We need Jews to stand in solidarity with us,” he said.
Participants unanimously endorsed the following principles: “Human rights are universal and indivisible. This is as applicable in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as it is elsewhere. Palestinians and Israelis alike have the right to peaceful and secure lives. Peace and stability require the willingness of all parties to the conflict to comply with international law. There is no justification for any form of racism, including anti-Semitism, anti-Arab racism or Islamophobia…The battle against anti-Semitism is undermined whenever opposition to Israel’s government policy is automatically branded as anti-Semitic.”
Diana Ralph, ACJC’s official spokesman, called the weekend conference, the largest gathering of progressive Canadian Jews ever, “an unqualified success.” “Jews critical of Israel’s government policies need a coherent, effective way to express their opinions and to work for change,” she said. “We have launched an organization that will let us do just that.” Participants planned strategic campaigns to:
Influence mainstream Jewish groups and individuals
Get our views into the mainstream and alternative media
Ally with unions, churches, and peace groups which have taken anti-occupation stands
Support international and Israeli Jewish peace movements
Grow a progressive Jewish think tank
Challenge Islamophobia in solidarity with Palestinians, Muslims and Arabs.
Toronto: March 28-30, 2008 saw the historic creation of a new Canadian organization -- *Independent Jewish Voices. This organization was established to offer a progressive alternative to the Zionist lobbying of the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai Brith and Canada Israel Committee. It was a honour to be invited to the founding conference.
Many congratulations to Diana Ralph and her team for their initiative and phenomenal organizational and outreach abilities.
Enclosed and attached please find related documents.
( Approximately 18 Jewish Canadian organizations plus solidarity organizations participated in the conference. )
A Time to Speak Out: Independent Jewish Voices
We are a group of Jews in Canada from diverse backgrounds, occupations and affiliations who have in common a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. We come together in the belief that the broad spectrum of opinion among the Jewish population of this country is not reflected by those institutions which claim authority to represent the Jewish community as a whole. We further believe that individuals and groups within all communities should feel free to express their views on any issue of public concern without incurring accusations of disloyalty.
We have therefore resolved to promote the expression of alternative Jewish voices, particularly with respect to 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. We are 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 it is undermined whenever opposition to Israeli government policies is automatically branded as anti-Semitic.
These principles are contradicted when those who claim to speak on behalf of Jews in Canada and other countries consistently put support for the policies of an occupying power above the human rights of an occupied people. The Palestinian inhabitants of the West Bank and Gaza Strip face appalling living conditions with desperately little hope for the future. We declare our support for a properly negotiated peace between the Israeli and Palestinian people, and we oppose any attempt by the Israeli government to impose its own solutions on the Palestinians.
It is imperative and urgent that independent Jewish voices find a coherent and consistent way of asserting themselves on these and other issues of concern. We hereby reclaim the tradition of Jewish support for universal freedoms, human rights and social justice. The lessons we have learned from our own history compel us to speak out. We therefore commit ourselves to make public our views on a continuing basis and invite other concerned Jews to join and support us.
Statement adopted by the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians
at its organizational conference in Toronto, March 30, 2008.
“NO TIME TO CELEBRATE: Jews Remember the Nakba”
This May, Israel will mark 60 years of statehood. In cities across the U.S. and Canada, established Jewish organizations will sponsor celebrations of “Israeli Independence Day”. Meanwhile, Palestinians around the world will mourn 60 years since the Nakba – Arabic for “catastrophe” – of 1948. Sixty years ago, Zionist militias destroyed over 500 Palestinian villages and made more than 800,000 Palestinian people refugees in order to create a Jewish state in a land where the majority was not Jewish. This does not deserve to be celebrated.
Today the Palestinian Nakba continues. In order to maintain Israel’s artificial Jewish majority, the Israeli government has continued campaigns of ongoing displacement, violence, and occupation. Inside of the 1948 borders of Israel, Palestinian citizens are denied equal rights to Jews under the law. And Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem are denied access to land, water, healthcare, and other basic resources. Palestinians throughout historic Palestine experience international isolation, economic devastation aided by the erection of a 730-kilometer Wall, and continued closures and invasions including the current horrific siege of Gaza. And today there are more than 6 million Palestinian refugees around the world, all of whom are denied their internationally recognized Right of Return to their homes and land. Meanwhile, we are invited to go and live on that same land simply because we are Jewish. We renounce this “right” to “return” given to us by Israeli law.
In addition to 60 years of occupation and dispossession, this anniversary marks decades of Palestinian resistance to Israel’s violence. With this statement, we support their struggle, which is so often ignored or vilified in the U.S. media.
As Jews committed to justice, we imagine an “independence” that does not depend on an ethnically or religiously exclusive state or on the displacement of indigenous people. As North American Jews, we refuse to celebrate the ongoing colonization and dispossession of Palestinian lives and communities funded by U.S. foreign aid. There has never been Jewish consensus around Israel: not in 1897, not in 1948, and not today. We reject the notion that we have been chosen to displace others. We support Palestinian people’s right to return, individually and collectively, to the homes they lost in 1948 and in the violent decades since then.
In response to these historical events and a call from Palestine to mark their significance, we refuse to celebrate “Israel 60”. We will take actions to make our shared position clear and visible, in cities across the U.S. and Canada.
Statement by Diana Ralph, Ph.D. - representing
the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians
and Not In Our Name .
March 9, 2008
Each Shabbat, when I go to my synagogue, I join in prayers affirming our obligations, as Jews, to “perform acts of love and kindness,” to “welcome the stranger,” and to “make peace when there is strife.” Because of the Holocaust, I, like many other Jews have vowed that I will work to assure that “never again” will any peoples, Jewish or otherwise, be subjected to human rights abuses and genocide.
Today, I join many other Jews across Canada and the world, who are revolted and ashamed by what many consider the Israeli government’s atrocities, war crimes, and violations of international law against Palestinian people.
Israel has condemned the people of Gaza, in particular, to collective punishment for the “crime” of legally electing a government of which Israel disapproves. The 1.4 million people of Gaza, 59% of whom are children, are now suffering from severe shortages of food, potable water, medicine, and sewage treatment. Almost all Gazans were self-supporting before the occupation. Now 4 out of 5 starve without food aid; aid which is almost completely blocked by the siege. Children’s growth is stunted and they are traumatized by sonic booms, aerial bombing, and targeted assassinations. Israel recently carried out a 5 day military assault on the people of Gaza, based on flimsy excuses of “security”, which killed 116 Palestinians, including many civilians and 25 children.
Now, Israel threatens even more horrors for the people of Gaza. Last week, in an act of appalling candor, Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai threatened to impose what he, himself called a “shoah,” (a Holocaust) on the people of Gaza. The government has announced its plans to follow through on the 5 day military assault with a full-scale ground offensive of genocidal proportions. Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak is seeking legal permission to “transfer” Gazan civilians from their homes in northern Gaza to the already dangerously over-crowded south of Gaza, and Security Minister Avi Dichter is calling for Arabs to be moved from Jerusalem to the West Bank. These constitute illegal ethnic cleansing, reminiscent to the way the Nazis forced European Jews from their homes into concentration camps. The people of Gaza, who constitute half the Palestinian population, already live imprisoned in a virtual concentration camp. It is particularly horrific that Israel, which claims to represent the world’s Jews, should perpetrate such crimes.
The Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians will not allow these acts to be carried out in our name. These are acts antithetical not just to international law and human rights, but to Jewish ethics.
The Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians calls on the Canadian government to:
Condemn the latest Israel aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza,
Demand an immediate halt to all Israeli brutal use of military force against the Palestinians which is taking a serious humanitarian toll on civilians,
Lift the blockade on the Palestinian people and allow all living essentials, food, medicine and energy to enter the territories without any delay.
Allow an independent international tribunal to enter the Palestinian territories to investigate Israel’s war crimes in the Gaza Strip,
And call upon the international community and Canada in particular to renew the call to the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention to fulfill their responsibility under Article 1 of the Convention, to ensure that it is respected under all circumstances. We affirm that Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) violations are considered war crimes under Article 147 of the Convention and under its first protocol.
We ask MPs and other elected representatives to join the U.N. Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and international human rights groups in condemning the Israel government blockade, military assaults, and targeted assassinations.
Monthly report on Israeli violence against Palestinians in March 2008
The National and International Relations Department at the Palestine Liberation Organization issued a report on Monday documenting the Israeli violations against the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza during March 2008.
According to the report, the Israeli army killed 121 Palestinians during the month of March 2008; among those killed were six children and one political detainee in Israeli detention facility who died from the lack of medical care.
The report also shows that 470 Palestinians were injured by Israeli army fire during and among those were 47 children.
Additionally the report stated that 12 Palestinians died in Gaza after the army prevented them from leaving the Palestinian coastal region for life-saving medical care.
Regarding the daily kidnappings, the report stated that the Israeli army kidnapped 465 Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank in March of 2008 alone, thus the number of Palestinians kidnapped by the Israeli army is currently 11,000 political prisoners.
Regarding the settlement activity, the National and International Relations Department report shows that the Israeli government has intensified settlement activity in the West Bank in addition to inside the city of Jerusalem. Accordingly, the Israeli army demolished 27 Palestinians homes in the West Bank, which includes the city of Jerusalem.
The report also added that 776 dunams (= 194 acres) of Palestinian privately-owned land in the West Bank was illegally annexed by the Israeli government for the purpose of settlement construction.
Palestinian Canadian National Voice - Founding Conference - May 30-June 1, 2008 - Montreal