Some of Canada’s English language media is claiming it’s anti-Jewish to condemn someone for setting up a charity assisting a military that’s recently slaughtered 5,000 Palestinian children. A leading media ‘critic’ agrees.
On Friday morning someone pasted posters with a photo of Indigo CEO Heather Reisman on the window of one of its Toronto stores with the statement “Funding Genocide”. They also put fake blood on the store’s windows.
Those promoting Israel’s genocide in Gaza panicked. Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center CEO Michael Leavitt posted: “An absolutely appalling antisemitic attack in downtown Toronto, targeting Chapters Indigo and Jewish CEO Heather Reisman. This is the tragic new reality for Jews in Canada. Condemnations simply won’t cut it anymore.”
Echoing the hyperbolic nonsense, the National Post declared, “Indigo CEO accused of ‘funding genocide’ in latest antisemitic attack” while CP 24 reported that “the incident is the latest in a series of hate-motivated incidents which have occurred in Toronto since the onset of the Israel-Hamas war last month. “In the Toronto Sun Joe Warmington linked the postering/fake blood action to the beginning of the Nazi Holocaust. “Kristallnacht has come to Toronto”, Warmington began his column. “Of course, long before Indigo Books was vandalized, Jewish businesses had already been targeted here in the weeks before the 85th anniversary of the ‘Night of the Broken Glass’ that saw dozens of Jews murdered and thousands of synagogues, businesses and homes burned in Germany and Austria.”
On X the head of ‘progressive’ media watchdog CanadaLand, Jesse Brown once again confirmed his anti-Palestinian bias. Brown posted that “Jewish-owned bookstore vandalized” and when challenged on his absurd claim doubled down. He noted, “many Canadian companies give charity to Israel (i.e. RioCan) but the only ones targeted this way are owned by Jews.”
A staunch Zionist, Reisman and her billionaire husband Gerald Schwartz were among a handful of wealthy donors that created the staunchly anti-Palestinian Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. They have also ploughed upwards of $100 million into their Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, which provides millions of dollars annually for non-Israelis who fight in the military (IDF).
Established “to recognize and honor the contribution of Lone Soldiers to Israel”, Heseg Foundation provides scholarships and other forms of support to Torontonians, New Yorkers and other non-Israelis (Lone Soldiers) who join the IDF. For the IDF high command — the Heseg Board has included a handful of top military officials — “lone soldiers” are of value beyond their military capacities. Foreigners volunteering to fight for Israel are a powerful symbol to pressure/reassure Israelis weary of their country’s violent behaviour. At the first Heseg Foundation Grants Awards Ceremony in 2005 Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz said that “Encouraging and supporting young individuals from abroad” to become lone soldiers “directly supports the morale of the IDF”.
After the IDF killed 1,400 Palestinians in Gaza during operation Cast Lead in 2009 Heseg delivered $160,000 in gifts to IDF soldiers who took part in the violence.
Reisman’s role with Heseg is well known to anyone paying attention to the subject and can be easily accessed via Google. For years there was a lively campaign to boycott Indigo over the owner’s assistance to the IDF. In Montreal there was a regular picket in front of its main store for years. When my Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid was published in 2010, I requested the book not be sold through Indigo to respect the boycott.
The boycott campaign has lost steam in recent years but I and others have described the vast sums Reisman/Schwartz have ploughed into HESEG and how the organization’s operations likely violate Canada Revenue Agency rules for registered charities. According to the 2021 report Who Gives and Who Gets: The Beneficiaries of Private Foundation Philanthropy, the HESEG Foundation was the third largest recipient of Canadian private foundation charitable donations between 2014 and 2018 (after Israel’s Technion and the University of Toronto).Reisman/Schwartz gave $45 million to their IDF–supporting initiative during this period. But supporting other countries militaries is not charitable. CRA rules state that “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”
Claims that calling out someone who uses their vast wealth to support a military slaughtering thousands of Palestinian children is antisemitism are nonsense. Worse, they destroy the original meaning of the term antisemitism.
Judge people by what they do, not who they are, has always been good advice and a longstanding principle of civil rights movements everywhere. But those crying “antisemitism” in this case seem to be saying you can only judge Heather Reisman for who she is. Sounds racist and antisemitic to me.