The outpouring of Canadian support for the human rights of Palestinians has obviously unnerved some hardened Israeli nationalists. But who would have thought it could threaten the unity of the Green Party?
Party leader Annamie Paul’s senior adviser has threatened party MPs, gone against party policy and needs to be removed immediately. If Paul doesn’t remove Noah Zatzman and shift gears regarding Palestine it may spell the end of any chance she has for success as party leader.
Recently Zatzman posted a message to Facebook stating:
“Shabbat shalom. I have never experienced more anti-Semitism and Jew hatred from people I thought I knew well, then I did this week. (This includes being on campus at York and Carleton in 2002-7 — not a walk in the park). The progressive and climate communities have displayed, at some points this week, overt and virulent anti-Jewish behavior.
“Appalling anti-Semitism and discrimination from a range of political actors beginning with Jagmeet Singh and Dimitri Lascaris and many Liberal, NDP and sadly Green MPs.
We will not accept an apology after you realize what you’ve done. We will work to defeat you and bring in progressive climate champions who are antifa and pro-LGBT and pro indigenous sovereignty and Zionists!!!! Am Israel chai [The people of Israel live].”
Zatzman’s statement is wild. Only hardened Israeli nationalists believe it is anti-Jewish to oppose Israel’s recent ethnic cleansing in East Jerusalem, violent attacks on the Al-Aqsa mosque and killing of 63 children in Gaza. Certainly, smearing influential individuals and threatening to work to “defeat” sitting Green MPs doesn’t seem very strategic for a top adviser. Nor is it realistic to think it’s possible to create a climate and social justice coalition supportive of Israeli violence and ethnic cleansing. Whatever Zatzman may believe, there is a strong correlation between those who organize or attend climate or indigenous rights protests and those outraged at Israel’s actions.
But Zatzman has been shaped by intense Israeli nationalist institutional indoctrination. He graduated from Toronto’s TanenbaumCHAT high school, which organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and holds regular “IDF days.”He was also tied to Hillel and part of the Birthright Israel Alumni Community. Birthright offers young Jews free trips to Israel in the hopes of engendering Zionism and deterring them from marrying non-Jews.
Zatzman’s statement reflects deep-seated anti-Palestinianism and could cost Paul greatly. Already the Green party leader is in a battle with former leader Elizabeth May over party resources. Last month the manager of Paul’s unsuccessful Toronto Centre by-election, Sean Yo, implied the people around May were anti-Black and anti-Jewish in a story the Toronto Star headlined “Senior Green officials are sabotaging the first Black woman to lead a Canadian political party, ‘disgusted’ insiders say”. Since then, there have been a series of other leaks designed to embarrass May and her supporters. It seems foolhardy to simultaneously fight with May, threaten to defeat sitting Green MPs and battle members over Palestine.
After refusing to make a declaration for days Paul has released two statements on Israel’s recent violence. They are as bad or worse than what the Trudeau government has said. But all three Green MPs have released statements critical of Israeli actions and many members are angry Paul is ignoring official party policy, which is pretty good on Palestinian rights. In response to an action alert tweet titled “Write Annamie Paul and ask her where she stands on Palestine”, Green MP Jenica Atwin wrote, “I stand with Palestine! There are no two sides to this conflict, only human rights abuses! EndApartheid.”
It is unlikely that many Greens support Paul’s position on Palestine. Even fewer likely support Zatzman’s wild statement. Some pro-Palestinian NDP activists, bolstered by that party’s recent call for an arms embargo on Israel, have turned Zatzman’s statement into an opportunity to embarrass the Greens.
If Paul doesn’t immediately remove Zatzman it suggests she’s more committed to Israel’s ethnic cleansing and war crimes than her own career.
On Friday, May 21 at 7pm Yves Engler will be speaking at a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute event on “The Innumerable Ways Canada Supports Israeli Apartheid”
Once again a human rights group has determined that Israel’s treatment of Palestinians amounts to apartheid. Human Rights Watch is calling for governments around the world “to impose sanctions and reconsider trade deals,” according to Tuesday’s Globe and Mail.
Once again supporters of Israel claim “bias” and “anti-Semitism” instead of acknowledging the obvious crime against humanity and promising to change. These apartheid deniers also complain it is unfair to compare Israel to South Africa. And maybe it is, just not in the way Israeli nationalists mean.
As Noam Chomsky has noted, that country’s oppression of Palestinians is “much worse” than the racism of the South African regime. Similarly, Canadian support for Israeli apartheid is far greater than it was for the South African variant.
For example, can anyone imagine major Canadian institutions flouting the law to recruit young whites to join apartheid South Africa’s brutal military in the 1980s? But that’s exactly what’s happening today with the recruitment of Canadians for the military that enforces Israeli apartheid.
More than a few taxpayer-subsidized groups flout Canadian law to induce young people to move 10,000 kilometers to add their boots to the many already choking Palestinians. Fortunately, a new parliamentary petition is calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment in Canada. Submitted by Rabbi David Mivasair and sponsored by NDP MP Matthew Green, the petition calls “upon the Minister of Justice to undertake a thorough investigation of those who have recruited or facilitated recruiting for the Israel Defense Forces, and, if warranted, lay charges against those involved in recruiting and encouraging recruiting for the IDF.”
The petition is part of a campaign backed by Chomsky, Roger Waters, Yann Martel and numerous other prominent individuals that delivered evidence of Israeli military recruitment to the justice minister and RCMP commissioner. While aiming to end formal recruitment, the goal is also to disrupt a vast IDF promotion network in Canada.
The reality is many Canadian institutions celebrate Israel’s occupation force and some of them do so with taxpayer support. Receiving nearly half of its funds from the public purse, Montréal’s largest Jewish school, Hebrew Academy, shows movies that celebrate the Israeli military; students send gifts to IDF bases; Israeli emissaries lead kindergarten classes in “fun IDF programs”. Toronto schools Heschel, Bialik Hebrew, Netivot HaTorah, Bnei Akiva and Leo Baeck also promote the IDF in different ways. These schools feed students to TanenbaumCHAT, Canada’s largest private high school, which organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and holds regular “IDF days.”
At the other end of the age spectrum a group of 80-something Torontonians gathered regularly before the pandemic to make hand-knitted tuques for IDF soldiers. They are part of the Hats for Israeli Soldiers initiative. Another organization that supports the occupation force is Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans-Canada, which is a registered charity and partly funded by the Israeli government.
Sar-El offers more concrete support to the IDF. Some 150 Canadians volunteer on Israeli army supply bases each year with an organization founded by an IDF general. A regular ad in the Canadian Jewish News for Sar-El noted: “Express your Zionism by serving as a civilian volunteer on an Israeli army supply base.”
For its part, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (Canada) has sponsored “fun activities” for “lone soldiers”. Established by billionaire power couple Gerry Schwartz and Heather Reisman, the Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers also supports non-Israelis in the IDF.
At its Toronto office, the Friends of Israeli Scouts’ Garin Tzabar program provides Hebrew lessons and support services, as well as help with transport and accommodation in Israel, for Canadian “lone soldiers”. Nefesh B’Nefesh also helps non-Israelis join the IDF. In probable contravention of the Foreign Enlistment Act, registered charities United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal publicized a webinar by Nefesh-B’Nefesh last Junetitled “Joining the IDF”, which claimed to offer participants “everything you need and want to know about joining the IDF.”
A few months before the pandemic began 1,100 people attended an Association for the Soldiers of Israel–Canada and Canadian Zionist Cultural Association event in Toronto. “The evening featured heartfelt and captivating speeches from IDF commanders, as well as a performance by the IDF Ensemble”, reported the Canadian Jewish News.
Association for the Soldiers of Israel in Canada, Sar-El, Israel Defence Forces Widows & Orphans, Beit Halochem Canada (Disabled Veterans of Israel), Heseg Foundation for Lone Soldiers, Hats for Israeli Soldiers, etc. have all received sympathetic coverage in the Canadian Jewish News. The news site has published dozens of articles promoting these organizations and repeatedly celebrated Canadians who join or promote the Israeli military.
While it is immoral to promote and join the occupation force, it’s logical from an Israeli nationalist perspective. The military is at the heart of Israeli society. “Israel is an army with a state”, goes the saying. Considering its small size, Israel is among be the most warlike nation in the history of humanity. Born of months of ethnic cleansing, the country has almost always been at war. In addition to suffocating Gaza, occupying the West Bank, regularly invading Lebanese airspace and annexing Syria’s Golan Heights, Israel has recently attacked Iranian ships and bombed Syria dozens of times. Over the years it’s also bombed Palestine, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iraq and unleashed violence in many other places.
Every time one sees an IDF soldier put their boot on a Palestinian’s neck in the West Bank, shoot a protester in Gaza or bomb Syria, it’s important to recognize the Canadian groups actively promoting Israel’s military. Anger with these groups is the first step towards disrupting promotion of the IDF in Canada.
Those of us who oppose all forms of apartheid must challenge IDF recruitment in Canada, which contravenes the law and is obviously immoral. Complaints must also be made against registered charities supporting the IDF in breach of Canada Revenue Agency restrictions on non-Canadian military support. Schools and other groups that promote the IDF should be publicly shamed.
Finally, please sign the parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment. We need to disrupt Canadian support for the agents of Palestinian misery.
What are the primary Israel lobby groups in Canada afraid of?
When their favoured colonial outpost in the Middle East is maligned the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, B’nai B’rith and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) are usually quick to attack. In recent months they’ve put out statements labeling a modest NDP resolution a “toxic obsession with Israel”, a University of Toronto graduate students’ motion “institutional anti-Semitism” and a small restaurant’s Instagram posts and “I Love Gaza” sign “antisemitic statements” and “antisemitic tropes”.
But when a Member of Parliament sponsors a House of Commons petition suggesting the Israel lobby is breaking Canadian law by promoting recruitment into a military that “has repeatedly contravened the Fourth Geneva Convention, and illegally attacked Syria and Lebanon” they respond with … silence. No press releases, no tweets, nothing. Nor did they bother to offer a comment when the Canadian Jewish Newswrote about NDP MP Matthew Green’s parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal recruitment for the Israeli military.
An MP sponsoring a parliamentary petition suggesting Israel lobby criminality is certainly more significant than the University of Toronto graduate student union passing a resolution or a sandwich shop putting a pro-Palestinian message in their window. So why aren’t they bemoaning Green’s “bias”, “obsession”, “defiance of IHRA definition of anti-Semitism”, etc.?
It’s not fear of confronting Green. When he tweeted about Israel demolishing a COVID testing centre in the Palestinian city of Hebron in the summer CIJA and B’nai B’rith attacked Green.
The lack of reaction isn’t about who sponsored the petition but rather the subject. The Israel lobby doesn’t want to draw attention to an issue that divides their conservative base.
The parliamentary petition is part of a multi-faceted campaign that began in the fall with a formal complaint and open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, author Yann Martel, poet El Jones and more than 150 others. The letter called on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military.
For over six months CIJA, B’nai B’rith and FSWC have ignored suggestions their crew is engaged in criminal activity despite the campaign generating nearly two dozen stories, a response from the justice minister and multiple action alerts, including a parliamentary petition that has garnered nearly three times the signatures required to be read in Parliament in its first week.
How to explain their lack of reaction?
Discomfort with the legal question partly explains their silence. Drawing on information accessible through a simple Google search, the Israeli consulate, United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto and Federation Combined Jewish Appeal Montréal have all violated the Foreign Enlistment Act over the past year and a half. Additionally, Hebrew Academy, TanenbaumCHAT and other Toronto and Montréal schools have enticed youngsters into the Israeli military in possible contravention of the law. A proper police investigation would likely uncover far more evidence regarding violations of the Foreign Enlistment Act.
Nonetheless, it’s exceedingly unlikely anyone will be prosecuted, let alone convicted, for these violations of Canadian law. There is little political will to do so in relation to Israel and no one has ever been convicted under the legislation. So, the discomfort is not about anyone fearing spending time in jail but rather the bad press that comes from potentially breaking the law.
Tied to this is the political logic underpinning the Foreign Enlistment Act. While the 1937 act was written to stop leftist Canadians from fighting against Franco’s fascists in Spain, the Foreign Enlistment Act is the successor to an 1870 British act that applied in Canada. That legislation was the outgrowth of rising nationalism in Europe (which later stoked Zionism). It’s common for governments to seek to deter their citizens from joining other countries’ militaries.
On top of the Foreign Enlistment Act, the Canadian government restricts registered charities from supporting other countries militaries. Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) guidelines note, “increasing the effectiveness and efficiency of Canada’s armed forces is charitable, but supporting the armed forces of another country is not.”
Promoting a foreign army rests uneasily with right-wing nationalist thinking, which is generally sympathetic to an anti-Palestinian outlook. In a 2014 interview about Canadians fighting in Israel, Syria and elsewhere, prominent military historian Jack Granatstein, said “in my view no one who is a Canadian should be able to enlist in some other country’s military and keep his Canadian citizenship.” That would put a stop to recruitment for the IDF!
The lack of response to Green and the recruitment campaign is also influenced by other considerations such as the fact the parliamentary petition was submitted by a Rabbi (David Mivasair) and has yet to penetrate the most important media. (The campaign has generated significant coverage in left, pro-Palestinian, Jewish and mainstream Québec outlets, but none in major English Canadian media.)
More than other Palestine-related demands, the anti-recruitment campaign puts the anti-Palestinian lobby on the backfoot. Part of its power is in its Canadian centric demand, which offers a broader lesson for pro-Palestinian campaigners.
Though little discussed, the most important support Canada has offered Israel in recent decades is tax deductible charitable donations. Since the federal government introduced deductions for charities in 1967 billions of dollars in subsidized donations have gone to Israel. In 1991 the Ottawa Citizen estimated that Canadian Jews sent more than $100 million a year to Israel and possibly as much as $200 million (with inflation this number would have doubled). Assuming $100 million has been sent to Israel yearly since 1967 and with approximately 30% of the $5.4 billion total subsidized by the taxpayer that’s around $1.7 billion in Canadian public support.
But there’s little discussion of the public funds that have gone to Israel through charitable donations in recent years. With the exception of the campaign to revoke the charitable status of the Jewish National Fund of Canada, which won a partial victory recently, there’s been almost no activism targeting Canadian charitable support for Israel. This despite some of these donations violating Canadian charity law. Funds supporting West Bank settlements, explicitly racist institutions and the Israeli military probably contravene CRA regulations. Without any direct pressure from the Palestine solidarity movement, Beth Oloth Charitable Organization lost its charitable status two years ago for “increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the Israeli armed forces” and funding projects in the occupied West Bank. A registered charity since 1980, the Toronto-based organization had $61 million in 2017 revenue.
While not against current CRA regulations, there’s a strong argument to be made against Canadian taxpayers subsidizing donations to hospitals, universities, etc. in “Israel proper”. Is it right for all Canadians to pay a share of some individuals’ donations to a country with a GDP equal to Canada’s? How many Canadian charities funnel money to Sweden or Japan? Is the Israeli government subsidizing Canadian orchestras, museums, guide dog centres, nature conservatory, universities, hospitals, etc?
(Canadian Friends of the Israel Guide Dog Center for the Blind, Canadian Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, Canadian Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra, Canadian Association For Labour Israel and Canadian Friends of the Israel Museum are among the many registered charities that raised over a quarter billion dollars for Israel-focused projects in 2018.)
Irrespective of CRA regulations, activists who promote the aims of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement should push to outlaw donations to Israel until that country complies with international law. As they’ve done with other countries, federal government sanctions on Israel should seek to cut off the flow of money from Canada (in compliance with international law).
Drawing attention to subsidized charitable donations, like IDF recruitment, puts the Israel lobby in an uncomfortable position. It is rooted in Canadian law and the Canadian centric nature of the demand undercuts their tired talking points, particularly the idea Israel is being ‘singled out’ unfairly. In fact, these issues demonstrate how the Israel lobby “singles Israel out” sometimes in contravention of Canadian law and often on the taxpayers’ dime.
If you are a citizen or permanent resident of Canada please sign the parliamentary petition calling for an investigation into illegal Israeli military recruitment.
Foreign influence in Canada is bad if it comes from China, but not even worth mentioning if it comes from Israel. That seems to be the position of the Globe and Mail.
Canada’s ‘paper of record’ is so gripped with anti-Chinese fervor that it is blind to a blatant double standard. Contrasting the Globe and Mail’s reporting on Canadian groups close to China and Israel highlights the xenophobic nature of their coverage.
Alongside Washington’s bid to build international opposition to China, the Globe has sought to expose Chinese influence in Canada. The paper has recently criticized Chinese government funded Confucius Institutes, which sponsor Mandarin programs and other cultural endeavors. In an October 15 story titled “Beijing used influence over B.C. schools to push its agenda and keep tabs on Canadian politics, documents show” the Globe reported on a Vancouver area Confucius-Institute-promoted school program where children read a poem that included the line “I am proud! I am Chinese!”
In a follow-up column citing the poem reading titled “It’s time to kick the Confucius Institute out of Canada” Gary Mason complained, “we have no laws or protections to force organizations acting in the interest of foreign powers to be registered and accountable.”
In a column on Thursday titled “Canada’s laws about foreign agents haven’t caught up to the modern world” Campbell Clark also called for legislation to blunt Chinese influence in Canada. “The first [to do] is to establish much greater transparency about the people in Canada working on behalf of foreign interests. The second is a law that signals it is not acceptable to secretly do the bidding of a foreign government in Canada.”
On October 28 the Globe published a story headlined “Chinese-Canadian groups laud China’s fight against U.S., allies in Korean War”. The story quoted former Canadian diplomat and senior fellow at the right-wing Macdonald Laurier Institute, Charles Burton, saying “it is so wrong to get Canadians to identify with the interests of a foreign state. That goes against the principle of citizenship.”
(The Chinese-Canadian groups’ statement on the 1950-53 Korean War was historically accurate. As many as 4 million mostly Koreans and Chinese died in a war that was partly a response to the success of China’s communist/nationalist revolution. Before China entered the war US aircraft bombed that country and Beijing only sent forces into Korea after hundreds of thousands of hostile US-led troops approached its border.)
A follow up Globe commentary partly based on the Korean war story was titled “China’s Xi Jinping is mobilizing his propaganda machinery against the west”. It noted, “these groups are revealing themselves as being plugged in and susceptible to the Chinese propaganda media; they seem to identify with China rather than with Canada.”
Since August the Globe has published a series of other stories critical of Chinese influence, including “Ontario legislature criticized for plans to fly China’s flag on Wednesday”, “CSIS warns China’s Operation Fox Hunt is targeting Canada’s Chinese community”, “Trudeau says Beijing’s targeting of Canadian Chinese community has ‘intensified’”, “CSIS warns about China’s efforts to recruit Canadian scientists” and “Universities, school boards across Canada defend ties with China’s Confucius Institute”. Another story headlined “Canada failing to address rising complaints about foreign intimidation of rights activists, Amnesty International says”, claimed that “Chinese government officials and supporters of the Communist Party of China are increasingly resorting to ‘threats, bullying and harassment’ to intimidate and silence activists in Canada.”
As the Globe has campaigned against Chinese influence and those who “identify with the interests of a foreign state”, they’ve ignored far more flagrant examples of Israeli nationalists doing the same thing. The Globe failed to report on the Israel lobby’s recent “threats, bullying and harassment” of Foodbendors due to the Toronto restaurant’s support of the Palestinian cause. Last month an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others was delivered to Justice Minister David Lametti calling on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the Israeli military. The Globe ignored the letter and associated legal complaint as well as a campaign that saw more than 1,400 individuals email every MP calling for an investigation into IDF recruitment. More broadly, the paper has ignored Israeli military recruitment in Canada.
As I recently detailed, a number of Toronto schools openly promote the Israeli military. Canada’s largest private high school, Toronto’s TanenbaumCHAT, organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives and holds regular “IDF days.” Former and current Israeli soldiers also talk to the students about the IDF, which sometimes appears part of the Israeli consulate’s recruitment drives. Additionally, students sing the Israeli national anthem and fly the Israeli flag.
A school enticing young people to join another country’s military is a far clearer example of “acting in the interest of foreign powers” then reciting a nationalist Chinese poem or echoing Beijing’s perspective on the Korean War. But, if the above-mentioned comments directed at Chinese-Canadian organizations were leveled against groups promoting Israel there would be a flurry of accusations of ‘anti-Semitism’ just as there were when two Liberal MPs were accused of promoting the interests of a foreign country.
But, the ‘allied with another country’ discourse is a red herring. Rather than a nationalist lens, progressives everywhere should judge these matters based on whether a position is emancipatory or oppressive. A statement critical of the US-led Korean War is progressive. A poem recital noting “I am proud! I am Chinese!” is progressive when made in reference to overcoming a century of foreign domination, but not if it supports Han supremacy against ethnic minorities in China.
Defending China is somewhat complicated. While there’s lots to object to about the Chinese government, it has succeeded in mostly breaking from foreign domination over the past 70 years. But, the country’s GDP per person is still only $10,261– equal to Mexico – and its global influence has yet to reflect its share of the world’s population.
Promoting Israel — let alone recruiting for its military — is unquestionably oppressive. With a $43,641 per person GDP, nuclear arms and staunch support from the world’s hegemon, Israel has spent its entire history taking ever more of the indigenous population’s land. The Israeli military is currently imprisoning Gaza and occupying land in Syria and the West Bank in contravention of international law. Israel has bombed most Middle Eastern countries and in recent years has been bombing Syria on a near weekly basis.
Understanding what is truly going on in the realm of foreign affairs is complicated. But when double standards appear as blatant as the Globe and Mail’s coverage of groups close to China and Israel every thinking person must question what they are being told.
One must at least consider the possibility that rather than defending Canadian interests perhaps people attacking China are motivated by racism and Trumpian nationalist ‘keep America on top of the world’ sentiments.
Canadian law makes it illegal to recruit soldiers for a foreign state. But, the line between enticing impressionable young people to oppress Palestinians and formal recruitment is unclear.
Today an open letter signed by Noam Chomsky, Roger Waters, filmmaker Ken Loach, author Yann Martel, former MP Jim Manly, poet El Jones and more than 150 others was delivered to Justice Minister David Lametti calling on the federal government to apply charges under the Foreign Enlistment Act against those recruiting Canadians for the IDF.
The formal legal complaint names Israeli government officials operating in Canada. But, some Toronto schools that entice impressionable young minds into joining the IDF also deserve attention.
Whether or not there is a formal plan, this is how it appears to work: the elementary schools hold performances by Israeli military bands, organize fundraisers for groups supporting non-Israeli ‘lone soldiers’ and celebrate the IDF in other ways. As the kids move through high school, former and current Israeli soldiers talk to them about the IDF, which sometimes appears part of the Israeli consulate’s recruitment drives.
Netivot HaTorah elementary school promotes the IDF and non-Israelis who join it. A January Netivot HaTorah Facebook post explained that a “‘donut day’ fundraising initiative raised over $750 for an organization called Garin Chayalim — a program that supports IDF lone soldiers.” A decade ago the school’s president, Dov Rosenblum, reportedly boasted to the Canadian Jewish News that “at least 15 alumni serve in the IDF.”
Bialik Hebrew Day School also promotes the IDF. Its website notes, “Tzedakah programs such as Shai Le’chayal help students feel a sense of responsibility to the Israeli community by sending gifts to Israeli soldiers. Similarly, having the opportunity to interact with IDF Band soldiers, who visit to perform for the school, reinforces these feelings.”
The Toronto Heschel School had the IDF Nachal Band play last September and organizes other initiatives supportive of the Israeli military.
At Leo Baeck an Israeli emissary spends a year at the Toronto elementary school and when they return, noted the Canadian Jewish News, “engages with students by way of live video chat from their Israel Defence Forces barracks dressed in their military uniforms.” Students also pay “tribute to Israel’s fallen heroes” and fundraise for Beit Halochem Canada/Aid to Disabled Veterans of Israel, which supports injured IDF soldiers.
Leo Baeck and the other elementary schools feed students to high schools that promote the IDF and joining that force. The IDF Orchestra has performed at TanenbaumCHAT and Canada’s largest private high school organizes fundraisers for Israeli military initiatives. Last week its Facebook described “an effort to raise money for the IDF. Thanks to the enthusiasm and generosity of our students and staff, we are happy to report that members of an army base in the south of Israel now have a nice spot to sit and enjoy their version of ‘10-minute break.’”
The school holds regular “IDF days.” A summary of one in January noted, “Shavuah Yisrael continued today with @IDF day. The @tanenbaumchat community — under the leadership of our Schlichim [Israeli emissaries] Lee and Ariel — showed their support for the Israel Defence Forces by wearing green, eating green and donating green! Proceeds from the delicious green-sprinkled donuts that were sold during 10-minute break are being donated to help the well-being of Israeli soldiers on active duty on behalf of TanenbaumCHAT thru the Association for the Soldiers of Israel – Canada.”
The school’s website advertises a fund that assists students wanting to join the IDF. It notes, the “Continuing Studies in Israel Judy Shaviv Memorial Fund ‘Keren Yad Yehudit’ assists graduates to serve in the IDF, study or volunteer.”
The high school also celebrates graduates who have served in the IDF and has them speak about joining the Israeli military. According to its site, “During Shavua Israel (Israel Week) in February 2020, Seth Frieberg ’08 [graduate] spoke to students about his experiences as a Lone Soldier in the Israel Defense Forces. Bringing into focus his personal connection to Israel, he noted that ‘this was basically 14 months where every day I was doing something that, for me, was a meaningful and substantial way to give back to Israel.’”
Alongside the Israeli Consul General, serving Israeli colonels have also spoken at the school. In May 2019 Colonel Barak Hiram spoke to the students about “being a new recruit and a seasoned commander in the Golani Brigade.”
Serving IDF soldiers also speak at Toronto’s Bnei Akiva. Some of the high school teachers biographies state that they served in the Israeli military and the school celebrates the Israeli military in other ways. “Love Bnei Akiva?! Love the IDF?! Come run the Jerusalem Marathon with us! Bnei Akiva has partnered with Tikvot and together we are raising funds to help injured IDF soldiers and terror victims recuperate!”, reported a 2018 school Facebook post.
Bnei Akiva honours alumni who served in the IDF on its webpage. “Bnei Akiva Schools is proud to honour our alumni who have served courageously in the Israel Defense Forces”, its website explains. Its LinkedIn profile notes, “upon graduation, students typically spend at least one or more years of study in Israel, and many serve in the IDF.” The school’s Wikipedia page is even more blunt: “the school strongly encourages graduates to attend the IDF in Israel.”
The World Bnei Akiva movement has an academy in Israel that offers six-month preparation for non-Israelis planning to join the IDF. To get a sense of the religious movement’s anti-Palestinian outlook, the secretary-general of World Bnei Akiva, Rabbi Noam Perel, called for revenge after the 2014 murder of three Israeli teens. “The government of Israel is gathering for a revenge meeting that isn’t a grief meeting. The landlord has gone mad at the sight of his sons’ bodies. A government that turns the army of searchers to an army of avengers, an army that will not stop at 300 Philistine foreskins,” Perel wrote on Facebook in reference to the biblical tale of David, who killed 200 Philistines and gave their foreskins to King Saul as the bride price for his daughter. “The disgrace will be paid for with the blood of the enemy, not with our tears,” Perel concluded.
Bnei Akiva School and TanenbaumCHAT entice their students into joining the Israeli military while the aformentioned elementary schools prepare young minds to revere the IDF. It’s unclear whether Bnei Akiva School and TanenbaumCHAT’s actions – a formal investigation would no doubt uncover a great deal more evidence – contravene Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act.
Legal questions aside, should Ontario schools funnel youngster into a foreign military engaged in a brutal 50-year occupation?
Please take a minute to email Justice Minister David Lametti to ask him to investigate recruitment in Canada for the Israeli military.