Winnipeg stands up to reactionary forces

The pro-Israel lobby group B’nai Brith continues to embarrass itself again and again by attempting to shut down anybody who dares speak about the evil of Israeli occupation.This time it was in Wnnipeg a city with a good size Jewish population. Sadly it was aided by a mayor  Brian Bowman who turtled to predictable Zionist pressure and as a result made a fool of himself and his office when a Muslim woman and Palestinian activist Linda Sansour came to town last Friday

As the Palestinian narrative of expulsion and ongoing humiliation is being understood by more and more people, as young Jews are abandoning a worn out Zionist by droves, there are still craven politicians, yes like our Prime Minister  who do not understand that ciriticism of an apartheid state is not anti-Semitic.

Independent Jewish Voices (https://ijvcanada.org) the  feisty Canadain Jewish group which thinks for itself had little time for Bowman’s obtuseness and wrote a blistering attack on this crude attempt at censorship

On Tuesday, April 23 Mayor Bowman condemned Sarsour for attacking the “foundation of Israel’s right to exist”, suggesting this to be a sign of her “antisemitic views and hate”. 

Memo to Mayor Bowman: Sarsour is a Palestinian whose land is currently being occupied and actively colonized by an Israeli state that discriminates against her by law. Is it any wonder why anyone, let alone a Palestinian, might challenge the nature of such a state? Advocating against harmful Israeli policies and for equality, as Sarsour does–be it through Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions or otherwise–is far from antisemitism. It is antiracism. 

In a city plagued with racism, for the Mayor–who has campaigned on building bridges–to lend credibility to such an attempt at silencing a marginalized anti-racist voice like Sarsour’s, is beyond shameful.

Linda Sarsour is not an antisemite.She is a tireless advocate for justice for all, and–sorry* not sorry–that includes her fellow Palestinians. Sarsour has demonstrated a great deal of compassion for what she considers her Jewish family and has even helped to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Jewish communities targeted by hate crimes (an interfaith solidarity effort that Israel advocatesshamelessly tried to undermine)

As with Angela Davis, Ilhan Omar, Marc Lamont Hill and so many others, Sarsour has simply become a target of efforts by pro-Israel lobby groups to shut down criticism of Israel, which have frequently focussed on people of colour. 

So to the Mayor and all those who would silence Sarsour for speaking out against Israeli human rights abuses: sorry* not sorry. No one should have to apologize for fighting injustice. 

What is sorry is using bogus charges of antisemitism to protect Israel from legitimate and well-deserved criticism.

These are strange times. While Jews are literally being killed by white supremacists in synagogues, the public is being led to believe that Jews in Canada are seriously threatened by…Linda Sarsour?

The threat is apparently so serious that B’nai Brith Canada, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, MayorBowman Winnipeg and various Manitoba ministers had to speak out and denounce her, making it abundantly clear that she and her antisemitic views were not welcome here.

Well, much to their chagrin, she came, she spoke, she terrified. “It is I”, she said upon taking the microphone at the event, “I am the drama that you heard about before you got here. This is it.”

As you may know, Linda Sarsour is far from an antisemite. Like US Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, she has come under attack because she is a Muslim woman with a platform that isn’t afraid to call bullshit on the pro-Israel lobby.

In the face of an all out attack against them, the organizers of the event, “Sorry* Not Sorry: Unapologetically Working for Social Justice”, were just that: unapologetic. The Social Planning Council of Winnipeg and the Canadian Institute of Muslim Women stood their ground and IJV proudly stood behind them in support.

In the end, our collaborative efforts to stand up to the smears paid off. The event sold out and received extensive media coverage, citing Sarsour, IJV and our allies at length. Don’t believe me? Check out CTV, CBC, the Winnipeg Free Press Editorial Board and even the Winnipeg Sun. What’s more, IJV’s Rabbi David Mivasair was interviewed on CBC Radio and got an article published in the Jewish Post and News.

Sansour with IJV Winnipeg’s Harold Shuster

This incident showed the power of pro-Israel lobby groups like B’nai Brith to advance their agenda of branding criticism of Israel and Zionism as antisemitic. But it also showed the weakness of their arguments and that together we can challenge their twisted manipulations.

And win.