Peace: Just a Concept Without Real Action

A Canadian Perspective

From the publisher of jewishinfoNews. The following article was originally published by Canada’s Mosaic Institute and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on September 26, 2016.

bernie-farber-mosaic-institute
by Bernie M. Farber

This past Wednesday was “International Peace Day.” It is UN inspired and celebrated each year on September 21st. According to the United Nations website, “The General Assembly has declared this as a day devoted to strengthening the ideals of peace, both within and among all nations and peoples.”

Indeed, this year’s theme was “The Sustainable Development Goals: Building Blocks for Peace.”

The UN in 2015 identified 17 sustainable goals that must be met in order to develop a peaceful world. Everything from the challenges of poverty, hunger and xenophobia to eradicating racism, political corruption ensuring clean safe water, protecting our environment-it is a list that is at once compelling and complex.

The world today remains very much a place on the edge. While here in the western world we have luxuries we never would have thought possible even a decade ago combined with ample supplies of food, clean water and democratic based governments, we are often the envy of countries that have far less.

And yes we are very fortunate. It is that good fortune then that gives us added responsibility.

And yet we still have so much to learn about the earth, diversity and peace. We need to be prepared to learn these lessons from sources that are not at first blush apparent.

Anne Wilson Schaef is a world renowned academic who has devoted much of her life to Indigenous culture and learning. In her book “Native Wisdom for White Minds” she tells of her work with Hawaiians among many other indigenous people. She relates the adage of one Hawaiian Elder who once said:

“The day Hawaiians disappear will be the day when the water no longer flows.”

Professor Schaef explains:

“What I have come to understand is that if we cannot save the redwoods or the whales or the Hawaiians, it is not their disappearance that is key. What is key is that we will have lost the level of consciousness that allows us to comprehend the importance of diversity to the survival of the planet. If we do not understand the need for diversity, nothing else matters.”

How the does all this intersect with International Peace Day? We all desire peace on a very direct and pragmatic level. Yet even here in Canada when we examine the UN’s “sustainable goals” how is our own report card?

At a time when Indigenous reserves are still on water advisory notices and have been for over 20 years; when despite political and government rhetoric that we are committed to cleaning river and lake water, the decision of the Ontario government to permit clear-cut logging that demonstrably increases mercury outputs into the water system next to the Grassy Narrows reserve remains a real threat; as Canada welcomes over 25,000 Syrian refugees but has yet to make a dent on Yazidi refugees that we acknowledge are facing genocide, how close are we to real peace?

Yes, International Peace day is a wonderful concept to embrace. But until we put real meaning behind the concept it is destined, sadly, to remain just that.

Bernie M. Farber was appointed Executive Director of Canada’s the Mosaic Institute in 2015. He is a native of Ottawa, Canada and a graduate of Carleton University. His long-spanning career in the not-for-profit sector includes the role of CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress (2005-2011) where he spearheaded multiple human and civil rights initiatives, inter-faith and inter-ethnic dialogues among Canada’s wide-ranging diverse communities including Rwandan genocide survivors, Darfurian survivors of the Janjaweed as well as working closely with the Canadian Roma community.

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

G7_leaders_at_summit_in_Shima,_Japan_5.26.16 rev JIN August 4 2016

A plague on Jihadism!

Publisher’s Comment

by Alan Simons

Gatestone Institute is an American non-partisan, not-for-profit international policy council and think tank. In a recent statement sent to its subscribers, John Bolton, Chairman, Gatestone Institute and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations asks: “What is the response of the American and European leadership to our new reality? Denial, word games and silence. And verbal attacks on citizens who insist on talking openly about the threats we face. They call us “Islamophobic,” “xenophobic,” or “racist” to try to silence us.

He adds:

“… much of the Middle East is engulfed in civil wars and mass terrorism, as Iran expands its hegemonic reach into in Yemen, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq — while continuing to build its nuclear weapons program.

The Christian population of the Middle East, there for 2,000 years, is being subjected to relentless persecution, mass-murder and forced conversion to Islam. Israelis being surrounded by ISIS. The response again of the U.S. and other Western governments: Silence.

We are at a turning point that requires a greater effort. We are at crisis that has grown directly out of the refusal of our leadership to face the nature of our problems and confront them forcefully.”

Many citizens in the West are faced with uncertainty. They see the growth of vicious evil Jihadist cults with no respect for the rules of war, the Geneva Convention, international humanitarian law and the likes. From North America, to Africa, to Europe and stretching through the Middle East to the Far East, the killing of children and adults by suicide bombers, by decapitation, by kidnapping and various other abhorrent methods and the lack of Western governments, as Bolton addresses, to cohesively work as one to rid us of this plague, does nothing to give us confidence in our leaders. Western governments are seen as becoming immobile, retreating into their shell at a time when the electorate want positive forceful action from them.  

However, it is not just Western governments who are amiss. Civil society organizations (CSOs) have also been silent. Their lack of leadership in this issue is reprehensible. How the IMF could produce a statement this past April that said, “Civil society organizations (CSOs) are now more vocal than in the past…  CSOs include business forums, faith-based associations, labor unions, local community groups, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), philanthropic foundations, and think tanks,” is beyond reason.

President Reagan, for all his economic policy failures, left the White House with the highest approval rating of any president since FDR. He once said: “Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.” 

One might think our leaders would take heed in Reagan’s remark, instead of being seen as capitulating to Jihadism through their silence and inaction. 

Featured photo credit : aussiedlerbote.de (May 26, 2016)

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

OVER SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

 

 

Scotland Jewish Flag

Jews in Scotland prepare to batten down the hatches

Special Report

“The International Shalom Festival is an initiative of COFIS, the Confederation of Friends of Israel Scotland, together with its partner organization StandWithUs.
The inspiration comes from Shalom Festival held in Belgium every year http://shalomfestival.be/index.html which believes that Shalom, or Peace, can only be achieved if it is based on democracy and Judeo-Christian principles of respect for co-existence. The International Shalom Festival seeks to promote peaceful co-existence by fostering cultural ties between diverse elements of Israeli society and other countries.”

-Nigel Goodrich
Chief Executive

Background:

Shalom Festival Edinburgh rev“The inaugural International Shalom Festival will take place in the prestigious 1000 seater Central Hall Edinburgh on Wednesday August 17 2016. It is probably the most significant pro-Israel advocacy event of the year in the United Kingdom, and is an integral part of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

From the publisher of jewishinfoNews. The following article by David Collier was originally published by Beyond the Great Divide and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on July 31, 2016.

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August is festival month in Edinburgh. A massive celebration, delivered through a collective of independent arts and cultural festivals. Just one of these, the ‘Edinburgh Festival Fringe’, is the largest arts festival in the world.

At the ‘Fringe’ event this year, scheduled for August 17, is the ‘International Shalom Festival’. Described as a one-day celebration bringing together Jews, Arabs, Christians and other minorities, that all co-exist together peacefully in Israel. Yet once again, as Israeli artists perform inside Scotland, demonstrations are being arranged in protest.

Edinburgh protests

As far back as 1997, during the Oslo peace talks, antizionists attacked Israeli performers at the festival. In 2008 the Jerusalem Quartet concert was disrupted, in 2012 it was the turn of the Batsheva Dance Troupe. In 2014, anti-Israel activists called on the venue to cancel a show with Israeli performers, and local police forced the venue to incur additional security costs. In turn, the venue demanded additional funds from the performers.

So in 2015, Haaretz reported that for the first time in years, Israeli performances were not hosted at the festival at all.  This silencing of the Israeli voice is celebrated as a victory by the anti-Israel activists. The voice that seeks dialogue and accommodation is being silenced.

The festival is not the only place in Scotland such opposition is seen, less than two years ago a worker at an Israeli cosmetics stall in Glasgow had a ‘burning liquid’ thrown at her. The university space is also rabid, with events being called off due to protests, and Jewish students at universities are “denying or hiding” their identity because of discrimination. These events, including the protests at Edinburgh, are all connected.

Yet here is a simple fact. Israel is by far the most diverse nation in the Middle East. Despite the accusations of the protesters, there is not a single nation in the region that is as free, as democratic, as liberal or as diverse as Israel. Not one. What else sets it apart from all of its neighbours though, is another simple fact. It is the only nation in the world that is Jewish.

According to the 2011 census, there are just under 6000 Jews currently living in Scotland and this year marks 200 years since the first Jewish congregation was founded, ironically in Edinburgh. But in reality, how welcome are the Jews in Scotland? When I use the word ‘welcome’, I don’t refer to the lack of a Hitlerite doctrine, or wish to gauge whether gangs of antisemites seek out symbols that adorn Jewish houses to begin targeting the inhabitants. I simply ask how free are Jewish people to celebrate their Jewish identity publicly?

Zionism

Which brings me back to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. The protesters suggest that Israeli money is funding the Shalom Festival and then embark on a sickening exercise to follow ‘Jewish money’, from the organisers back to the embassy of the only democratic nation in the Middle East.

So what is this protest, anti-Israel or anti-Jewish? Well primarily, it is clear that the protest is anti-peace. The essence of the Shalom Festival is co-operation, the diverse and inclusive nature of Israel. And support for dialogue, the underpinnings of the international position over a two state solution. What the protesters are standing against isn’t a settlement or Israeli army action, but rather a core element of Jewish belief – Zionism. The very existence of Israel.

There are two connected elements to Zionism, the religious and the political. Zionism is on almost every page of the Jewish bible, the land of Israel, the national home of the Jews. Carried with them throughout centuries of persecution, the religious aspect became political reality as Israel was founded as a state in 1948.  A fundamental shift in Jewish history.

93% of UK Jews believe that Israel plays a part in their Jewish identity, 90% believe in Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. Let me put this into perspective. Proportionally more UK Jews identify Israel as being part of their Jewish identity than UK Christians go to church, UK Muslims eat Halal or UK Jews who eat kosher. As a statistic, it would be hard to find any element of any religion that is as prevailing as the Jewish/Israel connection.

Antisemitism

If a nation boycotted all Easter celebrations it would be considered religious persecution, so too banning or restricting the sale of Halal meat. Thus, although the theoretical opposition to the existence of a Jewish state may not cross the line, in actually boycotting the state of Israel and calling for its destruction, we are witnessing clear antisemitism in our midst. No surprise then, that the Jews become intimidated, frightened and unable to display their identity in public.

To counter this, the antizionists create a smokescreen around Zionism. Turning it from the realisation of national identity, into a description of some of Israel’s actions beyond the 1967 lines. They then use the small minority, the 7%, wherever they find them, to deflect all accusations they are being antisemitic. Illan Pappe, Ronnie Barkan, Max Blumenthal, can be no more legitimately used to strike against Israel, than you would find support for using a strange Christian sub group who deny the existence of Jesus. Their very use is an antisemitic act. Only with the Jews, only with Israel, do the 7% get given a microphone, a stage and finance.

To be an antizionist is to reject not just the religious and national elements of Zionism, but to reject international law, denounce democracy and side with the misogynistic, anti-liberal, anti-democratic, antisemitic neighbours that even today, seek to remove Israel from the map. Israel is the only nation in the region where all religions practice freely, the only one with a growing Christian population.

You can oppose Israeli political actions, you can support the Palestinian right to a state, and you can support Israel’s right to live in peace. This isn’t an either/or. Even terror groups such as the IRA in seeking an united Ireland, did not seek to destroy England. When it comes to pushing radical extremism, these protesters are off the map. They should not be allowed the unchallenged air of the mainstream. They have to be opposed.

Stand up and be counted


These people need support, this peace festival needs support. If we are ever to see real peace between Israel and all its neighbours, then we have to start supporting those movements that seek accommodation, negotiation, peace. The International Shalom festival is such an event.

We are a free society and we cannot stop a public protest in Edinburgh. What we can do is marginalise it, by highlighting the side that stands up for our values, those of peace, freedom, democracy. We need to stand by those who offer the promise of peace and reject those who beat the drums of perpetual war.

This Shalom Festival in Edinburgh needs your support. It promises to be an invigorating, fascinating insight into the life of Israelis and the vibrant diverse democracy that exists there. If you cannot make it, or will not be at the festival at all, it needs your vocal support, pass on the event details to your friends, bring it to the attention of others.

And if you are a politician, if you are the leader of the Scottish National Party, you need to choose what type of Scotland you wish to represent. So to Nicola Sturgeon I say this: You clearly want Scotland to be an independent Nation. So you need to stand up and publicly state that this festival, this inclusive celebration of diverse culture, is open to everyone. You need to give the International Shalom Festival your support. Don’t you think you need to show us just what type of independent Scotland the Jews can expect? Or are Scotland’s Jews only protected by Westminster?

So Nicola, are Jews welcome at the Edinburgh festival? Not shadows of Jews, scared to express their identity, looking over their shoulder, worried about what they can and cannot say for fear of persecution. But real Jews, proud, Zionist, Israeli flag waving Jews. Jews that are free to walk in the light. Are they welcome?

Do Jews in Scotland really have to hide every time they wish to celebrate the vibrant democracy that is Israel? Will you really accept the denial of such a fundamental part of their Jewish identity?

Your move.

(Text and Photo credits: StandWithUS; Just Giving; eurojewcong.com; Shalom Festival)

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

OVER SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”