By SOPHIE HERSHFIELD, DANIEL MINDEN, AND MICHAEL MORGENTHAU
More often than not, discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict seem to be needlessly polarized. This happens both within the Jewish community and in Canadian society at large. As young Canadian Jews who study at universities or work as young professionals, we have all seen disrespectful, demeaning, and hateful slander far too often. That is why we have helped build JSpaceCanada, a pro-Israel, pro-peace organization that serves as a forum for respectful dialogue about Israel and promotes a peaceful solution to the conflict.
Through its biennial conferences, frequent events, and now webinars, JSpaceCanada invites a wide range of speakers to share their lived experiences and ideas. These include Israelis, Palestinians, and professionals who have worked in diplomacy and peacebuilding. Only by listening to all perspectives, including those of Arab citizens of Israel or those living under Israel’s military occupation in the West Bank, can we understand the present situation and strive to identify solutions.
We have been honoured to welcome guests ranging from former Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler, to Israel’s consul general in Toronto, Galit Baram, who appreciate our efforts to hear different perspectives and build a consensus for peace. To their great credit, organizations like the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) have been supportive of our efforts to promote exchange and discussion. Instead of engaging in provocation, violence and defamation, we choose to contribute to peace by hearing others’ experiences, providing our own, and listening to people with whom we might sometimes disagree.
JSpaceCanada provides an important forum to showcase the health of our community. After all, Canadian Jews need unity, not uniformity in the way we approach Israel. It is no secret that within our community, there exist significant differences on issues like settlements, peace plans, or the best way to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. We believe these disagreements are healthy, and in fact, mirror the same disagreements in Israel. Many young, progressive Israelis, including those who serve their country in uniform, oppose the policies of their current government not because their Zionism is lukewarm, but because they love their country and believe its government and the Palestinian leadership must do more to promote peace. We want to hear from them, and from young Palestinians, about what actions we can take to help promote a bilateral, negotiated peace agreement leading to a two-state solution, fulfilling the right of self-determination for both peoples – Jews and Palestinians. Diverse views are good for our community. Rather than excluding those with whom we disagree, or worse, using vile slurs to intimidate them, we at JSpaceCanada choose to work together and build as broad a coalition as possible to support Israel and a negotiated peace.
That, in turn, will help expand the number of Canadians who support the Jewish, democratic state of Israel. We know that we can most persuasively make the case for Israel through honest, critical thinking, not by defending every action or policy of the current Israeli government. Just as some of us might oppose policies of our own governments while remaining patriotic Canadians, the same is true of our relationships with Israel. Indeed, we feel the need to raise our voices against policies like settlement expansion and annexation precisely because we love Israel and want to see it live up to its founding principles. By pushing Israel to do more to live up to the values enshrined in its Declaration of Independence, we demonstrate that the values of equality, democracy and peace are also Zionist values. In so doing, we broaden the pro-Israel tent and can make the case that Israel merits the support of all Canadians.
And as friends of Israel, it is our obligation to support Israelis to realize their founding values and reach a peaceful solution with their neighbours.
By providing Canadians with a pro-Israel, pro-peace forum for discussion and advocacy, JSpaceCanada has become a vitally important community organization. If you, like us, love Israel and care about peace, please consider joining us in JSpaceCanada as we exchange, listen and learn together.
L-R: Sophie Hershfield of Winnipeg, Daniel Minden of Montreal and Michael Morgenthau of Toronto are all members of JSpaceCanada’s Next Generation Leadership Initiative.