Scholar Honored for Work on 100th Anniversary of San Remo Conference

Dec. 2, 2020

By STEVE ARNOLD

A Christian scholar has been honoured by a Jewish foundation for his defense of Israel’s right to exist.

Toronto lawyer Jacques Gauthier was given the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation’s inaugural Advocate Award of Excellence in an online event last week. The prize honoured Gauthier’s doctoral thesis – a 1,100-page behemoth that took more than 25 years to complete – which supported and proved Jewish sovereignty over all of Jerusalem.

The award was presented to mark the centennial of the San Remo Conference, the 1920 gathering where the victors of the First World War drew a new global map that created the Jewish homeland promised three years earlier in the famous Balfour Declaration.

At San Remo, a town in northwest Italy’s Mediterranean coast, the world powers of the day – Britain, France, Italy and Japan, with the United States as neutral observer – divided the former Ottoman Empire into three parts. One became the British Mandate of Palestine, and another the Emirate of Transjordan, where a British ally was installed as king. The third portion became a French mandate that controlled parts of today’s Syria and Lebanon.

The San Remo resolution confirmed putting Palestine under a British Mandate and affirmed the 1917 Balfour promise of support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine.

That action, Gauthier concluded, created a binding international agreement that gave Israel a legal claim to its land.

“This is a truth that has been hidden by the machinations of the nations,” Gauthier said in accepting the honour. “The identity of Israel is intimately linked to this legal fact. Jews are not in Israel as usurpers, they are there by legal right. The San Remo conference was the moment when the Balfour Declaration was crowned.

“When I started my work I didn’t understand the extent to which it was holy work,” he added. “I wanted to bring this truth into a light that is bigger than Jacques Gauthier.”

Israel’s first president, Chaim Weizmann, who attended the San Remo conference with Nahum Sokolow and Herbert Samuel, described the actions as seismic shifts for the Jewish world.

“Weizmann called San Remo the biggest political event in the history of the Zionist movement, maybe in the history of the Jewish people since the exile,” said Israel’s consul general in Toronto and western Canada, Galit Baram.

Others who spoke at the event lauded Gauthier’s work and the San Remo resolution as tools to crush arguments that Jews have no claim to the land of Israel.

“By focusing on the legal facts of the matter Jacques has brought San Remo to life,” said long-time friend Michael Diamond. “He has taught Israelis that they have a solid basis in international law for their claims.”

Israeli lawyer Yifa Segal, another participant, said Gauthier’s work in bringing the San Remo resolution back into public view is an important step in refuting arguments Israel has no right to exist.

“His analysis of Israel’s right to exist lays the groundwork for one of the most important battles of our age,” Segal said. “He shows that international law fully supports our claim to the land.

“There is a fundamentally wrong premise that the land of Israel does not belong to the Jewish people,” she added. “This is a false legal narrative that forces us to fight a new war for our very existence.”

Ontario Honours Holocaust Survivors

Nov. 10, 2020 

By LILA SARICK

Ten Holocaust survivors who have made it their mission to educate younger generations about the dangers of antisemitism and racism were honoured by the Ontario government in a virtual ceremony on Nov. 5.

The annual ceremony, usually held at Queen’s Park, was scheduled for last spring but postponed due to COVID. This year’s virtual event was held during Holocaust Education Week, Nov. 2-9.

The theme of this year’s event was “passing the torch” – fitting, given that the honourees were all speakers at the Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre and had dedicated hours to talking to students about their experiences, said Fran Sonshine national chair of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem, in remarks that were recorded earlier at the Holocaust memorial in Toronto’s Earl Bales Park.

This year’s honorees were Hedy Bohm, Esther Fairbloom, Pola Goldhar, Denise (Fikman) Hans, Mark Lane, Faigie (Schmidt) Libman, Rose Lipszyc (née Handelsman), Captain Martin Maxwell, Andy Réti and Gershon Israel Willinger.

Each honoree had received a certificate, often surrounded by their children and grandchildren, in outdoor ceremonies recorded earlier.

The survivors spoke briefly, often thanking Canada for taking them in after the Second World War, and giving them a second chance to build a life – and about the importance of teaching young people about the Holocaust.

“I hope in the future to continue Holocaust education,” said Bohm. “My goal has been and always was to make young people feel empowered to stand up and speak against any type of prejudice.”

Debbie Estrin of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem presents a tribute from the government of Ontario to Capt. Martin Maxwell. Looking on is Maxwell’s wife, Eleanor. (Photo courtesy Canadian Society for Yad Vashem)

MPPs Roman Baber, Will Bouma, Rima Berns-McGown, Gila Martow, and Steven Del Duca, leader of the Liberal Party of Ontario, introduced each honoree.

Premier Doug Ford praised the honourees’ “unbelievable bravery,” saying their “resilience and strength continue to inspire me.”

Galit Baram, consul general of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada, and a descendant of Holocaust survivors, spoke about the “alarming rise” of antisemitism, assaults and Holocaust denial, even in democratic, western societies.

“What I have to come to realize is that the Sisyphean task of combating antisemitism necessitates continuous activity on three levels: legislation, prosecution and education,” Baram said in her remarks.

“Every time elected officials speak up against antisemitism and draw the line between what is acceptable and what is not, every time a Holocaust survivor provides testimony, every time a story of the Righteous Among the Nations is told in public, every step brings us closer to developing an antidote to hatred and racism,” Baram said.

To watch the ceremony, visit yadvashem.ca

Campaign Seeks to End ‘Illegal” IDF Recruitment in Canada

Oct. 28, 2020

By RON CSILLAG

Progressive activists want Canada to prohibit what they call “illegal” recruitment by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in this country.

In an Oct. 19 letter to federal Justice Minister David Lametti, they called on the government to conduct a “thorough investigation…of those who have facilitated this recruiting for the IDF, and if warranted, that charges be laid against all those involved in recruiting and encouraging recruiting in Canada for the IDF.”

The campaign is being waged by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, Palestinian and Jewish Unity, and Just Peace Advocates.

An open letter signed by the American linguist and public intellectual Noam Chomsky, Pink Floyd frontman Roger Waters, author Yann Martel, and more than 170 Canadians was delivered to Lametti this month asking him to investigate recruitment taking place in Canada for the IDF.

“It is a crime in Canada to recruit anyone for a foreign military,” says a statement from Just Peace Advocates. “It is also a crime to aid and abet such recruitment by offering incentives and encouraging any person to serve in a foreign military.”

The groups cite Canada’s Foreign Enlistment Act, which states that “any person who, within Canada, recruits or otherwise induces any person or body of persons to enlist or to accept any commission or engagement in the armed forces of any foreign state or other armed forces operating in that state is guilty of an offence.”

The groups note that the only exception would be the recruitment of Israeli citizens who are not Canadian.

On “several occasions,” they allege, the Israeli consulate in Toronto “has advertised that they have an IDF representative available for personal appointments for those wishing to join the IDF.”

The consulate has “gone further” and arranged for IDF soldiers and veterans to be present in schools, summer camps and other venues in Canada “with the goal of inducing people to enlist.”

They add that according to one estimate from the CBC, 230 Canadians were serving in the IDF in 2017. “It is unclear how many of these individuals were recruited in ways that violate the Foreign Enlistment Act,” they say.

The campaign made front-page news in Montreal’s Le Devoir newspaper on Oct. 19.

Asked about the effort at an unrelated news conference in Ottawa on Oct. 19, Lametti said “diplomats from another country, therefore the diplomats of Israel who are here, follow Canadian law,” adding that the issue is “a question for investigators [and] the police, to decide whether there have been violations… I will leave the decision to the institutions we have in Canada to monitor the situation.”

Asked by Le Devoir whether he “completely wash[es] his hands” of the matter, Lametti replied that “we have institutions in Canada that are responsible for reacting to such situations. They are not exactly the same institutions in other countries and so as I said in the first answer, I will leave room for the responsible people in Canada to do what needs to be done.”

In a statement to the CJR, Galit Baram, Consul General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada, said: “In Israel, the law requires compulsory service. Every Israeli, male or female, must serve in the Israel Defense Forces. Israeli citizens living abroad are obligated to settle their status with the Israeli authorities.

“As part of the consular services provided to Israelis living abroad, Israeli diplomatic missions assist in connecting with the IDF authorities. In large Israeli communities abroad, such as Toronto, which is the largest in Canada, a recruiting office representative may be dispatched at times to conduct in-person interviews.

“Israel and Canada are steadfast allies. Any allegations against Israel in this matter are unfounded,” Baram said.

In a similar vein, Israel’s Consul General in Montreal, David Levy, told Le Devoir that “these consular services we provide are reserved for Israeli citizens and do not apply to non-Israelis who volunteer for the army.”

Winnipeg-based lawyer David Matas points out that the Foreign Enlistment Act prohibits enlistment “in the armed forces of any foreign state at war with any friendly foreign state.”

Israel, said Matas, “is not at war with any foreign state which is a friend of Canada.”

He said the prohibition described in the act is limited to recruitment or other inducement.

“The behaviour of the Israeli consulate described in the [letter to Lametti] is not a recruitment or other inducement, since the Israeli announcement is limited to persons who wish to join the Israeli armed forces,” according to Matas, who’s considered an expert in the intersection of Canadian and international law, particularly as it applies to Israel.

“These persons would already have formed the wish to join the forces. There is no inducement nor [does there] need be any for persons who have already formed the wish to join the [IDF].”

Matas said those people “are self induced, not induced by the Israeli consulate.”

Dutch Couple Honoured as Righteous Among the Nations

Oct. 21, 2020

By LILA SARICK

Representatives from the Israeli consulate in Toronto and the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem travelled to northern Ontario last week to honour a Dutch family that sheltered Jews during the Holocaust.

Background: Jordan Falkenstein, Director of Government Relations at the Consulate General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada. Foreground (l-r): Jonathan Allen, executive director, Canadian Society of Yad Vashem; Nora Visser; Israeli Consul General Galit Baram; Carman Kidd, Mayor of New Liskeard; and John Vanthof, MPP for Timiskaming—Cochrane. (photo courtesy Israel Consulate)

Reinerus and Cornelia Hulsker were recognized as Righteous Among the Nations at a ceremony held in New Liskeard on Oct. 16. The couple’s daughter, Nora Visser, accepted the posthumous honour.

In 1940, when the Germans invaded the Netherlands, David (Dik) Biet, a Jew, was sheltered in the Hulsker home, while his wife and infant daughter were hidden in the home of a former work colleague, Jos Asselbergs.

Visser, who was between 10 and 13 years old during the war, transported documents between the houses, said Jonathan Allen, executive director of the Canadian Society for Yad Vashem.

“I was scared when I went to the other house,” Visser told CTV News at the ceremony. “I thought they might see me. It felt like a long walk.”

In 1945, Biet was captured while visiting his wife and daughter, who were in hiding at the Asselbergs, and the family was deported to Westerbork, a transit camp. The war ended before they could be taken to a concentration camp, Allen told the CJR.

“It is quite emotional when you hear the story of what the family did to protect Jews during the Holocaust, at the risk of their own safety and the safety of their families,” Allen said.

As a descendant of Holocaust survivors and an Israeli diplomat, Galit Baram, Israel’s Consul General of Israel in Toronto and Western Canada said she was “grateful for the opportunity to share the remarkable story of the Hulsker and Asselbergs families.” Baram said ceremonies such as this “have tremendous educational value, especially since even today, 75 years after the end of World War II, with the horrors of the Holocaust so well documented, there are still many reported cases of antisemitism even in the strongest of democracies.”

The ceremony recognizing the courage of Visser’s parents was delayed several times due to COVID, and was finally held at St. Paul’s United Church in Visser’s hometown of New Liskeard.

In attendance were Carman Kidd, the mayor of New Liskeard, and local MPP John Vanthof.

Visser was interviewed at the ceremony about her experiences during the war by her granddaughter.

“A lot of details of the story came out,” Allen said. “I’m not sure how much she had shared of this in the past” with her grandchildren.

Receiving the award was “a great honour,” Visser said.

Next month, members of the Asselbergs family, who moved to Calgary after the war, will be honoured as Righteous, Allen said.

The Righteous Among the Nations project was established by Yad Vashem in 1963 to honour non-Jews who assisted Jews during the Holocaust. To date, the award has been granted to more than 27,000 recipients.