Letters to the Editor: July 8, 2020

Responding to Wilkinson

July 8, 2020

Jeffrey Wilkinson (“Zionists not Welcome’ and the Responding Deafness,” CJR, July 7) names three points he says are “unhelpful” and “meant to reduce or silence criticism of Israel.” These are the conflation of the terms “Jewish” and “Zionist;” the definition of Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people; and the equating of widespread Jewish support for Zionism with a mainstream consensus about Zionism.

Respectfully, these three points are common ideas not because they are “meant to silence” anyone, but because they are largely true. They are arguments not meant to weaponize antisemitism, but to draw attention to the slippery way anti-Zionism and Jew-hatred are frequently intertwined.

It’s not Jews who conflate the term “Zionist” with “Jewish,” it’s anti-Zionists who insinuate, as the owner of Foodbenders did in several social media posts, that “Zionists” have conspiratorial and manipulative control over the media, the government, etc. The fact that someone uses a different word does not mean we can ignore the use of an old-school canard and trope of Jew hatred. 

It’s not unfair to equate widespread Jewish support of Zionism with a mainstream position; that’s what a mainstream position is. When a person says Jews are welcome as long as they aren’t Zionists, as the owner of Foodbenders did in her posts about Zionism and Jews, that’s called tokenizing. It too is a discriminatory practice, meant to insulate the offending person from criticism for their actions.

Lastly, defining Zionism as the national liberation movement of the Jewish people is not a tactic for stifling criticism. It is a basic understanding of Jewish history from the perspective that the Jews are a people who have suffered centuries of oppression culminating in genocide. Of course, none of this excuses rude behavior or harassment on any side, But it takes someone who doesn’t see Jew hatred as a real problem to dismiss the main argument for Zionism as “stifling” or to refuse to allow Jewish people to define the terms of what counts as hate and discrimination against themselves.

That’s the real reason so many of us are bothered by the attitude displayed by Foodbenders, and in Wilkinson’s op-ed. It represents the very resistance to Jewish self-determination, including the right to define our own experiences of discrimination, exclusion, and oppression, that makes Zionism a necessity for Jewish thriving in the modern world. 

Rabbi Jordan Shaner

ISIS Fighters Deserve Their Fate

July 8, 2020

It is a little surprising but not unexpected that New-York based Human Rights Watch (HRW) levied an accusation of human rights violations against Canada on June 29. They very baldly stated that our government is neglecting a group of 26 men who suffer in a brutal prisoner of war camp inside Syria, controlled by the Turkish military. The real surprise, however, is that the subjects of the complaint consist entirely of ISIS combatants. 

Truly, Canada is guilty of so many racist actions that it owes many restitution. But for HRW to advocate for followers of a terror organization that beheaded, raped, and slaughtered its way across three nations – stealing unbelievable resources along the way – warrants censure. These individuals do not deserve mercy, and HRW ought to reevaluate its priorities for advocacy. 

ISIS, worse than Al-Qaeda, caused more harm and inspired more attacks than its loathsome predecessor.

The prisoners deserve whatever horrors they incurred for themselves. Their families should never be permitted refugee status in Canada because they could wreak mayhem inside our borders.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is right to evade questioning about repatriating former citizens and ISIS members because they forfeited those rights long ago. Let them remain where they are. 

Christopher-Michael Mansour
Barrie, Ont.


CJR ‘Flogs a Dead Horse’

I have no problem with people championing the “two states solution,” but I do believe that your publication is flogging a dead horse (CJR editorial, “Annexation Will Destroy Hopes for Peace,” July 3).

How many times must Israel show up for these pathetic summits that appear to be preordained to fail? How many times must Israel sweeten the pie, only to have the offer rejected? How many times must Israel’s prime minister smile sheepishly while someone with a “freedom fighter’s gun” stuck in his belt refuses to approach the signing table?

You may blame Israel for not “pursuing peace,” but that is not at all the way I see it,for the country bled profusely, urged on – not always – by friends to give it another try.

It’s been 40 years of blood, toil and tears, while making friends and forging a nation. And all the while Israel goes on with building the national state of the Jews, while the other side, having forgotten its promise to build a democratic society, keeps on calling for “days of rage.”

Well, they may rage on, but Israel has work to do. 

Nathan Shuster
North York, Ont.

‘We are accountable’

It is despicable that the Toronto restaurant Foodbenders promotes hate and praises terrorism against Jews. Free speech is one thing, but when one promotes hate and terrorism, it is quite another.

Let us never forget that it was these same type of hate and words that led to the Holocaust. Our leaders and politicians should show zero tolerance to Foodbenders and people like them. Enough of political correctness!

Let us teach each other that there is a G-d that watches what we say and do.

We are accountable for our actions. 

We need to teach that every human is created in the image of G-d. 

We can use our G-d-given talents to build or to destroy.

A girl once asked a rabbi, “is atomic energy good or bad?” The rabbi asked, “is the knife in your kitchen good or bad?”

The girl replied, “it depends on what it’s used for.” If it is used to cut food, then it’s good. If it’s used to hurt someone, then it’s bad. The same is for atomic energy and for any technology.

May we all use our G-d-given talents for good things!

Rabbi Yirmi Cohen 
Toronto, Ont.