THE VILLAGE SHUL
TORONTO ONTARIO CANADA
JANUARY 26 2014
By VIVIENNE GRACE ZINER
Good afternoon, distinguished speakers, ladies and gentlemen.
My name is Vivienne Grace Ziner and I am honoured to be speaking to you here today.
Before I even begin, I am going to give everyone here some homework.
When you go home tonight, please write our Prime Minister, Steven Harper and thank him for being such a good and solid friend to Israel. In today’s world, it is not easy to take such a position and he has done so, with conviction and courage. Please let him know how you feel; when we do not take the time to acknowledge acts of support, we leave a void, a vacuum, one that others will be glad to fill with a very different position to ours. So, please-ensure that you do so. Tonight!
Today, I am here as what can be called a “pitch hitter”-I was asked just this past Thursday if I could fill in for a speaker who couldn’t make it here –so I was asked to speak to you instead. I am delighted to do so, but a lot of physical material I would have liked to give to you couldn’t be prepared on such short notice, so I’m asking you to give me your contact information so that I can forward you some relevant information and resources.
First of all, I wish to thank and acknowledge the fabulous speakers who have already spoken to you- Yasher Koach to you all and I am honoured to be in your esteemed company.
When I was in my early 20’s-which was a very long time ago-I had the privilege of living and working in Washington, D.C.
I was the Advertising and Merchandising Co-Ordinator for The American Railroad Corporation –AMTRAK.
All my friends were the bright young Turks – figuratively, not literally-from Harvard, Yale, U.Penn, Columbia- all the top Ivy League schools- and they were all working for the senators, the congressmen, the people on the Hill –and for the public relations firms which were sprouting up like mushrooms in Washington and New York at that time.
How come? Why such an upswing in public relations firms at this time?
The answer? Petro dollars!!!
This was just after the time when Arabs started hiking the price of oil exponentially, globally, and making themselves “uber” rich. They were buying everything-properties, businesses, yachts, cars, countries- and public opinion. Some Arab sheiks were buying p.r. solely for their egos-but there were others, other Arabs and Arab countries, notably Saudi Arabia, and Arab politicians who understood the opportunity they had to buy-and change-global public opinion vis a vis Israel and the Arab world. They knew they could – and they did.
How do I know this? How am I so sure of my information?
Because it was my friends, the brightest and the best young minds in America -who were working for all these public relations and lobbying groups-and they would tell me what was going on behind their closed doors, all the time.
They told me that the Arabs said that they knew that it would take them twenty, thirty, forty years- to infiltrate and mold public opinion against Israel and make the U.S. –and the entire world-pro-Arab. They had the money, they had the patience, they had the plan.
So, how did they do this?
They said they were going to buy Time –Life magazine. They did. They said they were going to buy Newsweek. They did. They said they were going to buy journalists, people like Evans and Novack. They did.
They funded universities-and professors, -they lobbied and bought politicians like Jimmy Carter’s brother-and then Jimmy Carter. They bought media, media personalities, news outlets-they bought brains, influence and power. They accomplished –and then surpassed- what they set out to do.
So, what did I do? What did I do with this information?
I met with my friends at AIPAC.
So, what happened? I can still see the scene as if it was yesterday….
They answered. “Vivienne, what are you talking about? We are the Israelis-everybody loves us-no one will ever take them seriously”.
As my son J.J. would say,”Ya…. right!”
So, POINT #1: What s happening NOW- twenty, thirty, forty years later is NOT a natural progression of history. This is a brilliant, long range, strategic well planned campaign to disenfranchise, isolate and demonize Israel and the Jewish people.
And I am not angry with them for doing it. No. I am angry and frustrated that we – the Jews/the Israelis – didn’t realize what was happening, that our leaders have been too smug and too self congratulatory not to see what was happening and to have reacted and responded.
Whenever people say that the Jews control the media, I say “aleviy”. I WISH we did.
We Jews have really missed the boat when it comes to public relations and public opinion. For example, during the Intifadas, many times when the Palestinian would use spokespeople, they would get someone beautiful sloe-eyed Palestinian woman to speak to the world. Over and over, the Israelis would get some middle-aged, paunchy balding guy with an unintelligible thick accent to be their spokesman. We would sound strident, arrogant, unfeeling – they would win hearts and sympathy without even trying.
The world – our world – changed in September 2001.
Not on September 11th but at Durban I. I remember hearing Irwin Cotler speak about Durban on around September 9th 2001 – about how the anti-racism symposium had been hijacked – totally! – as an anti-Israel and by extension, anti-Jewish hate-fest. It was a game changer; it was now legitimate to come out – openly and blatantly – against Israel and against Jews.
The world had changed!
It appears to me that Jews have not understood nor accepted that those who hate Israel do so with intensity, fury and the commitment to destroying her. The larger, established Jewish organizations are careful to focus on their long term mandates and have not confronted the anti- Zionism that exists here and throughout the world.
When I was growing up, Jewish leadership was more organic and inclusive. This is no longer the case with increased complexity and competitiveness that exists amongst the organizations.
The mandate of many organizations seems to be to raise funds more than it is to deal with very pressing issues like anti-Semitism.
There is a “Za Shtil” attitude – let’s be quiet, let’s not comment on what’s happening, let’s not react too hastily, let’s not offend anyone, let’s be conciliatory, it’ll get better, it’ll go away …. only it hasn’t, it just gets worse, anti-Semitism is getting more public, more acceptable, more open; from defacing property to mugging people, to openly defying the law.
When the University of Toronto was first approached by a group who wanted to start a little activity called “Apartheid Week”, the University went to our so-called leaders and asked them if they should grant this group permission to hold this event. Do you know what the response was? And I am paraphrasing here – but it’s close enough.
“Yes, of course they should get a permit. It’s freedom of speech. We can handle this kind of thing. It’ll just die out.”
Really? Really? Really????
Well, now that Apartheid Week, which started in Toronto, has gone global, is in most universities world-wide, has spawned and morphed into so many offshoots of itself, has certainly contributed to sanctions and boycotts and BDS – well, I guess it’s safe to say they were wrong.
Point #2: Voice your opinion! Own your opinion! Back up your opinion with facts. Be informed!
EVERYONE here has to speak up, be a leader of the Jewish people! If you don’t agree with other voices, Jewish or non-Jewish, established or grassroots – let them know! Send them letters. Copy other people, other groups on your letters. Start a petition, telling them they do NOT speak for you.
When they phone you to fund raise, tell them your position. They are a business; their business is raising funds to help Jewish causes – so help direct funds to the causes you care about. Tell our established organizations what keeps you up at night, what Jewish students are experiencing on campus, what anti Israel campaigns result in and how it erodes democracy. You can always direct your money – write on your cheque where you want it spent. That’s your right.
How does our democracy function? Democracy is not based solely on votes of voting at election time; it is democracy because of the process of inclusion at all levels of decision
making. This applies globally – to all levels of governance. Schools, universities, city council, community organizations, government at all levels.
Change is made by voicing your opinion and being heard.
Form committees, write letters, create petitions, sign petitions, express your support as well as your displeasure – these actions create the momentum to effect change. That’s how democracies work effectively. Constituents express an opinion to their leaders; opinions get voted on and real change can happen.
Let me give you a microcosm. Last year, I received an alarming phone call from a fellow mother at Bishop Strachan School. She told me that the Spring Curriculum for Grade 11 English was not only “The Merchant of Venice” but also “The Rachel Corrie Story”. The administration position was that they would not allow for interference in their choice of curriculum. Well, when we organized 10 parents to arrive en masse at the headmaster’s office, somehow we got their attention and within 15 minutes, The Rachel Corrie Story was removed from the curriculum. Believe me, if we had not supported these parents in this matter, this would not have happened.
The groundswell of anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment is overwhelming. If we do not actively and vigilantly react and respond to this situation, we leave a vacuum and believe me, this vacuum will soon be filled with vitriol and hatred.
For the last 10 years, over 150 000 immigrants arrived in Toronto and the GTA- per year!
Within those numbers, many people have arrived who have a bias against Israel and the Jews.
There are now over 1 million Muslims in Canada. We must be cognisant of the fact that not all Muslims hate us and that there are many Muslims who have come to Canada to leave bigotry, hatred and prejudice behind.
But there are radical Islamists who are also arriving here and are changing the fabric of our society; we must be aware, we must be vigilant, we must be informed, we must act.
Immigrant groups have formed active communities, have selected their own leaders, have their own agenda and are creating their own political platforms.
We need to ally with those who support democracy, inclusion and freedom. Among our allies there are many Hindus, Christians, Evangelicals, atheists, Buddhists and Muslims. Included in
supportive Muslim groups are The Moslem Committee against Antisemitism, The Moslem Canadian Congress, Progressive Muslims of Canada and Muslims Facing Tomorrow, led by our brilliant friend and advocate, Raheel Raza.
Point #3:We must identify our friends, connect with them, support them in their struggles and create strong alliances with them.
I am going to repeat myself. If we leave a vacuum, it will be filled.
This year – 2014 – is a very very important time in our history – in the history of Toronto.
1. It is an election year at the City. And we better get involved in this election big time!
2. Did you know that World Pride is coming to Toronto this year? Toronto, Ontario, CANADA is hosting World Pride 2014 – and along with Pride comes QUAIA – Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Not good!
In about 2010, I thought I had fallen down into Alice’s Hole in Wonderland when I started hearing about QUAIA: Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. Queers Against Israeli Apartheid?
Israel – the haven of Gay Rights – the Mecca (excuse the pun) of Gay and Lesbian rights.
Israel: Tel Aviv which is the gay capital of the Middle East. Israel, with Gay Pride parades that rival any pride parade world wide.
Being criticized, ostracized by gays who support Iran – where they hang gays; Uganda – death sentence for gays; Lebanon & Syria – where they beat gays up regularly. Like really?
So, I went to City Hall, I think for the first time, in 2011, to fight QUAIA. Wow! What an eye opener that was!
The rhetoric, the vitriol, the hostility directed against Israel was unbelievable. The lies, the misrepresentations, the unmitigated hatred from these anti-Israeli activists was extraordinary.
On our side we had these earnest Jewish activists who, with well intentions, were discussing facts – simple, unquestionable facts like acceptance of Gay Rights in Israel, no gay rights throughout the Middle East – while the other side- QUAIA and friends had NOW magazine – and their photographers and friends – photographed and hassled and heckled us.
But what was the most frightening part of this whole experience? It was the councillors supporting QUAIA – your City Council, your Councillors, your tax dollars.
Adam Vaughan, quarterbacking QUAIA; Gord Perks, Kirstin Tam Wong and so many others in support- Wow! They are really really scary!
And that’s where we have a huge responsibility and opportunity this year with the municipal elections.
Opportunity #1: Get involved in the 2014 elections. Find out what the councillors stand for. Get active. Get involved. Make a difference. Find out where your councillor stands on these issues. Fight back.
I am very much Polyanna – I always make lemonade from lemons. So – what good came from my attending the City Hall meetings fighting QUAIA?
I met some extraordinary activists and together we have created some terrific organizations.
First of all, we started Stop Sponsoring the Hatred, created to ask the corporate sponsors of the Pride Parade to withhold their sponsorship if QUAIA marched – QUAIA, with its swastikas, its anti-semitic and anti-Jewish drivel, its hate slogans – and its just pure unmitigated hate.
So we contacted the TD Bank and other pride sponsors; we wrote petitions, we sent letters, we protested – and we expected our “leaders” to come forward.
We sent letters to our Jewish clergy to ask them to speak to this from the BIMA – it was Pesach – and many of them agreed to do so. Until they received phone calls from our self-appointed leaders asking then NOT to do so. So, they did not. They did not call out from their pulpits and ask us to be unified in our opposition. Once again, we had the same kind of scenario that we had with Apartheid Week. And once again, we lost an opportunity to take a stand, be heard, be respected, fight back. So, we did not have support and basically without that support we couldn’t effect change.
One of the issues that we have to deal with is that Gay Rights and Pride make many people uncomfortable. Orthodox Jews, Conservative Muslims, Evangelist Christians do not necessarily support gay rights. Please be clear; fighting QuAIA is not about supporting or condoning gay rights. That is a separate issue. This is NOT about gay rights – this is about victimizing Israel.
And this is about taking a stand against anti-Semitism disguised as being about gay rights.
Opportunity #2: Fight back against QuAIA! Get involved! How? Join stopsponsoringthe hatred; we need your help and we need it now!
After we created stopsponsoringthe hatred, a core group, including David Nitkin, an ethicist, Andria Spindel who is the president and C.E.O. of a most prominent organization, myself and a few others went on to create the following organizations , which are all opportunities for you all to contribute and get involved with:
The Israel Activist Alliance, a website that consolidates news from around the world that deals with anti-Israel propaganda and anti-Semitism as well as promoting positive stories and monitoring articles on advocacy, Jewish diversity and achievements by Israel and Jews in the diaspora. Sign up to receive daily updates at Israelaa.ca
The Muslim Jewish Dialogue which is a coordinated effort by a respected retired high level Muslim journalist, Tariq Khan and Dr. David Nitkin of Toronto, a well known expert in ethics. Its aim is to create opportunities for personal, one- on -one dialogue between Jews and Muslims, including teens, who are interested in learning about each other and supporting tolerance and mutual understanding.
The Canadian Friends of TAZPIT, which is a Canadian registered charity that is raising funds and awareness for Israel’s only national news service in Israel. TAZPIT uses mainly volunteers who photograph, gather, report and disseminate news stories happening in Israel to news distributors globally ; they provide factual challenges to the misinformation and disinformation of much of the foreign press. Tazpit is a non profit and you can learn more by contacting me directly.
The Legal Forum for The Land of Israel.which Yehudit Shier Weisberg has been speaking about today. The Legal Forum for The Land of Israel uses the talents of great legal minds to challenge the legal absurdities plaguing Israel.
And we all contribute to Weekly Press Pakistan, a Muslim internet based news consolidator that disseminates news in English and Urdu to readers in North America and the world but is primarily aimed at Urdu speaking, hence non Arab readers in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and north India. You can access this site at weeklypresspakistan.com
- Write to people! In support, in condemnation. Make your position known. Take a position and tell people. Start petitions. They do make a difference!
- Get educated! Learn from the Richard Bass’s , the Solomon Benzimra’s, the Yehudit Shier Weisberg’s who have spoken to you here today. They have the tools for you to use, to disseminate information
- Get informed! Read The Algemeiner, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East, Honest Reporting, TAZPIT- learn what the issues are.
- Decide what is important to you, what really cranks your chain. Is it BDS? Is it protecting our kids on campus? Is it politics? Civil, provincial, federal, global? Get involved!
- What can you contribute? Is it time? Is it money? Is it a skill? Can you write? Are you an organizer? An accountant? A housewife? What skill can you contribute? Identify it and go for it!
- 6. Change the language. It is NOT a suicide bomber-it is a homicide bomber. It is NOT the Occupied territories; it is The Disputed Territories. It is NOT the West Bank; it is Judea and Samaria.
Remember- you are an activist. You have a cause. You have a mission. Do not give up your power. Do not give up your authority within the Jewish community. You have a voice, a position, a point of view. Use your voice, use your pen, use the phone, use the internet, use your mind, use your legs, use every single option you have. You do make a difference, and Israel and the Jewish people need you now, more than ever before
Am Y’isroel chai!