Shimon Fogel, the Chief Executive Officer of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)— the primary Israel lobby group that falsely claims to represent Canada’s diverse Jewish communities— recently claimed in an article in the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin that Israeli Apartheid Week has been “respectfully renamed ‘Islam Awareness Week’ at the University of Ottawa.” This, of course, is false. Israeli Apartheid Week happened to coincide with Islam Awareness Week this year on Ottawa campuses, but they have nothing to do with one another.
CIJA, the advocacy arm of the Jewish Federations of Canada, has spent millions of dollars over the years concealing and distorting the truth about Israel’s systematic human rights violations, so that the mainstream Canadian Jewish community would continue to provide Israel with moral and financial support. It is hard to believe that Fogel, speaking for an organization that spends millions combating Palestine solidarity activism on campuses across the country, and that prides itself on carefully monitoring the campus political climate surrounding the Israel/Palestine issue, mistakenly assumed that Israeli Apartheid Week changed its name to Islam Awareness Week at the University of Ottawa.
Islam Awareness Week did not hold a single event on either campus (it took place at three Ottawa campuses, not only at the University of Ottawa as Fogel contends) whereas Israeli Apartheid Week held a couple of events and a press conference at the University of Ottawa, and several more events at Carleton University. Islam Awareness Week had information tables on both campuses, raising awareness of the Islamic faith without any mention of the word Palestine. Both share an acronym, but “IAW” is never used publicly to refer to Islam Awareness Week, only Israeli Apartheid Week.
Fogel— in this article to his base of supporters highlighting the supposed successes of CIJA in combating “anti-Israel” activities— clearly wanted to convey two false messages: 1) that Israeli Apartheid Week is losing supporters, and 2) that the situation in Israel/Palestine is a battle between the Judeo-Christian West and Islam. By implying that Palestine is equivalent to Islam, it appears that Fogel wishes to instill fear into the mainstream Jewish community, so that many Jews in Canada will continue to justify Israel’s ongoing crimes against the Palestinians in the name of “fighting terrorism.”
This is insulting to Muslims and, of course, to Palestinians. The situation in Israel and Palestine is about the ongoing colonization of historic Palestine by one ethnic and religious group, and the suppression and/or removal of the native population; it is a battle over land, resources, and equal rights, not over religious differences. Not all Palestinians are Muslim—many are Christian, and some are even Jewish. In addition, not all supporters of equal rights in Israel and Palestine are Muslim—there are many Jews, Christians, and non-affiliated individuals who support the cause of justice throughout Israel/Palestine.
The disingenuous conflation of Islam with Palestinian freedom was brought to the attention of the editor of the Ottawa Jewish Bulletin on April 29; I asked him politely to correct the error both in print and online. More than a month has elapsed, and there has been no correction on the website or in either of the two print issues released since the error was published. There are two messages being sent by the mainstream Jewish establishment by this inaction: 1) They are not ashamed of fomenting Islamophobia in the interest of maintaining unquestioning allegiance to Israel; 2) They can continue to behave immorally and irresponsibly, because nobody will hold them accountable.
As a proud Canadian Jew, my response to both is: “Not in my name.” It’s enough with the censorship and the lies. It is high time the Jewish Federations of North America actually listen to North American Jews who are thirsty for justice and equal rights in Israel and Palestine, rather than exploiting an unfounded fear of Muslims to desperately maintain an uncritical—and fundamentally unhelpful— relationship towards Israel.