Montreal's senior monthly since 1986

Feb '10

Columns

Fear versus free speech

During the bloody Gaza invasion, despite broad support in Israel, several voices in the Jewish community questioned the scope of the operation, with estimates of up to 1,300 Palestinian casualties.

The exact figure may never be independently verified but its horrific nature brought many thoughtful Israelis to question Israeli policies toward the Palestinians. One of these is Jeff Halper, co-founder and director of the Israeli Committee Against Home Demolitions, who was booked by Independent Jewish Voices – a coalition of Zionists, non-Zionists and anti- Zionists – before the incursion began.

Three days before the speech was to be held, Federation CJA cancelled, saying another group that heard about the talk had asked to hold its meeting at the same time in the same centre. Concerned about possible conflict, all Federation CJA President Marc Gold had to do was say the group could hold its meeting on another night. Instead he cancelled the Halper talk, which was rescheduled at the Unitarian Church of Montreal. Gold said that with the community on heightened security alert, there were no resources available to beef up security.

This decision was wrong. There is considerable debate in Israel and here about what is in the state’s best longterm interest to come to terms with its neighbours. These views deserve to be heard. The Gelber Centre should be open to all viewpoints of Jewish interest, especially during times of crisis and by an Israeli whose topic was “Peace in Israel? Peace in Gaza? Yes We Can.”

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