Thursday, May 30, 2013

US Senator Pat Toomey naive about Jerusalem realities

I am a US citizen.  I vote in Pennsylvania for Federal offices and I stay in touch with my U.S. Senators from there. 

Senator Pat Toomey just sent out a newsletter saying he proudly cosponsored the Jerusalem Embassy and Recognition Act to force moving the US embassy to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv -- where all embassies of all countries are located. 

I just had to respond and wrote the following:

Dear Senator Toomey,

I am a rabbi and have lived in Jerusalem for four years. In contrast to what is said in your newsletter, Jerusalem is a tragically divided city.  Many Muslims and Christians cannot access the holy sites of their religion. 

Jerusalem is sharply divided between its Jewish areas and Palestinian areas, many of which are entirely neglected and bereft of any municipal services whatsoever. Most people who live in Jerusalem very fearful to cross from their sector to the others' and never do so. 

Regarding access to holy places, many Christians and Muslims who are Palestinian cannot access their holy places and cannot even enter Jerusalem at all. Access to the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aksa Mosque is regularly restricted; young men not allowed to enter the area at all. 

People born in Jerusalem of families resident there for centuries are not permitted by the Israelis to return if they leave for longer than brief period Israeli regulations stipulate. Thousands of Christian and Muslim Jerusalemites have been deprived of their legal right to reside in the very city in which they were born and their families still live.

I hope you will take the trouble to develop a more honest understanding of the reality on the ground in Jerusalem and not be manipulated any longer by those who perpetrate and wish to cover up these very unjust realities. If you would like suggestions for sources of information, I will be very happy to help.


Rabbi David Mivasair
State College, PA

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Brief report on: Independent Jewish Voices -- Vancouver protest at CIJA conference, May 5

Objectively, the demo was very small – half a minyan of our IJV chevra.  A far greater number specifically expressed interest and support but were unable to come.  Rick Marcuse was the fifth and last to arrive, giving us immediate and undisputed hegemonic numerical superiority over the four police officers who were sent in to keep the peace.  In addition, our ally Rev. Don Grayston of Building Bridges Vancouver and a young fellow I don’t know named Tim also came.  Together we seven created a presence for about an hour outside the building where the CIJA conference was and engaged about a dozen or so people in conversation including several who were at the conference.
Subjectively, my sense is that it was well worthwhile to simply protest visibly and publically against CIJA doing business as usual.  The simple fact that we were there – despite our small numbers – meant that the assumptions implicit in CIJA’s intentionally distorted perspective were being challenged.  In addition, through our various social media connections we had impact far beyond what we accomplished on the Granville Street sidewalk this afternoon.  People learned through Facebook, Twitter and other media about this Jewish protest against CIJA and its militant support for Israel’s violence, injustice and repression.  Even though we had a very small numerical presence, the fact that we did this action at all reached hundreds of people and builds toward the future.
I hope in the future we will collaborate more effectively and make a bigger impact.  We need brief, crisply-worded, well-designed and well-produced literature pieces to hand out -- like what Jewish Voice for Peace has in the US.  And, I think we need more creativity about actions that communicate effectively with the public – more catchy than standing on the sidewalk holding signs with slogans on them.
I thank everyone in the IJV-Vancouver chapter who contributed to this today.  All members who join and support the chapter were effectively part of our presence there today.  A special thanks goes to Sheila who supported this idea from beginning to end and who made the signs for the demo and brought them today.


Thursday, May 02, 2013

Independent Jewish Voices protest at CIJA conference, Sunday, May 5

Independent Jewish Voices Vancouver chapter will hold a protest at the conference of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs on Sunday, May 5, 4 pm, outside 500 Granville Street.
Speakers at the CIJA conference include Canada's Minister of Foreign Affairs John Baird, Israel's ambassador to Canada Miriam Ziv and former US ambassador to the Middle East Dennis Ross.
IJV will point out that CIJA should not be believed when it postures as if it speaks for Canadian Jewry and that specific CIJA-supported policies promote ongoing large-scale violence and injustice.
Please come and join us.  If you have questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me by e-mail or at (604) 781-7839.
To learn more about the CIJA conference, see here.
The IJV demonstration will take place at the same time as another demonstration against CIJA by the Conference of the Palestinian Shatat in North America.  Learn more about that here

"CIJA does not represent the majority of Canadian Jews.  Rather it is a highly partisan political lobby organization which uncritically supports policies of the Israeli government which have been ruled illegal by the World Court and which are contrary to Canadian Foreign policy such as the continuing Israeli occupation of Palestine, expanding settlements on that land,  the separation barrier, and its refusal to negotiate about the rights of Palestinian refugees.  It is clear to us, as Jews, that Israel holds and abuses its overwhelming power in a way deeply inconsistent with Jewish values and human rights." -- from IJV letter to Canadian senators

Thursday, April 04, 2013


Friends, here's an initiative to help people in British Columbia vote in the coming May 14 election even if they don't have the usual ID or housing stability.  It's a great effort by the Union Gospel Mission in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.  I've posted it here with permission because they hadn't gotten it set up for social media yet.

Anyone familiar with the DTES knows that proper identification is one consistent barrier for many in our community. We also know that this is a significant barrier to acquisition of housing, establishing bank accounts, cashing cheques, even the most basic right to vote.

The majority of our community live in the margins, with very little ‘voice’ in society. What a privilege it is then as Service Providers in the DTES of Vancouver, to help aide and facilitate opportunities that empower our community. The upcoming election is one significant opportunity.

With the cooperation of a broad collective of DTES Service Providers and Elections BC, we have developed DTES Get Out the Vote OUTLINE docx. and editable deliverables that will assist YOU and others in the DTES community encourage, empower and facilitate our community vote.

Please share this communication and all deliverables as broadly as possible - this is for our DTES community.

Please reply with any feedback, questions or concerns you may have.

I am greatly encouraged by the support I have received from the community on this project. Thank you for all of your cooperation.



Jeffrey Baergen Community Engagement Coordinator
601 East Hastings Street. Vancouver, BC V6A 1J7
t: 604.215.5445 xt 487   m: 604.768.9394   f: 604.253.3496

Monday, January 28, 2013

Jews in solidarity with IDLE NO MORE

Additional signers:

Rebecca Tobias, United Religions Initiative; Vancouver, BC
Judy Goldschmidt, Black Creek, BC
Richard Marcuse, West Vancouver, BC
Michael Gabriel Rosen, Mas Movement, Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories
Sid Shniad, National Steering Ctee, Independent Jewish Voices - Canada
Marty and Martha Roth, Vancouver
Ada Glustein, Vancouver
Helen Mintz, Vancouver
Marion Pollack

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Impressions: Enbridge pipeline hearing tonight in Vancouver

Approaching the huge, towering Wall Centre complex where the hearings are being held (at what huge, towering cost to us taxpayers?), I was first amazed at the dozen or more very well-protected police patrolling outside . . . and even more amazed at the dozen or so inside the lobby and then even more amazed at the police posted in the halls outside the hearing rooms.

Each of us speakers was allowed to bring exactly one other person who would be allowed to sit in a separate room and watch on a video monitor.  No one else was allowed in.  And, to speak, we had to sign up months and months ago . . .   The public viewing of the hearing was only through a video monitor located about a mile away in another enormously expensive glitzy hotel.

Second, in addition to the large security presence, I was amazed at the very many people employed to run the hearing.  It was all very tightly organized with several dozen people to sign us in, take an affidavit under oath, give us name tags, check our coats and bags, watch over us, keep us seated in the waiting room, watch over the people watching over us, escort us at the right time from the waiting room to the hearing room, watch the people escorting us, place an absolutely clean water glass on the table before us, record what we said, transcribe overnight the oral recording into a written record, escort us back out again, be sure we left and who knows what else . . .

All this is going on for hours and hours a day, day after day, as hundreds and hundreds of us come to give our testimony. 
If only half as much attention and resources were devoted to taking care of the environment and to needy people among us as to making sure that the hearings ran smoothly . . .  
After working at the First United Church’s homeless shelter and seeing staff laid off and desperately needed programs shut down because of government funding cuts and knowing about so many other human needs going unaddressed, I am shocked at how we allow so much money to be poured into the finery of running these hearing in one of the most expensive venues in Vancouver instead of a regular government office building’s hearing room or even a school auditorium or possibly even renting space at one of the many organizations which could use the income from the rental.  The priorities are all so crazy.  Who is this government serving?

The people speaking tonight were very, very impressive.  There were environmental scientists, biologists, journalists, folks who love the outdoors, teachers, professors, activists . . . and even a rabbi.

The speaker after me was Nicholas Read, one of my hero-journalists whose stuff I was grateful to read in the Vancouver Sun for years.  (He’s now teaching journalism and appearing in the Sun only in letters to the editor.)  Nicholas gave an impassioned and well-informed plea to stop the destruction the pipeline would inevitably bring.

The speaker after him was a very impressive biologist named Stan Proboszcz who was a researcher for Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans and quit because the environmental impact assessment process is so corrupt he couldn't stand being part of it.  He now works for an environmental NGO.  He gave an exceptionally well-documented testimony about how the entire process of environmental assessments done by contract for the companies wanting to do the development is skewed, flawed, prejudiced and corrupt.  You should hear or read his comments.  Just listening to him, I learned a lot and shifted my understanding, sadly, to be even more cynical about the entire process of corporations engaging the public around environmental issues.

I think the panel liked what I said – the midrash about God saying to Adam that ‘if you ruin it, there is no one after you to repair it’.  They smiled when I said it.  I briefly made points about the inevitability of catastrophic oil spills and the pollution and global warming impacts of the entire tar sands project.  I was very brief, just two or three minutes.  I’m sure they liked that too.

The two brilliant speakers after me, Nicholas and Stan, were only two of hundreds and hundreds of passionate, caring, knowledgeable people to address this panel in a hugely elaborate, well-designed public hearing process that is taking months and costing God-only-knows how many millions of taxpayer dollars.

And the result?

In the end, the panel will write a report and submit it to the Harper government whose base and home territory is the Alberta oil patch and who on many, many occasions has totally bulldozed right over public opinion to do whatever it wants to do.  Is the outcome anything but a foregone conclusion?

Is this effort futile?  No way!  I have very strong faith that this hugely destructive project is not going to go ahead in the end despite the hugely powerful forces behind it.
To quote Rebbe Nahman:  All of this world is a very narrow bridge and the main thing to recall is not to fear at all.

To read the transcripts of the hearings, see