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Neil Lazarus

StandWithUs Canada and its Winnipeg Chapter brought Neil Lazarus to Winnipeg to speak on Effective Advocacy For Israel

By Rhonda Spivak, Oct 29

StandWithUs Canada and its Winnipeg Chapter brought Neil Lazarus, an Israeli Jewish educator, to Winnipeg.  Lazarus is a Middle East commentator , and international communications expert who "speaks to over 30,000 people a year." The  Winnipeg Jewish Review had an opportunity to interview Lazarus,who spoke about strategies for effective advocacy for Israel, and gave a series  of sessions on this and other related topics at the Shaarey Zedek Synagogue on Oct 24. His audience was made up of students and community members.
As StandWithUs Canada's Campus Coordinator Rebecca Katzman, who was in Winnipeg for the event told the Winnipeg Jewish Review "We brought Neil to Winnipeg from Israel for two days to speak to students and community members. He  speaks to campuses across the country." Shanel Jacobs, StandWithUs Canada's High School Coordinator was also in town for the two days.
As Lazarus indicated, when it comes to Israel  often the media only reports on "the bad news" but the reality on the ground can be very different. For example, Lazarus, who lives in Tzur Hadassah on the border with the West bank told the story of how he stopped at a Palestinian run garage in the West Bank to get his car fixed. "My car was being fixed by Palestinians in the West Bank and then an orthodox Jew arrived to get his car fixed. The discussion we all proceeded to have was about whether G-d existed." This story shows that "daily life goes on between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem", but  this type of  situation that happens on the ground often goes unnoticed. Lazarus says that  "one of the challenges is to see things beyond only the conflict." 
Despite the challenges Israel faces, "Israel is a normal country. We have an ever increasing number of tourists. Israel continues to prosper," he says.
  Lazarus outlines the challenge Israel faces from the north where "there's an increase threat from the Iran as the  war in Syria changes. He says "Hezbollah provides a real military challenge." In the south, "it is represented abroad that if Israel would only make peace with Hamas everything would be OK." But as Lazarus says "Hamas is encouraging up to 20, 000 people a week to breach the border with Israel violently, and is sending over balloon bombs that when landing will set fire to hundreds of dunams of land in Israel. The reality is that Israeli children in the south of Israel have to be suspicious when they see a balloon or kite because it may be something coming from Gaza."
Lazarus says he "encourages people to dialogue about Israel, and to have a conversation based on knowledge." He says he will talk to anyone. "You can be critical of Israel but you have to have an opinion based on knowledge.I speak to people who agree with me or disagree with me. " But Lazarus says he  does not agree with people who call for a one state solution to the conflict ."Hamas calls for an Islamic one state. Calling for one state is calling for the destruction of Israel. I am happy to have a conversation about anything but  I am not going to debate the call for the destruction of Israel."
Lazarus says that "it is a tragedy that many Palestinians aren't willing to recognize Israel's right to exist. We can only make peace if we have a partner for peace. The question is whether Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have the leadership that's willing to recognize Israel's right to exist."
On the subject of the BDS (Boycott Divestment and Sanctions movement,Lazarus says that BDS is an organization that is not interested in peace...It calls for the destruction of Israel. "If  people [from the BDS movement] were really interested in peace, they'd be calling for dialogue on how to make the lives of Palestinians and Israelis better." He adds that "BDS calls for non-normalization between Israelis and Palestinians. But the whole basis for reconciliation is for people to be speaking to each other."
On the subject of whether Israel is an apartheid state,  Lazarus says the whole claim is wrong. To illustrate his point he says "When my late mother in law was ill, she was treated by an Arab doctor at Hadassah hospital and next to her in the hospital was a Palestinian from the West Bank, and next to him was a gentleman from Eritrea."
Lazarus adds that "If  Israel was an apartheid state, it wouldn't have Arab judges, and it wouldn't have the third largest party in its Parliament be made up of Israeli Arabs. The claim of Israel as an apartheid state belittles what apartheid was and the struggle for the liberation of black South Africa. " 
Lazarus says that "Canadian campuses should be places where a conversation about Israel should be able to take place in a peaceful, respectful environment. To say that  I'm a Jewish student and Israel is important to me is something which should be allowed and accepted.Students from Lebanon and Syria and Israel should be able to talk on campus, and not yell on campus. Many Jewish students want to have a dialogue but  aren't being allowed to do it. The environment on campus isn't tolerant enough for discussions."
"When we have a dialogue between people with different opinions that takes place, there will be hope for peace in the future," Lazarus says.
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.