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Photo by Pamela Funk

Vic Toews
Photo by Rhonda Spivak

Christine Melnick
Photo by Rhonda Prepes

Crowd at rally. Amos Giora is the first person seated in the photo


400 People Attend Pro-Israel Rally Organized by Jewish Federation

by Rhonda J. Prepes, P. Eng., November 29, 2012

Some 400 people, both Jewish and non-Jewish, attended the pro-Israel rally organized by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg to show support for the people of Israel in the wake of Operation Pillar of Defense, an action Israel took after hundreds of rockets were launched against residents of Southern Israel from the Hamas controlled Gaza Strip.

Jewish Federation of Winnipeg president Israel Ludwig began by saying that even though a ceasefire was in effect, the Federation felt it was important to demonstrate support for, and solidarity with, our family and friends in Israel.

Vic Toews, Minister of Public Safety brought greetings on behalf of Prime Minister Harper and the federal government. He reiterated the government’s unequivocal support for the people of Israel.

“We will stand with Israel in time of peace and in time of war,” Toews said.

“Those who single out the Jewish people as a target of racial and religious bigotry will inevitably be a threat to all free and democratic societies including Canada,” said Toews to vigourous applause.

Toews's remarks echoed the statement of November 14, 2012 made by Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird at the outset of the escalation of the conflict, when Baird stated:

“We fundamentally believe that Israel has the right to defend itself and its citizens from terrorist threats.

“Far too often, the Jewish people find themselves on the front lines in the struggle against terrorism, the great struggle of our generation. Just last weekend, more than 100 rockets rained down on civilians in southern Israel from positions in the Gaza Strip.

“Canada condemns the terrorist group Hamas and stands with Israel as it deals with regional threats to peace and security.”

Toews noted that Joyce Bateman , MP for Winnipeg South wanted to be at the rally but, was not able to be because she had a commitment in Ottawa.

Bateman sent in a statement that read: "Our conservative Government and I strongly support Israel’s right to defend itself. It is under attack and every governments’ first responsibility is to protect its people. Canada has been standing shoulder to shoulder with Israel, not because it is the popular thing to do, but because it is the right thing to do. My thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of Israel and the their loved ones here in Winnipeg during this time of uncertainty. I share your hope that the current ceasefire will continue, and that long-term peace can be achieved.”

Christine Melnick Manitoba's Minister of Labour and Immigration brought greetings on behalf of the Premier of Manitoba and shared a personal prayer with the audience “may Israel know peace in my lifetime.”

She also focused on the fact that Israel shares many democratic values with Canadians, including free speech and a developed system of justice, values which are not existent in the totalitarian state run by Hamas in the Gaza Strip. As Melnick stated, “Hamas is a terrorist organization. If anyone questions that, all you have to do is look at the execution style murders of six Gaza citizens whose bodies were then tied with ropes around their necks and dragged through the streets of Gaza. This is state sponsored terrorism on their own people and I am begging the news outlets and the many organizations around the world that look into human rights violations to find out who designed this plan, who gave orders for this plan, and who carried out this plan. It’s not O.K. to let an action like that to go by because if we do that we give it credence and we give it credibility and we cannot. So, I know there are news organizations here today and the world is always watching what is happening in the Middle East and I am begging you to find out who perpetrated those crimes and bring them to justice.”

Leader of the Opposition Brain Pallister attended the rally, to "show our support for Israel." Conservative MLA for Tuxedo Heather Stefanson attended the rally with her two children. Conservative MLA's Ron Schuler (St. Paul) and Kelvin Goertzen (Steinbach) also attended.

Guest speaker, Professor Amos Guiora an expert on legal aspects of counter-terrorism underlined the fact that Hamas rockets are now able to penetrate further into Israel than before.

“In January 2009, the range of the missiles fired was 40 km out from Gaza potentially endangering 750,000 Israelis who lived in that area. In December 2012, Hamas doubled its operational capability. The missiles fired last week were of 75 km range, now 1 ½ to 2 Iraelis are under threat. Hamas is comprised of seriously sophisticated smart people so they may not be showing all their cards now. They may have missiles capable of even further range.”

“Hamas has a long term view of success in contradiction to how we in the west live as we are an immediate gratification society. From their perspective, time is on their side,” Guiora noted.

Guiora served for 19 years in the Israel Defense Forces as Lieutenant Colonel (retired) and three years as Legal Advisor to the Gaza Strip. He questioned whether it would be a “possibility that Hamas might down the road be interested in some kind of extension of the ceasefire and some kind of moving forward with the peace process.”

“To make peace happen - it is all about mutual self-interest. You don’t have to like each other. Perhaps it will be possible to reach some kind of agreement with Hamas whereby both sides will say ‘the present way we are living just doesn’t make sense’. We have kids - you have kids. I don’t know if this is realistic or not,” he added

Guiora also said that late Prime Minster Yitzchak Rabin’s words, “We will fight for peace like there is no war and we will fight [in] war like there is no peace. Four days into this ceasefire, Rabin’s wise words are the best guide for moving forward.”

The Winnipeg Jewish Review spoke to MLA for River Heights and Liberal leader Jon Gerrard who indicated that he was unable to make it to the rally.

Rabbi Ari Ellis and Rabbi Larry Lander led the prayers for the state of Israel, the safety of the IDF, and for peace.

The rally concluded with Sari Waldman and Alexandra Smolyaninov leading the audience in the Israeli anthem Hatikvah.

Other media coverage of the rally can be found here:

CBC News
CTV News
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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