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by Rhonda Spivak April 29, 2019


On April 26, about 30+ pro-Israel individuals held a peaceful pro-Israel rally from 6:30 to 7:30 outside the Ukrainian Labour Temple where  anti-Israel speaker Linda Sarsour  was a panelist at an event titled titled Sorry Not Sorry: Unapologetically Working for Social Justice. 


Penny Jones Square, who attended the pro-Israel rally wrote to the Winnipeg Jewish Review that she and her husband have been well aware of  Sarsour's " sinister associations (with proudly self-avowed antisemite Louis Farrakhan and convicted terrorist Rasmea Yousef Odeh) her support of Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (an inherently antisemitic campaign)," and her "anti-Zionist, and anti-feminist rhetoric."


Jones Square noted that the rally was "a peaceful protest, demonstrating support for Israel and Jews and opposition to the resurgence of antisemitism in Winnipeg and worldwide." Her husband David Square, who attended the event, said that Linda Sarsour did not resort to her characteristic anti-Israel hate speech. "She kept herself on a very short leash," and was “clearly cowed into submission” by the opposition expressed by Mayor Bowman and others to her speaking at the event, which she self-righteously dismissed.



Ellery Broder, who was at the rallywith his wife  Libby and their three children felt it was "absolutely" worthwhile to attend the rally. "Every person that goes makes a difference," and "What we did convey was that there is no room for hate speech in Winnipeg." 



Yolanda Papini-Pollock, who attended the rally, said  she believes that "Anti- Zionism ( denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination) as well as delegitimizing and demonizing Israel is the NEW ANTISEMITISM....She [Sarsour] should not have received a platform to speak anywhere in Canada."


Papini- Pollock  also said that "It is important to raise awareness for the need to expand the definition of antisemitism to include anti Zionism...The adverse effects of the delegitimization  of Israel and denying self determination for Jews are felt in Jewish communities everywhere. It is time for our government to ensure that all citizens are safe in Canada, including Zionists and Jews."


Leigh Halprin, who attended the rally, told the Winnipeg Jewish Review that Linda Sarsour is not interested in just debating Israel's policies. She is interested in dismantling Israel."


At the rally people held signs with wording such as "Hate Not Welcome," "Keep Hate out of Winnipeg," "ANTI-ZIONIST=ANTI-SEMITE," and other slogans, while others waved Israeli flags. The rally ended with the singing of the Israeli national anthem Hatikvah


Former  NDP MLA and former Minister of Water Stewardship Christine Melnick, who was at the rally, noted that she was pleased to see that "there were a lot of vehicles that were going by that were honking their  support."


Melnick added  "Even though I am not Jewish, one of my concerns about Linda Sarsour is that she supports a one state solution. I support a two state solution. If you don't support a two state solution, with secure boundaries within the Palestinian state and the Jewish state, then you are not supporting a safe state for the Jewish people and a safe state for the Palestinian people."


Regarding the turnout, Melnick stated, "There are some Jewish organizations who may have wanted to have been represented at the rally but couldn't because of their observance of Passover and Shabbas." 


On April 24, two days before Sarsour spoke, Heather Stefanson, MLA for Tuxedo, Minister of Families and Deputy Premier of Manitoba made a statement on twitter denouncing Sarsour. "I stand with the Jewish Community in denouncing the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg’s inclusion of Linda Sarsour as a panelist at their Friday, April 26 event. It is never acceptable to allow for the willful promotion of hatred; it is unconscionable to provide a platform to such a divisive speaker while senseless acts of hatred, violence and brazen antisemitism continue to afflict our neighbours."


Three days prior to Sarsour arriving in Winnipeg, Mayor Brian Bowman's office issued a statement calling for her removal from the event at the Ukrainian Labour Temple. 


"Mayor Bowman does not feel it is appropriate to provide this individual a public platform to further propagate anti-Semitic views and hate," the mayor's office said in a statement. "She has continually attacked the foundation of the state of Israel's right to exist," the mayor said." When he made his statement Bowman was flanked by representatives of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg and B'nai Brith Canada.


At a news conference held onApril 26, Sarsour said Mayor Brian Bowman's call for her to be removed from the panel was unprecedented."Never have I received a mayor of a town, an actual sitting elected official, that has actually wanted to deny … me my right to speak," she told the CBC.


Following Mayor Bowman's statement, Independent Jewish Voices , some Palestinian and Arab organizations, and Peace Alliance Winnipeg issued An Open Letter to the Mayor of Winnipeg asking him to attend the event where Sarsour was speaking. "We invite you to join us on Friday evening, and to take part in the discussions hosted by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg, with Linda Sarsour and co-panelists. They are bold and intelligent women with important ideas to share. Ideas that Winnipeg would do well to hear and consider." The Mayor did not heed their call and did not attend the event.


Some 4, 200 people signed a petition begun by Ron East calling on the Social Planning Council  to cancel  Sarsour 's talk.
At the event itself Sarsour did not make any mention of Israel, and thus it seems quite possible that all of the advance negative publicity she received did have the effect of restraining Sarsour from making  anti-Israel hateful remarks.
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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.