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Lauren Isaacs
photo by David Square

Lauren Isaacs
photo by David Square

Lauren Isaacs, Toronto Director of Herut Canada Speaks About Jewish Far Left Activists, Anti-Zionism and Modern Antisemitism

By Penny Jones Square, July 22,2019

Lauren Isaacs, Toronto director of Herut Canada, spoke on “The State of Jewish Hate: How Jewish Progressive Activists Fuel Modern Antisemitism” at the River Heights Community Centre on July 18 to an appreciative audience of 30 – 40 people.

Isaacs, a 23-year-old history and English student at York University in Toronto, identifies herself as a devoted and unapologetic Zionist. She described Herut as a grassroots activist movement that aims to reclaim Zionism from its enemies and to achieve true social justice by dispelling prevailing myths through education in the classroom, in seminars, and on the street in counter protests. She sees an opportunity to change misguided and misinformed thinking in every encounter with anyone who will engage with her.

As the Toronto director of Herut Canada, she is committed to educating the public about the State of Israel and the Middle East conflict, to correcting and so dismantling the pervasive misinformation and distortions being disseminated by the progressive Jewish Left, which, according to Isaacs, includes such groups as IfNotNow (INN), Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP), Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), and the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network. Her presentation focused on the very real threat she perceives is posed by such groups that are serving to forge alliances between Jews, especially millennial and left-leaning Jews, and the anti-Israel forces that are clearly on the rise world-wide. Though these groups are “apparently innocuous”—they do identify themselves with words like “peace” and “progressive,” and they do have a Jewish membership—they are, according to Isaacs, only masking their virulent anti-Israel/anti-Zionist agendas. According to Isaacs, this anti-Israel/anti-Zionist sentiment is fueling the new antisemitism. As Isaacs noted, some of these groups call for the dismantling of the State of Israel, promote a one-state solution (“that is, a Jew-free state”), and are sympathetic to leaders such as Ismail Abdel Salam Ahmed Haniyeh, Fathi Ahmad Hamad, and Yahya Sinwar (Palestinian leaders who call for the death of Jews).

During her presentation, Isaacs demonstrated her effective teaching strategies, challenging the myths of “the occupation,” “Palestine,” “Israeli apartheid,” and “the settlements,” and providing a corrective to the misinformation and distortions advanced by these groups. Her PowerPoint presentation was filled with factual information that countered much of the narrative promulgated by the radical Jewish left. Isaacs’ strategy is simple: provide real facts, not feelings, and accurate, not revisionist, history and “their arguments will collapse on their own ignorance.”

She defined “occupation” as “a sovereign state taking over another sovereign state” to subvert their spurious use of the term, showing that Palestine is not and never was a sovereign state. Her history lesson on why Palestine does not exist was revealing—from 136 CE to 1948, “the only ones calling themselves Palestinians were the Jews; today’s Palestinians were not invented until 1964 by Yasser Arafat.” She noted that the “settlements” (“better and more accurately termed Jewish communities”) occupy only 2% of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria), that Israel has already dismantled many settlements in the Sinai and Gaza to no good outcome, and that the first settlements only began in the 1960s, long after war and violence had dominated the region, thus dismissing the claim they are a major obstacle to peace. Having a South African background, Isaacs is well placed to counter the “apartheid” charge; she pointed out that apartheid, meaning “apart-hood” and referring to “legal segregation,” does not exist in Israel. As she said, “The only place apartheid exists is on the Temple Mount which is open to Muslims at all times but restricted to Jews.” She also exposed the absurdity of pink-washing, vegan-washing, green-washing, and all the other washing Israel is accused of (“washing” being a term used by Israel’s detractors to diminish all the good Israel does by suggesting it is merely a cover for its “crimes” against the Palestinians).

The most powerful tool these groups employ to shut down any meaningful conversation is, according to Isaacs, their use of a myriad of labels, each fallacious. They include such labels as Islamophobe, racist, fascist, oppressor, colonizer, and white supremist, all of which, Isaacs said, have been applied to her. In answer to David Square’s question, “Why are they doing this?,” Isaacs answered that at the outset, “the organizers may actually have believed they were on the right side, standing with the oppressed, helping to repair the world (which is the Jewish way), but the new generation is simply brainwashed.” In answer to the question from another member of the audience about how to confront such antagonism, Isaacs replied: First, and most importantly, “educate”; then, “get involved at the grassroots level”; and finally, “don’t buckle.”

In quoting Hillel’s ethical injunction—“If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?" (Pirkei Avot [The Ethics of the Fathers]1:14)—Isaacs stressed the importance of standing up, of being for oneself, and confronting the anti-Israel/anti-Zionist forces emerging from the radical Jewish Left and fueling the new antisemitism.

Isaacs was introduced by Ron East who praised her activities and “the tremendous influence she has had in her short time as a Herut leader.” In his introduction, East emphasized the growing concern with the increasing influence of the radical Jewish Left in the Jewish community and beyond. He spoke of the need “to come up with new strategies to deal with the new antisemitism” in order “to secure the safety, security, and tranquility of our communities.”

Isaacs’ presentation was preceded by a recognition of the 25th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Argentine Israelite Mutual Association (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The AMIA tragedy was honoured with the lighting of a memorial candle by Isaacs, the reciting of the Mourner’s Kaddish by East, and with all respecting 85 seconds of silence in memory of the 85 lives lost.

Lauren Isaacs’ knowledgeable presentation, animated with her wonderful sense of humour, definitely impressed the audience. As many commented, her fiery energy, passion, and devotion to her cause gave them hope for the future.

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