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Montreal Jews Occupy the Lobby of Federation CJA (Combined Jewish Appeal) Building, Protesting Israel’s Massacre and Siege on Gaza

Montreal. August 7, 2014.

This afternoon, a group of Montreal Jews gathered in the lobby of the Federation CJA’s building to denounce the ongoing assault on Gaza and the organized Jewish community’s complicity in it. We hung a banner that read: “Massacre à Gaza: CIJA is complicit” and distributed flyers explaining the reasons for our presence. A yiddish resistance poem, ‘Es Brent,’ was read and an analysis of the current situation was provided.

Since the start of the current offensive, over 1880 Palestinians have been killed, an estimated 10,000 have been seriously injured, and nearly half a million displaced from their homes. Of the casualties, 80% have been civilian, in an assault that has also destroyed much of Gaza’s infrastructure (hospitals, universities, schools, power plants). Together, Israel’s three major offensives in Gaza since 2006 have killed more than 3400 Palestinians. Moreover, the assaults are taking place in the context of a devastating seven-year-long air, land, and sea blockade. All border crossings are closed and there is nowhere for the people of Gaza to move to safety.

In Canada, organizations like Federation CJA play a crucial role in nurturing and propagating support for Israeli atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza. This is a part of the broader reality of jingoistic support for Israel and apologism for its ongoing colonization and oppression of Palestinians. Israel has become the core of mainstream Jewish identification in North America.

Since the 1970s, Federation CJA has been a formal affiliate of the Jewish Agency for Israel, a quasi-governmental organization that officially links the state of Israel with affiliated Jewish organizations around the world. The Jewish Agency advocates pan-Jewish entitlement to Palestine and aids Israel’s domestic Judaization programs, and its role in doing so is formalized under Israeli law (the Status Law, 1952).

Via their partnership with the Jewish Agency, the North American federations are implicated both in settlement and increasingly in “diplomatic coordination,” which is to say the dissemination of hasbara(propaganda). A more recent addition is the Federation’s self-described “advocacy arm,” CIJA (the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs), which was created to pursue lobbying in Canada on behalf of Israel as its number-one priority. Whether fundraising for Israel, or conducting political advocacy such as press work and rallies, CJA and CIJA are formally partnered with the Israeli state and are complicit in its actions.

The CJA is not an apolitical community organization – it is political, and it is resolutely Zionist. It is not interested, as it purports to be, in creating a community where “every Jew, irrespective of ideology, lifestyle choices, and ethnic background, [is able] to find a Jewish option for him or herself”. We reject CIJA and CJA’s claims to speak on behalf of us, and denounce their complicity in the ongoing atrocities in Palestine.

Judaism and Zionism must not be conflated. Jewish identities have flourished independent of, and in opposition to, ethnocratic nation-states. We support a heterogeneity of Jewishness and the reclamation of our histories from Zionism’s whitewashing. We condemn anti-Semitism and racism towards Arabs and Muslims in Montreal and elsewhere; we equally condemn CIJA and CJA’s efforts to conflate anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism.

As Montreal Jews, here now as settlers on traditional Mohawk territory, we echo calls for decolonization from Turtle Island to Palestine and stand in solidarity with Palestinian resistance to Israel’s violence, colonialism, and apartheid.

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