You can bet the Globe and mail will not touch this story.
The majority shareholders of Chapters and Indigo Bookstores, Heather Reisman and Gerry Schwartz, established a fund called Heseg – Foundation for Lone Soldiers – a program of financial support for former “lone soldiers’ in the Israeli military. These are individuals who have no family in Israel but decide to join the Israeli military. As Israeli soldiers, they participate in a military that operates checkpoints that restrict Palestinian freedom of movement, enforces the occupation of Palestinian land, and has a documented history of human rights violations.
At any time there might be 5,000 ‘Lone Soldiers’ in the Israeli military in all capacities including in combat units.
According to their website Schwartz and Reisman established HESEG to express gratitude and provide support to the thousands of Former Lone Soldiers who serve annually in the Israel Defense Forces.” By rewarding and supporting Lone Soldiers who have served in the Israeli military, Reisman and Schwartz provide support for Israel’s military effort.
A little history is needed here.
Heather Reisman tore up her card in the Liberal party because the Liberals did not write a total endorsement of Israel’s overkill in the Lebanon War of last summer. Schwartz, was more successful. A huge backer of former PM Paul Martin, he successfully lobbied Martin to change the long standing Canadian policy of an even-handed approach to the Middle East. Martin tilted this policy toward israel. Big money works wonders. In The US a brave Congresswoman in Alabama named Cynthia McKinney was defeated when the pro Israel lobby poured millions into an opponents campaign to defeat this principled woman.
This power couple,Reisman and Schwartz, is part of the Jewish diaspora which is consistently narrowing the chances for peace in the Middle East. There is not a scintilla of hesitation in supporting every action, no matter how heinous, which Israel engages in. There is absolutely no criticism, simply a peculiar brand of “Cheque book Judaism” which has endangered Israel at every step of the way. On the other hand, vigorous debate proceeds apace within Israel—but not in North America. Recently however, several prominent Jews in the USA, Canada and Great Britain have broken ranks and started to criticize Israel. The most prominent among them is billionaire business man George Soros. In the New York Review of Books (April 12, 2007),Soros wrote:
“Whether the Democratic Party can liberate itself from AIPAC’s (the pro-Israel lobby)influence is highly doubtful. Any politician who dares to expose AIPAC’s influence would incur its wrath; so very few can be expected to do so. It is up to the American Jewish community itself to rein in the organization that claims to represent it. But this is not possible without first disposing of the most insidious argument put forward by the defenders of the current policies: that the critics of Israel’s policies of occupation, control, and repression on the West Bank and in East Jerusalem and Gaza engender anti-Semitism.”
The shocking statistics in Israel speak for themselves. B’Tselem the Monitoring Human Rights organization reports the following:
Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli military since 2004. The vast majority of these are civilian deaths. On average, two Palestinians have been killed every single day of the last six years.
Ten thousand Palestinians are being held as political prisoners by Israel. This includes over 400 Palestinian children. Most face isolation and torture. Over 1000 Palestinians are being held in detention without trial or charge.
Since 1967, over 12,000 houses have been demolished by the Israeli military, leaving 70,000 Palestinians homeless. Israel systematically oppresses the Palestinian population within the state of Israel and in the West Bank and Gaza Strip through its apartheid system of discriminatory laws based on ethnicity and religion. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip are forced to live in small, prison-like areas divided from each other by walls, military checkpoints and Israeli- only roads. Travel between these areas is extremely difficult and requires permission from the Israeli military authorities. Unemployment levels in some areas of the West Bank and Gaza Strip have reached up to 70% and there is a massive health crisis and widespread poverty as a result of Israel’s apartheid policies.
Boycotts are an honourable tactic, a non-violent response to help bring a nation to its senses. Witness the decades-long boycott of South Africa. Israel has every right to live in peace and security but until it acknowledges and stops the ongoing and systemic oppression of the Palestinian people there will be no peace in the Middle East.
A theological Easter comment here. The Latin-rite Patriarchate of Jerusalem includes Israeli and Palestinian Catholics. Patriarch Sabbah noted that Jews were celebrating their festival of freedom and wondered if Israel would “some day ever have the courage to celebrate Passover by giving freedom to the Palestinian people” as a way of fully recovering its own complete freedom.
A weekly boycott organized by the Jewish Women’s Committee to End the Occupation is held every Friday BetWeen 5 and 6 PM outside the Indigo Bookstore at Bay and Bloor. For information on the Lone Soldier program see