Rabbi David Mivasair is a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada and a long-time active member of the New Democratic Party (NDP). Resident of Hamilton, ON Mivasair worked at Vancouver’s Ahavat Olam progressive synagogue and First United Church homeless shelter.
On March 22, 2019 David Mivasair posted an open letter wrote to Ms. Walker from United Way Winnipeg in support of Linda Sarsour. Here are excerpts from Mivasair’s letter:
…Regarding the specific controversy instigated by B’nai Brith Canada in Winnipeg, I can absolutely assure you that Linda Sarsour is not an antisemite or Jew-hater in any way. In fact, she has many Jewish allies and has involved herself in Jewish struggles for justice and equality… We stand with Linda Sarsour the same way we have had to stand recently with U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar, who also has been grossly and falsely accused of antisemitism as a way to silence her and discredit her political vision.
B’nai Brith made five specific claims… The bullet points below are directly copied from B’nai Brith’s e-blast sent yesterday to provoke this controversy:
1) “She considered it an ‘honour’ to share a stage with Rasmea Odeh, a convicted terrorist who bombed a Jerusalem supermarket in 1969 as a member of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), a listed terrorist organization in Canada, the United States, and elsewhere, resulting in the murder of two young college students.”
The stage Linda Sarsour shared with Rasmea Odeh was the keynote speech at the 2017 national convention of the Jewish Voice for Peace organization in the U.S. About 1,500 Jewish peace and justice activists in attendance — I was among them — were honoured that the two of them accepted the invitation to address us. It is true that Rasmea Odeh was convicted in an Israeli military court. The conviction was based on a confession obtained through torture. She has disavowed it. Objective observers do not accept her conviction as valid. It is repeatedly referred to as a way to discredit her as well as to discredit by association those Jews and others who associate with her, but a conviction in the military court of an occupying power based on a confession obtained by torture must be at the very least regarded with skepticism.
2) “She rejects the legitimacy of Zionism, a belief by the vast majority of Jews that simply entitles them self-determination on their indigenous and ancestral lands, and said Zionist women should be excluded by feminist movements.”
Many of us Jews also reject Zionism. It is perfectly legitimate to reject Zionism. Further, it is questionable that a vast majority of Jews believe that we are entitled to self-determination that has been accomplished by dispossessing, expelling and subjugating the Palestinian people. Regarding the attempt to smear Linda Sarsour by pointing out that she said Zionist women should be excluded from feminist movements, many of us agree that anyone who supports the brutal oppression of Palestinians, which is the tragic reality of Zionism, really cannot be considered feminists.
3) “She has promoted age-old antisemitic tropes such as accusing U.S. Jews of dual loyalty to Israel and U.S. politicians of being more loyal to Israel than to their own country.”
It is simply true that many Jews in the U.S., Canada and elsewhere have dual loyalties. They express it themselves. Just as one example among many, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY), has proudly said that he is the “Guardian of Israel” in the U.S. Senate. It is not antisemitic to express what is true.
4) “She has downplayed the prevalence of antisemitism as a phenomenon compared to other forms of prejudice.”
While antisemitism regrettably still exists in both the U.S. and Canada, as well as elsewhere, its prevalence is clearly far less than other forms of prejudice. In our society today, fortunately, Jews are not routinely denied employment, housing, access to education because we are Jews. We are not watched carefully by security personnel in stores because we are Jews. We are not shot by police for minor traffic violations. Our children are not treated as less capable by school teachers. Linda Sarsour is quite right in having pointed out that other forms of prejudice are far more prevalent than antisemitism.
5) “She is a huge supporter of Louis Farrakhan, who routinely accuses Jews of manipulating the U.S. government and controlling the levers of world power.”
Linda Sarsour has repeatedly and publicly rejected Louis Farrakhan’s antisemitic statements. This is clearly on the record for anyone who wishes to know…
Thank you for all you and all of your colleagues in United Way Winnipeg who do so very much in so many ways to help so many people…