Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Locals' trip to show support for Israel cancelled

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A "walk-the-talk solidarity mission to Israel" this week planned by the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg isn't happening after all.

Earlier this week, the organization called on Winnipeggers to pack a bag and sign up for a four-day trip to Tel Aviv to demonstrate their support for Canada's "strong stance" in backing the Israeli government's actions in Gaza.

The emergency mission was being put together by the federation and the Centre from Israel and Jewish Affairs in response to a "strong approach by prominent community members," the missive sent out by the federation said.

"Israeli and Canadian media will cover the mission to show Israelis and Canadians alike that we care, that we are here to support Israel and that current anti-Israel media is not accurate!"

They planned to demonstrate at the Canadian Embassy in Tel Aviv, the Knesset and possibly the prime minister's or president's residence. The junket would include a shiva visit to the family of a fallen soldier and a visit with injured soldiers at a local hospital. The plan was to distribute toys to needy children and care packages to soldiers.

The last-minute trip -- expected to cost up to $5,000 per person -- had to be postponed.

"Unfortunately, we didn't have the critical mass to make it happen as quickly as we needed," federation spokeswoman Shelley Faintuch said in an email.

"We are still looking at building a trip later in the summer."

By then, there may be a truce. As of Friday, the worst round of cross-border fighting in more than five years had killed 828 Palestinians and wounded more than 5,200, said Palestinian health officials. The UN says civilians make up three-fourths of the dead and a majority of the wounded. In Israel, 38 people have been killed since July 8, including 35 soldiers, two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker.

Not everyone in Winnipeg's Jewish community supports the Israeli government's actions or the Canadian government endorsing those actions.

"I always wonder what the Israeli government would have to do for more Jews to say 'I can't support that,' " said Mark Golden, an editor of the Jewish magazine Outlook and a Winnipeg member of Independent Jewish Voices, a national association of Jewish Canadians who are critical of Israeli policy towards the Palestinians.

"You kind of wonder -- with the bombing of schools, the killing of kids on a beach, the indiscriminate slaughter of so many children -- if we haven't reached that point."

Israel says it is going to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties and blames them on Hamas, accusing it of firing from within residential neighbourhoods and using its civilians as "human shields."

It says as long as Hamas keeps pounding Israel with rockets, they will keep firing back. Innocent civilians -- the overwhelming majority of whom are Palestinian and trapped there -- are the victims.

Most countries have expressed support for Israel's right to defend itself while urging it to minimize civilian deaths. Canada has supported Israel and condemned Hamas attacks on Israeli citizens.

"Canada is unequivocally behind Israel," a statement from Prime Minister Stephen Harper's office said. "We support its right to defend itself, by itself, against these terror attacks, and urge Hamas to immediately cease their indiscriminate attacks on innocent Israeli civilians," Harper's statement said.

carol.sanders@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 26, 2014 A15

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