On my recent visit to Canada, I was confronted by the growing strength and public acceptance of the Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) and came back to Israel with new friends who take a courageous stance for Israel — The First Nations communities.

Background

From January 25 to 31  I traveled to Winnipeg and Ottawa, invited and sponsored by Bnai Brith of Canada in Winnipeg, CAMERA, Hillel, and the Israeli Consulate in Ottawa. During this speaking tour I experienced the PRcampaign leading up to the antiIsraeli festivalIsrael Apartheid Week, which is being held in 92 cities around the world from February 20 to March 11, and in Canada from March 5 to 9, 2012.

In Winnipeg I realized that the main challenge was getting more people from the Jewish communities to understand the real message behind “The Apartheid Slur” and take a stand against “The Apartheid Slur.”

As director of Sderot Media Center for the Western Negev, I was in Canada to talk about Sderot and the Western Negev, and the connection between Hamas-controlled Gaza and the anti-Israeli, anti-Jewish and anti-Semitic festivals that are popular on college campuses. These festivals’ main purpose is to demonize the State of Israel and at the same time to de-legitimize Israel as a sovereign state.

Over the past several years, multimillion dollar media campaigns have promoted the Palestinian narrative in Gaza, the first Arab territory in the Middle East controlled by a regime designated as a terrorist organization. In addition to these well-funded media campaigns, a slough of “alternative news” websites, blogs, Twitter, and Facebook accounts help spread the message that Israel is an apartheid state that abuses Palestinians. In spite of overwhelming evidence that this is not true, this lie has been told so often, and for so long, that few question its validity.

In addition to the anti-Israel media campaigns, unbalanced reporting by almost every major media outlet has legitimized ongoing missile attacks from Gaza. One rarely hears a report on the brutal reality. Since the “ceasefire” of January 18, 2009 that ended Operation Cast Lead, Gaza-based terrorist organizations have launched more than 1,070 aerial attacks. As in the past, the many different Islamic terror groups target the civilian population, which has endured approximately 13,000 aerial attacks over the past 11 years, including during the current “ceasefire” (Israel’s third unilateral ceasefire).

Finding new Israel supporters

On Wednesday, January 25, I gave a multimedia presentation in Winnipeg for the Bnai Brith Jewish/Aboriginal/Christian Round Table that included Jewish, Christian, and First Nation representatives and met many remarkable people at this meeting, including Rev. Raymond MacLean.

Rev. MacLean is a First Nation representative and Pastor to the largest urban First Nation community in North America. Ten percent of  Winnipeg city’s population of 700,000 is Aboriginal/First Nations people.

Rev. MacLean founded an organization known as World Indigenous Nations for Israel.  He has visited Israel 16 times since 2003 and is part of the Indigenous Tour to Israel being held from February 12th to 23rd, 2012.

The Indigenous Tour to Israel as promoted in Winnipeg:

‘Original peoples from both the northern and the southern ends of the earth.’ From Greenlandic Inuit, Canadian Inuit, First Nations from Canada, as well as indigenous people from Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand and Australia, ‘Wherever we stand, we stand for Israel’

There are fifteen First Nation communities from four Provinces in Manitoba, Alberta  Ontario, and Saskatchewan, including representatives from the Objiway, Cree, Oji-Cree and Sioux tribes. More than 300 First Nation individuals have visited Israel in the past 9 years.

Speaking with Rev. MacLean, I learned that their communities will always take a stand for Israel, as they have in the past.

Says Rev. MacLean:

In 2006 our First Nation group took a stand for Israel in the streets of our city during the Israel-Lebanon war. We received criticism from all sides both people from the streets and from the media. I was interviewed by the media of our city and I shared positive things why we should stand with Israel and no word of mine was posted in that interview the next day.

The beautiful connection the First Nation people have with the Jewish people’s rights to live in Israel, is summed up as “the inheritance of the land by the ancestors”

I asked MacLean to comment on how anti-Israel activists compare the Arab-Israeli conflict to “the colonizer occupying land and kicking out the First Nations to live in poverty and in refugee camps.”

Our conflicts are not the same. They need to study history a little further. I know the history from the beginning. There were Arab nomads who lived in the Holy Land prior to the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 who were hired by the new Jewish settlers. Also, neighboring Arabs from Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt sought employment and were hired by the Jews who were settling in their new land after returning from exile after 2500 years to reclaim their inheritance left by the ancestors. These Arabs became known as Palestinians but were originally Arab nomads and neighbors of Israel who Israel endorsed and recognized as Israeli citizens.

 

Many challenges face the First Nations. They are struggling  to maintain their identity, history, and culture while living within the mainstream society and, at the same time, dealing with poverty and related issues brought on by centuries of mistreatment and hostility.

According to MacLean, “Our young people no longer retain their original tongue, but all speak the main English language.”

Right now the Jewish world, especially here in Israel, is having difficulty maintaining our identities and beliefs and protecting our basic historical and legal right just to live in Israel. At this time, it‘s encouraging to know that there are people, even in remote places around the world, who understand our situation and stand with us.

Connecting with these communities can bring real social change and hope to many indigenous people throughout the world, while at the same time uniting people behind Israel’s cause.

I returned from Canada with renewed hope for the future, knowing that we have friends out there who are motivated and educated and who are not necessarily Jewish or Christian. My experience with the First Nations communities reminded me of Psalm 126:2, 3:

Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing; Then they said among the nations: ‘Hashem has done great things with these.’ Hashem hath done great things with us; we are rejoiced.