For its supporters, Israel’s Herut party represented a robust, assertive, self-confident movement that was consistent with the political philosophy espoused by Ze’ev Jabotinsky, a leader in the Revisionist Zionist movement.
There was a time when the Herut (Freedom) party, which was created by former Israeli prime minister Menachem Begin in 1948 and merged with Likud in 1988, had a formal affiliate group in Toronto, but over the years, that presence faded away. On April 14, Herut Canada will hold a “kick off” event to invigorate the movement and reconstitute “unapologetic Zionism” in Toronto, according to Lauren Isaacs, a spokesperson for Herut Canada.
“It’s Jabotinsky Zionism, basically unapologetic Zionism. We felt a need for that in Toronto,” she said.
Isaacs, a 23-year-old student at York University, said the revitalized organization will send people to pro-Israel rallies, as well as those held by the country’s opponents, where they will make their presence known, engage onlookers and present Israel’s case. The group will also hold educational events to prepare young people, especially those on campus, to debate critics of Israel and offer an attractive alternative to Jewish “fringe groups” that are critical of Israel and attempt to attract young Jewish activists.
“We’re losing Jews to these kinds of groups,” she said. “I think it’s vital to get the younger generation involved in Zionism.”
Isaacs suggested that “we need to hold steadfast in our unapologetic stance.…
“We’re not sorry that Israel is a strong country. We’re not sorry that Israel has a strong military. We’re not sorry that Israel owns its land.”
There’s definitely a need in Toronto for the kind of self-confident and assertive pro-Israel advocacy that Herut will offer, she said. “It’s Revisionist Zionism. We do bring a different spin to activist Zionism.”
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Revisionist Zionism was a right-wing political movement created by Jabotinsky, in opposition to the socialist Labor party. In 1920, he broke with the mainstream Zionist movement and formed a “revisionist” party, which advocated Jewish sovereignty over all British Mandate territory, including land on both sides of the Jordan River.
Though it was once a political party in Israel, Herut is now used as the name for an international network of advocacy organizations that espouse the Revisionist Zionist philosophy.
Isaacs stressed that while she believes there is a need in Toronto for the kind of advocacy envisioned by Herut Canada, there remains a need for broad community support for Israel, as well.
“I believe that the other pro-Israel Jewish organizations in Toronto are doing a wonderful job. Herut Canada also looks forward to becoming a powerful pro-Israel voice in Toronto, as well as working with, and collaborating with, these other organizations,” she said.
Isaacs’ connection to the Herut movement started when she met Harry Saul Markham, the 19-year-old youth director of Herut in the United Kingdom, on Facebook. He put her in touch with Karma Feinstein Cohen, who runs Herut in Israel.
Feinstein Cohen tasked her with reconstituting Herut in Toronto, Isaacs said.
The kickoff event, which will be held in the party room of a Thornhill, Ont., condominium, will feature several speakers, including Isaacs, Alan Herman, a member of the Toronto chapter of the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research, Rabbi Jonathan Jaffit (who used to run Herut Canada’s university advocacy group Betar-Tagar) and businessman Benjamin Dichter.
Jabotinsky was born in Odessa, which was then part of the Russian Empire. He formed self-defence units to protect Jews against pogroms.
He started the Betar youth movement in 1923 and helped create the Zion Mule Corps, which fought with the British against the Ottoman Turks in the First World War.