TORONTO – The Jewish Defence League (JDL) says it’s planning to picket a private fundraising event featuring Liberal party Leader Justin Trudeau and York Centre candidate Michael Levitt at the home of businessman and philanthropist Barry Sherman.
The Aug. 26 protest “is absolutely going to be peaceful” and participants hope to engage contributors to the Liberal party as they enter Sherman’s home, said JDL leader Meir Weinstein.
The JDL is protesting the Liberal party’s position on the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the United States and other western countries, he said.
The deal has been described as “catastrophic” for Israel and will see Iran receive $150 billion in previously withheld funds, some of which the country will use to fund terrorist organizations worldwide. “That will heighten difficulties for Jews,” Weinstein said, adding no one in the Jewish community should back the Liberals, given the party’s support for the deal and its position that Canada should reopen diplomatic relations with Iran.
Weinstein said the JDL picketing Sherman’s residence is unprecedented. “We don’t go out and picket Jewish leaders. It’s a very difficult decision.”
He said the JDL took the step in the wake of an email exchange between Sherman and Gabriel Erem, former CEO of Lifestyles Magazine.
Erem initially responded to an Aug. 6 email invitation from Barry and Honey Sherman, which solicited support for the Trudeau and Levitt campaigns and invited recipients to the Aug. 26 event. The cost to participate was set at $1,500 per person.
Erem's reply to the Shermans was copied to a number of others and was subsequently circulated widely. It suggesting the Shermans were “tragically misinformed and perhaps misguided regarding the political agenda of the handsome young man whom you will be toasting and raising campaign money for in your home.”
Erem cited news reports regarding Justin’s brother, Alexandre, who defended Iran’s atomic ambitions, as well the Liberal leader’s senior policy adviser, Omar Alghabra, a former president of the Canadian Arab Federation, who is also a former MP and the current Liberal candidate in Mississauga Centre.
“Justin Trudeau’s instincts are wrong – on terrorism, on honour killings, on extremist groups, on Jews and Israel,” Erem wrote. “But even more troubling than his own instincts are those of his key senior advisers.”
Sherman responded with an email of his own, saying, “Honey and I were appalled by your email regarding the stance of Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party of Canada.”
Erem’s email, he wrote, was inaccurate and designed to “undermine our efforts to provide support from the community, which Justin and the Liberal party surely deserve.”
Sherman told The CJN he felt he had to respond to Erem’s criticism after Erem’s email “went viral.”
“It’s the unfairness that made my blood boil,” he said, adding that Erem’s email presented “false information that Justin Trudeau was not a supporter of Israel.”
He said he felt he had to correct the record and point out that “Justin Trudeau is every bit a supporter of Israel as [Conservative Prime Minister Stephen] Harper.”
Sherman said he spent an hour with Trudeau last week, discussing various issues, including Israel. He felt Trudeau fully appreciates the threats facing Israel, including “the existential war facing the west from extremists.”
As for support for Israel, “It’s not an issue in the domestic campaign. There’s no difference in the parties… Justin Trudeau needs to know that the Jewish community is not against him and the country appreciates what he’s done, as we appreciate what Harper has done,” Sherman said.
Erem wouldn't comment on the content of the his email to the Shermans, which he described as "a private letter between friends." He added: "A very small handful close friends read it. I encouraged or authorized no one to forward it. It was done without my knowledge or approval."