Steiner: Jewish organizations right to withdraw speaker from Winnipeg event

Lex Rofeberg

A recent article in the Canadian Jewish News regarding the decision by Jewish organizations in Winnipeg to reject Lex Rofeberg, a speaker with close ties to IfNotNow (“Winnipeg speaker disinvited over ties to IfNotNow” March 7, 2019), soft peddles the real story. The truth is, IfNotNow is not just another voice on Israel, offering a new and “liberal” or “social justice” perspective. Rather, like other organizations on the extreme left, it employs language in order to tarnish Israel and defame the Jewish people.

According to Asaf Romirowsky, CEO of Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME), IfNotNow (INN) has employed a reverse guilt trip on children and grownups alike. Indeed, INN’s infamous “You Never Told Me” campaign employs idealistic young people who claim they, “were never told the honest truth about the Occupation.” As CJN columnist Gil Troy wrote about INN, “these ideologues are spreading Jewish guilt. They kill the conversation — and three-dimensional, truly critical thought — with apparent kindness, but often mask the harsh, one-sided political agenda they push.”

Further, as Miriam Elman, a professor of political science at Columbia University in New York, has noted, “it’s easy to confuse IfNotNow with other left-wing Zionist groups because it doesn’t officially endorse BDS, claims to be merely anti-occupation, and doesn’t overtly and consistently trade in classical anti-Semitic tropes and canards… But looks can be deceiving, and in the case of INN it’s important not to be fooled.

“INN legitimizes hostility toward Israel, emboldens its enemies, and ultimately has the potential to put fellow Jews at risk,” she adds.

With this in mind, I am concerned that The CJN played into INN’s hands in its recent reporting about the decision to rescind an invitation to a speaker with ties to the organization. In reality, there are no “Palestinian territories” as the likes of INN would have us believe. There are “disputed territories,” historically known as Judea and Samaria and still referred to as such by many Israelis, not to mention historians. Within these two regions, there are various areas which are governed either by Israel proper, by the Palestinian Authority (PA) or jointly between the two (in all areas Israel retains security control).

There is no “occupation.” There is no “Palestine.” Rather, there is an urgent need for Jews to stop using historically and legally incorrect language. Why should we let the enemy define the facts on the ground?

That’s why it was right to withdraw support for the speaker in Winnipeg. And to those who put forth freedom of speech arguments, I would suggest they consider the danger his speaking could pose to our community. And if INN and its supporters wish to draw attention to human rights abuses, I would suggest they examine the plight of Arabs who live in the areas in which they are entirely governed by the Palestinian Authority, including violence initiated by, implemented by and continued by other Arabs, generally under direction of the PA itself. Billions of dollars have been provided over many decades to the people living in Gaza and the disputed territories, in order to develop their own institutions, infrastructure, and upgrade life for their people, but it has been squandered by hateful, incompetent leadership, explained away with outlandish propaganda.


There is no freedom, no democracy, no inclusion, no equality of peoples under the PA or Hamas. Where is INN when it comes to decrying these atrocities?