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By BERNIE BELLAN

It began with an email we received on Tuesday, July 16. The email referred to an event that was supposed to be taking place at the Corydon Community Centre on Thursday evening, July 18 (at the same time as the AMIA commemoration in the Berney Theatre).

 

 


According to the writer of the email, the event Thursday night was titled “The State of Jewish Hate: How Jewish Progressive Activists Fuel Modern Antisemitism.” The guest speaker was someone named Lauren Isaacs. (We have a story by Myron Love about the actual event elsewhere on this site.)
Apparently, however, according to the writer of the email, the event had been threatened with cancellation.
We began looking into what this was all about. What we found was an article on a website titled “United with Israel”, which said that “An event in Winnipeg that is ‘at the forefront of informing, educating Jewish communities to deal with the new manifestations of anti-Semitism’ may be canceled due to complaints from anti-Israel activists.”
The subsequent story went on to say that the purpose of the event, which was being organized by Ron East and Marty Gold, was to “discuss fringe Jewish groups such as Independent Jewish voices, which spew lies and distortions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, such as the ‘institutionalized discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel.’ ”
Apparently the writer of the story, someone by the name of Atar Beck, wrote her story after viewing a video posted by East and Gold on Youtube, in which they claimed that the general manager of the Corydon Community Centre, whose name is Abbie Bajon, told Ron East that first, the event was going to be “cancelled”, but that she then later revised her remarks to say that it was “under review”. Finally, according to what East said in the video, he was told it was in a “due diligence” status, “as the center checks the background of those planning to attend.”
In the Youtube video, as well, East claimed that the administrator told him there were “complaints” about the event.

However, when we contacted Abbie Bajon, in an email to us she denied that the event was ever cancelled.
Bajon wrote: “We were never cancelling the event as I said we had someone come forward about this event and, as with any concern, we look into it. We asked some questions and did some research as we would do with any concern brought forward.
“I had a personal conversation with the person who was very understanding and appreciative of the time we took with this.”

In the Youtube video posted by Gold and East, however, they stated that they were certain that the “complaints” about their event came largely from the “progressive Jewish left,” which is “fueling anti-Semitism.”

Ron East claimed - without offering any evidence to support his claim, that “those people on the progressive left of the Jewish community - those people are the ones complaining.”

We wondered who it was on the “progressive Jewish left” who might have attempted to have the July 18 event cancelled?
We asked Harold Shuster, who is the person most commonly associated with Independent Jewish Voices, which, might well be described as being an organization on the “progressive Jewish left”, whether he had anything to do with this alleged attempt to have the event cancelled.
In an email received from Shuster, he adamantly denied having anything to do with attempts to cancel Lauren Isaac’s appearance here.
Shuster wrote: “There appears to be an attempt to have the venue cancel the booking, which they are blaming us for, but which we have nothing to do with… We are going to ignore the event but there is a part of me that is very interested in hearing what she has to say about us. I would also guess that supporters of the New Israel Fund are included in the broad swath of ‘Jewish progressive activists’ that fall outside Herut Canada and Ron’s The J.CA hardline conservative political agenda.”

It is still not clear whether Lauren Isaacs’ appearance at Corydon Community Centre was ever actually cancelled by the community centre. According to Marty Gold, he was able to get Jon Gerrard, MLA for River Heights, and John Orlikow, City Councillor for River Heights - Fort Garry, to intervene in the matter. Marty wrote to me: “I can also inform you at this time that after ample representations on the phone and via email by the Winnipeg grassroots community joined by pro-Israel advocates across the world, in conjunction with behind the scenes efforts of Coun. Orlikow and Dr. Gerrard, the area MLA, Lauren will be speaking at the Community Centre on Thursday night as planned.”

Who complained about Lauren Isaacs appearing here and is there any way of knowing who that person was? Apparently it was just one individual, according to the general manager of Corydon Community Centre, but she would not reveal his or her identity. Yet, Ron East was certain that it was “the progressive Jewish left” that issued the “complaints”.
Was the event ever actually cancelled? It’s hard to say. Ron East insists that he was told by Abbie Bajon first that the event was “cancelled”, then that it was “under review”, and finally, that it was going to be subjected to “due diligence”.
Abbie Bajon, however, denies that the event was ever cancelled.

So - one person apparently came forward with a complaint about an event. Did that lead to its actual cancellation at one point? And was it “the progressive Jewish left” behind the complaint, as Ron East alleges?
Who knows?

Such is the power of the internet. An event that probably would have gone largely unnoticed (and, as it was, according to Myron Love, there were only 20-30 individuals who did attend the event) suddenly started receiving publicity around the world (including on the Canadian Jewish News website) over what its organizers said was an attempt to cancel the event as a result of “complaints” from “the progressive Jewish left”
I oppose almost all attempts to suppress free speech, whether the speaker is on the right, the left, or the centre. And, when it was Ron East and others who were successful in having rabbinical student Lex Rofeberg disinvited from speaking at the Shaarey Zedek and at Limmud, I criticized the attempt to suppress Rofeberg from speaking.
But, to claim that there were “complaints” about Lauren Isaacs speaking here - when there was allegedly only one complaint, and to claim that it was the “progressive Jewish left” that was behind those “complaints”when there is absolutely no evidence to back that accusation up - well, that shows how far some members of our community are willing to go when it comes to demonizing their enemies.

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