If Not Now, When? Canadian Jews for an Open Dialogue about Israel
Statement of Principles
In July 2014, a group of several dozen Jews in Victoria, B.C., affiliated and unaffiliated with local synagogues, came together to form a new grassroots peace organization. We named our growing group “If Not Now, When?” in reference to the famous Jewish religious leader Hillel the Elder’s inspiring call to self-reflection and action.
The impetus for our organizing effort was our deep dismay at the wide-scale destruction and death—the vast majority of it among Palestinian civilians—that resulted from a war that summer between Israel and Gazan Palestinians. We were also upset that many Jewish institutions seemed to portray the Canadian Jewish community as being single-mindedly supportive of current Israeli government policy towards the Palestinians. We reject such simplistic representations of the diversity of Canadian Jewish opinion regarding Israel and Middle East peace.
Our belief is that Canadian Jews need to speak out against violence by all sides and to advocate for an alternative: the launch of a genuine effort to achieve peace on terms generally agreed to by the international community. These terms include a truce that would assure and verify a permanent halt to the fighting by both sides; an end to occupation and Israeli settlement construction in the West Bank, as well as the lifting of the blockade of Gaza; and a fair resolution of Palestinian refugee claims.
We are guided by the following principles:
We affirm Israel’s right to exist in peace and security within internationally agreed borders. We have a deep connection with Israel and wish to see the nation thrive and prosper as a democratic state committed to protecting the rights of all its citizens.
We seek peace and condemn all acts of violence and racism. We believe that military actions lead to greater suffering while further deferring a durable peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
We uphold the right of all Jews to speak freely on the topics of peace and justice in the Middle East, maintaining respectful, civil discourse in accordance with the Jewish tradition of active debate and open discussion. In fostering a plurality of opinion, we affirm the ideals of communal unity in diversity and the solidarity of the Jewish people.
We are guided by our Jewish tradition of humanity and justice and by internationally accepted covenants affirming the inalienable right of all peoples to self-determination and the obligation of all nations to guarantee equality under the law.
We seek an end to the occupation and blockade of the Palestinian territories, and, within Israel, the cessation of discrimination against Palestinians and other minorities who are citizens. We equally insist that Israel’s neighbours and all others recognize its legitimate territorial and national rights within the agreed borders.
We recognize that a return to the 1967 borders, with negotiated minor territorial adjustments, is the only acceptable basis for the parallel national expression of Israelis and Palestinians; an acceptable alternative, if both sides agree, would be the formation of a single or federated democratic state with equal rights for all.
We encourage open communication and informed discussion, between members of the Jewish community and with the general public, on issues related to democracy, human rights, and the promotion of peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
Since forming as a group, we have organized events and activities intended to raise consciousness and encourage dialogue, both among Jews and with the Canadian public at large. We aim to create more opportunities for community-wide education and dialogue.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when? —Hillel