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Toronto Sun, Thursday, January 8, 2009

Security alert for Jewish community

By Tom Godfrey, Sun Media

Prominent Jewish Canadians criticized Israel's assault in Gaza today while B'nai Brith officials issued a security alert warning of threats of attacks against the Jewish community because of the two-week-old Israeli military action.

Since the launch of Operation Cast Lead, there has been "a spike in incidents" against Jews in Canada "including harassment and death threats," B'nai Brith spokesman Karen Lazar said.

"Warnings of possible hostile attacks against Jewish community targets demand your attention as a matter of top priority," executive vice-president Frank Dimant said in a security alert to dozens of synagogues, Jewish schools, companies and individuals.

"Security monitoring groups are reporting increased Internet chatter that point to targets across the U.S., as well as Canada," Dimant said.

Meanwhile, Canadian Jews called on Ottawa today to speak out against Israel's assault on Gaza. Israel launched an offensive into the Palestinian territory Dec. 27 to halt rocket attacks on its southern towns. Nearly 800 Palestinians have been killed — almost half of them civilians, according to area officials — while 10 Israelis have died.

"We are calling for an immediate ceasefire and the halt of gunfire," event organizer David Orchard said. "The borders have to be opened to allow food and other necessities to go through."

Anton Kuerti, an internationally acclaimed concert pianist and human rights activist, called the Israeli attack "a war crime".

"Israel has attacked the people of Gaza with utter contempt," Kuerti told a news conference.

"The unbelievable war crimes that Israel is committing in Gaza ... it makes me ashamed to be a Jew.

"The servile way in which Canada is supporting the U.S. position — basically it's all Hamas's fault because of missiles that they throw over in desperation — I think this reluctance of Canada to use its influence makes me ashamed to be Canadian."

Osgoode Hall Law School professor Michael Mandel said Canadians are being told Hamas are the aggressors. "It is the exact opposite," he said.

Judith Deutsch, president of Science for Peace, said the Israeli military action is a crime against the people of Gaza. "Israel has returned to openly committing war crimes," Deutsch said.

Events in support of the Israeli people were planned today in Toronto, Montreal, London, Hamilton, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Vancouver and Halifax.

A Toronto event at Beth Tzedec Synagogue was to include a videotaped message from Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

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