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‘Holocaust to Resistance’ Tour Draws Wide Interest

March 23, 2020

Suzanne Weiss at McGill, February 17, 2020

‘Resistance to Hitler Has Lessons for Today’

By John Riddell: The dangers posed by the Covid-19 virus forced suspenion on March 19 of Suzanne Weiss’s tour introducing her memoir, Holocaust to Resistance: My Journey. But the tour’s results so far indicate encouraging interest in her story and its message of global solidarity.

Suzanne’s seventeen meetings in Toronto, Montreal, Kingston, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and Pittsburgh were attended by 1,000 participants. Many more saw or heard her four interviews in print and online. (See Interview by Radio Western.)

All Suzanne’s city and university presentations highlighted Palestinian human rights, a topic that today often triggers false accusations of anti-Semitism. (For a recent overview of this controversy, see IJV Statement.) Yet Suzanne’s meetings aroused no such criticisms. When her views were questioned, the exchange was respectful and constructive.

The meetings thus confirmed just how far removed the thinking of people in Canada is from that of its federal parliament, which has endorsed a “redefinition” of anti-Semitism aimed at stifling advocacy of human rights.

Suzanne’s three high-school presentations were notable for the wide range of students’ questions, particularly regarding how young people can best engage with movements for social justice.

Suzanne’s tour is sponsored by Independent Jewish Voices Canada.  Each of the local meetings was endorsed by an impressive array of local social justice groups. Prominent local activists joined her on the platform, as in Winnipeg, where Rana Abdulla spoke from the Palestinian community alongside well-known indigenous elder Albert McLeod.

In three cases, the lead organizer of the local meeting was a faith-based community: the United Church of Canada (Hamilton), the Mile End Chavurah (Montreal), and the Islamic Society of York Region (Greater Toronto)..

Free-Speech Demonstration

One of the events took the form of a demonstration. Suzanne had addressed a letter to a McGill University administrator charged with overseeing student life, calling for an end to challenges to freedom of discussion on Israel and Palestine (see below).

McGill students rally for Palestine (Suzanne to right of banner)

When Suzanne came to deliver the letter, about three dozen student supporters welcomed her with an enthusiastic ad-hoc rally. Everyone then crowded together with her into the administration building entranceway in order to support her presentation of the letter. The event was reported by three articles in the student press (see McGill Tribune) and a widely viewed video.

The tour was suspended on the eve of a six-day seven-event tour of western Ontario. “I’m hoping these events can be rescheduled during the autumn months, along with a planned trip to four points in the Atlantic Canada and to Chicago. I’ve also received invitations from the West Coast,” says Suzanne.

“But there’s no way to predict how long this epidemic will last. It’s still far too early to set a date for resuming the tour. Right now, I’m joining all fellow activists for Palestine rights and social justice in exploring the challenging world of online education and action.”

During the Hitler era, Suzanne points out, French anti-fascists called Nazism “la peste brune” – the Brown Plague, a reference to the brown colour of Nazi uniforms. “My compatriots in France resisted the political plague of Nazism with the weapons of solidarity,” Suzanne says. “They thus provide a lesson for today, in overcoming the plague of Covid-19. Paul, one of my Palestinian rights colleagues, captures this thought in four-words:

‘Physical distancing; social solidarity’

Holocaust to Resistance: My Journey can be ordered from Fernwood Publishers for $22. For more information on the book, see Suzanne’s blog at http://suzanneberlinerweiss.com.

A Call to McGill: Do Not Muzzle Palestinian Advocacy

February 17, 2020
Fabrice Labeau,
Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning), McGill University

Dear Mr. Labeau,

Like many Canadians, I have heard media reports of alleged anti-Semitism within McGill University. I am a Jewish Holocaust survivor and I have engaged throughout my life in combating hatred of Jewish people. For me, such reports are very alarming.

I have reviewed relevant reports on controversies at McGill this school year, including your letter of December 2, 2019 to the McGill community. I find no evidence of anti-Semitism here. What I see is a passionate debate on the politics of Israel/Palestine. Unfounded charges of anti-Semitism are being made against those making strong criticisms of the Israeli government.

These irresponsible charges serve to put Jewish people at risk by weakening our ability to focus on genuine acts of anti-Semitism, that is, “hatred of Jews because they are Jews.”

As for the Palestinians, their every attempt to voice grievances is now branded as anti-Semitic. The Palestinians, who have suffered so much from Israeli rule, now face an implacable attempt to silence them entirely.

What we need at McGill and elsewhere is a firm defense of the right of political advocacy, even if directed against Israel’s policies. This is a precondition for effective resistance to genuine anti-Semitism.

Respectfully,
Suzanne Weiss
Holocaust Survivor and Palestinian solidarity activist

One Comment
  1. scushion23gmailcom permalink

    Dear John
    Do you want a review copy of our book?

    *Anti-Nazi Germans*
    Enemies of the Nazi State from within the Working Class Movement
    by Merilyn Moos
    German Volunteers in the French Resistance
    by Steve Cushion
    Published by
    Community Languages in association with the Socialist History Society
    http://community-languages.org.uk/

    Special Offer
    As the launch of the book Anti-Nazi Germans will now not take place until the autumn, iy is available post-free from the authors.
    £10 – more details from: s.cushion23@gmail.com

    It is a commonly held myth that there was little resistance in Germany to the Nazis except for one or two well known instances. But, regularly ignored or forgotten is the level of opposition from Germans, and in particular from the German working class movement. This book examines that resistance in two parts, starting with the internal resistance. Here are forgotten stories of brave men and women who organised against the Nazis in German towns and villages, as well as in the concentration camps and the armed forces.
    The second part chronicles how German refugees contributed to fighting the Nazis in France. From spreading anti-Nazi propaganda in the German Army and attempting to organise mutiny and desertion, through to extensive involvement in urban terrorism and the rural guerrilla struggle.
    We are unequivocally on the side of the German anti-Nazi resistance. Perhaps this should not even need to be said, but such is the power of nationalism, that many people feel uncomfortable with those who are prepared to undermine their own country’s war effort or take up arms against the nation of their birth, even if that nation were Nazi Germany. We have no such qualms and take an internationalist stand that places class before nation.
    We examine at the actual activities of the rank and file anti-Nazi militants and in the process we shall be rescuing the memory of some heroic fighters who otherwise risk being lost from history.

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