Independent Jewish Voices Canada celebrates 10th year of growth

ijv 10th year

Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), a Jewish group dedicated to defending human rights for Palestinians, celebrated  its 10th anniversary last weekend (Oct. 12-14) in Toronto.  Over 180 Jews (and a few non-Jewish supporters and observers) from across Canada heard outstanding speakers and participated in action-planning workshops. Read a summary report from CTIP guest columnist Diana Ralph. 

diana ralph

Guest columnist Diana Ralph was one of the founders of IJV Canada

In 2008, when we founded Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), the Israel Lobby narrative was virtually unchallenged generally and especially among Jews.  In the media and popular mind, Palestinians were viewed, if at all, as terrorists.  Israel had just invaded Gaza and Lebanon in 2006 with the enthusiastic support of the Harper government.

The Canadian Jewish Congress, the National Post and the Conservative government had viciously attacked the Canadian Union of Postal Workers and the United Church of Canada for even discussing a minimal Israel boycott.  In 2007, Israel imposed a brutal siege of Gaza. Progressive Canadian Jews were scattered among 26 small groups.  We were virtually invisible in the media, in Canadian politics, and anywhere else.

IJV started in 2008 with 4 members.  Now we have close to 1,000 members and donors and many thousands more who have participated in our actions.  We have now two full time staff and active chapters in almost all major Canadian cities, and student clubs on 8 campuses. We’re now also the largest membership-based organization in Canada that focusses on Palestine solidarity!

ijv 10 crowd

180 people gathered in Toronto for IJV’s 10th anniversary conference

Now 10 years later, not only has IJV grown exponentially,  but we have played  pivotal roles in shifting public attitudes, winning significant support in the Green and NDP parties, defending unions, churches, faculty and students who are attacked by the Israel lobby, and growing the Palestine solidarity movement both here and internationally.

The allies panel at the conference (representatives of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, the Association of Progressive Palestinian Canadians and the Mennonite Central Committee) emphatically agreed that IJV plays a crucial role in legitimating their work for Palestine solidarity.

Here are some of the exciting and interesting presentations we heard in our two and a half day meeting in Toronto:

  • Rebecca Vilkomen, Executive Director of the US Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), described both the threat of rising fascism in Israel and ways JVP has found to challenge it by changing the narrative and debunking the Lobby’s attempts to label criticism of Israel as antisemitic.
  • Diana Buttu, a prominent Palestinian-Canadian lawyer, and Dan Freeman-Maloy summarized Israel’s rising fascistic, genocidal official policies and laws. Buttu argued that the oppression Palestinians face is unprecedented, and requires world action.  Freeman-Maloy urged IJV to build a campaign to demand that the Jewish Federations in North America disaffiliate from Israel.
  • Hanna Gold described how the UK Jewdas is promoting a concept of “Diasporism” (in opposition to Zionism), and hosting “Birthwrong” tours to places around the world where Jews enjoy secure lives and share rich cultural diversity unavailable in Israel.
  • Sheryl Nestel and Mark Tseng-Putterman gave outstanding talks arguing that support for Israel is basic to (Ashkenazi) Jewish whiteness, and showing the racist underbelly of Israeli and Zionist policies. Tseng-Putterman urged IJV to embrace intersectional solidarity, and to challenge the fallacious Israel narrative of antisemitism, which weaponizes allegations of antisemitism to divide and confuse progressive groups.
  • Sabreena Ghaffar-Siddiqui presented a perceptive study showing how Canada systematically under-reports Islamophobic and racist hate crimes, and over-reports incidents of antisemitism.

But most exciting was seeing the inspiring success of IJV itself.

The tide is turning. Last year, IJV co-commissioned a study of Canadian attitudes about Israel/Palestine which proved that the narrative has shifted dramatically.  A strong majority of Canadians now feel negative about the Israeli government.  And most Canadians also think the Palestinian call for boycotts is reasonable and oppose the Parliament decision to condemn BDS supporters.

We are about to release the results of another ground-breaking survey of Canadian Jews. It shows that between one quarter and two thirds of Canadian Jews now disagree with those of Israel lobby groups.  The Israel lobby’s hegemony is crumbling, and our call for universal rights, justice and generosity is rapidly gaining support.

In 10 years, we’ve come a long way from being a voiceless, tiny minority, to reflecting the views of a majority of Canadians and a major segment of Canadian Jews!   The Israel Lobby is now on the defensive, trying to shore up Israel’s shrinking legitimacy by attacking critics as antisemitic. Young people are flocking to IJV.   As it grows clear that a two-state “solution” is a false dream,  IJV is welcoming Liberal Zionists to join the struggle for justice for all in the region.

Of course, we face enormous challenges;  Israel’s brutality and the world-wide growth of neo-fascism.  But we are now the ones shining a light unto nations, and joining a world-wide movement for fundamental justice.


Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue. We accept guest columnists from time to time and encourage brief comments (under 100 words) from serious readers. To learn more about what we do, contact us at The opinions in guest columns are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those of Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP).


  1. Brilliant article, Diana – so sorry I couldn’t have been there to see in person how far IJVers have come in 10 years. IJV is definitely making a difference. Just have to keep whittling away at the dinosaurs on the Hill.

    Sincere thanks for all your long, hard work!

  2. While I agree completely with the goals shared by the members of IJV, it is my hope that someday groups such as this will be defined by their goals rather than by the religion or ethnicity of their members.

    1. We need a group of Jews, preferably with the word “Jewish” as part of the name of the group to shield us from accusations of antisemitsm

      This is why it’s so important to define them by ethnicity

      1. Jake,

        I understood that point long ago. I merely expressed the hope that sometime in the future we would not need to point out that we are Jewish when we argue for justice; an argument for justice should speak for itself.

        Further, it doesn’t work. I am frequently accused of antisemitism by people who know that I am Jewish. Some of them use the term (SHJ) to describe me when I write or speak about the crimes that have been perpetrated against Palestinians.

        This morning. I heard a wise man say, “You cannot fight hate with more hate”. I would add that you cannot fight discrimination with more discrimination.

  3. Great article and geeat activities in which I have participated and contributed, by IJV on their tenth anniversary. I understand better that IJV is working for Palestinian solidarity and against the one sided narrative of the traditional Canadian unquestioning pro Israel Jewish lobby. I would only ask what solution IJV envsages or is working towards. I note that it does not seem to be the sovereign 2 state solution that is at the heart of Canadian policy and the general international understanding of a solution. But assuming that IJV wants to see a democratic Jewish state of Israel continue, I assume ideas of one equality for all state or a Cypus like confederation are even more elusive and threatening to Israel.. Maybe JVP has a specific idea on a soln that they have put to POTUS but I have not seen it enunciated.In any case, any information would be welcome because we can be more effective working towards something specific and realizable in Israel Palestine rather than only mainly decrying the current unaccepable atatus quo as much as that is vital to the cause of Israel Palestine.

    1. George,

      It is always easier to get agreement on something we don’t like than to get agreement on what we want instead. My impression is that while groups opposed to the present situation agree that it is disastrous, they do not agree on what should exist instead.

      However, in this case agreement is not necessary; the decision about what the area would be like when the current policies are changed isnt ours to make. It is a decision to be made by the people who actually live there (including those who were expelled but want to return).

      The only thing that people opposed to the present situation need to agree on is that those who have been deprived of their rights in historical Palestine should be full participants in the decision about what comes next. Even if we think we know what they should want and could agree on a “solution”, we should not be imposing our opinion on those who will have to live in the state(s) that would exist after the change.

      1. Attended the IJV organized vigil at the Human Rights monument over the Pittsburgh synagogue attacks and mass murder. Was moved by the wide variety of speakers of various backgrounds who spoke out strongly against anti semitism and racism and other forms of prejudice and strongly argued for policies against violence and discrimination wherever in Canada USA and rest of the world.

        While there was no direct linkage made to the Israel Palestine situation, it could be argued that the.thrust of the vigil also included finding some sort of solution to the Israel Palestine situation that could somehow end the violence and HR violations in that long-running conflict as well ( 2 states, 1 state whatever) which particularly concerns the Jewish community wherever and whatever their individual opinions might be

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