Recap: THE ISRAEL TABOO - Talking About Talking About Israel with Joseph Rosen

Two weeks ago, we were very pleased to host a panel discussion around the themes that our friend Joseph Rosen addressed in his article “The Israel Taboo” in The Walrus, namely: how can we create more productive, open and diverse public conversations around an issue that tends to provoke combatative and antagonistic responses? It was one of the more charged events we've hosted at the store, but we're proud to say that the conversation was as civil and generous as it was provocative.

The turnout was huge! We had to move more tables than usual to squeeze in the crowd that turned out to hear our panelists speak.

Joseph Rosen started off with his perspective: Israel is hard to talk about. Let's talk anyway, and try to do it without getting too steamed (I'm paraphrasing. Joseph was much more eloquent).

Next, Rana Alrabi took the mic. Rana is a public relations consultant, and radio producer and host with CKUT radio. Rana co-presided the Montreal Dialogue Group for the last two years, and her response to Joseph was, essentially: Where is the Palestinian perspective in this conversation? We cannot progress if that story isn't heard.

Next up was Eric Scott. Eric is a Montreal filmmaker whose films include Je me souviens (2002), about the history of anti-Semitism in Quebec, and The Other Zionists (2004), about Israeli activists in the West Bank. According to him, this conversation is not so difficult to have in Israel itself.

Yakov Rabkin, a Professor of History at the University of Montréal, noted that this conversation is also not so difficult to have in every part of Montreal, and that we should remember that there isn't one "Jewish community" in Montreal, but many. He and Eric then debated how much bearing (if any) conversations in Montréal have on the actual situation in Israel/Palestine. 

At that point, much back-and-forth began to ensue as the panelists started taking questions and comments from the floor via the very conciliatory technique of notecards distributed among the audience. A lively discussion ensued, followed by convivial wine-drinking and socializing.

Thanks so much to everyone who came out!

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