Ryan’s Ark: Building A Better Boat

ryan Kasim HafeezLast night Kasim Hafeez came and spread his message of hope and truth to Calgary. If you haven’t heard him speak, you do not know what you are missing.

I think his message is important: to understand that “muslim Zionists” are not as rare as you may think, but they are often silenced. It is important to support the moderate people who speak up because they are often hit from both sides, and most importantly to reach out to anyone who is willing to talk honestly and openly and to not waste time with those who are not.

I am rarely as impressed with someone as I was with Kaz. We went for supper beforehand and chatted about the state of advocacy in general, and his insights were brilliant. But I’m biased because at some point I felt like I was talking to myself.

We are struggling here in Canada because organisations like the one Sarah Bernamoff and I started, Calgary United with Israel, are labelled radicals because we advocate going on the offensive and not being apologetic. Our belief that Jewish students should be proud of who they are and what their people have accomplished, is seen by mainstream organizations as “rocking the boat.” We have been sent emails by members of the community who have been told not to support us or even be involved with the actions and events we organised because we are “extremists.” This has even endangered people when the local Hillel and federation representatives tried to get some students to stay home after they committed to hand our flyers at the Salaita talk at UBC. The students ended up being late, and a Jewish woman who was volunteering was punched in the face as a direct result of there not being enough witnesses.

I have avoided saying anything to or about the mainstream organizations as some of the work we do requires cooperation with them. For instance, I am organizing a trip to Israel for indigenous rights activists, and I simply do not have the connections to donors that the large organizations have. But the cowardly backstabbing is counterproductive and if I’m consistent, I need to call it out. Kaz does, and all of us should. We should be questioning who we donate money to, because while some of these large organisations have the mandate of fighting antisemitism, it’s pretty obvious that it’s grassroots organisations like CUWI the “radicals” who are carrying the bulk of this work, and we are unpaid. I am ok with that because it means we can do what we want, but it’s annoying when large organisations are more concerned about their donors than their cause. I often say that this cause of indigenous rights is too important to be partisan, and that stands. I don’t care if some of these organisations don’t want to help, just don’t hinder us. I told Sarah when we started CUWI we were going to change the way Israel advocacy is done, and we have. I also told her we were not going to rock the boat, we were going tip that fucker over and build a new boat, a better boat, and it has begun. People like Kaz, organisations like StandWithUs, and Camera, CUWI and Sussex for Israel, are changing the way this fight is fought. Israellycool and others are on the cutting edge, and the old “hide your head in sand” and “working behind the scenes but actually doing little to nothing” excuses are no longer acceptable. We are fighting a war, and not one of our choosing. It is time to accept that and to fight back.


Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.

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