Natan Sharansky in Montreal: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Conscience

A few days ago, Natan Anatoly Sharansky spoke to students at Hillel House and the Jewish community in Montreal. He is an activist for Jewish and Soviet human rights and was a former Gulag prisoner. Through the activism of Jews all over the world, he is now a free man.

After being liberated from the Soviet prison, he served in the Israeli government for nine years. He is now the head of the Jewish Agency of Israel (Sochnut).

He spoke about his experiences in the video below.

He spoke about how and why he was arrested. He explained that a human being has two needs: freedom of expression and the other is for identity and belonging. Integrity is knowing who you are and what you stand for.

Sharansky knew that he needed both his identity and his freedom. He could have gained the latter if he were to acknowledge that he was a spy for Israel. He refused. He was unwilling to compromise on either front, and he understood that all those who had an identity – i.e. who knew what they were fighting for – were his allies and friends in prison.

The activist support of Jews in the US and Europe enabled his release and the release of hundreds of thousands of persecuted Jews by the Soviet Union. I was one of those social workers on the receiving end of Russian Jews escaping from tyranny in NYC. The softening of the Soviet regime vis a vis the Jews eventually led to the downfall of the Soviet totalitarian system and brought about an extension of human rights to Soviet citizens.

Natan Sharansky also spoke about the inevitability of the Arab spring, and that is the need of the people to overthrow totalitarian dictators in Egypt and Libya and elsewhere.

He also spoke about the conflicts experienced by Jewish students on campuses all over North America due to the fraudulent claims of the Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) and IAW (Israel/apartheid) movements that have branded Israel with the sins of South African apartheid.

Israel and the Jewish Agency of Israel are bringing Israeli fellows to campuses. Students are also invited to Israel for internships and to study.