Ottawa is holding separate summits on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Should it have tackled them together?

Yes, they should have given some of the commonalities and the need for all Canadians, whatever their origins, religions or other characteristic have to work on reducing bias, discrimination and prejudice together.

Otherwise, more for show and signalling than the longer-term work required:

As two anti-hate summits grappling with a rising tide of hatred against Canada’s Jewish and Muslim communities get underway, could both groups forge a stronger path forward if they were to convene as one?

That’s a question being posed by Bernie Farber, the chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who will be attending both events.

“These are two groups, two faith communities, that have travelled parallel roads but have rarely intersected. And they are two communities that face the same form of hateful, violent targeting,” Farber told the Star.

“Wouldn’t it have made maybe a little bit more sense, in my view, to have had a summit … that would focus on both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia instead of having two separate ones, which has a tendency to not bring us together but to keep us apart?”

On Wednesday, the federal government will host a virtual summit on anti-Semitism, bringing together municipal and provincial political leaders to hear how the Jewish community would like to see hate, discrimination and harassment stamped out on a national scale. Former justice minister Irwin Cotler, now Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism, will take part in the event.

Just one day later, the same task will befall members of Canada’s Muslim community, many of whom are still reeling from a targeted attack in June that killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., as they were out for an evening walk. MPs unanimously voted in favour of a motion to hold a national summit on Islamophobia in the aftermath of the violent incident. 

But as political tensions over the conflict in the Middle East began to boil over earlier this year — leading to clashes and police intervention at several rallies between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators across the country — so did hateful acts targeting Jews and Muslims.

“Once you’ve targeted people here in Canada for something that may have happened in the Middle East … it is either Islamophobia or anti-Semitism,” Farber said.

The tensions also trickled down to two leading Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada.

In May, the Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) sent an email to members of the federal government laying out the groundwork for an emergency summit to combat “a shocking wave of anti-Semitism” in Canada.

In one paragraph of the email, which was viewed by the Star, the organization called on Ottawa to “engage directly — and privately” with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), to “challenge them to recalibrate their rhetoric and activities in a way that ensures the safety of the public square for all.”

NCCM, which released its list of priority policy recommendations on Monday ahead of Thursday’s summit, would not comment on the email.

The remarks referred to NCCM’s call to the federal government to “denounce in no uncertain terms Israel’s deliberate attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” a compound in Jerusalem’s Old City that is part of a site revered in both Islam and Judaism. 

In a statement to the Star, CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogler said such language has been used to “foment anger” and violence against Jews in the past.

“We have communicated these concerns — in particular, the need for all civil society groups to engage with the issues in a constructive and respectful manner — directly to the NCCM as well as our government,” the statement read.

Farber, who has worked closely with Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada, told the Star he has worked “for years” to bring the groups together to jointly tackle hate.

“We can’t battle hatred from different outposts. There is strength in numbers. And I would say eventually, wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually bring all these targeted groups together under one umbrella, to share ideas, to share strategies?”

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of NCCM, said he would be happy to “work towards a broader summit” in Canada for all groups facing an upswing in hate.

“The reality is, we are facing a unique time where it’s all on the rise,” he said. 

But first, Farooq is focused on harms plaguing his own community.

“We are committed to working with all communities to solve Islamophobia and all forms of hate, but we do need to address the specific problems facing the Muslim community,” he said.

In an interview with the Star last Friday, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger said it’s still clear there is “a lot more work to do” to eradicate hate in this country.

Chagger acknowledged that there is a “sense of urgency” in addressing these issues at the upcoming summits, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic exposed even more inequities in Canadian society.

“It is important that the government listen and hear the ideas and suggestions and try to put them into actionable items,” she said. 


Let’s make 2021 the year we eliminate online hate in Canada

Of note, along with contesting Isreal’s non-vaccination of Palestinians, which is a legitimate criticism of the Israeli government, not “a demonstrably false accusation tantamount to a modern-day blood libel.” One can also question the further codification of the IHRA definition, given its sometimes being used more broadly than intended. The other specific recommendations, however, are reasonable:

2020 was challenging. In addition to the horror of disease, the pandemic brought other troubling developments, including a sharp rise in hatred disseminated online. Canadians are clearly immune neither to the pandemic nor to the growing hate it appears to be exacerbating.  

Online hate is not a new phenomenon. At my organization, CIJA, we have been working on the issue since 2013. But, like the coronavirus, online hate has exploited weaknesses in our society to the detriment of all. As our lives continue to migrate online, the very platforms that proved to be a lifeline in so many ways also served as a springboard for spreading vicious hatred.  

Asian Canadians have been wrongfully and absurdly accused of deliberately unleashing COVID-19. 

Indigenous people, subjected to hatred and mistreatment since generations before the invention of the internet, many living in conditions that should embarrass all Canadians, are experiencing vicious online attacks on their culture and identity.    

Muslims, women, and the LGBTQ2+ community are regularly targeted by haters online, where Islamophobia, misogyny and homophobia continue to flourish.   

Good old-fashioned racists seized the opportunity provided by a global discussion about anti-Black hatred to, paradoxically, spread anti-Black hatred.   

And, of course, Jews were accused of this conspiracy or that one, from creating COVID-19 to profiting from the pandemic to claiming that Israel has leveraged the pandemic to oppress Palestinians by denying them the vaccine – a demonstrably false accusation tantamount to a modern-day blood libel, and one that the Palestinians themselves have refuted.   

All deeply offensive, to be sure, but being offensive is the only causes for concern.  

If online hate were simply offensive, it would be easier to dismiss. However, CIJA and the many partners we have worked with over the years – including those who have recently joined us to form the Canadian Coalition to End Online Hate – have increasingly observed, online hate can, and too often does, turn into real-world violence.   

This. Must. Stop.   

The federal government should deliver on its commitments

Following the 2019 election, the Liberals committed to devising a national strategy to end online hate, an issue that was explicitly included in the Prime Minister’s mandate letters to the Ministers of Justice, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Heritage and Diversity and Inclusion and Youth. 

They have a very good blueprint to work from: the June 2019 report on online hate produced by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, then chaired by Montreal-area MP Anthony Housefather. The report followed the murders in Christchurch, Pittsburgh, and Poway, all cases of online hate morphing into real world violence. 

It is now time to take the next steps. We, and the groups we work with through the Canadian Coalition to End Online Hate, a broad-based alliance of close to 40 (and growing) organizations representing a diverse array of communities, are calling for the following concrete actions.  

We propose:   

  • Increasing resources for law enforcement, Crown attorneys, and judges to ensure they receive sufficient training on how to apply existing laws to deal with online hate 
  • Directing Statistics Canada to address the gap in data to help us determine the scope of the problem and monitor progress  
  • Ensuring we achieve balance between combating online hate and protecting freedom of expression, notably by formulating a definition of “hate” and “hatred” that is consistent with Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence 
  • Creating a civil remedy to address online hate and  
  • Establishing strong and clear regulations for online platforms and Internet service providersabout how they monitor and transparently address incidents of hate spread on their platforms.   

The Role of Social Media Giants  

Platforms and providers do not have the best record when it comes to tracking and eliminating online hate. They must do better. And they will only do so with government pressure.  Canadian law must be strengthened to put the onus on platforms and providers to ensure that hateful content does not get published in their spaces. 

A national strategy to address online hate must include both the development of clear, harmonized, and uniform regulations, which apply to all platforms and providers operating in Canada, and an independent regulator to enforce them. 

These regulations should include a mandatory directive that providers incorporate appropriate definitions of hate and hatred. In the case of the Jewish community, we are advocating for the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism to be included in their user codes of conduct, algorithms, moderator policies, and terms of service.  

We also strongly believe that providers must make it easier for users to flag hateful content and be transparent about how complaints are adjudicated.  

COVID-19 has significantly accelerated our migration online, which was already well underway. It is imperative that we collectively do what is necessary to ensure the online space is a safe and hate-free place for everyone. 


Laïcité: des organisations juives sonnent l’alarme

A reminder that it is not just Muslims that will be affected by Bill 62:

Interdire à certains fonctionnaires de porter la kippa ou d’exhiber une étoile de David représenterait une grave atteinte aux droits garantis par les chartes et serait contesté devant les tribunaux, préviennent d’importantes organisations juives.

B’nai Brith et le Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CCJI) s’inquiètent du dépôt imminent par le gouvernement Legault du projet de loi sur la laïcité.

Selon La Presse et Radio-Canada, Québec va interdire le port de signes religieux aux fonctionnaires en position d’autorité, y compris les enseignants, les directions d’école et ceux qui portent une arme.

« Ce qu’on entend du projet de loi est contraire aux valeurs canadiennes et québécoises. La CAQ doit éviter la pente glissante qui consiste à réduire les droits fondamentaux », prévient Harvey Levine, directeur du bureau québécois de B’nai Brith.

Le débat public sur les signes religieux au travail s’est surtout centré sur le hidjab. Mais les organismes juifs canadiens rappellent que la kippa serait aussi visée, tout comme le turban sikh ou la croix chrétienne.

« Il s’agit selon nous d’une menace pour les libertés religieuses des juifs, des musulmans, des sikhs, et tous les autres groupes religieux visibles dans cette province », indique M. Levine.

La laïcité de l’État peut être atteinte sans que l’on s’attaque aux droits religieux, estime le Centre consultatif des relations juives et israéliennes (CIJA).

« Bien qu’il existe un fort sentiment en faveur de la réaffirmation de la laïcité au Québec, notre communauté estime que la laïcité de l’État est un devoir institutionnel et non personnel. L’attachement à la laïcité ne repose pas sur l’apparence des individus », indique Reuben Poupko, coprésident du CIJA-Québec.

Pour le chef de l’opposition à l’hôtel de ville de Montréal, qui porte la kippa, l’idée d’interdire les signes religieux à certains fonctionnaires est basée sur une mauvaise prémisse : celle selon laquelle un employé de l’État qui porte un signe religieux ne peut être neutre.

« Il est difficile pour moi de croire qu’en 2019, on remette en question les motivations des gens selon leur manière de s’habiller, a récemment écrit Lionel Perez dans Montreal Gazette. Retirer les signes religieux n’éradique en rien les préjugés. »

Jusque devant l’ONU

Le B’nai Brith et le CIJA craignent que le projet de loi sur la laïcité n’enfreigne des droits garantis par les chartes. La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés protège certaines libertés fondamentales, parmi lesquelles les libertés de religion et d’expression.

Le premier ministre François Legault se dit prêt à utiliser la disposition de dérogation (communément appelée clause nonobstant) pour soustraire sa future loi aux tribunaux. Pour lui, il s’agit de « protéger notre identité ».

Selon l’avocat montréalais Julius Grey, la disposition de dérogation ne peut toutefois protéger le Québec et le Canada contre un camouflet devant le Comité des droits de l’homme de l’Organisation des Nations unies (ONU).

« Si le gouvernement espère éviter le débat judiciaire en invoquant la clause nonobstant, il doit se rappeler qu’il existe un forum international où ce genre de chose peut être débattu », souligne Me Grey.

« Il est téméraire de préjuger de ce qui sera dans le projet de loi, dit-il. Mais il me semble que la confrontation judiciaire est plus ou moins inévitable. »

Ce comité de l’ONU a par exemple épinglé la France à au moins deux reprises sur la question des signes religieux. Dans un cas, l’ONU a donné raison à une employée d’une garderie congédiée car elle portait le voile islamique. Les décisions de ce comité ne sont toutefois pas contraignantes.

« Bien sûr, la décision du Comité des droits de l’homme des Nations unies n’est pas contraignante comme le jugement d’une cour québécoise ou de la Cour suprême », explique Julius Grey.

« Mais je vois mal comment le Québec, malgré un jugement de cette nature, justifierait de maintenir sa position. »

Source: Laïcité: des organisations juives sonnent l’alarme

ICYMI: Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate’s anti-Semitism committee stuck on Israel – NOW Magazine

Good question:

The province’s Anti-Racism Directorate (ARD) has produced a clear and concise strategy to combat anti-Black racism. So why have they fumbled things so badly with their sub-committee on anti-Semitism?

Anti-racism is about giving voice to those who are outside the mainstream and ensuring broad representation in all public matters.

The ARD’s Strategic Plan, A Better Way Forward, states that its approach “actively confronts the unequal power dynamic between groups and the structures that sustain it [and] involves consistently assessing structures, policies and programs.”

Yet, the directorate has set up a sub-committee on anti-Semitism that consists solely of representatives from the Jewish establishment, including from the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), B’nai Brith Canada, and Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC).

Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) and the United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO) have requested to be included on the committee.

“Underlying our desire to participate is deep concern, shared by a growing number of Jews, that accusations of anti-Semitism are being used to suppress criticism of Israel,” says Rachel Epstein, executive director of UJPO’s Winchevsky Centre.

In a submission to the directorate last year, IJV campaigns coordinator Tyler Levitan expressed concern that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel, also known as BDS, might also form part of the sub-committee’s mandate.

Sadly, limiting the committee membership to mainstream voices reinforces the systemic biases that the directorate has been set up to combat.

A broader, more balanced committee is essential, including representatives from non-establishment Jewish groups.

CIJA, B’Nai Brith and FSWC don’t measure up.

While they have decried Islamophobia, the groups have opposed M-103, a parliamentary motion passed last year condemning Islamophobia and all other forms of religious discrimination.

Bernie Farber, a former executive director of the Canadian Jewish Congress (who is a member of the sub-committee) criticized the groups in a column last February in the Canadian Jewish News.

“How can it be,” he wrote, “that fellow Jews … deny the very same protections they would rightly demand for themselves?”

One would expect the sub-committee would include those with a dedication to anti-racism generally.

But while the organizations represented on the sub-committee claim many criticisms of Israel as anti-Semitic, they have historically failed to take issue with blatant racism expressed by senior Israeli politicians and government officials.

Recently, that has included the Communications Minister calling African refugees a “sanitary nuisance” and the Justice Minister calling Palestinian children “little snakes.”

The Anti-Racism Directorate’s credibility will be seriously damaged unless it deals with the narrow membership on the sub-committee.

Premier Kathleen Wynne and Michael Coteau, the provincial Minister Responsible for Anti-Racism, need to act to preserve the directorate’s reputation as it carries out its important task of combatting racism in all its forms.

via Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate’s anti-Semitism committee stuck on Israel – NOW Magazine

Holocaust-denying prof reinstated at University of Lethbridge – The Canadian Jewish News

Questionable decision but appears that investigation ongoing (B’nai Brith appears to have been overly political in their initial reaction compared to CIJA):

The University of Lethbridge has reinstated a professor who had been suspended more than one year ago for questioning the Holocaust and suggesting there was a Zionist connection to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Anthony Hall, a tenured professor in the university’s globalization studies program, was reinstated following a hearing before a labour arbitrator.

Published reports stated that the university’s board of governors and the faculty association issued a joint statement saying that issues concerning Hall’s activities will be addressed in a faculty handbook.

Contacted by The CJN, the faculty association stated that, “It’s a personnel matter and its confidential.”

Hall was originally suspended in October 2016 over his Holocaust denial and conspiracy theories. At the time, the university issued a statement saying, “From the findings of that assessment, the board has decided to proceed with a complaint to the Alberta Human Rights Commission against Dr. Hall for publishing statements, alone and in collaboration with others, that could be considered hateful, contemptuous and discriminatory.”

The faculty association contested the suspension and, following a court decision in September, an arbitrator was appointed and a hearing was held earlier this month.

B’nai Brith Canada slammed Hall’s reinstatement and blamed the government of Alberta for passing legislation that brought faculty under the province’s labour-relations laws.

“Premier (Rachel) Notley and her government bear direct responsibility for placing a discredited conspiracy theorist back in a university classroom,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “We repeatedly warned the government of the likely outcome of its actions, but they sadly chose to ignore our warnings and expose Alberta university students to anti-Semitism and discrimination instead.

“Despite this setback, we expect the University of Lethbridge to continue fighting anti-Semitism on campus, and to do whatever it takes to ensure that Hall has no podium for his unhinged anti-Semitic nonsense.”

In an email cited in a news release by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Premier Notley stated, “There is no question that the views of this individual are repulsive, offensive and not reflective of Alberta. Our classrooms are a place for freedom of speech and expression but that does not mean individuals get to stand at the head of the class and spread lies and conspiracy theories. I am terribly disappointed to learn that this individual has been reinstated, but let me be clear that legislation that our government introduced did not give him his job back. I can confirm that this individual is now under investigation by a committee at the university.”

For its part, CIJA stated that Hall’s reinstatement was “a direct result of an agreement between Hall, the faculty association and the university. We have also confirmed that Hall will not be teaching or interacting with students. He is continuing to be investigated by the university and his future is far from certain.”

via Holocaust-denying prof reinstated at University of Lethbridge – The Canadian Jewish News

Senate Hearings on C-6: Witnesses February 15-16

The Senate’ Social Affairs, Science and Technology (SOCI) committee started hearings this week on Bill C-6 repeal and other changes to the previous government’s C-24 legislation that made citizenship “harder to get and easier to lose”

Witnesses reflected a balance of views on the proposed changes with few surprises compared to the House Citizenship and Immigration Committee hearings last year, or for that matter, much of the discussion around C-24 in 2014.

The changed composition of the Senate compared to the 2014 C-24 review (more non-affiliated senators, Trudeau appointments) was reflected in the selection of witnesses and questions.

As expected, discussion focussed on the main elements of C-6:

Revocation (terror or treason): Witnesses from the CBA, Quebec Bar, Audrey Macklin, and Craig Forcese all supported repeal of this provision, Reis Paghtakan opposed its repeal but only for terrorist convictions in Canada, and CIJA and Julie Taub opposed its repeal in all cases. Questioning by Senators included the legal and constitutional aspects of revocation, whether or not this acted as a deterrent, and the possible impact this could have with respect to war crimes.   There was a useful discussion on the difference between revocation for misrepresentation and for crimes of terror or treason; the former pertaining to crimes committed before being granted citizenship, where misrepresentation was the issue, and crimes committed after being granted citizenship, where the issue was whether the criminal system was sufficient to handle such cases or a supplementary punishment through revocation was warranted. Needless to say, the issue of differential treatment for dual nationals and Charter rights was raised repeatedly. Forcese and Macklin noted the negative impact such differential treatment had with respect to integration and countering violent extremism.

Revocation (misrepresentation): While not part of C-6, the absence of procedural protections – paper process, no right to a hearing, no right to an appeal – was raised repeatedly with virtually all witnesses indicating this remained an issue. Most favoured a return to the previous system of appeals to the Federal Court. Taub, however, emphasized how easy it was to commit residency fraud and misrepresentation, the need for smart Permanent Resident cards to track entry and exit, but did not comment on the need or not for protections. CIJA acknowledged the need for some procedural protections but wanted to ensure that these did result in endless appeals as happened in the Oberlander case.

Language and knowledge assessment: All agreed language was important to integration. No witnesses disagreed with the proposed removal of language and knowledge testing for 14-17 year olds. Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (MTCSALC) noted time, money and educational challenges for their low-income and refugee clientele, the need for expanded language training and related supports such as child care and income support and greater flexibility to waive requirements on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. The cost of language assessment was also mentioned. CBA noted that writing the knowledge test in english or french imposed a double requirement and they would have been happy with keeping the testing requirement for 55-64 year olds but with the flexibility to do the test with an interpreter.

The most interesting recommendation was from Paghtakan, where he continues to advocate for scrapping language assessment as is a pre-requisite for economic class immigrants for permanent residency status. Duplication meant more expense to the government and more costs to immigrants. Most family class immigrants are parents and grandparents who would thus be exempt given the proposed change in age requirements while refugees could wait until they attain 55.

Chair noted earlier work by committee that showed 55-64 year olds formed about one-third of the active workforce.

Residency: Taub questioned the change in residency from four out of six years to three out of five, arguing that it was more generous than other countries and that this and other measures would increase the number of citizens of convenience. Paghtakan, while he had supported the four of six requirement of C-24, had no issue with the change to three of five given the maintenance of physical presence. The strength of Taub’s intervention on residency-related questions prompted Senator Petitclerc why all Taub’s points were so negative without mentioning the positive benefits of citizens contributing abroad. Taub cited citizens who install their family and return to the Gulf or Hong Kong where they can make more money and not pay Canadian income tax.

Intent to reside: Only Taub supported maintaining the intent to reside provision given its symbolic importance. The other lawyers testifying noted that situations can change following applying for citizenship and the consequent risk of misrepresentation cases and thus supported its repeal.

Pre-Permanent Residency time partial credit: Again, only Taub opposed restoring this pre-C-24 provision for Temporary Foreign Workers and international students, stating that this facilitated citizens of convenience.

Other issues

Oath: Paghtakan endorsed the TRC recommendation to amend the citizenship oath by adding the words “including Treaties with Indigenous Peoples” to assist new Canadians appreciate and understand this aspect of Canadian history and society.

Parental passing citizenship to children with no genetic link (in vitro): Quebec Bar raised gap in current legislation which based parental status on the genetic link (save for adoptions) rather than the relationship as in case of in vitro children.

Religious accommodation language testing: CIJA noted that many language testing centres only provided this service on Saturday (Sabbath), with extensive delays in accommodation.

Smart permanent resident card (chip or magnetic strip): Taub argued strongly that the PR card should be a smart card like any gym card that would allow tracking of entry and exit and make it easier for applicants to prove they met the residency requirements without having to search through documentation. (Comment: sounds good in theory but not a simple change, compounded by government challenges in managing complex IT projects as seen with Phoenix and Shared Services Canada.)

Fees: MTCSALC noted that the increase in citizenship processing fees from $100 to $530 made it prohibitive for many low income and refugee immigrants. The recent CBC article on the impact of citizenship fees on the number of applications was cited by Senator Eggleton. Taub argued that reduction was not just related to the increase of fees, that other factors — change in residency requirements, language testing — were also factors. She supported full cost recovery but with subsidies for low-income applicants.

Jewish group CIJA says Trudeau made ‘unfortunate’ comparison in speech

CIJA’s defence of the Government’s rather mixed messaging on Canadian Muslims rather than acknowledging some of the uncomfortable if imperfect parallels made in Trudeau’s speech:

In a written statement, Fogel said that Trudeau was raising a concern about a “growing atmosphere of Islamaphobia in Canada and around the world, the unfair result of violent, extreme acts of terrorism committed by a minority within the Muslim community.

“We share the belief that as Canadians, we must be vigilant and not allow prejudice and racism to take root in our society. It represents an important message, one all Canadians should heed.”

However, Fogel writes that Trudeau made an “unfortunate” comparison to the “none is too many” policy that has distracted from his “important message.”

“We view this comparison as inaccurate and inappropriate, and we will communicate that sentiment to Mr. Trudeau’s office.

“Canada’s decision to restrict Jewish immigration prior to the Holocaust was the product of an era in which Jews faced extensive social and institutional discrimination in Canada,” writes Fogel.

“Jewish Canadians were subject to quotas restricting admission to university programs, as well as outright bans from numerous social clubs and corporations. Signs in public parks went so far as to declare: ‘No dogs or Jews allowed.’”

By comparison, Fogel said that discrimination today is “rightly countered – rather than fostered – by the vast majority of Canadians.”

“This includes discrimination experienced by Muslims who, like all minority groups, unfortunately face a degree of prejudice from some elements of Canadian society. When it comes to racism and bigotry in Canada, there is little to compare between 1939 and 2015.”

Fogel writes that the federal government has consistently distinguished between “marginal, extreme, terrorist elements of the Muslim community and the broader Muslim community.”

Jewish group says Trudeau made ‘unfortunate’ comparison in speech.

CIJA spokesman Steve McDonald gives effective tips how to advocate for Israel

Rather candid and open advice, and more nuanced than one would judge from public statements:

McDonald proceeded to offer a series of useful and concise tips to anyone who is interested in advocating on behalf of Israel:

• “Don’t feed into the complexity of the situation”; that would only make it more difficult for the average Canadian to understand.

• We need to take the other side’s arguments off the table.” Agree that Palestinians deserve a “democracy”. “What they don’t deserve is Hamas.”

• Acknowledge the legitimacy of some Palestinian grievances.

• Say that it’s “not about taking sides”. “Also, the argument that the other side shot first doesn’t work.”

• “If our first response to Palestinian suffering isn’t empathy, we lose.”

• Point out that Israel did withdraw from Gaza and has always accepted ceasefires.

• Finally, “when you’re having a conversation with someone about Israel, have a real conversation. Never defend the indefensible, i.e. settlements.”

CIJA spokesman Steve McDonald gives effective tips how to advocate for Israel.

Monument to Jewish refugee ship MS St. Louis could be Halifax-bound

Good reversal (see earlier post Holocaust survivors: ‘Shameful’ that Pier 21 not displaying memorial to victims of ‘voyage of the damned’):

The future of the Wheel of Conscience, designed by world-renowned architect Daniel Libeskind to honour the vessel turned away by Canada and other nations during the Second World War, had been up in the air while it remained in a warehouse after being sent to Toronto-based builders Soheil Mosun for repairs last summer.

The museum and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) had been working together to find a better home for the monument, which features moving gears that had been experiencing technical difficulties since it was unveiled in 2011.

CIJA sent an email to members of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants Monday to share the news that they had found a way to return the Wheel of Conscience to the museum, currently undergoing renovations, after it reopens in May.

“In the interim we will find a (site) for it in Toronto to ensure that it operates properly outside of the warehouse in which it is currently being stored,” Cindy Osheroff, assistant director of GA services and project management wrote in the email Monday.

Osheroff directed questions to CIJA head Shimon Fogel, who said in an email Monday that it was too early to comment.

Chapman said the monument will now be displayed on the main floor, which will provide easier access, and that the builders have resolved its earlier problems.

“(They) have said that they’ve made it much more robust and shored up the gears and things so that hopefully it won’t experience the same behaviours it experienced the last time it was here,” said Chapman.

Sidney Zoltak, co-president of the Canadian Jewish Holocaust Survivors and Descendants, said he welcomed the news.

“I’m glad that it came to positive conclusion and hope that we don’t have to sort of have these kinds of disputes of things that have to do with feelings,” Zoltak said.

Monument to Jewish refugee ship MS St. Louis could be Halifax-bound | Toronto Star.

Progressive Israel advocate Shira Herzog’s fine lessons | Farber

Good profile by Bernie Farber of the late Shira Herzog on both the personal and broader aspects of her character and role. A reminder of the diversity of voices within the Canadian Jewish community, and the different interpretations of “moral clarity”:

Yet personal criticism, even harsh reprimands from Jewish community leadership, never fazed her. She held her ground with the courage of her convictions. She spoke passionately of the need for peace, of the necessity to understand the folly of occupation — and she did so with a strong Zionist heart and a great love for Israel, the country of her birth.

And by doing so she gave us heart. She showed us that progressive-thinking Jews can, as we do right here in Canada, love a country and still be critical of political policies that don’t measure up to the standards of social justice. Like a good teacher she demonstrated that through reason, devoid of rhetoric but filled with fact and research, people will listen. They may not always agree but they will listen.

Indeed David Koschitzky, the National Chair of the Council for Israel and Jewish Affairs the successor agency to both CJC and CIC said it best in the recent Star obituary:

“Her major theme was fostering rapprochement between the Israelis and the Palestinians. One of her strengths was that she was able to balance her progressive views with calls to recognize the existential challenges confronting the Jewish state.”

This was Shira’s greatest gift to Canadian Jewry. Our community was her classroom and no one who came under her tutelage ever forgot the lessons she imparted.

Progressive Israel advocate Shira Herzog’s fine lessons | Toronto Star.