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.

Quebec Jewish community disturbed by lack of outrage over columnist’s ‘anti-Semitic’ radio rant

Pretty outrageous and crossing the boundary line between criticism and antisemitism:

Gilles Proulx was invited onto Montreal’s Radio X last Friday after writing a column in the Journal de Montréal on the Israel-Hamas conflict. “No need to be an expert to say that Israel could make Washington, Paris or Ottawa bend, knowing in advance that its diaspora, well established, will make any government submit!” he wrote in the Journal.

Speaking to Radio X, he elaborated on his thinking, suggesting Jews historically provoke hate and persecution. “The diaspora is scattered around the world, where they take economic control, provoke the hatred of local nations, whether it is in Spain, for example, with the Inquisition, or again later with Adolf Hitler,” he said.

Later he added: “The diasporas are so powerful in Paris, New York, Toronto or in Ottawa or Montreal, that they can manipulate the government through their opinions, their threats, their pressure, making it a marionette.” The show’s host never challenged Mr. Proulx’s remarks.

Mr. Proulx has a long history of incendiary comments, going back as far as the 1990 Oka crisis when his anti-aboriginal rants were blamed for drawing a mob that hurled rocks at a convoy of Mohawk women, children and elderly leaving the Kahnawake reserve.

….Neither Mr. Proulx nor Radio X responded to a request for comment. CBC  [error should be RDI] spokesman Marc Pichette denied that the July 14 phone-in show identified by the CIJA was intolerant.

“RDI managers do not consider that it could be deemed anti-Semitic, even if some of the numerous comments expressed in the show were highly critical of Israel’s bombing of the Gaza strip, drawing a parallel with Nazi Germany,” he said. “Other callers were in agreement with the Canadian government’s unequivocal support of Israel’s right to defend itself.”

Quebec Jewish community disturbed by lack of outrage over columnist’s ‘anti-Semitic’ radio rant

Sponsored travel helping Israel win over Canadian MPs

Good piece in iPolitics on the influence of sponsored travel, focussing on Israel but not unique (i.e., Taiwan):

Independent MP Brent Rathgeber says he enthusiastically accepted the chance to visit Israel when he was invited in 2010.

“It was a fascinating trip. It was a great trip. I learned a great deal on all aspects of it. I grew up in a Christian home and it was fascinating to visit the holy sites.”

Rathgeber says the trips deliver value for the CIJA and could be having an effect on the reaction of Canada’s MPs to the current conflict.

“The sponsors of these trips, although in fairness they try to provide some balance on the conflict, obviously have a goal in mind in the education that they provide by taking you there. So, I am not surprised that all of the major parties seem to have a certain perspective with respect to this ongoing conflict in Gaza.”

Norman Spector, a former Canadian ambassador to Israel, is among those who have met with MPs on trips sponsored at the time by the Canada Israel Committee.

Spector said he also set up meetings and tours for MPs when he was ambassador but his tours included elements he suspects the CIJA tours are lacking – like a wide range of Palestinian views including members of Hamas before it was declared a terrorist organization and some of the far right voices in Israel.

“I doubt that many MPs have been taken on these missions to a refugee camp in Nablus or if any has seen raw sewage flowing at Jabalya camp in Gaza.”

Sponsored travel helping Israel win over Canadian MPs. (pay wall)

UK backs stripping citizenship over terrorism

Interesting amendment in light of the Canadian hearings on Bill C-24 Citizenship Act on the revocation provisions.

Shimon Fogel of CIJA took great pains in his testimony to state that Israel’s law of return only granted the right to citizenship; people still have to apply formally for citizenship. Under the UK approach, the law of return would mean that revocation in the case of Jews would not require them to formally take up Israeli citizenship – just having the right would be enough.

The proposed Canadian approach is that one has to have dual citizenship, not potentially have dual citizenship, plus a court process rather than Ministerial discretion. But the onus of proof is on the person the government proposes to revoke his or her citizenship:

In April, the upper house of the British parliament had rejected the measure proposed by Theresa May, the UK’s interior minister, but passed the law on Monday after a government amendment.

Members of the house voted 286 to 193 in favour of the amended legislation, peers from the opposition Labour party voted against.

The lords reversed course after May accepted the addition of a clause that would only allow citizenship to be taken away if there were “reasonable grounds” to believe suspects could acquire another nationality.

UK backs stripping citizenship over terrorism – Europe – Al Jazeera English.

The NY Times also covers this:

Britain has been one of the few Western countries that can revoke citizenship and its associated rights from dual citizens, even native-born Britons, if they are suspected or convicted of acts of terrorism or disloyalty. The government has stepped up its use of this tactic in recent years. In two cases, suspects have subsequently been killed in American drone strikes.

The new rules will broaden these so-called deprivation powers to include Britons who have no second nationality, provided that they were naturalized as adults. If the home secretary deems that their citizenship is “seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom,” it can be taken away, effective immediately, without a public hearing. A suspect whose citizenship rights have been stripped has 28 days to appeal to a special immigration court.

 Britain Expands Power to Strip Citizenship From Terrorism Suspects

Canadians more likely to be anti-Semitic than Americans, ADL, and commentary

NP_antisemitism_c_jrFrom the recent ADL worldwide study on antisemitism, the Canadian data showing Canada slightly worse that the US but comparatively better than most other countries:

I’m a little bit surprised that the figures aren’t greater in the United States but I’m not surprised at the 14% in Canada,” said Frank Dimant, chief executive officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “We have always surmised that it is in that range — that range of ‘hardcore.’”


“We’re talking about 4.8 million people. That’s a lot of people who harbour this kind of hatred in their hearts.”


“Once, we had certain pre-conceived notions as to the stereotypic image of an anti-Semite as an illiterate boor. Today, that is simply not the case,” he said.

“We see the penetration of this disease of anti-Semitism in many new components of society… much of it is in the guise of anti-Israel.

“The coalition of hate is widespread so it ranges from academics to neo-Nazis to Islamic jihadists to radical feminists to trade unionists.”Shimon Koffler Fogel, head of the Centre for Israel & Jewish Affairs (CJIA), said the survey should provide the catalyst for a national discussion.

“For us, the real take-away is that issues like anti-Semitism and racism in general have not diminished to the point where as a society we can say we don’t have to address these concerns,” he said.

Canadians more likely to be anti-Semitic than Americans, poll finds | National Post.

And the two contrasting takes on the worldwide results, starting with Commentary on the right:

Anti-Semitism has survived the death of European theocracies, Nazism, and Communism and metastasized into a belief system embraced by Muslims and Arabs, and remains a deadly force. Though some might claim that the existence of Israel and allegations about its behavior has become the single greatest motivating factor for anti-Semitism (judging by the survey, the Palestinians are the most anti-Semitic people on Earth), that assertion must be placed up against the fact that the attitudes that indicate hostility to Jews long predate the birth of the Jewish state or its coming into possession of the West Bank in 1967. Seen in that perspective, it’s clear that Israel is just the latest, albeit a vicious, excuse for Jew hatred. If not all those who hate Israel also embrace the full roster of anti-Semitic stereotypes, their willingness to embrace the war against the Jewish state demonstrates the way Jews remain the planet’s boogeyman and the objects of unthinking bias and potential violence.

Many Jews will look at these numbers and, no doubt, wonder how they can change the minds of the haters or adopt behaviors that will undercut the stereotypes. But whatever else it tells us, the survey is a reminder that anti-Semitism is about the minds of the anti-Semites and their desire to seek out a small group for hostility, not what the Jews do. Those who will seek to blame Israel or Jewish power for these numbers are deceiving both themselves and others. Anti-Semitism is an ancient belief system that can adapt itself to any set of circumstances or locale.

Israel and the Reality of Anti-Semitism

From Haaretz on the left:

4. Iran, on the other hand, not only emerges unscathed from the survey but actually stands out for the positive. It has the lowest “Anti-Semitic Index” (56%) of all Middle East countries. It is a finding sure to confound hasbara people and one that can be attributed, among other things, to the relative sophistication of the Iranian people, to the continued existence of the local Jewish community – unlike in most Arab countries – and to the Iranian leadership’s ongoing protection, for its own reasons, of Iranian Jews.

5. In fact, the ADL poll more or less upsets the apple cart altogether in disestablishing the causal connection between anti-Jewish and what are widely perceived as anti-Israeli sentiments. Sweden – Sweden, for God’s sake – a hotbed of anti-Israeli agitation that is routinely labeled as anti-Semitic is the LEAST anti-Semitic country in Western Europe, according to this survey, along with its Nordic neighbors – Iceland, Finland, Norway and Denmark.

On the other hand, Eastern European countries such as Poland, Bulgaria and Ukraine, whose governments are rock solid supporters of Israel, harbor large segments of anti-Semitic feelings. The outliers are the Czechs, god bless them, who have always felt themselves more Western than Eastern European anyway. And what can you say about South Korea, a country with excellent diplomatic and commercial ties to Israel whose population – 53%, by ADL’s standards – has very questionable views of Jews.


7. The worst anti-Semitism, by ADL’s definition, was measured in the Middle East and North Africa, from the West Bank and Gaza (93%) and Iraq (92%) to Saudi Arabia (74%) Turkey (69%) and Iran (56%). No surprise there, really, given that in most Middle Eastern countries the media freely engages in anti-Jewish agitation, with governments either sitting idly by or actively taking part.

Nonetheless, it is an open question whether anti-Jewish sentiment in a region in which a. there are hardly any Jews and b. sees itself at war with the Jewish state and/or as the usurpers and oppressors of the Palestinians should really be included in the same rankings as all the rest, or whether Muslim anti-Semitism isn’t a category all to itself.

Ten comments on ADL’s global survey of anti-Semitism (It’s not all bad)

Of course, while dispiriting, in most developed countries Jews are more favourably viewed than other minorities such as Sikhs and Muslims (see as an What Europe Thinks of Jews, Muslims and Roma – Pew).

The link to the ADL study:



ADL Global 100

C-24 Citizenship Act Committee Hearings – 5 May

As there was no real press coverage of Committee hearings 5 May, watched the video and the following summary may be of interest.

Like many committee hearings, an element of Kabuki theatre with the Government asking questions of witnesses in favour of their approach to revocation while the opposition asking questions of those opposed to revocation and a number of other provisions.

On the Government “side,” there was Canadian Israel Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation and the Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD); “for” the opposition, the Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group and the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers.

CIJA supported most aspects of the proposed changes, including increased residency, language and knowledge requirements, the intent to reside, and the revocation provisions. Given that the possible impact of the Israel’s law of return, given all Jews the right to Israeli residency and citizenship, subject to an application process, Fogal spent considerable time stating that the dual national distinction did not apply to the right to having another citizenship but only to those who exercise that right. He did, however, note the need for some process improvements, particularly the need in any terror-related convictions in foreign countries to be subject to a test that they were equivalent to Canadian practice and fairness.

Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation (ACTVF) and the Foundation for Defence of Democracies also support the Government’s revocation proposals (see earlier opinion piece by Sheryl Saperia The case for revoking citizenship – National Post). Both argue that the fundamental social contract makes revocation appropriate in such extreme cases of terrorism, war crimes and the like.

Saperia of FDD noted the need for some process improvements (tighter drafting of connection to Canada for terrorist activities and, like CIJA, the need to have explicit criteria for determining the equivalence of foreign to Canadian convictions). On dual nationals, she said that in cases where other countries do not allow for renunciation, the Minister could have discretion to decided on the degree of connectedness to the foreign country. She also emphasized the need for more preventative anti-radicalization measures, noting the RCMP high-risk traveller program (RCMP set to tackle extremism at home with program to curb radicalization of Canadian youth), as well as requiring those applying for passports to make some sort of commitment to not engage in such activity.

For Alliance founder Maureen Basnicki, it is intensely personal, given she is a 9/11 widow, and believes that:

Therefore, if Canada allows a convicted terrorist to retain the Canadian citizenship, Canada is in effect saying “we accept the terrorist act as part of the fabric of life in Canada”.

But we also allow murderers and sex offenders to stay in Canada, as unfortunately they too are part of the fabric of society.

All three did not acknowledge that dual nationality does not only apply to naturalized Canadians. One can be born in Canada and yet have dual nationality. And if such a person is born and educated in Canada, is  “outsourcing” the problem, without accepting responsibility. And I suspect that the distinction made between the legal right to another citizenship, without taking it up, is a distinction that may not be applied equally to all communities, combined with the reverse onus of proof.

On the opposition “side”, the Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group focussed on the situations of some of the more vulnerable refugees, and recommended keeping existing residency requirements (3 of 4 years), some exemptions for the knowledge and language requirements, testing language at end of process, maintaining right of Court appeal, reversal of proposed fee increases, no power to strip dual nationals of Canadian citizenship, and ensure intent to reside provision is not grounds for misrepresentation given that situations change.

Audrey Macklin of CARL focussed on the intent to reside and revocation provisions. On the former, their reading is that the law is written so that this could be grounds for citizenship revocation on grounds of fraud or misrepresentation. On revocation, CARL focussed on the constitutionality, noting that Charter rights cannot be violated as punishment, and that the social contract argument is not supported by jurisprudence. The distinction between “mono” and dual Canadian citizens is also likely not Charter compliant. She also raised a number of procedural rights (e.g., retroactively, reverse onus of proof) as areas of concern.

Questioning by MPs was largely predictable. Government MPs asked questions of “their side” as did opposition MPs, both trying to buttress their own positions.

One of the more interesting questions, however, was by Chungsen Leung (CPC), who went on at some length about how attachment and contribution to Canada could happen when one was abroad, almost questioning the intent to reside provision. The eventual question, directed at CIJA, reverted back to the obvious examples of citizens of convenience (e.g., 2006 Lebanese evacuation), with CIJA maintaining that being the real aim of the provision. But then drafting should be tighter so as not to cast to broad a net on Canadians that may move abroad for valid work, study or family reasons.

Ted Opitz (CPC) was poorly briefed in arguing that many countries have the same approach to revocation as proposed by the Government and that a previous Liberal government had ended revocation for treason. CARL corrected him on the former point (only UK currently has this approach, Australia is considering) and it was under Diefenbaker, two generations ago, that Canada stopped revoking citizenship from dual citizens.

And a bit of an interesting debate between Saperia and Basnicki with Macklin of CARL on whether the world would think better of Canada if we revoked citizenship or not. For Saperia and Basnicki, this was viewed as a strong signal worldwide that Canada did not tolerate such activity; Macklin argued the contrary that “outsourcing” our problem would signal that Canada does not take responsibility for the activities of its citizens. A philosophical divide.

Links (where available) are below. One note of frustration, the Parliamentary website, apart from posting agenda and the video link, does not appear to be posting briefs or transcripts, making it harder for those who wish to follow the discussions. A related frustration is that a number of organizations to not post their briefs and statements on their websites automatically or respond to requests for copies. I will update this list as the briefs and statements become available.

Inter-Clinic Immigration Working Group

Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs – CIJA (link not yet posted)

Alliance of Canadian Terror Victims Foundation

Foundation for Defense of Democracies (link not yet posted)

Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers (brief)

CARL Press Release: New Citizenship Act Threatens Rights of All Canadians

Diaspora Politics: Israel, Ukraine and Russia

More on diaspora politics and interests. I have not seen any coverage in Canadian media of tension between the US and Israel over Israel’s abstention on a UN resolution censuring Russia for its invasion of Crimea. Presumably the Canadian government would be equally annoyed as the Americans given its strong language against Russia and in favour of Ukraine. But then of course, this has to be “balanced” by the Canadian government’s strong support of Israel.

Always hard when there are such strong differences of opinion, both with respect to foreign relations as well as domestic diaspora politics.

Adding more fuel to the flames in Washington were public remarks by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman in which they maintained their “neutrality” and failed to back up the United States.

“We have good and trusting relations with the Americans and the Russians, and our experience has been very positive with both sides. So I don’t understand the idea that Israel has to get mired in this,” Lieberman told Israel’s Channel 9 television when asked about the Ukraine crisis.

When White House and State Department officials read these comments, they nearly went crazy. They were particularly incensed by Lieberman’s mentioning Israel’s relations with the United States and with Russia in the same breath, giving them equal weight. The United States gives Israel $3 billion a year in military aid, in addition to its constant diplomatic support in the UN and other international forums. Russia, on the other hand, supplies arms to Israel’s enemies and votes against it regularly in the UN.

U.S. officials angry: Israel doesn’t back stance on Russia – Haaretz.


Cohen: Canada’s conversation about Israel brings shouts and insults

Good commentary by Andrew Cohen, reminding us of the diversity of views among Canadian Jews, and how these are muffled by the larger Canadian Jewish organizations:

But many congregants [of Shaar Hashomayim] worry — more than this prime minister can understand — about the country’s future as a democracy, even a Jewish Homeland, if it does not address its settlements in the West Bank. Or if it thinks the solution to Iran is solely military. Many of us hoped this government would raise reservations, as friends do, and as Ari Shavlit does in “My Promised Land,” his ruthlessly honest book.

Bless Rabbi Scheier. But when he hails a prime minister for speaking “truth” but offering nothing but self-comforting notions, when he lavishes praise on a mission of missed opportunity, he should know that he does not speak for me.

What Jews badly need are not stale notions and soothing platitudes, but that refreshing “gale of conversation” which has not yet blown into Canada.

Column: Canada’s conversation about Israel brings shouts and insults.