By any measure, Canada has become one of Israel’s best friends in the world.
From United Nations votes on Israel, to international efforts to curb modern
anti-Semitism, and the effort to halt Iran’s threatening nuclear program –
Canada is in the lead. Canadians are widely supportive of these
While Canadian leaders, especially Prime Minister Stephen
Harper, get the lion’s share of credit for their principled and courageous
positions on Israel and Middle East issues, the Canadian Jewish community and
its advocacy agencies have made an important and effective contribution toward
educating fellow Canadians on these matters.
Israel and Jewish causes
have benefited from unparalleled support from Canadian governments and from all
federal political parties – most intensively over the past eight years. Not
coincidentally, it was exactly eight years ago that the Canadian Jewish
community reorganized its advocacy efforts into one unified and coordinated
operation. The benefits of this move have been overwhelming, and the results
By consolidating the Canada-Israel Committee, the Canadian
Jewish Congress, the Quebec-Israel Committee and the University Outreach
Committee into one professionally managed and nationally supervised agency, the
voice of Canadian Jews has grown stronger and more credible.
community now benefits from strategic advocacy planning on the national level,
sophisticated outreach abilities, and very effective lobby mechanisms – in
addition to better operational accountability and cost savings.
umbrella agency created in 2004 as the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish
Affairs (CIJA) has now morphed into the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs
(the Center), under the auspices of the Jewish Federations of
Within these new frameworks, regional delivery mechanisms have
also been crafted allowing for flexibility in recognition of Canada’s immense
diversity. Local partner councils manage both local programming and the
interface with local campus programming. The Center’s Canadian Rabbinic Caucus
ensures that synagogues of all streams are represented in the community’s united
The Center’s national staff is in constant contact with
professionals at the national and local levels in Jewish communities, and
participates in a range of national planning tables to ensure that our expertise
is both shared and enhanced. The Center’s program and budget are approved by its
members, who are in turn named by Federations and Jewish communities across
Creating these checks and balances and multi-layered community
interface points were among the core reasons for the organizational reforms of
2004 and 2011.
In short, the model works, and the results speak for
In this context, the article penned by Charles Bybelezer in
The Jerusalem Post criticizing Canadian pro-Israel advocacy (“The Center for
Israel and Jewish Affairs’ misguided policies,” October 11) appears totally
disconnected from reality.
It’s hard to understand what that writer
thinks might be gained for Canada or for Israel by disseminating outright
falsehoods regarding the Center’s positions on matters of public policy. For the
record: The Center does not “propagate the canard that the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict is the Middle East’s central dispute”; it does not have a “mission
statement” with 10 apologetic “advocacy commandments”; and it is certainly not
shy of confronting Israel’s detractors in Canada or the Middle East.
the Center does advocate – to great acclaim in the Jewish advocacy world and
with great success in Canada – is a “shared values” approach to Israel advocacy.
By highlighting shared values between Israelis and Canadians, we have been
empowered to speak about Israel in a way that Canadians find meaningful and that
demonstrably shifts public opinion on the subject in Israel’s favor, and served
as the inspiration for similar work by several major American advocacy
Indeed, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs itself has
adopted this approach with a “Brand Israel” campaign that is premised
substantively on our pioneering work regarding how best to win support for
Israel among target audiences, and the Center’s BUYcott and Size Doesn’t Matter
Programs are being used internationally as a best practice standard.
Bybelezer objects to the Center’s recent meetings with King Abdullah of Jordan
and Mahmoud Abbas of the Palestinian Authority.
One wonders if Mr.
Bybelezer realizes that no such meetings could or would have taken place without
the knowledge and support of both the Canadian and Israeli
Or if he realizes that these meetings have had useful
results. Or if he knows that the leaders of Canadian Jewry have long conducted
such semi-diplomatic forays in the region, including a meeting by the leadership
of B’nai Brith Canada with the late King Hussein of Jordan in 1989 – five years
before the signing of the Jordan-Israel peace agreement.
What I cannot
countenance is Bybelezer’s bizarre and unfair attack on one of the Center’s
senior professionals, Richard Marceau. A lawyer and former parliamentarian,
Marceau was the main force behind Canada’s official Yom HaShoah commemoration
legislation, for which he received the Saul Hayes Award from the Canadian Jewish
Marceau has for the past six years been a leading advocate in
Canada’s Jewish community. He is held in the highest esteem by politicians from
across Canada’s political spectrum, including senior ministers within Stephen
Richard’s personal background and network only
enhance his effectiveness and credibility, and no one who has seen him at work
would consider him anything less than a blessing for Canadian Jewry. It is
outrageous – and frankly, un-Canadian – to suggest that Marceau’s views on
Quebec’s political future disqualify him from playing a pro-Israel advocacy
In the end, what matters is this: Jewish Canadians want to feel
safe in Canada, and want to see our profound attachment to Israel reflected by
the support our government extends to that country. The Center for Israel and
Jewish Affairs is committed to continuing its work in pursuit of these
objectives with great efficacy.
The writer is CEO of the Center for
Israel and Jewish Affairs (Canada).