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Foreign Minister Stephane Dion
photo by Rhonda Spivak

 
Perspective on a challenging week in Jewish advocacy-Complete Statement sent out by CIJA re Concern in Jewish community about Positions of Liberal Govt on Israel, Holocaust Rememberance and Iran

By Shimon Koffler Fogel, CEO CIJA, February 3, 2016

 

 

A series of political sector developments this week has triggered widespread—and understandable—concern within the Jewish community about the course being charted by the new Liberal government.

 

Foreign Minister Stéphane Dion issued a statement that was uncomfortably vague in addressing the issues of incitement and violence in Israel. The concern with which many greeted his statement was exacerbated by confusing follow-up comments from his staff about “tough messages” which were offered in response to subsequent media inquiries.

 

Coincident with those developments, the Prime Minister’s Office issued a statement in commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day that omitted explicit reference to the unique tragedy the Shoah represents for the Jewish community, which many interpreted as an attempt to place a generic face on this singular atrocity. All of this, added to the anxiety about Iran’s international rehabilitation and as yet ill-defined changes to Canadian policy on Iran, made for a worrisome set of developments.

 

I want to share the following observations and comments. First, the concerns expressed to us—many of which were shared by CIJA’s professional staff and lay leadership—were taken very seriously. In assessing the significance of the developments described above, we conveyed those concerns to the government, along with demands for clarifications about the intent and significance of the government pronouncements. 

 

In both cases, the government was responsive. Minister Dion issued explicit clarifications, which clearly and unambiguously laid responsibility for the violence with Palestinians and flagged the role of incitement in the wave of attacks over the last number of months. Prime Minister Trudeau corrected any unintended impressions left by the initial statement on Holocaust Remembrance by issuing a further comment that addressed the issue of antisemitism in a direct and explicit way.

 

Would it have been better had both issues been properly messaged in the first place? Of course! While it is clear that a more careful and thoughtful initial effort would have avoided generating the angst expressed by many within our community, the willingness of the Government to correct the record—and the speed at which it did so—should encourage us.  

 

The advocacy road ahead is full and challenging. Not least because we will have to work hard to ensure that the “constructive engagement” approach preferred by the Liberal government in pursuing its relationship with Iran be conditioned by an appreciation for the continuing role the regime in Teheran plays in supporting terrorism, its atrocious domestic human rights record, its genocidal statements about Israel, and, of course, its nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions. 

 

In response to the P5+1 nuclear deal, the Liberal Party of Canada was clear: “Iran must be held to account for its support of terrorist organizations, its longstanding human rights violations, its aggression towards Israel, as well as its nuclear program.” Now in government, the Liberals will have to ensure this position is not compromised as UN-directed sanctions dissolve and as Canada and Iran re-engage diplomatically.

 

We are grateful to hear directly from everyone within the pro-Israel and Jewish community; and, within the limits of what is practical and appropriate, CIJA is committed to sharing its activities and assessments of developments within the political sector with you. I encourage you to share your thoughts and suggestions, and I hope this helps address the concerns expressed over the last number of days.


 

 

 
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.


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