Shimon Fogel, CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is frequently seen on TV as the spokesperson for the Canadian Jewish community. He is ranked as one of the country’s 100 most effective lobbyists by the Hill Times. But some Canadian Jews are uncomfortable with CIJA’s strong pro-Harper, pro Netanyahu politics. One Jewish group has even circulated a public petition inviting Fogel to participate in a discussion on the campaign to boycott Israel (BDS). No response so far…
CIJA was created in 2011 by amalgamating a number of Jewish organizations. These included The Canadian Jewish Congress, The Canada-Israel Committee, Quebec-Israel Committee and University Outreach Committee. But in the process, the politics of the new combined organization seem to have taken a significant right-ward direction. This does not sit well with a number of Canadian Jews.
In a recent article in the Ottawa Citizen, columnist Andrew Cohen, whose opinions are generally of a liberal nature warns CIJA that it doesn’t speak for all Jews in Canada. He takes specific aim at CIJA’s consistent pro Harper stance. “The reality is that Canada has a rich diversity of Jewish voices. You will find few reflected in the work of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. It trivializes them,” notes Cohen.
CIJA is also being contested from another Jewish source. Independent Jewish Voices Canada has challenged Fogel to participate in a public discussion on the movement to boycott Israel (BDS). Fogel claims that the BDS movement is immoral and represents a new form of anti-Semitism. Tyler Levitan, the national coordinator for IJV strongly disagrees, and says he would like the issue to be discussed in an open and transparent manner.
IJV has written an open letter to Fogel challenging him to a public discussion on the merits of BDS. Awkwardly for Fogel, it appears that Fogel himself called for such a discussion last year at an event organized by the Canadian International Council (CIC). Since then, however, despite several approaches by both IJV and the CIC, Fogel has declined to answer. IJV has responded by circulating a public petition.
Many Canadian Jews are quite discouraged by the results of the recent Israeli election. Israel today is looking less and less like the Israel they hoped for. Many also appear to be unhappy that CIJA seems to more interested in defending Israel than in representing Jewish Canadian opinion.