Israel Advocacy-A Tale of Woe

We have a problem in the diaspora, and in Canada in particular. We have an organization, The Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) , that says it represents the Jewish community, yet censors voices. Israel doesn’t censor voices. What gives CIJA the right?

I had the opportunity to meet Martin Sampson, Director of Communications and Marketing at CIJA. We had previously met on-line. He “manages the Centre’s team of dynamic communications professionals who together provide strategic communications, media relations, and public relations advice to the Centre’s management, staff, and lay leadership. With the support of his team and his colleagues, it is Martin’s job to ensure the Centre’s voice is heard in the national and international conversation.”

We both attended a conference put on by the Coalition of Progressive Muslim Associations on Saturday, November 22, in Mississauga, Ontario.The distinguished panel, which included the Honourable Jason Kenny, was denouncing radicalization of Muslims and searching for ways to stop it here in Canada. Tahir Gora, my friend, organized the meeting. His conferences provide great opportunities to meet advocates from different races and religions. I have developed wonderful friendships with many of the participants and feel welcome and respected.

Martin Sampson represented the Jewish community at this event. He described the role of CIJA more or less like this: “CIJA is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of Jewish life in Canada by advancing the public policy interests of Canada’s vital and varied Jewish community… [They are] at the forefront of issues that unite the Jewish community.”

Sampson was the one who had contacted me earlier this year to tell me that my posts would no longer be welcome on CIJA’s blog, “The Exchange.” So I took this opportunity to question that decision in person. He reminded me that CIJA has editorial control. Yes, I got that. You control the message. His answer was tautological; circular. They control the message; they didn’t want my message so they blocked my message because they have editorial control.

Sampson’s policy reminds me of Huffington Post. Everything was censored there. Huffington Post chooses what will or won’t be published and that includes comments. So one never really knew the consensus of the readers because Huffington screens the comments and not just for what they consider politically incorrect on their very left of centre blogs, but to skew the response. How do I know that CIJA doesn’t do that? I asked Sampson.

I said to Sampson when you block voices you deny readers the opportunity to read articles that don’t always agree with you. And it says to me that CIJA doesn’t have faith in their readers’ ability to be discerning. They need to be spoon fed and sheltered from blogs that may…what?

Well, he said, they do post articles with differing opinions, ones that even disagree with CIJA. But how can the reader know that? How can you reassure your readers that you post differing views when you blocked mine?

Well, it seems I am the only Jewish voice blocked by CIJA. And I know why, he said. My “spirit” didn’t fit theirs and my voice was “too in your face.” I didn’t go along with “suggestions” made by the powers that be. I didn’t change my opinion to fit theirs!  And it is his job to “ensure the Centre’s voice is heard in the national and international conversation.”

It seems some of my articles had the potential to hurt people feelings. Hurt people’s feelings? Holocaust survivors- because I had the temerity to say that anti-Semitism today is worse than pre-Shoah. And according to CIJA that is just not true. My articles on Lev Tahor child abuse were blocked. The article had the potential of hurting the feelings of the Jewish volunteers in Montreal.

If CIJA is so concerned about hurting the feelings of Jews, how can we expect them to advocate strongly for the Jews amongst the non-Jews whose feelings might be hurt?

When Sampson told me that I was the only Jew out of 380,000 Jews in Canada to be blocked, I was stunned. I didn’t know whether to be upset or honoured. I mean he hurt my feelings. I decided to be honoured. I am the only Jewish voice not allowed to contribute on CIJA’s Exchange. Unbelievable: 380,000 Jews in Canada and I am the only voice not permitted.

Is it possible my voice could topple CIJA!

How formidable can CIJA be if they can’t deal with a Jew like me? How formidable can they be in advocacy if they are intimidated by me- a senior citizen, mother of three, Savta of eight, an independent journalist in rural Ontario? Boy, I must be intimidating if the men at CIJA must block my voice from the 150,000 Jews that CIJA claims to represent. I wonder how many of these 150, 000 Jews are aware of the need for the men at CIJA to block voices like mine?

We are a people of many voices. No organization must ever feel entitled to call itself THE representative of the Jewish people. As all voices are heard in Israel then surely we in the diaspora have the same right.

About the Author
Diane Weber Bederman is a multi-faith, hospital trained chaplain who lives in Ontario, Canada, just outside Toronto; She has a background in science and the humanities and writes about religion in the public square and mental illness on her blog: The Middle Ground:The Agora of the 21st Century. She is a regular contributor to Convivium: Faith in our Community. "