As a community, we are lucky to have passionate and experienced lay leaders from a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints to advance our causes. It is particularly heart-warming to see young people, busy with new family life and advancing their careers, take on this much needed – and appreciated – responsibility.
The commitment of Ottawa’s young Jewish leaders was on full display recently, when the Jewish Federation of Ottawa’s Ben Gurion Society (BGS) participated in a lobby meeting over dinner on Parliament Hill organized by our advocacy agent, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).
BGS is a recognition program for top-level donors under 40 who take part in creative and forward-thinking discussions about advancing the interests of Ottawa’s Jewish community
On the evening of March 20, BGS members met with two Members of Parliament: Liberal Michael Levitt, chair of the subcommittee on international human rights of the standing committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development; and Erin O’Toole, Conservative shadow minister for Foreign Affairs.
Sitting down for an extended meeting with two MPs with such a depth of knowledge provided participants with an opportunity to dig into such key foreign policy issues as Israel, Iran and stability in the Middle East, issues that are top-of-mind for the community.
One topic, a highlight of the discussion and a priority for CIJA this year, was the challenge of combating attempts to isolate Israel in international forums.
Some states, including many of the world’s worst human rights violators, regularly attempt to exploit international forums as platforms to isolate Israel. The misuse of such institutions not only unfairly targets Israelis, but also undermines the values and mandates of these forums, distracting attention from the world’s most pressing challenges.
As noted by both MPs, Canada has been a leader in actively opposing these efforts, particularly at the UN General Assembly, UN Human Rights Council, and UN Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Canada’s principled stand in voting against these resolutions is a model for other countries seeking to support peace in the region. So too is Canada’s vocal opposition to efforts to politicize UNESCO’s activities and to use the organization to isolate Israelis, an example of which is UNESCO’s 2016 resolution that effectively dismissed the historic connection between the Jewish people and Jewish holy sites in Jerusalem.
While Canada was not a voting member of UNESCO, the government of Canada strongly rejected the resolution for singling out Israel and denying Judaism’s demonstrable link to the Old City and Western Wall.
Continuing Canada’s proud tradition of friendship and diplomatic co-operation with Israel at multilateral forums helps both to overcome the dysfunction perpetuated by those seeking to marginalize Israel, and to advance Canadian principles, values and interests.
Continuing to connect the many facets of our community with Canadian decision-makers, as we did at this meeting, will ensure the Jewish community’s principles, values and interests are well represented.
Allyson Grant is the advocacy adviser for the Jewish Federation of Ottawa.