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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

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CIJA prepares communities for PA’s UN vote

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TORONTO — The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) has released an information packet to tell the Canadian Jewish community what the Sept. 20 UN vote on a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence might mean for Israel and Jews worldwide.

The five-page Word document, called Understanding the Quest for Peace and Coexistence, was distributed by e-mail last week to CIJA’s federation partners across the country and smaller Jewish communities served by UIA Federations Canada.

It is part of the new organization’s “national engagement strategy,” a spokesperson for the centre said.

Aimed at stoking a grassroots discussion among Jews in Canada, the document points out why a Palestinian Universal Declaration of Independence (UDI) would harm the peace process, regardless of which position – for or against – is taken on a Palestinian state.

Shimon Fogel, CIJA’s CEO, said this particular engagement exercise is important now because it will help achieve “greater fluency within our own constituency on the core issues underlying” the Palestinian UN gambit.

“Regardless of what initiatives [CIJA] will have to contemplate once the UN drama is over, it’s going to require a… knowledge level” within the Jewish community, he said.

Fogel said one of the roles of CIJA – the newly consolidated voice of former organizations such as Canadian Jewish Congress, Canada-Israel Committee and the University Outreach Committee – is to help educate and engage the community in some of the “urgent issues of the day.

“They have to understand and explore their own comfort levels regarding how these issues play out over time. They can only do that by being empowered to explore some of these issues,” he said.

Fogel acknowledged that CIJA has its own position regarding how it views the Palestinian initiative and the peace process but was not seeking to foist that on the community.

“Our effort here is to ensure we’re living up to the education part of our mandate. To educate and engage.”

Some of the main points in the CIJA document include informing community members that the Palestinian Authority’s UN effort seeks to further delegitimize Israel on the world stage more than it does to create a homeland for its people.

While it’s expected that the Palestinian resolution will be vetoed in the UN Security Council by the United States, there is a good chance it will receive enough votes in the General Assembly to pass, giving the Palestinians a symbolic victory.

In such an event, the CIJA document states, such a win without a real peace agreement in place with Israel would be “used by many anti-Israel activists as a basis to further delegitimize Israel.

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That is, they will (wrongly) accuse Israel of occupying a sovereign country – thus adding momentum to the boycott-divestment-sanctions campaign.”

Additionally, the document warns that the Palestinian leadership has already begun inciting Palestinians to “take to the streets” before and after the vote, which may lead to more violence in the region.

CIJA also accuses the PA of using the United Nations “as a cover” to violate its signed international treaties with Israel, namely UN resolutions 242, 338 and the 1993 Oslo accords, all of which call for direct talks between the two parties as the only method of solving the conflict.

“The current move by the Palestinian leadership is aimed at creating a state without peace with Israel – and as such is a prescription for permanent violence,” according to the CIJA document.

Asked how the message will be disseminated to reach different target groups in the community, such as Jewish students on campus – where anti-Israel and antisemitic animus has become widespread –Fogel said CIJA will spread its UDI message on a national scale.

 “We take core messaging and customize it for particular audiences who we’re seeking to engage,” Fogel said. “So this [UDI] messaging will be articulated to the political sector in customized product [form] for them. Similarly, the messaging will go on campus, adjusted for them, just as it goes to our community, to media and so forth.”

Fogel said while there was still a small chance the Palestinians might take the resolution off the table at the United Nations, that would only happen if the Americans or other parties presented a “sufficiently compelling” alternative to PA President Mahmoud Abbas to allow him to “climb down from his tree.”

Absent that, the Palestinian resolution would “go forward for sure,” he said.

“The Palestinian Authority has refused to enter into direct talks since the fall of 2010, effectively abandoning peace negotiations,” CIJA stated on its website. “Today, Canada, along with the United States and a number of European countries (Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands – amongst others), opposes Mr. Abbas’ effort at the UN as counter-productive to the cause of peace and Palestinian statehood.

“One cannot unilaterally declare peace. The Palestinian Authority must immediately return to direct talks with Israel, in order to negotiate a peace agreement which will serve as the foundation of a Palestinian state.”

In comments to The CJN on the subject earlier this year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper affirmed his opposition to a Palestinian unilateral declaration of independence.

“If the Palestinian Authority wants to obtain sovereignty, the way to do that is through negotiation. A unilateral declaration will ultimately be unsuccessful,” he said

To view the entire CIJA document, visit http://cija.ca/en/issues/udi/.

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