New Israeli consul general shares vision with community
October 16, 2012 | Joanne Hill - Correspondent
New Israel Consul General DJ Schneeweiss (centre) meets B’nai Brith Canada staff and members of its board and associated organizations. Among those attending were: Larry Zeifman, board of governors; Alain Goldschlager, chair, Institute for International Affairs; Paul Cooper, chair, Public Affairs, and Aubrey Zidenberg, international vice-president.
TORONTO - DJ Schneeweiss, the new consul general of Israel for Toronto and Western Canada, shared his vision for his mission here at a roundtable discussion with key representatives of B’nai Brith Canada.
The introductory meeting was held last week by B’nai Brith Canada’s Institute for International Affairs. The leading human rights organization was also represented by high-level staff and members of its national board, the League for Human Rights and B’nai Brith on Campus.
The Institute for International Affairs of B’nai Brith Canada has a mandate to protest the abuse of human rights throughout the world and advocate on behalf of worldwide Jewish communities in distress. The institute has a special focus on pro-Israel advocacy and education.
This focus was reflected in Schneeweiss’s comments, especially as it relates to countering propaganda from the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement. Just as Natan Sharansky said antisemitism disguised as anti-Zionism could be identified through the three Ds of demonization, delegitimization and double standards, Schneeweiss said, it could be countered by the three Es of engagement, education and experience.
Israelis and Jewish communities in the Diaspora can move from the diagnosis of the problem to the solution by engaging with other communities; educating themselves and others about the truth about both Israel and its enemies; and helping people gain first-hand experience through visiting Israel.
However, it’s important not to allow Israel’s enemies to set the agenda, he said.
“There are battles of ideas out there, battles of organization and communication [and] we can’t let canards and lies be left unchallenged. We absolutely have to fight the fight, but at the same time we must not allow ourselves... to be limited or defined by that fight, because if we’re only responding to what our enemies are saying...we’re selling ourselves short. We have much more to say and we have much more to offer.”
The Israeli consulate’s mission is to partner with organizations such as B’nai Brith to “try to bring together Israel’s capacities with local needs, Israeli solutions with local problems and Israeli initiatives with local relevance here; to be the glue that helps put those things together and brings mutual value to both.”
The consulate’s mandate is not to conduct hasbara, he said; it is to build on the positive relationship and “harmony of perspectives” shared by Canada and Israel and “to translate this goodwill into ongoing practical exchanges and collaborations which will stand the test of time,” not just in the political arena, but also in the economic, scientific and social realms.
His immediate predecessor, Amir Gissin, whom he replaced in August, “left a fountain of goodwill, creative projects and practical work.”
As a result, Schneeweiss said, he felt welcome in Toronto’s Jewish community, which is “very Israel-engaged; very Israel-focussed; very, very interested in the well-being of the country and active in promoting that.”
Schneeweiss is a native of Australia; he immigrated to Israel in 1987. He brings to Canada his experience as policy assistant to Israeli Foreign Ministers Ehud Barak and David Levy, policy advisor to Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom, press secretary for the Israeli Embassy in London and as Israel’s deputy ambassador to China.