Legal action between the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and two progressive Jewish organizations has been averted.
JSpaceCanada and the New Israel Fund of Canada (NIFC) have walked back an earlier allegation that Shimon Fogel, CEO of CIJA, had defended gender segregation in public places.
The charge was contained in the summary of a poll commissioned by both groups, titled “United in Opposition,” and released in early March, which showed there is widespread opposition in Canada’s Jewish community to the policies of Israel’s recently elected government.
Among the results, the EKOS survey found that 89 percent of respondents opposed gender segregation in Israel’s public places and allowing business to restrict services to women.
CIJA objected to one line in the 17-page summary of the poll’s findings, that “notably, Shimon Fogel, President (sic) of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, has publicly defended measures such as sex segregation in public spaces.”
CIJA called the allegation “patently false and defamatory.” It gave the two organizations a chance to withdraw the statement and issue an apology, to circulate those “to every known recipient of your document,” and to post them to social media platforms.
Failing those demands, “you will leave us with no other alternative but to begin legal proceedings against you.”
In tweets and Facebook posts on May 16, JSpace and NIFC said their statement “was based on our honestly held interpretation of an interview of Mr. Fogel during a Canadian Jewish News podcast (last December) that Mr. Fogel and CIJA say is inaccurate.”
In a statement to The CJN, CIJA spokesperson Nicole Amiel said that “having received the formal clarifications requested from JSpace and NIF, the file is closed and we will no longer move forward with legal action.”
CIJA, Amiel added, has “always been at the forefront of defending and promoting civil rights in Canada, Israel and around the world, and have consistently and unequivocally advocated for pluralism.
“We thank NIFC and JSpace Canada for setting the record straight.”
Joe Roberts, chair of the board of JSpace Canada, told The CJN that the statement by his organization and the NIFC “wraps up this matter and we will not be making any additional public statements or apologies.”
Ben Murane, executive director of NIFC, said his group is pleased that CIJA “clarified that it opposes gender segregation. Our survey showed that Jewish leaders must oppose policies of the current Israeli government that don’t represent the views of the majority of Canadian Jews.”
In The CJN podcast on which JSpace and NIFC said they based their statement about Fogel, the CIJA CEO said, in response to the issue of segregated buses and beaches in Israel: “It’s such a silly issue, this segregated beach thing. But in principle, I go to Good Life Fitness in Canada. There are dedicated Good Life Fitnesses for women because they want them, for whatever reasons, they would feel more comfortable with it. Again, I don’t think that these are going to be the big issues.”
As of May 18, the poll on Canadian attitudes to Israeli policies, including the line that Fogel had defended sex segregation in public places, was still available on the websites of both JSpace and NIFC.