After quietly settling in to his new posting as Israel’s Ambassador-designate to Canada this fall, Iddo Moed has now been thrown into action in response to the attacks by Hamas on Israel which started Saturday, Oct. 6.
In the past few days he’s helped facilitate a high-level call between Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Canada’s leader Justin Trudeau on Sunday, and he’s done a blitz of news media interviews.
Moed hasn’t yet presented his credentials to Governor General Mary Simon yet, so he is still working unofficially until that happens shortly. But he is already expressing his gratitude to Canadians for their support following the “barbaric” and “heinous” attacks by Hamas terrorists on communities in southern Israel.
Support has included having the Peace Tower lit up with the Israeli flag and the Canadian flags lowered to half-mast in memory of the Israeli victims.
To date, nearly 1,000 Israeli residents have been killed, including many civilians who were slaughtered at an outdoor music festival, (and also in Kibbutz Aza), just on the border with the Gaza Strip.
At this time, we know of two Canadians who were killed at the music festival: Ben Mizrachi from Vancouver, and Alexandre Look, of Montreal. As well, at least two Israeli-Canadian women are missing and believed kidnapped by terrorists and taken into Gaza: Vivian Silver, 74, who immigrated to Israel from Winnipeg, and Adi Vital-Kaplun, of Holit, with family ties to Ottawa, from where her mother immigrated to Israel.
Ambassador-designate Iddo Moed talked to The CJN Daily podcast host Ellin Bessner about how Canadians can support his country, what to expect militarily in the next few days, and why the attacks remind him of what his parents went through in the Holocaust.
It’s good to meet you under difficult circumstances and I know you arrived recently and have not even presented your credentials yet to (Governor General) Mary Simon. So that’s why we have to call you ambassador designate. How is that situation where you’re not an official Canadian ambassador, impacting what you can and cannot do at the moment?
Well, I can still receive the outpouring of solidarity and support that we’re getting from such a broad group of Canadians from all walks of life. The only inhibition is to have direct contact with elected officials and that’ll have to wait till a few days. That’s fine. But at the same time, we see that the leaders at the highest level are having direct contact as we speak.
And that’s really the most important thing. And that is also what this evening is about when I was just coming back from the Peace Tower at the centre of Ottawa and seeing the flag of Israel shown on the tower, and the flag of Canada at half-staff in memory of the victims of this heinous attack of Hamas terrorists against Israel. That kind of solidarity is heartwarming. And for me as ambassador designate, it’s a sort of a welcome, a very odd and strange welcome, but very, very memorable one, for starting my career here as ambassador in the coming years.
You said that there are high level talks, just that you personally cannot phone anyone or contact any elected officials. What does that mean?
I mean that the highest levels of government are in direct contact and that has nothing to do with my specific status at the moment. So at the level of Prime Ministers and the Ministers of Foreign Affairs that are speaking directly, my goal, my objective is to make sure that these channels are open–not to be part of it–but to make sure that that happens and to facilitate it and to expedite, to encourage it as much as possible. So I’m very, very happy to know that this is already happening.
You said “It’s going to be in a few days”. Was your ceremony moved up?
No, that’s how it was scheduled and that’s fine.
Can you tell us what day it’s going to be?
It’s going to be very soon and I’ll let everybody know once I’m full-fledged ambassador.
Ambassador Ronen Hoffman, your predecessor, asked the RCMP for more protection because it was a more risky posting for an Israeli diplomat. Due to the fact that Israel is now in war, have you asked or have you received? Is that still an issue for the new Israeli ambassador?
To be frank, just like my predecessor, I prefer not to discuss security issues on air. I think that’s something that’s between the security establishment in Israel and in Canada to sort out.
I could just say that I’m very satisfied with the arrangements that the Canadian government is taking to protect us in Canada.
So one of the things that the National Security Council in Israel said was that Israelis abroad should be very careful because of what happened in Egypt (when a policeman shot Israeli tourists). What about the 100,000 Israelis here? What are you hearing? What are you advising them to do?
We are not advising anybody regarding security outside Israel. We can only advise when we understand that there is even a threat. But actually, I think I hear your question today in a different light and that in light of what is actually behind the attacks that took part in Israel, and are taking place in Israel at the moment. And that’s the attacks that are perpetrated by Hamas but are basically instigated and directed by a much bigger player that is Iran. And Iran, not only targets Israel, it as an objective to eliminate and to annihilate Israel, Anne, but they also target Jewish communities abroad worldwide.
Like Argentina in 1994…
So the Iranian terrorist threat spans globally. And that’s one of the reasons why we really demand that the international community take action right now to make sure that the conflict that we are involved in right now will not escalate further. And that means that it needs to address the axis of evil, which is Iran, Lebanon and Syria. And, make sure that they understand that they should stay out of this conflict and not escalate. That’s extremely dangerous. It’s very volatile. What is happening right now, this horrendous attack, needs to be stopped. It is still ongoing as we speak and we are counting the dead and we are hearing the, the horrendous stories of the survivors which are absolutely mind boggling. We’re talking about more than 700 victims. That’s a number that’s unimaginable in any way, shape or form.
It’s a terrorist organization that managed to inflict such harm on the population of Israel to terrorize the population of Israel. That Prime Minister Netanyahu decided to declare war on this terrorist organization and war means that we will stop only when we know that this threat disappears and that threats to the Israeli population, the Israeli territory, that threat will disappear. We have nothing against the population of Gaza. We have actually been in the process of changing their livelihoods and their conditions, bringing in goods for raw materials, for their industrial production, exporting, shipping goods, bringing in traders, creating work, employment opportunities for local population to come and work in Israel. All of that in an effort to alleviate the conditions and strengthen the Gaza economy.
Although we know that the force that really controls Gaza is the Hamas. But we our issue is with Hamas, not with the population. But now things have changed, of course. And because of this horrendous attack, this barbaric, incredible attack, because of that, of course, all of this needs to stop and Israel, we need to act.
And since these terrorists also hang behind the civilian population, right in the centre of the most densely populated areas, we will have to find a way to target them and minimize damage to any other non-involved people in the area. But that is going to be very difficult given the way that they have been hiding themselves.
I don’t know if people who are listening realize this. I just learned this today. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the Island of Montreal, right? How could Israel and the intelligence service and the Mossad and the Shin Bet not have known what was going on? How did this happen?
I’m not sure I have the answers. I don’t think that anybody really has the answers at the moment and I’m sure that the truth will need to be uncovered one way or another. But we will not do that now. Now, we will wait. We will do, first, whatever is necessary to eliminate this terrorist threat, to mitigate those terrorists, wherever they are inside communities or in Gaza, wherever they are, reach them and eliminate them. And after that, when everything ends, then we’ll get back and we’ll sort out everything that needs to be sorted out.
There are certainly a lot of questions that need to be addressed and those that you mentioned will be certainly on the top of the list.
Did you as a cybersecurity director for the Israel Foreign Ministry, before you were in the African division, have anything to do with setting up the infrastructure or working on the infrastructure for surveillance in the Gaza Strip under your old portfolio.
I am a diplomat. And so my area of expertise in cyber was cyber diplomacy, which means regulation and international conventions and that sort of stuff. I would have loved to be more of a technician and perhaps a computer engineer in another life. But I am not that. So, unfortunately, I’m not part of any such operation.
I saw that the Israeli Embassy in Canada put a post on social media that the Israelis who are here and want to go home back to Israel should try to get on planes, even though Air Canada is not flying for the moment. Why did you do that?
Because of the declaration of war, we have the official declaration, people are required to join the military, come back and enlist. So we just want to make sure that people are aware what are the ways and means to get to Israel. So if there are no direct flights, we should try and they should try and find other ways to get to Israel.
And in terms of your own family, how is your own family doing in Israel? Can you tell us personally how you’ve been navigating this while trying to also be ambassador?
Unfortunately, we are used to these complicated situations and I can recall several periods where we were abroad while terrorist attacks were taking place in Israel. Almost on a daily basis actually. And so, yes, we worry. Yes, we keep in touch. It’s easier with technology to do it today.
I spoke with my niece and nephew who are also drafted now and they’re all fine and of course they’ll do their best to protect Israel and keep safe as much as possible. Everybody is concerned. Everybody’s worried. We all have friends who either know people who’ve been abducted or killed or are hostages or have been hostages. You know how it is in Israel. Everybody knows everybody.
But this is something that’s never happened before so I was just wondering if you personally knew people who are…
Yes, definitely. And everybody around me also knows people, some of the victims and we hear it on a constant basis. It’s incredible. It’s a really big shock. A huge shock.
Canada donated $90 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA), in the last four years and now have topped it up with another $100 million over the next four years under the Trudeau government. Whereas the previous government, the Harper government, stopped funding in 2010. What does the Israeli government want Canada to do about this contentious issue now that we see the Palestinians carried out the worst thing that could have happened to Jews since the Holocaust?
We were talking among ourselves around dinner tonight about the people who perpetrated this attack, the level of hate that they must feel for other people and the sadism and the pure evil that came out of them and comes out of them, and trying to understand why does that, where does it come from?
It’s very hard for me to tell if it’s connected to incitement that is in their study books of school children, which is funded by UNRWA or is it because of summer camps where they are dressed in uniform and a gun is pushed into their hands that may also funded by UNRWA?
I think the international community should really look into what is happening with international money that flows into the Gaza Strip in particular, because it’s not always just supporting refugees. It goes way beyond that in many cases.
We see what kind of a machine a war machine has emerged.
We see that there is practically no change in the conditions of the refugees that live there.
And so one should ask himself “What is really happening with our money?”
I think it’s now certainly, definitely a very good time to ask that question.
And in terms of the Canadians who are either hostages or killed. Have you had any role with dealing with the families here? Or is this totally Global Affairs Canada?
If they are Canadian citizens, I’m sure that the Canadian government is doing its utmost to do whatever is possible. We are. on our side, of course, cooperating with the Canadian embassy in Israel doing as much as we can at all levels to support them and to help them reach Canadian citizens and help them.
And I know you’ve been monitoring the pro-Hamas demonstrations that have been popping up in Montreal and elsewhere, in Toronto today. What representations, if any, are you making to Canadian authorities that these are terrorists? The Canadian government have made Hamas on the terrorist list and yet these groups are allowed to demonstrate. Is that something that you are talking actively about or your people are talking about having these stopped?
I think that peaceful demonstrations are peaceful demonstrations and people should have freedom to express their opinion. If it’s to my taste and my liking? That’s not the question, that’s entirely irrelevant.
However, if there are expressions of support for barbarism, for atrocities, for crimes against humanity and things of that nature, that is definitely something that I will raise my voice and flag out and say, “Hey, what is happening here?
And this is through the media? Or you’re actually having representations directly for police forces or what have you?
We have all the channels at our disposal and I’m sure that we’ll find a way that’s necessary to make sure to reach the necessary authorities, relevant authorities and inform them, ask them and raise our concerns.
So what do we expect in the next 24 hours to 36 hours to look like? What are you expecting?
Well, the Prime Minister Netanyahu declared war on the Hamas terrorist organization.
That means that in the coming days, Israel is going to operate and do whatever is necessary to eradicate this threat. Operational plans will unfold as the time goes on. And I think we’ll see, certainly more of what we’ve seen in the last few days: direct contact and combat, because it’s necessary to take out this threat.
And I think that Israel has the means and of course, Israel will prevail, and I just hope that it will be with minimum number of victims on all sides. But this must stop immediately and we have to watch the West Bank and the North. Yes, as I mentioned, Iran is behind this, Iran is the force that really coordinates between everybody. We have seen the meetings that Iranian officials held with the heads of Hamas and the heads of Palestinian Islamic Jihad and with the Hezbollah and we know that they are the ones that are behind this, the whole thing. So yes, we are anticipating the possibility of further escalation in other parts of Israel and we are ready, we are prepared for it.
You mentioned when we were preparing for this interview that your family has Holocaust ties, and Holocaust experience stories. I would like to ask you if you wouldn’t mind sharing that and how today or what’s happening now makes you think about this.
When I started my diplomatic career, I was born in Holland and in Amsterdam and my mother’s and father’s family is also from Amsterdam. So when I was just beginning my stint as a press officer in our embassy in The Hague, there was a group of Germans working in the Westerbork transit camp and they asked for somebody from the embassy to come and speak to them about the Holocaust.
It’s called Wiedergutmachung, what they did. It’s really atoning for what their great-grand-parents did.
I came there and I told them the following: I told them, “You know, I came here by train just like my mother 65 years ago,” which was true, at the time, it was 65 years, and it still gives me goose bumps to say that. But that closure of a circle really has been part of my diplomatic career throughout.
And when we look at what is happening now and we see the hatred and this barbarism and this inhumane behavior, beastly behavior of what these Hamas terrorists have been doing in Israel.
This is what it reminds us of, of Nazis. And so we know that every now and then the Jewish people will face hardships.
That’s perhaps our destiny.
But we always prevail and we will prevail because we are very strong.
We are as Jews all over the world, as Israelis-we are part of one nation and we will prevail and we will overcome this for sure.
Thank you very much for sharing that. Is there anything else you wanted our listeners to understand about what we are going through and you are going through?
Because it’s Thanksgiving, I think it’s important to look at what has happened in the southern part of Israel on Sukkot, on Simchat Torah, as something that is very similar to the Thanksgiving long weekend. That you expect to be with family and friends and all of a sudden, this barrage of rockets falls on your head, and terrorists all of a sudden roam the streets with guns and shoot, point blank, every innocent person they see around them.
And this kind of terror is beyond our comprehension at the moment.
This has been so frightening that communities all around Israel have moved very quickly to help and support the people from the South.
And what I see right now is the enormous solidarity inside Israel, but also outside Israel.
And I think your listeners are feeling the same kind of solidarity with Israel.
And I would encourage them not just to feel it, but to show it and find ways to be solidarity with Israel. To support communities. To show them that you are aware of the suffering, of the horror and that together we will get through this. I think that’s very important.
That’s for the short term. The longer-term question, though is, it’s going to take a lot longer to process how the once mighty Israel is so vulnerable now. And that’s an international problem, with diplomacy. That is the next question. After the war or whenever it’s over. And that’s something that we talked about at our table this week, too, is Oh my God. And I wonder how Israelis are feeling about that?
Yeah, that’s terrible. And it’s something that I think, among ourselves we’ll be asking those questions about safety and security. Can we really provide that for each other? Of course, we can, but there will be times when it’s much harder.
I remember in previous times, in previous years, when terror attacks just started, the suicide attacks, that people felt extremely vulnerable everywhere. People were afraid to board buses.
So in many ways, there are some similarities here Although the atrocities in this case are much worse. But, we know where they come from and we can connect it to Iran and we know that there is something very strong behind it, but we know exactly what it is. And so in that sense, it’s something that we can manage.
But we have to find ways among ourselves to increase the confidence and the strength and the resilience that we have, but to regain it and to make sure that this doesn’t happen again.
And this has been a sort of an ongoing process in the history of the Jewish people.
So it’s just another darker time in our period, in our history, but from this, we always get stronger. So I’m confident that this is also what is going to happen with us in the longer term.