From Yoni’s desk: A response to a controversial column

Caroline FLICKR

In the days since The CJN published Mira Sucharov’s most recent column, “Canada 150 and 50 years of Israel’s Occupation need Sober Reflection,” we’ve been receiving a significant amount of criticism. Online, many wonder how an opinion article arguing that “50 years of Israeli occupation… deserves sober reflection” found its way into this newspaper. Allow me to explain.

At The CJN, our two most cherished goals – to provide readers with the latest news and commentary regarding the Canadian Jewish community, Israel and the Jewish Diaspora, and to foster Jewish community-building – are very much intertwined. We take this dual mission very seriously. We strongly believe that by engaging in open, inclusive conversation about the issues that affect Canadian Jews, we are providing a gathering space for Canadian Jewry.

This aspiration puts us in a particularly unique position. As the media environment – and social media in particular – increasingly steers consumers into thought bubbles of like-mindedness, where everyone agrees with each other and no one is compelled to consider another opinion, we are attempting to do the exact opposite. We thoughtfully intend to gather together people with divergent opinions instead of driving them apart.

It’s not an easy task. Sometimes, the opinions we publish can produce visceral reactions, and clearly that was the case this week. To some of our readers, invoking the term “occupation” was deeply offensive, triggering very real concerns about Israel’s security, highlighting the moral and intellectual bias the Jewish state faces, and questioning the ultimate viability of a Jewish homeland.


For other readers, occupation is a struggle that Israel, and by extension the Jewish Diaspora, must wrestle with. It is not an exercise in anti-Zionism, let alone anti-Semitism, but a matter of articulating that the State of Israel is not perfect and should strive to be better, however difficult the task.

Our role, as we see it, is to strike a balance and invite Canadian Jews to debate and discuss our most pressing dilemmas and concerns. Certainly, you won’t agree with everything we publish –  quite the opposite. But I urge you to join us in the job of community-building. From our point of view, nothing could be more valuable.

Achdut, the Jewish ideal of togetherness, drives our work at the Canadian Jewish News. And there is no better time than the present to emphasize the value of community. After all, we are in the midst of the Omer, the section of the Jewish calendar that falls between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot when we mourn the deaths of 24,000 students of the great sage Rabbi Akiva. He famously taught us to “love thy neighbour as thyself,” but his students didn’t listen to him and perished because they did not treat each other with respect.

Jewish history is replete with examples of people who disagreed, but did so in the spirit of togetherness. Let’s keep that going. We encourage you, our dear readers, to debate and discuss what we publish. All we ask is that you do so with civility and a mind to foster achdut. You can be sure that we’ll be there to cheer you on all the way.