Canadian ambassador tweets strong support for Israel

Vivian Bercovici says her social media posts advocate nothing but Canada’s official policy on Israel’s conflict with Hamas

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

Newly-appointed Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici (L) with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, January 8, 2014. (screen capture:/YouTube: NewsinGlobals)
Newly-appointed Canadian Ambassador to Israel Vivian Bercovici (L) with Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird, January 8, 2014. (screen capture:/YouTube: NewsinGlobals)

Twitter and how it works was almost unknown to Vivian Bercovici before she was appointed Canada’s ambassador to Israel last January. A quick study, she started an account on the social media site upon her arrival and began honing her tweeting skills. Now her forceful postings since the beginning of Operation Protective Edge two weeks ago are hard to miss.

It could even be argued that they cross over—or at least skirt— the line between diplomacy and advocacy.

“It is advocacy only in that I am advocating the position and policies of the Government of Canada,” Bercovici told The Times of Israel. “My tweets are strongly worded. I would like to think that they reflect the message and tone of Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird in terms of Canada’s unequivocal support for Israel.”

Since the outbreak of Israel’s current Operation Protective Edge against Hamas in Gaza, the Canadian government has forcefully reiterated its position, which Harper articulated in a speech he gave before the Knesset in January of this year. “Through fire and water, Canada will stand with you,” he said in the Israeli parliament. “Our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable.”

Bercovici, a former Toronto lawyer and journalist, had been an outspoken commentator on Israel-Palestinian affairs long before her appointment by Ottawa.

“Hamas, the PA and just about every government in the Middle East make no secret of their collective ideological commitment to the total destruction of the state of Israel, which they regard as a blasphemous blight on the Arab and Muslim worlds,” she wrote in one of her columns for The Toronto Star.

Similarly, she did not mince words about Hamas in some of her recent tweets:

“Some people have said that I tweet differently than other ambassadors here in Israel, but I have been closely watching my peers’ tweets and I have seen that they tweet in a similar manner, or are even more so,” Bercovici said.

The ambassador, who is Jewish, insists that when she tweets, she is careful to be loyal to the language and ideas of Canada’s government.

Vivian Bercovici, Canada's ambassador to Israel (photo credit: Timeline photos)
Vivian Bercovici, Canada’s ambassador to Israel (photo credit: Timeline photos)

“I wait for policy statements from Ottawa and then restate and reinforce them. Before I tweet, I always careful to review all communication from the prime minster and the minister of foreign affairs,” she explained.

Bercovici supplements the several original tweets she sends out per day with many re-tweets from sources she deems credible. A scroll through the ambassador’s Twitter page reveals that these sources include the IDF Spokesman Peter Lerner, Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, along with Israeli journalist Yossi Melman and Israeli publications Haaretz and The Times of Israel.

“There’s the outgoing communication aspect of tweeting, but equally important is the fact that Twitter is a good fast way to get up to speed throughout the day and a complement to all the other news and information sources,” Bercovici said.

The ambassador reported that her 1,300 followers on Twitter are mainly from Israel, Canada, the US, UK and India. Not everyone agrees with what she posts, and sometimes they challenge her in the comments they write back.

“Once in a while I will engage briefly in a discussion, but many comments don’t merit a response. A 140-character universe is not a place to engage in serious political discussion,” she said.

Bercovici may be relatively new to Twitter, but she has quickly come to appreciate its value and utility.

“It is especially useful at a time of crisis such as we are in now, when the appetite for information is insatiable.”

Editor’s note: This article was amended from its original version which erroneously stated Ambassador Bercovici no longer reads newspapers. We regret this error.

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