Anti-Semitism and free speech: In Parliament this weekend

| November 4, 2010

Coming Nov. 7 to 9: An international conference hosted in the Canadian Parliament Buildings, closed to the public and the media, financed by $451,280 of public funds, provided by Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney.

The guest: Inter-Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (ICCA), chaired by Irwin Cotler, former Liberal Minister of Justice.

The hosts: Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA), Minister Kenney and Irwin Cotler, key ex officio members.

Participants: Self-selected supporters of Israel who are members of Parliaments in various countries.

The goal: to produce a declaration and "protocol," to be adopted by all Canadian political parties, greatly expanding the definition of "anti-Semitism" to include criticism of Israel, declaring such criticism "hate speech," putting free speech seriously at risk.

There are two fronts in the Palestine/Israel conflict. The first takes place on the ground in the historic land of Palestine and directly impacts the people there. The second front is the struggle to win the hearts, minds, and support of people internationally.

While leftists and progressives are aware of the general historical contours of the conflict in Palestine, they may be less aware of one important dimension of the second front. This is where the struggle to expose the full story, including its moral and political dimensions, is pitted against attempts to censor and suppress free speech.

The CPCCA (Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism) and the ICCA (Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism) are important beachheads in Israel's attempts to create a political environment and legal system that suppresses a full story of events on the ground.

As the very names of the CPCCA and ICCA indicate, the campaign of suppression centres on anti-Semitism -- both real and imagined. So let's think about anti-Semitism.

In 1937, this notice was posted at the entrance to the St. Andrews Golf Club in Toronto: "After Sunday, June 20, this course will be restricted to Gentiles only. Please do not question this policy."

In May 1939, the government of Canada refused landing rights to the M.V. St. Louis, a ship carrying over 900 Jewish refugees fleeing Nazi Germany.

Undeniably, bigotry against Jews, as well as others, is a part of Canada's history. Two prominent Jews, who may not agree on other things, agree on the current situation:

"By any conceivable standard, we Canadian Jews are surely among the most privileged, most secure, most successful, most influential minorities in Canada and indeed in the entire world."
- Gerald Caplan, academic and NDP organizer

"We have come to a point in the 21st century where at least in the halls of government, and I think very much in the mainstream of Canadian life, we are viewed as part and parcel of Canadian polity."
- Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress

So why, then, is anti-Jewish bigotry (anti-Semitism) the only concern of Irwin Cotler, Jason Kenney and other members of parliament who in 2009 formed the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA)? No coalition of parliamentarians is pursuing remedies for any other group that is a target of bigotry in Canada today.

So much noise on one side -- so much silence about others.

Indeed the CPCCA claims that anti-Semitism is "at its worst level since the end of the Second World War," despite several witnesses they themselves carefully selected giving contrary evidence at hearings held in Ottawa.

Among them, Mr. Robert Steiner, assistant vice-president, University of Toronto, testified that: "There is no evidence of generalized anti-Semitism on the University of Toronto's campuses. There is no evidence of Jewish students being systematically harassed and intimidated on our campuses. There is no evidence that it is dangerous to be a pro-Israeli student, faculty member, or staff member on our campuses -- in fact, quite the opposite."

And Dr. Fred Lowy, president emeritus of Concordia University but speaking as an individual, said that "Canadian campuses are safe. They are not hotbeds of anti-Semitism or racism of any kind although, of course, these conditions do occur."

Anti-Semitism is marginal in Canadian society. Why then do politicians and community leaders fall over each other to prove they are the most politically correct in opposing it? Why is this so when other forms of racism are not taken as seriously?

Dominant Canadian culture has been white, and European-centred for many generations. People's sense of identity -- including their feelings of self-respect and human decency -- derives from their understanding of events in western European history. Revulsion is appropriately profound at the Nazi slaughter of Jews, yet inappropriately absent relative to British, Belgian and other massive colonial slaughters of Africans and Asians. The first, not the second, has become the litmus test of decency in Canadian culture. And the corollary of this single litmus test of decency is insecurity and moral panic when a Jewish person launches an accusation of anti-Semitism.

Were we to become universal in our outrage at injustices, we would perhaps not be so easily made to feel guilty by false accusations of anti-Semitism.

And it is this accusation of false anti-Semitism that is the key to what Irwin Cotler, Jason Kenney, and the CPCCA are up to.

Denunciation of a Jew, just because s/he is a Jew, and not because of what that person does, is authentic anti-Semitic bigotry and is reprehensible. Irwin Cotler, Jason Kenney, and members of the CPCCA know such authentic anti-Semitism is today a marginal phenomenon in Canada. Hence the CPCCA uses the concept of a "new" anti-Semitism.

What is "new" anti-Semitism and why is it a hoax?

Irwin Colter has answered this question for us. Speaking to the Canadian Jewish News, he asserted that whereas old anti-Semitism "wished to eliminate individual Jewish people, the new anti-Semitism aims at getting rid of the Jewish state."

A desire and an effort to eliminate any people is hatred and bigotry, and anti-Semitism is one form. But a "Jewish state" is a very different phenomenon. The "Jewish state" is a political idea; a political structure flows from that idea; and a set of actions flows from that structure. It is not a people.

Those who had the political idea to establish a "Jewish state" called themselves Zionists. For decades only a minority of Jews supported this political idea. From the earliest days of the Zionist movement, individuals as well as organized groups of Jews have held varied and intensely different views about this political movement.

Just one illustration, far from exceptional, was a public letter sent in 1919 to U.S. President Woodrow Wilson at the Versailles negotiations at the end of the first world war by more than 300 prominent Jews in the U.S. (members of Congress, diplomats, judges, officers of major Jewish organizations included). They wrote: "As a future form of government for Palestine will undoubtedly be considered by the approaching Peace Conference, we, the undersigned citizens of the United States, unite in this statement, setting forth our objections to the organization of a Jewish State in Palestine as proposed by the Zionist Societies in this country and Europe and to the segregation of the Jews as a nationalistic unit in any country."

Signatories of such a statement today would be denounced as "self-hating Jews." The CPCCA might well call it "hate speech."

The hoax, attempted by the proponents of the "new anti-Semitism," pretends that the "new anti-Semitism" is the same as the "old anti-Semitism."

Apply the same logic to Canada. Who would label as "hate" and "bigotry" -- as "new anti-Canadianism" -- those who seriously question the colonial origins of our political structures and government practices, or the bigoted attitudes held by Canadians at different times?

If we went down this path we would have to denounce the expression, and demand the suppression, of those who wished to publicly discuss the government of Canada's oppression of aboriginal people, the imprisonment of Canadians of Japanese origin during the second world war, and the exclusion of Jewish refugees before the war.

The rhetorical trick of this hoax is to force anyone who raises a specific, factual criticism of Israel -- let's say the bombing of Gaza and the killing of several hundred children -- to answer the charge of anti-Semitism. Instead of arguing that "the facts are wrong" or the "interpretation of international law making this a war crime is ill-founded," supporters of Israel shift the ground entirely. They allege that the initial factual criticism is -- really -- the medieval European anti-Semitic accusation known as "blood libel." (The "blood libel" accused Jews as a people with sacrificing Christian children, to use their blood for ritual purposes.) Now, instead of answering your fact-based criticism, they move the terrain from fact to metaphor, making you defend yourself against the false charge of anti-Semitism.

Dr. Jack Lightstone, President and Vice-Chancellor of Brock University, bluntly told the CPCCA in his testimony: "We can't look into the soul of someone and say, ‘Your criticism of Israel is really based on your anti-Semitic sentiments.' We can't do that as a people, as a government, or as a society, nor should we."

"Lawfare" is another weapon in Cotler's arsenal for avoiding real debate. He says "lawfare is the waging of war under the cover of law" -- "legalized anti-Semitism." His target is those he calls "sophisticated" people who present fact-based argument that Israel has violated international or human rights law or committed war crimes. These are dismissed as hateful efforts to "single out" and "delegitimize" Israel.

But in fact it is Irwin Cotler who "singles out" Israel by decreeing it to be above such criticism. He can't imagine that Israel's actions may be what discredits it. Here again, accusations of anti-Semitism replace fact-based argument.

What is equally astounding is the insincerity of this professed intense concern to rid the world of anti-Semitism. Those who shout loudest about "new anti-Semitism" too often make close allies with the proponents of the old anti-Semitism. The Anti-Defamation League honoured Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi days after he praised Mussolini, a fascist dictator and ally of Nazi Germany, as a benign leader of Italy. The Canadian B'nai Brith maintains close relations with the televangelist John Hagee even after it was revealed he had praised Hitler for doing god's work driving Jews to seek refuge in Palestine, facilitating the "rapture" and "salvation" of Christians.

Finally, doesn't Irwin Cotler's formulation of Israel as the "collective Jew" hold all Jews responsible for the acts of a state, a state where most Jews do not live, and where there is a range of opinion among those who do? What then is different between the "collective Jew" and the old anti-Semitic mantra of "world Jewry?"

The counter to such stereotypes -- whether of "world Jewry" or the "collective Jew" -- is the reality that Jews, like every social group, have a variety of opinions and engage in a variety of actions.

Effort to silence discussion and to eliminate the opportunities for public conversation about differences of understanding is exactly intended, among other things, to hide from public view the reality of that diversity among Jews. Thereby it fertilizes the soil of bigotry which the propagandists of "new anti-Semitism" fervently claim to oppose.

Where reason and discussion are given no space, all forms of bigotry flourish. This promotion of a "tea party" culture of anger and denunciation weakens the opportunity for Canadians to formulate their own understanding of the source of the Israel-Palestine conflict and how to promote its just and peaceful resolution.

Rights are weakened or strengthened around concrete problems, not in the abstract and the metaphorical. The conflict in the Middle East is the concrete situation around which we must strengthen our democratic right to express publicly differences of opinion.

Was the creation of Israel a colonial project or not? Was there not, some, significant "ethnic cleansing"? Are the ideas of a "Jewish and democratic" state compatible or contradictory? Have war crimes been committed and by whom? Does the Israeli state impose apartheid structures? Is the very concept racist? Is a non-violent campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions to resolve the conflict morally respectable and politically practical? Neither, one, both?

If the Cotlers and Kenneys and all the parties involved in the CPCCA and ICCA are successful, suppression will intensify in Canada and the chill will extend to public discussion on other issues as well.

Right now in France people are being brought to court and charged with "hate" for sticking a boycott label on an Israeli product. Do we want that here?

Brian Campbell is co-chair of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, and Mordecai Briemberg is a member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee. This is for identification purposes only. For more information about the committee click here.




Canada's craven, lap-dog support for Zionism and by the Harper regime in particular, is a dark stain upon an already badly mottled reputation for supporting all things reactionary and regressive. It is especially intolerable to see continuing support for Israel's genocidal policies towards Palestinians, continue by the NDP (No Difference Party). Any true progressive, if they haven't already,  must desert this abomination and sink hole of the Canadian body politic, like the plague it is.

The Harper government has tried to portray the very radical right wing Likud Party as exclusively representing Israel. I found myself thinking Harper's attempts to label any criticism of Likud's actions being  anti semitic was what Israel and Jews wanted, and I must be anti-semitic. Then I came up with a brain wave. I began reading Israeli newspapers on-line, mostly their largest circulation paper, Haaretz. What a breath of fresh air. Freedom of the press, and majority attitude seeing the Likud major decisions, like the Gaza flotilla attack being bad mistakes.  So refreshing to have a range of views in a newspaper, unlike our gutless corporate one note papers, and how wonderful to discover my thinking was the same as many, even the majority of Israelis.

So much for the NDP -the conscience of Canada- tolerating and abetting its members taking part in this abominable "committee", totalitarian in its means and sinister in its desired objective.

Ok so now what are we going to do about it? I have been searching the Internet for printable files that could be put up as a poster but I cannot find anything. I am looking for something to counter the nonsense from FLAME and CAMERA. Electronic Intifada is ok if you are a grad student with a background on the material and a knowledge of Arabic and Hebrew. I however want something that any passerby might take in.

Israel is proud to present: The aggressor-victim.

If you insist on associating apartheid with Israel then stop complaining about the use of "antisemitic."  

The BDS campaign has as its aim to dismantle Israel and deny the Jews a homeland.  How should one describe that?

I wonder who will be the first to be criminally charged for calling a spade a spade once this farcical neo-fascist legislation is passed.

Maybe that's what the Harpercons really have in mind with the tens of billions they are spending on new prisons.

Before apartheid became a dirty word, Israel itself made a positive comparison between South Africa and Israel. The cooperation between the two is documented history; calling Israel an apartheid society in no way comes close to 'anti-semitism.'

Oddly enough Tru TV, a Turner/Time-Warner specialty channel, is now carrying Conspiracy Theory with Jesse Ventura. Anti-semites such as Alex Jones and Eustace Mullins now have more access to the mainstream. No concerns about anti-semitism here from the mainstream. More and more dishonest cover.

Apartheid was a dirty word from the get-go and Israel was NOT in favour.  Jews in South Africa carried the anti-Apartheid movement and the Jewish community there was under threat from the government because of Israel's anti-South Africa voting at the UN.

Later when both were isolated nations under threat from Russia, there was military cooperation.  If that makes Israel "apartheid" then we should look at South Africa's current friendship with Iran and call it an Islamist theocracy.  Same for Brazil and Turkey.

Enough with the convenient double standards.

The first head of state to visit Israel was South Africa's DF Malan and cooperation between SA and Israel began at many levels at the early stage of Israel's existence. SA and Israel cooperated at great length on the nuclear bomb long before whatever level of isolation either started to really experience.

Certain Jews were prominent in the anti-apartheid movement but "carried it?" Wow, how  consdescending, dishonest, inaccurate, etc.

DF Malan was indeed the first to visit but the rest of your assertions are either false or dubious.  The Nationalist ("Apartheid") government was first elected in 1948 and the way it would evolve was not even known.  According to Benjamin Pogrund - a well known anti-Apartheid campaigner: David Ben-Gurion, the father of the new nation, said, " 'A Jew cannot be for discrimination.'  Israel regularly voted against South Africa in international forums."

The Afrikaners - core of the National Party - were largely on the side of Germany during the war owing to their antipathy to Britain. This led them to being somewhat antisemitic. The situation paralleled that with Quebec in Canada.

Had Israel worked with South Africa on a nuclear bomb, it would have had nothing to do with enforcing Apartheid. In any case nuclear cooperation has been denied by both sides. I know a fair bit about the supposed nuclear test in 1979 and am close to certain that it never happened. The Guardian tried to make the case but one has to be circumspect when the paper is on an all-out anti Israel campaign.  There are details about how things played out Chris McGreal wouldn't want to know, so transparent is his agenda.

When I said Jews "carried" the anti-Apartheid movement, I had in mind Helen Suzman, leader of the Progressive Party for so long and the fact that all the whites arrested at Rivonia were Jews. Throw in that Mandela articled at a Jewish law firm among numerous other examples. Look, I lived this. I used the term, "carried" because the anti-Apartheid / Jewish link was quite obvious to all in South Africa. Change the "carried" to whatever you want.

Even in the case of cooperation, I pointed out Souh Africa's friendship with Iran right now.  (They cover for Zimbabwe too you know.)   You can't criticize Israel for cooperating with South Africa and let South Africa off now, without admitting bias.

Bottom line: trying to tie APARTHEID onto Israel is disingenuous and no better than the scapegoating and demonisation used in antisemitism, Hutu on Tutsi hatred and numerous similar examples. It destroys your credibility.

Harper doesn't give a damn about Israel. He apparently identifies strongly with any radical

right wing political parties like the Likuud party in Israel. That is what he wants to protect,

no matter how much damage it does to Israel. If he genuinely cared about Israel , he would

welcome all legitament criticism of the terrible mistakes Likuud has done to Israel, recognized

by most Israelis.


The JNF distributes to social services to Jews, Palestinains do not get access to the same.Palestinians live in quartered off sections much like Bantustans with Israeli military forces everywhere.The Wall itself separates most Palestinians from the rest of the population. Palestinians have to wear different colored id, passports open on  their person. The state itself identifies itself as Jewish, it identifies with one particular ethnic/religious identity. The recent protests within Israel whereby some Askenazis denied Jewish identity to other groups is just the exaggeration of that attitude/ideology.

There are only a scant summary of the ways in which Israel practises apartheid. Even a manstream ex-president Jimmy Carter can acknowledge this.

2dawall: much of what you wrote above is poppycock. Interestingly though, the description of how Palestinians live could be applied to Canada's native population.

Let's address the issue of Israel as a Jewish state. If Jews may not have a Jewish state it means there will be no country where Jews can live with their religious holidays as public holidays.  There are countries to reflect the holy days of most religions.  Why do you single out Jews?

There are 56 member countries of the Organization of the Islamic Conference. Many have "Islamic" in their name.  Norway officially has "Christian" in its name as well as defining a percentage of Christians in its parliament.

What do you think about the insistence of the Palestinian leadership that the new state for which they are currently negotiating must be Jew free? (Current trends indicate that Christians won't do too well either.)

Don't you think that the overt antisemitism - often government sponsored -  in so many Arab and Muslim countries indicates that maybe the Jews really need a state in order to survive?  If you check the stats you will see that Jews are fleeing countries like Sweden and France right now, reinforcing the point.

Jimmy Carter: was responsible for the election of Mugabe. I'll not go into details; they are horrendous.  Has he ever acknowledged  his mistake?  On Israel he is quite malicious.  Do not expect me to agree with you just because you mentioned him.


Well BB there is a lot of diversion here. This all began with you denying that Israel practises apartheid. Your last response is 'poppycock.' I am going to translate that to 'I cannot really deny what was details so I will just give it one label.'

The discussion follows from an article about Israel. There is much that is bad taking place in many Arab and Islamic countries and much of that has to do with the exercise of control that the US and its client state, Israel, has in the region. Afterall, that recent article in The Atlantic by Jonah Goldberg has revived that difficult, often denied, often ignored fact of Israel's ties to Saudi Arabia.

The Hamas Party was created with the assistance and interference of Israel. Will this be another historical fact that gets ignored or just denied as 'poppycock?'

2dawall: What I am against is the gratuitous misuse of terminology intended to demonize. Canada has laws pertaining to "Indians" and they do get race-based treatment.  Does that constitute Apartheid?  Israel does not force Arab citizens to do military service.  What do you call that?

Countries enact laws and carry on business according to their circumstances.  Given the nature of bureaucracy and humanity, ugly things will happpen.  Judgment of a society must take into account its fundamental structure and intention otherwise any society can be called anything by selectively picking evidence.

You certainly have an endless bucket of "evidence" to support your views.  When I first began looking into this subject I used to research everything to death and usually found there to be exaggeration and context that entirely changed the meaning.  Often there were plain falsehoods. Many, like your JNF point are answered by, "so what."

I'm ending the discussion here and you wish you luck with your hate campaign..

You are ending the discussion? Why not just yell out "serenity now?" Again, you just side step the issue. Palestinian civilians have been walled off, bombed, tagged with a different color of identification, denied basic services given to the Jewish popluation, subject to a campaign of sleep deprivation (Israeli jets doing Mach 2 at 60 metres above Palestinian homes, compression grenades thrown over homes at various intervals, troops marching into various homes with great violence and vandalism) as well as the denial of water (Israeli troops pouring concrete into Palestinian wells). You blame 'bureaucraccy and humanity' but these are very specific things going on in occupied Palestine.

Noam Chomsky's The Fateful Triangle and Robert Friedman's Zealots For Zion have documented much of the racist mentality that guides Israeli culture. You can be so evasive because the North American media avoids any discussion of the so-called 'demographic debate' that takes place in the Knesset. The total cynicism of Israeli culture is much like that of the US South when it openly celebrated lynchings out in the open during daytime like a county fair.  This discussion does not end on your say-so.

I guess Brad didn't read the story a few months ago about a Palestinian who was charged with rape for not identifying himself as a Palestinian before having relations with an Israeli woman.

 I wonder what Brad would call that.

My guess is the whole tired mantra of an unapologetical Zionist...That Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East.

"Canada has laws pertaining to 'Indians' and they do get race-based treatment. Does that constitute Apartheid?"

In a word, yes.

As you know, South Africa had reservations just like Canada and the U.S.A. South Africa called them Bantustans.

I know that story allan smithee. You obviously never read what really happened; it came out later.  There was a plea bargain as the woman did not want her past history of abuse to come out.

If you set out to demonize, you will find your evidence - againt anyone or anything.

What is happening to Israel is equivalent to witch burning.  No good will come of it; for Israel, the world, Jews in general nor Palestinian Arabs.

What Israel is doing is apartheid; keeping one population 'apart', dehumanizing it, cutting its access to basic resources such as water, preventing it from basic biological functions as sleep. SA has its 'pass' law; Israel forces Palestinians to display their different colored identification openly. Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela have both been clear that the analogy is apt.



It's worse than that. Gaza is an open air concentration camp.

The state (government) and military forces of Israel first waged an illegal genocidal war against the civilian population of Gaza.

Now that the state (government) of Israel (along with Egypt) is in control of imports going into Gaza, there are nowhere near the minimum requirements for materials to build and rebuild adequate shelter, food and potable/drinkable water for Gazans.

Here is more on the legitimacy of the apartheid comparison:

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