In a recent attack on Member of the Québec National Assembly (MNA) Amir Khadir and Palestinian rights campaigner Lorraine Guay, Israel lobby groups B’nai Brith Canada and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) have demonstrated, once again, their proclivity for misusing and abusing the term antisemitism, as well as their bigotry toward Palestinians.
The organizations' positions were recently given a platform in the Canadian Jewish News (CJN). Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) has looked into the CJN story and the statements made there by B'nai Brith and CIJA. What follows is our response.
The CJN story examines a documentary entitled #Quebec4Palestine, where Khadir offers his thoughts about his experiences as an MNA in dealing with the issue of Israel-Palestine. The CJN quotes him as stating in the film that "The dynamics of politics is completely controlled when it comes to the Palestinian issue...by the Israeli lobby" and that "...there was a direct link to some lobby that was authorizing or not authorizing [Quebec politicians'] support of this." The CJN then quotes Khadir as saying "Unfortunately, as we know, money talks a lot in politics...In that case, the pro-Israeli -- the pro-extremist politics of Israel -- lobby is very strong."
B'nai Brith accused Khadir of promoting antisemitic tropes, stating that Khadir believes "Jews or Zionists control the political system." CIJA accused Khadir of believing that Jews control "the worldwide media and economy, as well as global politics." Khadir has never suggested any such thing.
Khadir's statements, which comment on the power of special interest groups pertaining solely to the Israel-Palestine issue (and not to politics in general), should not be considered controversial. They are certainly not antisemitic. Israel lobby groups in Canada have access to resources that dwarf those of the organizations that support Palestinian human rights. In this environment, Canada's ruling political parties consistently kowtow to the demands of these organizations regarding the Israel-Palestine issue.
There are too many examples to list, but a couple will illustrate our point. In early 2016, these Israel lobby groups mounted a massive defamatory campaign against supporters of the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, managing to get both the federal Liberals and Conservatives to back a motion -- based on talking points provided by these lobby groups -- condemning BDS.
Later in 2016, B'nai Brith and CIJA deployed their immense resources to get the Ontario government to adopt a similar motion condemning supporters of BDS, and promoting the view that campaigners for Palestinians' human rights are motivated by a hatred of Jews. Palestinian human rights groups were completely sidelined from the discussion, despite their repeated attempts to engage with the government on the matter. Meanwhile, CIJA held a press conference attacking the BDS movement with a Liberal cabinet minister and a Conservative MPP prior to the vote.
B'nai Brith's accusation that Palestinian rights campaigner Lorraine Guay made an antisemitic comment is based on a manipulated quote from the same documentary, where they omit the final phrase in her sentence, giving it the very opposite meaning of what she was saying. Guay went on to speak about Israel's complete disdain for international law, and the Netanyahu government's campaigns to undermine it. She correctly declared that, contrary to what members of B'nai Brith and CIJA insist, Israel is not the state of the Jews (since many Jews do not subscribe to the tenets of political Zionism, and Palestinians living in Israel yearn to live in a state belonging to all its citizens). Both organizations believe that Israel is the "Jewish state," and that Palestinians, Jews and others who do not share this view are antisemites.
Hyperbolic outbursts by Israel lobby groups portraying themselves as the representative voices of the diverse Jewish communities in Canada and Québec are not only defamatory. They also debase the fight against real antisemitism. Ironically, these self-styled opponents of antisemitism remained silent when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's son posted a vile, truly antisemitic meme to his social media, portraying George Soros with the very tropes that they falsely accuse Khadir of employing.
As IJV has pointed out, Israel lobby groups do not care when actual antisemitism emanates from staunchly Zionist circles. So long as those who express antisemitism also support Israel's expansionism and apartheid, these organizations are willing to tolerate or even praise them. Both lobby groups' obsession with attacking those who engage in BDS detracts from efforts to focus attention on the growth of white supremacist groups, which express real hatred towards Jews and other minorities, as well as from the Israeli government's racist and violent mistreatment of Palestinians.
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