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Chairman of Ontario's Anti-Semitism Subcommittee caught in excuse to exclude groups critical of Israel

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Now Magazine has published articles by Rachel Epstein, Executive Director of the United Jewish People's Order (UJPO), and Harry Shannon, Professor Emeritus at McMaster University. ("Why was pro-Palestinian Jewish organization denied a seat on an Ontario Government's ant-Semitism committee?" in 2017, and "Ontario Anti-Racism Directorate's anti-Semitism committee stuck on Israel," in March 2018.) They complained that UJPO and another group called Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) were excluded from membership on the Anti-Semitism Subcommittee of Ontario's Anti-Racism Directorate.

An article was published in the Canadian Jewish News about Ontario's anti-Semitism subcommittee. In the story, Mr. Bernie Farber, co-chair of the subcommittee, was quoted as saying that the United Jewish People's Order and Independent Jewish Voices Canada should not sit on the subcommittee because the people who chose the subcommittee focused on including "those Jewish organizations which deal specifically with anti-Semitism. The focus of UJPO and IJV is not anti-Semitism."

However, if one examines the groups which are on the subcommittee, it turns out that three out of the approximately eleven groups are not Jewish: Mosaic Institute, Legal Innovation Zone Ryerson University, and Carpenters District Council of Ontario. On their web pages, there are no references to Jews specifically, or to anti-Semitism. Of the eight groups which are Jewish, only two (Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre and B'nai Brith Canada) mention anti-Semitism prominently. One group (La'ad) barely mentions it in passing, and the remaining five do not mention anti-Semitism at all.

If we use Mr. Farber's criterion of focusing on anti-Semitism, then eight, and possibly nine of the groups do not qualify to sit on the subcommittee. It should be pointed out that six out of the eight Jewish organizations are strong supporters of Israel. Indeed JSpace, which has Mr. Farber on its Board of Directors, says on its web page that it rejects "...all attempts to vilify, demonize or delegitimize the State of Israel."

A careful examination of the facts seems to confirm the accusations by UJPO and IJV that they are not on the Anti-Semitism Subcommittee because they are critical of Israel's treatment of Palestinians in Israel, as well as in the West Bank and Gaza.

Wolfe Erlichman was born in Russia during the Second World War. His parents had fled Poland, and the rest of their family were murdered by the Nazis. Wolfe and his parents came to Canada in 1948. With a Master's Degree in Social Work from the University of Toronto, Wolfe had a varied career including community work, civil service, and the printing business. Since his retirement he has been involved in the successful protest against uranium mine exploration in the Sharbot Lake area of Eastern Ontario, and the ongoing protest against the closure of farms in federal penitentiaries across Canada. He currently lives north of Kingston, ON and is a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

Image: Jewish Voice for Peace/Flickr

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