Georgia Straight: Labeling criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic is the new McCarthyism

Jack Chivo constructs a sham argument in defence of Israel that relies on a false – and dangerous — definition of antisemitism.  To give it credibility, he calls it the European Union’s definition.  Not so.  It’s connection, at best, is quite tangential.  What it is is a “working definition” adopted by a monitoring committee established by the EU, but it was never adopted by the EU.  The EU’s monitoring committee (EUMC) doesn’t even exist anymore.  It’s successor, the Agency for Fundamental Rights, has no plans for using the “working definition.”  It has no future use except as it can be used for propaganda.

The so-called parliamentary committees, individual MPs who have come together to support Israel, have used this “working definition” as a major tool in attempts to criminalize criticism of Israel. They rely on it because it can be used to mean whatever they want it to mean.  The definition is an imprecise , expandable and easily manipulable redefinition of “antisemitism”.  Instead of relying on the standard definition of antisemitism as discrimination or hatred against someone because they are Jewish, the “working definition” casts a wide net over, for example, criticism of Israel’s actions in the illegally occupied Palestinian territories, opposition to Israel’s illegal siege of Gaza,  or identifying social structures in Israel as equivalent to South Africa’s apartheid regime.

To expand the definition of anti-semitism to include criticism of Israel is a threat to the democratic rights of Canadian, including the right to free speech.  It’s a new McCarthyism to label political protests as anti-semitic.  While Jack Chivo claims to respect the right of free speech, he makes a blanket accusation that activists who support the human rights of Palestinians have “crossed the line” between what is appropriate and what is antisemitic.  Who decides?  Ah, Mr. Chivo would have us live in the world of Alice in Wonderland, under the rule of the tyrannical Queen of Hearts, where “antisemitism” is whatever the Red Queen says it is.

The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism can only be considered a pro-Israel lobby group.  It’s recently released report is a propaganda effort to identify a frightening increase in antisemitism that would then justify measures by government to limit free speech and criminalize criticism of Israel.  When it held hearings in Ottawa, it chose a highly selective set of witnesses, with only two who offered some alternative points of view.  Reputable academics and community organizations who submitted crititques of their mandate and detailed objections to the so-called EUMC working definition were ignored.  As a result, the group’s final recommendations are a concoction of pretense and deception.

By all means, read the whole report and also read the criticisms of the definition by those organizations who tried to participate in the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism available at

Brian Campbell and Anne Roberts, Co-chairs
Seriously Free Speech Committee

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