Submissions to the CPCCA
Seriously Free Speech Committee Submission to CPCCA
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) Submission
Canadians For Justice And Peace In The Middle East (CJPME) Submission
Canadian Civil Liberties Association Submission
Canadian Arab Federation Submission
Faculty for Palestine Submission
Educators for Peace and Justice Submission
Canadian Union of Postal Workers Submission
United Jewish People’s Order Submission
Joanne Naiman Submission – Combating Anti-Semitism or Shielding Israel?
Dr. Yakov M. Rabkin Submission – Fighting antisemitism in Canada
Dr. Rima Berns-McGown Submission
Dr. Mohamed Elmasry Submission – Do not blame Muslims for anti-Semitism
Jim S. Allan Submission – Semitism, and Anti-Semitism
Karin Brothers Submission – On Combating Anti-Semitism
Edward C. Corrigan Submission – Is it anti-semitic to defend Palestinian human rights?
Bruce Katz Submission – Combating Anti-Semitism?
Canadian Jewish Congress Submission (English)
Canadian Jewish Congress Submission (French)
Quebec Jewish Congress Submission (A Division Of Canadian Jewish Congress) (English)
Quebec Jewish Congress Submission (French)
Canadian Jewish Congress Submission (Ontario Region)
Canadian Jewish Congress Submission (Pacific Region)
SERIOUSLY FREE SPEECH COMMITTEE STRONGLY OBJECTS TO CLOSED PROCESS OF CPCCA
To: Monica Kugelmass <Monica.firstname.lastname@example.org>
Director, Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism
November 16, 2009
I am writing on behalf of the Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC) to express our strongest possible objections to the proceedings of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism.
Our concerns include the Coalition’s lack of openness and transparency, its lack of respect for fundamental democratic traditions in its public process, its unfair and secretive choice of witnesses, and its lack of accountability to the public that elected its members to Parliament by not revealing its mandate and its source of funding.
Our committee submitted a brief to the Coalition on August 13, 2009. On September 15, 2009 we emailed the Coalition stating “We are calling on your office to acknowledge receipt of all submissions and to post all submissions on your Web page. Acknowledgment of receipt of the submission is a minimal courtesy. Publication of the submissions allows interested organizations and individuals to review and assess points made in all briefs.”
In her email reply of September 22, 2009, Monica Kugelmass indicated that “as soon as it is possible we will begin posting more information on our Website, including our future timeline.”
As of today, the SFSC has received no notice of any hearings nor an invitation to appear before the committee. Since submitting a brief was a requirement to be a witness, it follows that those organizations would be invited to appear before the committee or at the very least be notified of hearings that have been scheduled.
Despite Ms Kugelmass’s promise of more information, no submissions to the coalition have been posted on the website and therefore neither the public nor stakeholders are able to read and assess them. It seems that the Coalition is unable to maintain even the most minimal standards of a public process.
The Coalition website now states the “committee [sic] has invited over forty individuals and organizations to appear before them during their hearings in November and December.” This, however, raises more serious concerns about the process of the coalition:
– the list of “over forty” witnesses has not been posted on the website nor made public, so it is impossible to verify the Coalition’s claim it has “invited witnesses with a variety of experiences and backgrounds.”
– the first hearing was hastily announced on the Coalition website on October 27, only one week before the hearing on November 4th and all hearings are being held exclusively at the Parliament buildings in Ottawa. No only would this make it extremely difficult for regional grassroots groups to give evidence, most will not even have the opportunity to attend a hearing.
We have been in contact with more than a dozen organisations and individual academics that submitted briefs expressing concern over the process and mandate of the Coalition and it’s potential impact on freedom of expression in Canada. None had received an invitation to testify nor notification about the hearings.
Also troubling is that the Coalition has not revealed its funding sources despite a promise that it “will voluntarily disclose all sources of funding.” As the Coalition is not an official parliamentary body, it would be unethical for individual MPs to use their constituency or party resources to support its “inquiry”.
It appears that the Coalition is trying to have it both ways, implying that it is an official parliamentary committee by referring to itself as a “committee” (as quoted above) and using parliamentary facilities but avoiding the transparency and openness required of an actual parliamentary body.
The Coalition’s actions force us to conclude that its process is closed to anyone who questions its preordained recommendation of expanding the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticism of the State of Israel, such as calls for a boycott or political discussions of Israeli apartheid, thus moving toward criminalising dissent in this country. In addition, The Seriously Free Speech Committee infers that the Coalition is not genuinely concerned with determining the state of antisemitism, racism and human rights in Canada. Clearly, the operation of the Coalition is designed to shield Israel from criticism and to silence Canadians who are critical of Israel’s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories and Israel’s recent war crimes in Gaza, as documented by the Goldstone Report to the UN.
Co-chair, Seriously Free Speech Committee
The Independent Jewish Voices of Canada has created a petition (text below) concerning the CPCCA. Please sign this petition.
The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) is conducting eight hearings starting November 2 to December 14. “Witnesses” have been selected from some 150 submissions to further the CPCCA’s political agenda.
Many of those critical of the CPCCA agenda to equate criticism of Israel or Zionism as anti-Semitism made submissions. To the best of our knowledge, they have all been excluded from the hearings.
The CPCCA’s goal is to criminalize criticism of Israel and Zionism, not to hold impartial hearings.
Therefore, we oppose the CPCCA as an ideologically biased organization with an agenda that will harm free speech and human rights activity in Canada.
We oppose the CPCCA’s Orwellian distortion of anti-Semitism. It is a danger to both Canadian liberties and to the genuine and necessary fight against anti-Semitism.
Seriously Free Speech Committee Submission to the CPCCA
The Seriously Free Speech Committee (SFSC) is concerned that the hearings of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) are directed not towards combating racism and anti-semitism but rather towards incorporating a much broader definition of anti-semitism in the Canadian criminal code. This new definition, based on the European Union Monitoring Centre (EUMC) ‘working definition’ of anti-semitism, is an expansive, subjective and politicized definition which merges the interests of individual Jews with the State of Israel and its Zionist ideology. By conflating the Jewish people as a whole with the government of Israel, it seeks to delegitimize and even criminalize criticism of Israel and its policies.
The SFSC was formed in February, 2008 to defend individuals being sued by Canwest, in a classic Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation (SLAPP), for producing a parody about the pro-Israel bias of the Vancouver Sun. The members of the committee do not necessarily agree on the issues raised in the parody on the situation in the Middle East. Rather the committee unites around a commitment to open and public discussion of these issues. When a broad spectrum of perspectives and information are made available for consideration — free of harassment, intimidation or censorship —
Canadians at large can reflect on these and draw their own conclusions.
Canwest’s position is best summed-up by its late founder Izzy Asper who boasted that “In all our newspapers…we have a very pro-Israeli position….we are the strongest supporters of Israel in Canada”. Statements made in the first Writ of Summons demonstrated that the reason for the suit against the first individual was his prominent support for a just settlement in the Middle East and his opposition to Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territories. Indeed, he had nothing to do with the parody beyond distributing a few copies of it. Charges against him were eventually “set aside”
for lack of evidence after significant legal fees were incurred. The case is ongoing.
Our committee is opposed to all forms of racism, including anti-semitism, but we are troubled by the assumptions on which the CPCCA was created, and the seemingly pre-determined outcome of its hearings based on The London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism. Rather then encouraging wide-ranging debate on anti-semitism these hearings cast a shadow over open discussion of important issues in the Middle East and create a chill on freedom of expression.
In addition, the hearings have been poorly advertised to Canadian society and provide little time for response.
HIERARCHY OF RACISM
By focusing only on anti-semitism, these hearings create a hierarchy of racism in the Canadian context with anti-semitism at its apex. Canada has a long history of racism, subjugation of indigenous populations, discrimination against Blacks, race riots against Chinese and Japanese, discriminatory treatment of Sikhs and wide-spread anti-semitism resulting in European Jews being refused refugee status prior to WW II. A spring 2008 survey by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project found a rise in unfavourable views of Jews in many European countries but small numbers in Britain (9%), Australia (11%) and the US (7%). Canadian figures, though not available, are likely to be at similar levels. Significantly, unfavourable views of Muslims were much higher in all the countries surveyed. Indigenous peoples are subject to far more discrimination in Canada than Jews. A Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-semitism denies these realities.
ANTI-SEMITISM IN CANADA
Historically anti-semitism has been embedded in the very structures of Canadian government and society. Witness the pre-war exclusion of Jews from immigrating to Canada and the generalized separation that Jews faced in social, political, cultural and economic life through the 1950’s. Recall the quota system at McGill University, the exclusion of Jews from various social and cultural clubs as well as from particular workplaces and jobs. Since the 1960’s however, there has been a definite change in the structures of government and in the behaviour of Canadian elites. The Jewish community is now integrated in all aspects of Canadian cultural, financial, political and work life.
While there are individual incidents of anti-semitism, examples on the Internet, through white supremacist groups and from marginalized sectors of society, these are exposed and often result in serious consequences for the perpetrator. Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, recently told the Toronto Star, “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”
The 2008 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents by the League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith showed an 8.9% increase in incidents (from 2007) to 1,135 including harassment (70.7%), vandalism (28%) and violence (1.2%). In Canada, police services reported 785 crimes that were motivated by hate in 2007, down from 892 in 2006. There were 185 religiously-motivated incidents in 2007, down from 220 in 2006. There were fewer incidents targeting people of both Jewish and Muslim faiths.
While any hate crime is unacceptable, quantifiable measures do not support the claim on the CPCCA’s website that the “extent and severity of antisemitism is widely regarded as at its worst level since the end of the Second World War.”
CRITICISM OF ISRAEL AND ZIONISM IS NOT ANTI-SEMITIC
Freedom of speech and free expression are human rights developed during the Enlightenment to encourage and protect citizen criticism of governing political and religious authorities. There is a long history of debate and disagreement about Israeli policies and Zionism both inside and outside the Jewish community. To suggest that being anti-Zionist is anti-semitic is not only erroneous and ahistorical, it debases the very concept of anti-semitism.
The essence of the “new” anti-semitism campaign is the conflation of Jews with Israel, the State of Israel or its governing ideology, Zionism. For example, the London Declaration denounces as anti-semitic “political action – against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel” Such a definition makes it impossible to criticize either Israel or Zionism without being labeled anti-semitic. Further, it is an illusion fostered for political purposes to assume that Zionism or the Israeli State represents the interests of all Jews. It does not represent, for example, some organized segments of Orthodox Jewry. Professor Steven Cohen’s 2007 study finds also that “feeling of attachment to Israel is declining among non-Orthodox American Jews”. “Only 48% think Israel’s destruction would be a personal tragedy for them, only 54% [are] ‘comfortable with the idea of a Jewish State’ “
The 2008 Annual Survey of American Jewish Opinion revealed a wide discrepancy of opinion between American Jews and those held by the main Zionist leadership, particularly on foreign policy. In Canada, many organizations including Independent Jewish Voices and Jews for A Just Peace oppose Israel’
s illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. These studies and organizations demonstrate that Jewish opinion covers a wide-spectrum and is far more nuanced than the positions espoused by a few Zionist organizations who claim to speak for the entire Jewish diaspora .
While proponents claim Israel is the “collective Jew among nations” and that criticizing Israel is an anti-semitic attack on Jews, the EUMC ‘Working Definition’ gave “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel” as an example of the way anti-semitism is manifested with regard to the state of Israel. Yet that is precisely the consequence of the Working Definition. Those who criticize the illegal Israel occupation of Palestine, the apartheid system within Israel, or Israel foreign policy are criticizing the state, not individual Jews. The State and its governing elite are a separate from Jews in general. Equating the two makes every Jewish person responsible for the policies and practices of the Israeli state. Worse, it encourages the notion of collective responsibility and therefore collective punishment. As Brian Klug pointed out in his essay on The Myth of the New Anti-Semitism – “when every anti-Zionist is an anti-Semite, we no longer know how to recognize the real thing – the concept of anti-Semitism loses its significance”
Proponents of the “new”
anti-semitism argue that singling out Israel from all nations and atrocities in the world is unfair, demonstrating the anti-semitism of those organizations and individuals engaging in such criticism. The Seriously Free Speech Committee and most organizations opposed to the occupation are strong opponents of anti-semitism, racism, homophobia and Islamophobia. Participants in these committees are often also involved in many other organizations opposing human rights violations, including attacks on women and trade unions, and other national and international atrocities. It is therefore untrue to say that Israel is being singled out for criticism.
The ‘Working Definition” states the only acceptable criticism of Israel is one “similar to that leveled at any other country.” But Israel and the Middle East are the focus of international politics and Israel has been the subject of over 33 UN Security Council resolutions and the International Court of Justice ruling that the Wall is illegal. The real question is “why would Israel’s actions not be the focus of substantial political scrutiny and criticism?”
POLITICAL DEBATES ON ISRAELI POLICIES AND ZIONISM ARE NOT ANTI-SEMITISM
Linking political debate of Israel’s policies and Zionism to anti-semitism is not only erroneous; it will chill freedom of expression in Canada. The main danger at this time is the stifling of debate over very serious issues such as the comparison between South African apartheid and Israeli treatment of Palestinians (a comparison which has been made by senior African National Congress activists), as well as the call for boycotts until Israel complies with international law. The London Declaration specifically attacks “antisemitic discourse and a hostile environment in whatever form it takes including calls for boycotts.”
Jewish student feelings of fear and intimidation on campuses, particularly around Israeli Apartheid Week, has been specifically mentioned as a form of anti-semitism. There is certainly anecdotal evidence that some Jewish students feel uncomfortable having the Zionist narrative of the Middle East politically challenged. But political debate and criticism is not anti-semitism. The 2008 Audit Report report notes that “tensions in the Middle East were present in explicit form in 211 [19% of] incidents during 2008.” How many of these incidents of harassment were political criticisms of Zionism or Israel’
s policies? No one has the right to demand suppression of political speech because it makes them feel uncomfortable.
On the other hand, Canadian critics of Israel’
s violations of international law are subject to constant harassment and censorship, eg.
- the Canwest lawsuit brought against the producers of The Vancouver Sun parody
- the censoring and blocking of community videos by Shaw TV because the words “ethnic cleansing”, massacre”, “genocide”were used in presentations by speakers opposing the illegal occupation of Palestine
- several universities requiring the removal of Israel Apartheid Week (IAW) posters, threatening to cancel IAW events, or using bureaucratic maneuvers to cancel public meetings or charge exorbitant security feesthreatening several faculty in the US and Canada with review and dismissal. Some have lost their positions
- Pro-Palestinian organizations have been threatened with the loss of government funding.
The Seriously Free Speech Committee is concerned that the CPCCA mandate creates a hierarchy of racism in Canada by focusing solely on anti-semitism. The CPCCA context of The London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism and the EUMC ‘Working Definition’ conflate the policies of the State of Israel and Zionism with all Jews, rendering any criticism of Israel’s actions anti-semitic and thereby debasing the concept of anti-semitism. Finally, these hearings cast a shadow over open political debate of important issues in the Middle East and create a chill on freedom of expression in Canada.
Canpalnet submission to the CPCCA
The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA) invited submissions and we are responding, for the issue you raise concerns us directly.
The CPCCA is composed of individual Members of Parliament, acting in their own name, not that of the various political parties. Nor is CPCCA acting under a Parliamentary mandate. What brings the members together, judging from its website, is a desire to lobby, across our country and internationally, for Parliamentary legislation to further restrict public exchange of information and opinion concerning the policies and practices of the State of Israel and the living conditions and rights of the Palestinian people. The CPCCA aims to shield the State of Israel from unwanted political criticisms, by arbitrarily defining the most serious of these criticisms as “anti-semitic”
. If successful, the CPCCA project, under the pretext of preventing bigotry, actually would curtail public expression of political opinion. And as freedom of expression of political opinion shrank, ironically bigotry itself would increase.
For our part we are solidly grounded in a rejection of all expressions of bigotry, and simultaneously are committed to the widest possible, vigorous public dialogue among Canadians on the issues of Israel and the Palestinians. We contend this dialogue needs to be free of intimidation and harassment. Our goal is for Canadian government policies and practices on this matter to reflect the outcomes of such democratic dialogue among the people of our country.
So the CPCCA and our organization, Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet) are concerned with the same issues, but CPCCA and CanPalNet approaches move in opposite directions. We outline our views below on the premise that CPCCA will conduct its public hearings in a democratic spirit: respectful of and attentive to voices not just of those who agree with CPCCA objectives but also those, like ourselves, who have serious reasons to disagree.
THERE IS NO HIERARCHY OF BIGOTRIES
Bigotry in our country does deserve Parliamentary investigation and action. Bigotry, within the populace and within the institutional structures of power, targets groups of many different origins in our country: indigenous, blacks, Asians, Moslems, Sikhs, Jews, and others. Bigotry undeniably is a serious problem.
But rather than address this comprehensively by inviting all groups, in your own constituencies for example, who feel themselves exposed to hateful bigotry to testify as to their experiences and with their proposals for remedy, the CPCCA has chosen to elevate the concerns of one group high above that of all others, giving this group special consideration.
Yet there is no available evidence for the CPCCA presumption that Jews in Canada now face more bigotry and/or receive lesser public support, particularly from institutional power-holders, in combating bigotry when it occurs, than do other targeted groups of people in our country.
To the contrary, according to the recent spring 2008 survey of the well-regarded
Pew Research Center’
s Pew Global Attitudes Project. In the UK and the US negative views of Jews was 9% and 7% respectively. In these same countries, the negative views of Moslems was 23%. The survey did not include Canada, but it is reasonable to hypothesize the ratio is comparable.
THERE IS NO “COLLECTIVE JEW”
The CPCCA calls Israel the “collective Jew”, inferring thereby that every Jew supports and is responsible for the policies and practices and the guiding political ideology of the Israeli state. This is utterly false. The resort to this false claim is a device to suppress serious criticism of and opposition to Israeli state policies and practices, as well as rejection of the political ideology of Zionism, by rebranding such criticism as “new”
anti-semitism. Tragically, this rebranding effort itself contributes to fostering anti-semitic thinking.
From the earliest days of the Zionist movement until today, individual as well as organized groups of Jews have held varied, and intensely different views about this political movement. Jews, neither in the past nor today, have no uniform response about whether the policies and practices of the State of Israel express and defend, or violate and threaten, their own values and interests.
Three illustrations, far from exceptional:
In 1919 more than 300 prominent Jews in the US (members of Congress, diplomats, judges, officers of major Jewish organizations included) sent a letter to President Wilson at the Versailles negotiations, saying: “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.”
Albert Einstein, victim of Nazi bigotry, wrote a letter with other prominent Jewish-American intellectuals published in the New York Times (December 4, 1948), denouncing the visit to the US of Menachim Begin leader of the “Freedom Party”. Begin years later was elected Prime Minister of Israel. The letter described this party as “closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties.”
Last month, Dov Yermiya, an Israeli military officer who fought and was wounded in the war of 1948, wrote to a circle of friends saying: “I, a 95 year old Sabra [native born Israeli Jew], … declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem….”
Were the 300 Jewish Americans, Einstein and Yermiya living today in Canada, expressing publicly such views, who would propose prosecuting them for spreading “anti-semitism”
? And if not them, why should any Canadian with similar opinions be treated differently?
Consider also a research study by US professors Stephen Cohen and Ari Kelman, both specializing in sociological studies of US Jewry. Published in 2008 it reported that more than half of young US Jews (under 35) would not view the destruction of Israel as a personal tragedy, and only 54% said they were comfortable with the idea of a Jewish state.
As there is nothing bigoted about Canadians having differing and passionately opposing views about the policies and practices and guiding ideology of the governments of Canada, even the very legitimacy of the Canadian state, so there is nothing bigoted about Canadians –
whatever their background — having differing and opposing views about the policies and practices and guiding ideology of Israel. No one proposes criminalizing the former. Why does CPCCA propose criminalizing the latter?
These fundamentally are political matters, and freedom to express, explore and exchange political ideas in public is indispensable to democratic culture.
“NEW ANTI-SEMITISM”IS A WORN-OUT CAMPAIGN SLOGAN
The so-called “new anti-semitism”
argument recurs particularly when Israeli state actions have aroused the conscience of yet wider segments of the population to the injustices of its actions, and when Israel comes under greater pressure to abide by United Nations resolutions and international law.
Political campaigns claiming “new” anti-semitism were conducted in the aftermath of the 1973 war, then in the 1980’s with Israel’
s invasion of Lebanon, followed by the early years of 2000 when Israel intensified assaults in the 1967 occupied territories.
The current replay of the now-far-from-new “new” anti-semitism campaign is an effort to silence the unprecedentedly broad and intense public abhorrence of Israel’s killing of Palestinian people in Gaza through massive bombardment in December (2008) and January (2009), along with Israel’
s on-going inhuman siege of Gaza.
In conclusion we:
(1) encourage you as Members of Parliament to attend to the problem of bigotry, not by arbitrarily privileging one group, but as a real problem that impacts many and varied people in our country;
(2) propose you show greater confidence in your own convictions and so join us in welcoming open and unintimidated serious exchange of ideas on matters relating to Israel/Palestine, allowing the good judgement of fellow Canadians to determine the respective merits of different perspectives.
In brief, we call on CPCCA to withdraw from its effort to choke democratic culture by criminalizing political opinions with which its members disagree.
While more can and will be said, we are mindful of and wish to respect the limitations of length you have set for submissions.
Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet)
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) submission submission to the CPCCA
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) represents Canadian Jews who share a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights. We especially promote justice, ethics, and humanity in Israel and Palestine, as well as in Canada. IJV offers a range of Jewish perspectives which differ from those of the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’
nai Brith, the Canada-Israel Committee, and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, all of which encourage the view that Judaism and uncritical support for Israeli policies and practices are synonymous. IJV has chapters in seven cities across Canada (Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and Vancouver) and members in many other Canadian cities.
As Jews, we take true anti-Semitism—that is, discrimination and attacks on Jews and Judaism—
very seriously. However, we reject the false assumptions on which the CPCCA and its efforts are based.
DESPITE PROTESTATIONS TO THE CONTRARY, THE CPCCA CONFLATES LEGITIMATE CRITICISM OF ISRAEL WITH ANTI-SEMITISM.
The CPCCA claims that its purpose is not “really about limiting legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.” However its web site says that “calls for the destruction of the State of Israel are inherently antisemitic.” IJV believes that this statement is part of an organized attempt on the part of partisans of Israel to conflate the call for the dismantling of repressive Israeli institutions and ending repressive Israeli practices regarding Palestinians with the physical destruction of the Jewish population of Israel.
The London Declaration states “We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations – in rhetoric and political action –
against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel.” This is another conflation of criticism of Israel with prejudice against Jews. Our organization is actively involved in the former, while we are adamantly opposed to the latter. There is a fundamental difference between the two.
Independent Jewish Voices includes a broad spectrum of opinion on this issue, ranging from strongly Zionist to strongly anti-Zionist. This diversity of views enriches and deepens our understanding. As Jews, we hold that free speech includes the right of all people to openly discuss their views on all matters related to the political reality in Israel, including whether or not they should support an ethnocratic state which privileges Jews by imposing brutal discrimination and deploys indiscriminate violence against its indigenous population as well as against its neighbours.
THE CPCCA ASSERTS, WITHOUT FOUNDATION, THAT “THE EXTENT AND SEVERITY OF ANTISEMITISM IS WIDELY REGARDED AS AT ITS WORST LEVEL SINCE THE END OF THE SECOND WORLD WAR.
There is no evidence of any significant rise in anti-Semitism in Canada or elsewhere. In fact, as Globe and Mail columnist Michael Valpy reported in March 2004, an extensive survey on anti-Semitic attitudes by the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy found very low levels of anti-Semitism. We find it very revealing that the CJC chose not to publish this survey and put off our requests for copies of the results. Similarly, the Anti-Defamation League’s 2002 survey of U.S. anti-Semitic attitudes found an almost steady decline in the proportion of Americans who are anti-Semitic from 29% in 1964, to 20% in 1992, to 12% in 1998, with a slight rise to 17% in 2002—
just after the massacre that Israeli forces carried out at the Palestinian city of Jenin. The 2002 ADL survey found that the majority of Americans hold highly positive attitudes toward Jews, and that it was concerns over Israeli war crimes that were generating anti-Semitic attitudes.1
Even these studies are flawed, however, because they confuse individual prejudice with institutionally oppressive anti-Semitism. As Jason Kunin points out, “it’s important to distinguish between prejudice and oppression. Prejudice is simply an opinion based on limited information or stereotypes. Everyone has prejudices. We all have some opinions based on incomplete information…
.Prejudice can exist at both an ideological level (e.g. “white people are ignorant and mean”) and at an individual level (e.g. “I won’t vote for that white politician”), but unless that prejudice can also translate into institutional practices that marginalize or exclude, then that prejudice is not oppression but merely a prejudice. Given the current reality of global white supremacy, neither of the examples I have given above have the potential to oppress.” On that basis, he concludes, “Anti-Semitism, pervasive and deadly only a couple generations ago, is no longer a form of oppression.”2
What is unprecedented is not the level of anti-Semitism in the world, but rather the rising level of international outrage over Israel’
s actions. To reiterate, this is not anti-Semitism, but rather a legitimate, growing expression of concern and moral outrage.
According to the drafters of this initiative, there is a pressing need to respond to what they characterize as the “new anti-Semitism,” in which “anti-Zionism is being used as a cover for anti-Semitism.” IJV believes that it is legitimate for critics of Israel’
s behaviour to describe it as a system of apartheid and to deny the legitimacy of any state that engages in such practices. This is not anti-Semitism of any kind, new or old.
THE CPCCA ALLEGES THAT CANADIAN JEWISH STUDENTS ARE PARTICULARLY RIDICULED AND INTIMIDATED FOR BEING JEWISH.
For example, its press release claims “Jewish students are being threatened and intimidated to the point that they are not able to express themselves, or are even fearful to wear a Jewish skull cap or star around their necks.” IJV has co-sponsored and participated in a broad range of activities critical of Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights, including Israel Apartheid Week events, tours conducted by the Palestinian Human Rights organization Al Haq, locally-based tours of the Palestinian town of Bi’
lin, and demonstrations against the horrific Israeli assault on the people of Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. In all those events, pro-Israeli Jewish students as well as Jews generally were welcomed and their comments treated respectfully. By contrast, YouTube has captured a number of incidents in which pro-Israel students barged into demonstrations critical of Israel or mounted provocative counter demonstrations, using the heated arguments with Palestinians and their supporters that their interventions generated as evidence that they were being “intimidated and threatened.”3 These were not cases of Jews being attacked for their Judaism, but Palestinians and their supporters arguing back forcefully against belligerent Zionist students trying to suppress their freedom of speech.
Unlike those organizations which seek to stifle open debate about this and related subjects by labelling those who oppose their views as anti-Semitic and seek to punish them for expressing them, IJV actively promotes the rights of all individuals to express themselves freely and without threat of sanction.
By launching such an inquiry, the CPCCA implies that existing human rights mechanisms are not sufficient to address actual incidents of anti-Semitism in Canada.
The Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith have been trying for years to broaden the definition of “hate crimes” to include criticism of Israel. So far, thankfully, they have been unsuccessful. The CPCCA is just the latest in this attempt to attack free speech and silence criticism of the Israeli government’s oppressive and illegal policies. It is our view that Canada’
s existing human rights commissions and criminal code are more than sufficient to deal with actual incidents of anti-Semitism.
THE CPCCA IMPLIES THAT THOSE WHO ARE CRITICAL OF ISRAELI POLICIES ARE CALLING FOR “THE DESTRUCTION OF THE STATE OF ISRAEL AND ITS INHABITANTS.”
This tendentious position holds that because of the Holocaust, Jews must have a Jewish state in order to be secure, and that anyone who is critical of the Jewish state and its behaviour must therefore support the destruction of the Jewish people. This is nothing more than classic fear-mongering, designed to divert attention from illegal and unethical policies carried out by the Israeli government. Thankfully, it is carrying less and less weight over time, thanks to its overuse by apologists for Israel.
To be critical of Israeli policies or even to challenge the legitimacy of the existence of a Jewish state is not equivalent to calling for the physical destruction of the State, or advocating genocide against Israeli citizens. By far the strongest military power in the region, Israel is in no danger of physical destruction. All of its neighbours, with the exception of Iraq, have recognized the state of Israel, and the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas have also recognized the state of Israel Fatah explicitly and Hamas implicitly.
THE COALITION CONTENDS THAT THERE IS A NEW, VIRULENT FORM OF ANTI-SEMITISM SPREADING ACROSS THE WORLD.
What is new is the unprecedented level of organizing, particularly on campuses, in response to Israel and its actions. Of particular importance with respect to this issue has been the rise of the organization known as the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, which engages in the kinds of activities that the members of the CPCCA appear determined to stamp out. CAIA’s purpose is to focus attention on the plight of Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to generate action to combat what it characterizes as the system of apartheid that exists there. Discussion about and disagreement over the appropriateness of the term “apartheid” as a descriptor for Israel and the regime that it has created in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is completely legitimate. Our organization has endorsed CAIA and has members who have actively participated in it. We categorically reject any attempt to describe the activities of CAIA as anti-Semitic and draw the Coalition’s attention to CAIA’
s basis of unity, which contains the explicit statement that “We oppose all forms of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.” [Emphasis added.]
THE CPCCA IGNORES OTHER, FAR MORE SIGNIFICANT INCIDENTS OF HATE CRIMES AND DISCRIMINATION.
Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians and other racialized people are suffering the effects of racial profiling, as well as discrimination and stereotyping that is being actively promoted by the governments of Canada, Israel and other western countries in the name of national security. In Canada, Muslims and Arabs have been subjected to official no fly lists, intrusive surveillance, extraordinary rendition and torture when they travel abroad, and they are being imprisoned without charges under Security Certificates. As the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud demonstrates, the Canadian government treats our Muslim citizens in a clearly discriminatory manner, often failing to provide them with the same kinds of protections that other Canadians expect as a matter of course when they are abroad.
Largely as a result of the grotesquely ill-conceived “war on terror,” racist abuse of and discrimination against Canadian Muslims and Arabs is increasing dramatically. An extensive inquiry into the experiences of Muslim students conducted by the Canadian Federation of Students in 2007 found that many had experienced serious and frequent harassment and abuse both on and off campus.
The CPCCA provides no evidence for its claim that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada.
In summary, it is our view that what is really involved here − despite repeated disavowals −
is an attempt to label criticism of Israel and its behaviour as well as organized efforts to change them as anti-Semitism and to criminalize both.
This Coalition is an illegitimate endeavour. We condemn it for what it is: an effort to whitewash Israeli behaviour and to protect it from both scrutiny and organized opposition.
Diana Ralph and Sid Shniad, Co-chairs
Submission by the Canadian Arab Federation
Canadians of conscience — including Arabs, Muslims, Christians and Jews — are increasingly concerned about the unchallenged growth of prejudice toward and actions against minorities in Canada. In particular, their concern is based on the expanding use of racial profiling by the government and security agencies, as well as a rise in racism against Arabs and Muslims within the general population.
Hannah Arendt argued that Holocaust history shows that Jews were perceived and treated by German society as marginal and expendable long before their extermination was acted out. Sherene Razack, in her book Casting Out, shows the complex ways in which Arabs and Muslims in the West are slowly being driven to become today’s exterminables. Ms. Razack postulates that “in every Western country, laws are enacted that suspend due process rights for terror suspects, enable states to detain indefinitely, permit the ‘rendition’ of suspects to places where they can be tortured with impunity, limit the citizenship rights of those considered not to share in the values of Western civilization, and cast out Muslims from political community.”
Anti-Muslim racism, often described as “Islamophobia,” has resulted in the “Arabification” of Muslims and the “Muslimification”
of Arabs, even though approximately 60 per cent of Arab Canadians are Christian. As a result of these trends, the racism and intolerance that targets these (Arab and Muslim) Semitic communities is on the rise.
It is thus imperative that concrete steps be taken by our elected leaders to combat such erosion of civil rights and intolerance.
2) CANADIAN ARAB FEDERATION
The Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) is a non-profit and non-governmental organization that aims to combat racism, defend human rights, promote civil participation, and work cooperatively for a strong, multicultural Canada that embraces all communities. We are composed of 21 member organizations that represent a large and diverse spectrum of Canadians who originate from the 22 states of the Arab League.
CAF speaks for the Arab Canadian community and at the same time champions the human rights of all citizens. As an advocacy group, CAF has to deal with both domestic and international issues which are of concern to Arab and Muslim Canadians. CAF believes that political differences on domestic and foreign policy are a legitimate part of the public discourse in Canada.
On the domestic front, a major area of concern in which CAF became active since its creation is the issue of the civil and human rights of Arab and Muslim Canadians.
3) THE ARABS (SEMITES)
2009 marks the 127th anniversary of the landing of the first immigrants from Arab nations on Canadian soil. Since then their number has grown to 400,000 and they have settled in every part of Canada and are found in every walk of life. Despite dominant misconception, most Arab Canadians are Christians.
The term Arab originally meant a member of the Semitic race of people from the Middle East. Today, Arabs live throughout the world, including parts or all of Algeria, Bahrain, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen. Substantial numbers are also living in Europe, North America, South America and Australia. Some Arabs hold Israeli citizenship. The Arabic language is one of the great unifying and distinguishing characteristics of the people, even though dialects differ from place to place.
It is a common misconception that Islam is the only unifying force in the Arab world. In many Arab states, Muslim and Christian Arabs live side by side, although it is true that in most Arab states, Islam is the predominate religion. In the Middle East it is not uncommon to meet Arab Muslims, Christians, and Jews all living within a few blocks of each other.
During the time of the Crusades in the Middle Ages, it became the custom of Christians to use the terms “Muslim,” “Pagan,” “Turk,” “Infidel,” and “Arab” almost interchangeably. Today, the Western “man on the street” usually thinks “Muslim” when he hears the word “Arab.” This misapprehension is the result of mistaking religion for culture. Such a case of mistaken identity would not be so dangerous but for the fallaciously negative association that the term “Muslim” (and now Arab) took on from both sensationalized media, and the Bush administration’
s legacy of fear mongering.
4) ANTI-SEMITISM TARGETING ARAB CANADIANS
As mentioned above, Arabs constitute the overwhelming majority of Semites today. In the 19th Century and first half of the 20th Century, the term “anti-Semitism” was used to describe the racism directed against European Jews. However, since then a new anti-Semitism has emerged directed against Semitic Arabs in Europe and North America. In Canada this virulent racism targets Arab Canadians and is orchestrated by groups that mask themselves as either “defenders of Western civilization against a menacing third world population” or as “defenders of Israel.”
Back in 1980, Rev. Timothy Foley acknowledged in a Toronto Star article that Western news reporting of the Middle East is responsible for making Arabs the most popular target of prejudice and racial stereotyping. He goes on to say that “on our television screens ‘Arab jokes’ are told which if we substituted the words ‘Jew’, ‘Indian’ or ‘black,’ would bring immediate and justified howls of protest from the offended group, church leaders, civil libertarians, and the general public.”
Dr. Ismail Zayid, a professor of medicine at Dalhousie University, told delegates to the Twentieth Annual Convention of CAF in May 1986 “that as a result of unfavourable stereotypes of Arabs in the media, Arabs are denied jobs and immigration permits and their children are taunted at school.” Alexander Dewdney, a computer science professor at the University of Western Ontario also charged that the negative casting of Arabs in the media “has ‘dehumanized’ the image of Arabs as seen by North Americans, making the idea of bombing their homes less offensive.”
Anti-Arab bias by the RCMP back in the seventies was acknowledged by the McDonald Commission investigating complaints about the RCMP. CAF had complained about RCMP harassment of some members of the community, adverse reporting on citizenship applications and manipulation of recent immigrants, and racial discrimination practiced by members of the RCMP.
The McDonald Commission report admitted that the RCMP and other police forces used electronic surveillance, mail openings, other means of constant monitoring, interviews, defusing programs, recruiting of informants of Arab origin, and infiltration of meetings.
The Commission report also states that there was no evidence that any members of the CAF advocated the use of violence in Canada. The report then goes to say that the reason the RCMP took all those measures is partly because members of CAF “openly and frequently criticized”
government policy on the Middle East, and took part in demonstrations.
a) State Sanctioned Racism in the Name of Security
Since 2001, Arab Canadians have increasingly become the targets of prejudice and racial profiling as documented by both the O’Connor Inquiry in September 2006 and the Iacobucci Inquiry in October 2008. It is not surprising then that the United Nations Human Rights Council’
s Universal Periodic Review in February 2009 urged Canada to improve its human rights record and recommended that the Canadian government:
Give appropriate attention to end racial discrimination against the Arab and Muslim communities in Canada including racial and religious profiling.
Consider taking more resolute action to prevent and punish perpetrators of racially motivated acts of violence against members of the Muslim and Arab communities, the indigenous population, Canadian citizens of foreign origin, foreign workers, refugees and asylum-seekers.
Canadian Maher Arar’s extraordinary rendition to Syria and the torture he endured during his year-long imprisonment there – all predicated on whispered and unfounded allegations of terrorism – made him a symbol of Canadian failure in a post-9/11 world. The O’
Connor Inquiry determined that the information provided by Canadian authorities either directly or indirectly resulted in his torture and mistreatment. But for his Arab and Muslim heritage, and the systematic racism to which these groups are subjected, he would not have endured such a trauma.
Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin had been targeted by Canadian officials as potential terrorists after 9/11, but were never charged. Nonetheless, they were jailed after travelling to Syria between 2001 and 2003, and tortured. Frank Iacobucci, the former judge of the Supreme Court of Canada, concluded that Canadian officials and institutions were complicit in the detention of at least two of them and perhaps of the third as well.
Hassan Almrei, Mohammed Mahjoub, Mohammed Jaballah, Mohamed Harkat and Adil Charkaoui were detained under security certificates and were finally released on strict bail conditions after serving a combined total period of 26 years. Security certificates did not begin with the “war on terror,” but they have become the “front-line tools”
used by Canada to fight terrorism, and their usage is now primarily directed at Arabs.
The Security and Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) that oversees CSIS has released a damning report that accuses Canada’s spy agency of illegally and “arbitrarily” detaining Canadian Mahmoud Jabarah, denying him the right to counsel, preying on his fragile emotional state and otherwise violating his constitutional rights. It also says that CSIS agents improperly undertook unspecified actions that “materially assisted” U.S. law enforcement officials prosecuting Jabarah. In effect SIRC has accused CSIS of conspiring with agents of a foreign country to deprive a Canadian citizen of his liberty.
Canadian security agencies and government agencies were involved in the removal of Benamar Benatta from Canada and his subsequent detention in the United States. Benatta, who had applied for asylum in Canada on 5 September 2001, was handed over to the U.S. a week later and spent nearly the next five years in detention centres in Buffalo and Brooklyn, even though the FBI cleared him of any links to terrorism in November 2001.
Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Sudanese-born Canadian accused but cleared of al-Qaida links, spent six years in limbo and unable to leave Khartoum, Sudan, mostly because the Canadian government refused to help him until a Federal Court judge ordered his return in June 2009.
Abdihakim Mohammed, an autistic 25-year-old Somali-Canadian, has been stuck in Kenya for three years, accused by Canadian diplomatic officials of being an imposter. His mother took him to Somalia five years ago and left him with his grandmother because doctors believed being around extended family could help him. However, when she tried to bring him back to Canada three years ago, she was told the person travelling with her was not her son because he didn’t look like his passport photo.
Suaad Hagi Mohmaud, a Toronto mother of a 12-year old boy, was detained in Kenya and held for two months on imposter charges because Canadian authorities voided her passport and asked the Kenyan authorities to prosecute her.
And there is also the case of Canadian child-soldier Omar Khadr, who was 15 when captured by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan and accused of killing a soldier with a grenade. He is the only westerner remaining in Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. prison for terrorists.
In the last three years, the Canadian government has been the subject of several judicial scoldings. All have been at the hands of the Federal Court of Canada, which took a dim view of government decisions involving Canadians in serious difficulty abroad. Collectively, the decisions represent the denial of the government’s efforts to curtail assistance to such Canadians.
Canada has been playing a deadlier game with Omar Khadr, holed up in Guantanamo Bay. Omar Khadr had two favourable decisions from the Federal Court, and even one from the Supreme Court of Canada that ultimately stated the government was obliged to request his release from Guantanamo Bay prison. In August 2009, the government was chastised by the Federal Court of Appeal, which ordered his repatriation to Canada.
The Canadian government fought tooth and nail to prevent the return of Abousfian Abdelrazik, a Sudanese Canadian, from Khartoum. It agreed only when the courts left it no more wiggle room.
In the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud the government resisted DNA testing for Ms. Mohamud for weeks. It was only when her lawyer filed a motion before the Federal Court that the government agreed to the testing on July 22 –
two months after she had been detained in Kenya.
The ordeal of Suaad Hagi Mohamud is a perfect example of how the Canadian government is trying to create different categories of citizenship. In her case, it appears her qualification of citizenship did not count due to her ethnicity and religion.
That Canadians have to go to court to force their government to help them is absurd. It’s an attitude that puts every Canadian abroad at a risk of abuse – an abuse that, overwhelmingly, is targeted at Arabs and Muslims everywhere. It is a deliberate and racially-motivated abuse of power that must stop.
The accounts of all of these persons put into question the government’s claim that this was a one-off event and not part of a pattern of systemic discrimination by government officials and security agencies.
Suaad Hagi Mohamud’s lawyer, Raoul Boulakia, has a pretty good idea of what went wrong in the Mohamud case. The Canadian government, he said, “has an attitude toward Muslims abroad, a mindset, like they are dealing with second-class citizens. With Mohamud, their attitude was similarly dismissive: `This woman, what can she expect?'”
b) Racism by the General Population
CAF is worried that there is an increased incidence of racism and hate crimes directed at Arab Canadians and Muslim Canadians, and there are not enough institutionalized measures to effectively combat and prevent the spread of this anti-Semitism.
In a survey of Canadian attitudes toward immigrant ethnic communities, conducted by Leger Marketing in January 2007, 47% of those surveyed confessed they harbour at least some racist views – and that their prejudice is planted firmly at the door of Arab and Muslim minorities.
Reinforcing these findings, a poll conducted by Angus Reid Strategies for Maclean’
s in April 2009 finds that many Canadians harbour deeply troubling biases, and that fewer than one in three Canadians can find it in their hearts to view Islam or Sikhism in a favourable light.
A 2007 report by the Canadian Federation of Students provides a detailed picture of how young Muslims are coping with a rise in “Islamophobia” and hate-motivated acts. CAF is concerned that Ontario’
s post-secondary institutions are either ill-equipped to deal with these incidents or are merely dismissing them as being unimportant The community itself also has difficulty addressing these incidents, and often times they are under-reported or dealt with by disadvantaged families and in the home.
A Statistics Canada study shows that Canadians of Arab origins are twice as likely as other Canadians to have a university or a post-graduate degree. However, a CLC study published in 2006 states that the unemployment rate for the Arab community is at a staggering 14%, the highest of any visible minority group. This is completely unacceptable for such a highly-educated group. Racial bias is the reason, says CLC study, and it offers French riots as a warning of what may come from prolonged and unjustified economic disadvantage.
A York University census study indicates that poverty rates are the highest among visible minority groups and that 30% of Arabs in Toronto live below the poverty line. Relative to other ethnic and religious communities, the Arab community significantly lacks the resources and mindset needed to combat these issues via statistical and systematic analyses. It is crucial that the government establish committees that deal with sources of hatred and bias in a constructive and adequate manner. Any committee on anti-Semitism must therefore address these issues substantially.
Truly oppressed communities do not have the privilege of having their voices heard through the media and their concerns espoused by politicians because they lack both the financial and organizational resources to reach those in the corridors of power. In CAF’
s 41 years of operation we were only able once, in 1981, to have a federal government minister attend our annual general meeting. CAF is unable due to lack of resources to provide statistics about hate crimes against Arab Canadians nor are we able to know the actual number of Arab Canadians who were stranded abroad due to discriminatory treatment by government officials. We are only aware of those high profile cases that have been reported by the media.
As can be seen from the above, the racism directed at Arabs and Muslims originates in a historical context, namely, negative stereotypes disseminated by some Hollywood movies, mass media and social science textbooks for decades. The Bush administration’s “war on terror”
and its legacy in Canada has intensified the pernicious racism directed at Arab and Muslim Canadians. The racial profiling of Arabs and Muslims results in attributing disloyalty and criminality to them, determining that they should not partake in the fundamental rights taken for granted by other Canadians, such as freedom of expression, and also results in discrimination against them in schools, employment and the justice system. The effect is that it is easier to prevent Arab and Muslim Canadians from fully participating in the political and social life of Canada.
A democratic and just society accepts and respects all communities and ensures that disadvantaged and vulnerable communities enjoy all the rights guaranteed by law. CAF urges Parliament to urgently address the most virulent and urgent forms of anti-Semitism – Arabophobia and Islamophobia – and how this impacts the full participation of the Arab and Muslim Canadians in all aspects of society.
The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt, 1951
Casting Out, Sherene H. Razack, University of Toronto Press, 2008
Reem Bahdi, “No Exit: racial profiling and Canada’s war against terrorism,”
Osgoode Hall Law Journal 41 (2003), pp. 293-316
“Canadian racism finds new target in Arab peoples”
, Toronto Star, January 5, 1980
“Stereotypes hurt Arab community”
, The Globe and Mail, May 19, 1986
Commission of Inquiry Concerning Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police: “Certain R.C.M.P. activities and the question of government knowledge”
. Third Report, August 1981, pp. 329-331.
“UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review of Canada for 2009”
“RCMP provided wrong data on Arar, inquiry finds,”
CTV News, September 18, 2006
“Tortured trio says report ‘vindicates us’,”
The Star, October 22, 2008
“Jabarah case still a mystery,”
The Star, November 1, 2007
“Algerian held in US nearly 5 years wants Canada’s role probed”
, CBC News, April 18, 2007
“Court orders Ottawa to let Abdelrazik return to Canada,”
CBC News, June 4, 2009
“2nd Canadian stranded in Kenya,”
CBC News, August 19, 2009
Government ‘mindset’ blamed for abuse of our Muslims abroad,”
The Star, August 20, 2009
“Canadians admit racist tendencies,”
Toronto Sun, January 15, 2007
“What Canadians think of Sikhs, Jews, Christians, Muslims,” Maclean’
s, April 28, 2009
“Schools downplay Islamophobia, students warn”
, Ottawa Citizen, March 22, 2007
“Profiles of Ethnic Communities in Canada: The Arab Community in Canada,”
Statistics Canada, Colin Lindsay, 2001
“Well-paying jobs elude minorities born in Canada,”
Globe and Mail, February 23, 2006
“Toronto poverty is highly racialized: York University Census Study,”
York University Press Release,
March 9, 2006
Faculty for Palestine (F4P) formed in the spring of 2008 in response to the increasing pattern of suppression of freedom of speech and freedom of assembly around the advocacy of Palestinian rights in Canadian universities. We have been particularly concerned about attempts to silence Israeli Apartheid Week, the main site of support for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) movement on campuses. Our broad mandate is to educate, inform, organize and advocate around these issues. In the past year, over 400 Canadian academics from 43 universities and 13 colleges across Canada signed our Open Letter to the university community regarding the defense of Palestinian rights on Canadian campuses. This collective expression of concern indicates broad-based acknowledgement that it is urgent to extend free speech in post-secondary institutions in Canada regarding the conditions faced by Palestinians, and to protect the legitimate right to criticize and debate the apartheid practices and policies of the Israeli state. As a committee of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, our commitment to Palestinian rights includes a vision of equity and justice in the broadest sense. As part of the coalition, we share the following statement:
“We believe that justice will not be achieved without equal rights for everyone in the region, regardless of religion, ethnicity or nationality. We understand Israeli apartheid as one element of a system of global apartheid. To this end, we stand in solidarity with all oppressed groups around the world, in particular, the indigenous people of North America. We oppose all forms of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.”
A copy of the Open Letter and further information about Faculty4Palestine is available at http://www.caiaweb.org/faculty.
SUBMISSION TO THE CANADIAN PARLIAMENTARY COALITION TO COMBAT ANTI-SEMITISM
This submission is written to express our strong support for committed work by Members of Parliament against discrimination in all its forms, and our recognition of real concerns that anti-Semitism might be on the rise. However we are deeply concerned that the focus of the CPCCA is defined in such a way as to undermine serious equity work in Canada, while also posing a major threat to freedom of expression.
The Parliamentary Coalition is focused on redefining anti-Semitism along the lines of what has been called the “new anti-Semitism.” The website for the CPCCA states, “the problem is now being manifested in ways never experienced before” and that “new fears have arisen especially for those who support the State of Israel.” What is new about the new anti-Semitism, it adds, is that “accusations of blood libel … are being directed against the State of Israel, such that anti-Zionism is being used as a cover for antisemitism.” While we recognize that anti-Zionism can be used as a cover for anti-Semitism, and deplore instances where that is the case, we are alarmed by the attempt to widen the definition of anti-Semitism to include opposition to the Israeli state. Such an attempt can, in fact, weaken the human rights of Jewish people. Insofar as the term anti-Semitism is associated with the Israeli state and not Jewish people, it makes political opinion – not discrimination and hate –
the measure of anti-Semitism.
Moreover, this focus on the “new” anti-Semitism orients the work of the CPCCA more towards targetting advocacy for Palestinian rights than to protecting the human rights of Jewish people. Criticism of the state of Israel does not constitute anti-Semitism, and the right to legitimate criticism must include the characterization of Israel as an “apartheid” state, calls for boycott, divestment or sanctions, and questioning the exclusionary character of Israel as a “Jewish state.”
The characterization of Israel as an apartheid state must be recognized as a legitimate topic for public discussion and debate. The term “apartheid” is defined specifically in Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court as “inhumane acts … committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.” Many critics have argued that this definition fits the state of affairs in Israel, including former U. S. president Jimmy Carter, Archbishop Desmond Tutu and United Nations General Assembly president Miguel D’Escoto Brockman. There should be vigorous debate about the applicability of the term “apartheid” to the State of Israel. It is a misuse of the term “anti-Semitism” to use it to try to silence such debate. This is especially so in a context where Israel’s persistent and expanding disregard for international law is creating a deepening severity in the violation of Palestinian human rights. From the construction of the illegal “security fence” and its usurpation of Palestinian land and homes, to the growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, to the ongoing denial of Palestinians, right of return (Resolution 194), the Israeli state’
s actions must be judged in the same terms applied to all states (i.e., international law and human rights principles).
The unified call for boycott, divestment and sanctions was issued by 170 organizations of Palestinian civil society on July 9, 2005 one year after the historic Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) which found Israel’s Wall built on occupied Palestinian territory to be illegal. It is a non-violent campaign to pressure the State of Israel into changing its policies toward Palestinians. In characterizing Palestinian human rights and boycott supporters as anti-Semitic, the CPCCA is effectively denying a legitimate means of political expression. There should be vigorous debate about this boycott campaign, without characterizing boycott advocates as anti-Semitic simply on the basis of their support for this particular pressure tactic. While the tactics can and should be vigorously debated, the right to raise opinions about any form of governance should be considered inalienable in any liberal democracy.
Further, it is not anti-Semitic to challenge the existence of Israel as a “Jewish state.” The Jewish community in Canada has a long history of working to challenge the existence of Canada as a “Christian state.”
In Ontario, for example, Jewish people played an important role in eliminating the compulsory Protestant education that was part of public school education. It is a great achievement of the Jewish human rights movement in Canada to have played such a role in advocating for a secular and multicultural state. It is not anti-Semitic to hold the State of Israel to the same standards we apply to Canada.
As university faculty we find it particularly troubling that the international parliamentary committee has identified “media and academia” as urgent targets of the “new” anti-Semitism, and that the Canadian committee shares this focus in claiming that it is “especially prevalent on campuses”. It is certainly true that campuses have been important sites for raising legitimate criticism around Israel’
s violations of international law, and for expanding public awareness about the increasingly severe consequences of these on Palestine and Palestinians. Israeli Apartheid Week, an annual campus educational event that began in Toronto in 2005, now takes place on over 40 campuses globally. As campuses have grown as a vital site of public awareness and analysis, so too have the efforts to silence this as a legitimate space for educational and critical debate on Israel and Palestine. In Canada specifically, the past year has seen a concerted campaign to limit the rights to Palestine advocacy on our campuses, in cultural programming and in our communities.
Disturbingly, the “new” anti-Semitism is used as a rationale for this silencing. If this were the reigning definition of anti-Semitism, then thousands of academics from around the world would have been silenced and criminalized for criticizing Israel’s war on Gaza in early 2009. As Israel’s relentless assault on Gaza continued for over 23 days to take over 1300 Palestinian lives and injure 5000 more while destroying schools and homes alike, campuses across the globe became the most formidable sites of criticism and international solidarity. This should be upheld as a hallmark of democratic rights and freedoms, not branded as “new”
The CPCCA would make an important contribution by clearly recognizing the legitimacy of Palestine advocacy, rejecting the definition of the “new anti-Semitism”
and focusing attention on the human rights of Jewish people within a broader equity framework. We are concerned, however, that this option is foreclosed by the narrow focus of the inquiry and its defining terms. By the CPCCA definition, the systematic repression of freedom of speech in support of Palestinian rights and against Israeli apartheid will not be documented and, more dangerously, is considered to be the central problem.
Finally, we draw attention to the fact that both of the CPCCA’s main committees are under the direction (ex oficio) of two Members of Parliament who have been active in advocating and applying the “new” anti-Semitism definition against Palestinian advocacy. As the public record shows, Jason Kenney (Conservative) and Irwin Cotler (Liberal) are not neutral parties in this endeavour. Moreover, both the party in government and the main opposition party are clear advocates of increasing ties with Israel despite widespread and growing public criticism of its violations of international law in Palestine. In this context, we challenge the Parliamentary coalition’s claim to be “unaffiliated with the Government of Canada”
. While it clearly has no legal authority or formal relation to Parliament, the question of affiliations is far more complex.
Moreover, we question the CPCCA’s use of the language and symbols of parliament to project itself as an authoritative public body. Notably, it anchors its legitimacy on the fact that it has participation “from all parties in the House of Commons”, and has taken the rather unprecedented step of holding public “hearings”. It needs to be emphasized, however, that this is a self-constituted body and not a representative one. Its mandate was given to itself, not generated out of public debate nor approved through any parliamentary channels. Perhaps most disturbingly, this aspect of the coalition permits it to be shielded from public accountability. Unlike properly constituted parliamentary committees, for example, the “hearings”
are ill-defined and Members of Parliament in the coalition are immune from legal action stemming from statements made or actions taken in their meetings.
Faculty for Palestine would welcome the opportunity to present our Submission at the public hearings scheduled to be held later this year.
Submission by Educators for Peace and Justice, Toronto
Thank you for the opportunity to address the Parliamentary Panel on the important issue of antisemitism. Educators for Peace and Justice (EPJ) is a Toronto based group of teachers from the elementary and secondary panels, operating since 1991, with approximately 200 members of both Jewish and non-Jewish origin. Our mandate is to promote issues of peace and social justice among teachers, students and the general public through popular education. This submission has been prepared specifically for the present Inquiry.
As educators we are particularly attuned to and concerned about manifestations of xenophobia in any form, be it based on race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, nationality or any other category covered under the international code of human rights. Some of us were involved in piloting Holocaust and antiracism curriculum in the former Toronto Board of Education.
Contrary to the assertions of the CPCCA, we do not see evidence of a rise in antisemitism in Canada, or at least in Toronto. In fact, our experience in the schools indicates a sharp but consistent rise in Islamophobia, or anti-Muslim sentiment, over the last twenty years. This prejudice and hostility is reported by both students and teachers. In trying to address this phenomenon we have found little co-operation, and more often resistance, from the school and Board authorities. There is a dearth of resource material for teachers to use to combat the ignorance and prejudice against Muslims and Arabs so prevalent in our schools and our society. This holds true not just for Palestinians, but for Iraqis, Afghans, Lebanese, Iranians, and any people from countries with large Muslim populations. While the scourge of anti-Semitism that nestled in Canada and swept most European nations in the first half of the twentieth century must not be forgotten, in our time, the evidence indicates that in both state policy (such as the Anti-terrorism Act) and a segment of public sentiment, as far as Muslims are concerned, the old phrase of the Mackenzie King administration, “none is too many”
, is again rearing its ugly head.
The basis of this Inquiry is the so-called ‘new antisemitism’, and at the heart of this issue is the Israel-Palestine conflict. Again, contrary to the assertions of the CPCCA, rather than “anti-Zionism…being used as a cover for antisemitism”
, in our experience, criticism of Israel and of Zionism are being tarred with the accusation of antisemitism. Teachers who try to raise awareness of the violation of Palestinian human rights under Israeli policies in their schools and classrooms have routinely been silenced by the authorities. Teachers who raise the issue of right to education in the Occupied Territories in their unions are shouted down. There is truly a culture of fear preventing educators with a conscience from speaking out, the fear of being labeled an anti-Semite.
At the same time, in our experience discussing the Israel-Palestine conflict with colleagues and students (usually outside the classroom or union meetings), we do not hear calls for Israel’
s destruction or anti-Jewish invective. The identification of Judaism with Zionism may lead some to the inference that anti-Zionism is anti-Jewish, but it is clear from political dissent within Israel itself and opposition to Zionism among many Canadian Jews that this perception is a fallacy. It is our belief that what is in danger of happening is that blind support by Zionist Jews of increasingly brutal Israeli policies toward Palestinians, and the suppression of dissenting voices, will give to many the impression that all Jews are Zionist.
Because the thrust of the CPCCA’
s initiative appears to be largely in reaction to the characterization of Israel as an apartheid state and to the growing international campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions of Israel, it makes sense to summarize for the Inquiry the arguments of this critique to demonstrate to the Panel the baselessness of the charge of antisemitism.
For at least the past 40 years in Israel-Palestine, an apartheid system, as defined by the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid as well as the Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), has been put in place by Israel. Many prominent public figures, including UN General Assembly president, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann, Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, U.N. Special Rapporteurs John Dugard and Richard Falk, Shulamit Aloni, former Israeli education minister, and editor of the Israeli daily Haaretz, Danny Rubenstein, have drawn the parallels. Human Rights groups such as the Israeli NGO B’Tselem, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Canadian Jewish organizations such as Not In Our Name (NION) and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) have spoken out against Israel’s apartheid policies and human rights abuses.
Israel’s creation was based on settlement and colonization of Palestinian land. The “transfer” of Palestinians from their land (ethnic cleansing) has been central to Zionist ideology and still is. Israel forcibly expelled the majority of the Palestinian population from its land when the state of Israel was established in 1948. In 1949, Israel claimed the territory up to the United Nations armistice or “green line”, which gave it 78% of historic Palestine. Following the Six Day War in 1967 Israel occupied the remaining Palestinian territory—the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza. This (annexation of land) has resulted in one of the world’
s largest and most enduring refugee populations. The Fourth Geneva Convention protects the human and property rights of civilians under occupation and forbids an occupying force from annexing land or from transferring its citizens in. Israel is clearly in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Since 1967, Israel has pursued a policy of “bantustanization” in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Palestinians have been herded into isolated cantons divided from one another by Israeli-only settlements and highways, military checkpoints, and most recently, the Wall (“Separation Barrier”
), declared illegal by the UN and International Criminal Court. Israel controls all movement into these areas as well as exports and imports, electricity, water, telephone lines and the Internet. Home demolitions, revocation of residency rights, the absorption of land by the erection of the apartheid wall and construction of illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian-owned land have significantly increased the number of displaced Palestinians.
In 2007, Israel “withdrew” from Gaza, but continues to control its borders, its coastline, imports and exports and keep the population under military siege. The military invasion of Gaza during the winter of 2009-2010 destroyed Gaza’
s infrastructure and left over 1400 Palestinians dead and thousands homeless.
Clearly, Palestinians have been racialized as an oppressed group. According to Israeli law, any Jew, regardless of national origin, can gain automatic citizenship to Israel while Palestinian Arabs are denied their right to return to their homeland as stipulated by the United Nations. Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip must carry different colored ID Cards. Entry and exit from Palestinian ghettoes within the West Bank is impossible without these cards and permission to travel from the military occupation. Palestinian citizens of Israel must carry ID cards that identify them as non-Jewish through an ID number and the way birth dates are recorded. In May 2006, Israel’s High Court upheld a law denying Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza married to Israeli citizens the right to live in the country with their spouses.
In the West Bank, Palestinians are subject to Israeli military law. More than 11,000 Palestinians, including 400 children, are being held as political prisoners in Israeli prisons and detention centers. In violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza Strip are transferred out of the occupied territory into prisons in Israel proper. Israel regularly practices torture against prisoners and has been condemned by UN bodies and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International. Over 1,000 Palestinians are held as “administrative detainees”
, without charge or trial. These orders can be renewed indefinitely.
With the Palestinian territories under more or less permanent Israeli occupation and an expanding settler presence, the comparison between a disenfranchised African population in apartheid South Africa and the three and a half million stateless Palestinians under Israeli domination gains more validity. Israeli control over every aspect of Palestinian life in the Occupied Territories has resulted in separating Palestinians from their land, their water resources, their workplaces, their schools, their families — depriving them of any reasonable quality of life, creating wide-spread poverty and prison-like living conditions.
It is this situation which has given rise to the global campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel as a non-violent political tactic to pressure Israel to end the Occupation and respect the Palestinian right to self-determination. Israel’
s right to exist has been recognized by all of its neighbours, by the PLO and (implicitly) Hamas. Before the eyes of the world it is the right of Palestinians to exist which has been steadily dwindling. This is the new antisemitism.
Michael Kuttner for Educators for Peace and Justice
UNITED JEWISH PEOPLE’S ORDER SUBMISSION
The United Jewish People’s Order (UJPO) is an independent, secular, cultural and educational organization with members in Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and Montreal. Our immigrant founders, in 1926, consistently promoted social justice movements to improve living standards of all Canadians. We participated in efforts to unionize workers, pushed for the provision of unemployment insurance, universal health care and education, retirement pensions, women’s rights, adequate and affordable housing, supported world peace, and campaigned against all forms of racism. Simultaneously, we developed a rich panoply of cultural activities, theatre, instrumental and choral ensembles, sports leagues, and childrens’
and youth activities, centred on the continuation and perpetuation of our rich Yiddish humanist traditions. We also currently sponsor solidarity and peace tours of Israel and Palestine where participants meet with peace activists of both peoples.
We have, over the years, been harassed by anti-Semitic phone-calls; the building where our National Office and Toronto organizations function, Toronto’s Winchevsky Centre, was sprayed with anti-Semitic graffiti and has been the object of related vandalism. We are, thus, increasingly vigilant, as are other Toronto Jewish centres, to ensure that we are not victims of further anti-Semitic attacks. The topic of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism’
s inquiry, therefore, is of profound importance to us and we feel compelled to provide our input.
Rational, legitimate criticism of some policies and actions of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is an emotional response and a racist crime of great concern to an organization such as ours whose membership is comprised of many individuals who have lost a whole generation of ancestors in the Holocaust. We feel that our sensitivity to the presence of anti-Semitism justifies our position that classifying criticism of Israeli government policies, by both Jews and non-Jews, as anti-Semitism is meant only as an attempt to shut down discourse and debate concerning Israel.
The Parliamentary Coalition itself, in its attempt to ascertain what anti-Semitism is, has called for a wide range of opinions and input reflective of the democratic process, and we are grateful for the opportunity to express our opinion. Truly democratic states, such as Canada, allow for and even encourage criticism, since freedom of speech is an essential component of democracy. Criminalizing legitimate concerns surrounding Israeli government policies that may be seen to impinge upon human rights would undermine the very democracy that Israel, a multi-ethnic state, claims for itself so proudly.
David Abramowitz and Lyn Center
Co-Presidents, United Jewish People’
s Order, Canada