So much for free speech:
Nearly two years after the first hearings were held in Ottawa, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition fto Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) released a detailed report on July 7 that found that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, especially on university campuses.
While the CPCCA’s final report does contain some cases of real anti-Semitism, the committee has provided little evidence that anti-Semitism has actually increased in Canada in recent years. Instead, it has focused a disproportionate amount of effort and resources on what it calls a so-called “new anti-Semitism”: criticism of Israel.
Indeed, the real purpose of the CPCCA coalition seems to be to stifle critiques of Israeli policy and disrupt pro-Palestinian solidarity organizing in Canada, including, most notably, Israeli Apartheid Week events. Many of the CPCCA’s findings, therefore, must be rejected as both an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of protest, and as recklessly undermining the fight against real instances of anti-Semitism.
Between November 2009 and January 2010, the CPCCA held ten separate hearings during which time representatives of various non-governmental organizations, religious institutions, police departments and Canadian and Israeli universities presented papers meant to assess the level of anti-Semitism in Canada. While groups critical of Israel were denied the chance to address the committee, major Zionist organizations like B’nai Brith Canada, Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Canadian Jewish Congress were welcomed.
“Much of today’s anti-Semitism manifests in anti-Israel agitation around boycotts, divestment and sanctions,” said Avi Benlolo, President and CEO of the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies…
A major recommendation issued by the CPCCA was that the Canadian government should promote the working definition of anti-Semitism used by The European Union Monitoring Centre on Racism and Xenophobia (EUMC). This definition categorizes “applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation” as anti-Semitic.
Even the use of the word “apartheid” in relation to Israel is anti-Semitic, the CPCCA found, since it amounts to the “denial of the Jewish people their right to self- determination … by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor”.
Incredible. Of course, the problem is that if everything is anti-Semitism, then nothing is.
By silencing criticism of Israeli government policies and labeling it anti-Semitism, they will diminish actual anti-Semitism. Where anti-Semitic views or actions exist, they should be condemned but the answer is not to stifle speech. When faced with repugnant views, whether about Jewish people, gay people, African Americans, women etc. the answer is actually more speech. Stifling debate doesn’t make problems go away. In fact, usually, the opposite is true.
I can’t help but think the bit about Apartheid is an attempt to preempt criticism when the inevitable happens if there is no two state solution. By declaring that any reference to Israel and apartheid as anti-Semitism, Israel will be insulated from legitimate criticism of policies that may actually meet the definition of apartheid or racism. For example, the “Jews only” ad for an apartment rental in Jerusalem that I posted a while back- is that not racist? I would love to hear an argument as to how that ad isn’t racist on it’s face. And the claim that labeling policies apartheid amounts to “denial of the Jewish people their right to self- determination … by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” is totally illogical. How is calling a particular policy or policies racist a denial of the entire Jewish population a right to self determination? That sort of over-the-top rhetorical flair makes it difficult to have a reasoned debate about any of this. And as noted above, what if a particular policy is arguably racist? No one is allowed to talk about it or debate it?
Basically, the purpose of this policy is to prevent any and all debate, period. It also sends the message to Israel that any policies the government enacts, no matter how potentially undemocratic, will be above any and all criticism, which really isn’t the sort of thing we associate with democracy.
Note: What’s interesting is that the U.S. has been quite vocal about Arab States’ attempts to outlaw criticism of Islam or the prophet Mohammed at the United Nations. The Secretary of State has quite correctly spoken out about these anti-blasphemy resolutions. The U.S. believes it’s a violation of free speech. Because it is. So, what’s the U.S. position on these government efforts to curb debate about Israel? I have a feeling I know the answer to that.