Canada: Criticism of Israel is Anti-Semitism

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.

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About Stacy

Attorney, Publisher, Foreign Policy wonk

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7 Comments on “Canada: Criticism of Israel is Anti-Semitism”

  1. SpfcMarcus Says:

    Scary. Canada is getting more right wing and like here in US they think Israel can do no wrong.

    I read some article a while back about how Jewish students AND professors are responding to criticism of Israel by filing lots of lawsuits claiming antisemitism/racism and violation of their civil rights. That seems like an abuse of the law but I’m no expert. One professor said hearing criticism of Israel caused her extreme emotional distress. WTF? Maybe Christian could say the same since there are Christians there too?


  2. Carolyn-Rodham Says:

    Who sits on this CPCCA? Who charged them with the task of issuing this report? What sort of influence do they wield? Why should anyone listen to them? I mean, this is such a bogus pandering piece of crap I’m surprised it wasn’t issued by our own Congress.


    • Stacy Says:

      Carolyn said:

      “this is such a bogus pandering piece of crap I’m surprised it wasn’t issued by our own Congress

      YET. It hasn’t been issued by our Congress YET.

      Over the past two weeks I’ve received all kinds of statements from the State Dept. condemning particular countries for impinging on freedom of speech, but of course, nothing related to Israel or stuff like this. I think how they get around that hypocrisy is by claiming that criticism of Israel is “delegitimization” & “anti-Semitism” and thus not protected speech. Unfortunately, based on things the State Dept. has said, I think that they would largely agree with Canada’s view on this.

      There is still anti-Semitism just as there is still homophobia, sexism, racism etc. But I think it’s pretty obvious when someone is anti-Semitic and there is a big difference between criticism of Israeli policy and hatred of Jewish people. What’s interesting is the rules folks want applied to debate about Israel isn’t applicable to Palestinians/Arabs/Muslims. It’s perfectly acceptable to say horrible things about Arabs and it’s not condemned- in fact, it can help a politician politically.

      I spoke to a guy on Twitter who was putting the word “Palestinians” in quotation marks and I asked why- I knew the answer of course- he said the Palestinians don’t exist- they are Arabs from Egypt, Jordan etc. He said there is no such thing as Palestine. So I responded that that was arguably racist and he was doing to Palestinians what he was accusing of others of doing to Israel and Jewish people- delegitimizing them and refusing to acknowledge their right to exist and their right to a state. He didn’t care.


  3. Pilgrim Says:

    Due to the multi-party system in Canada, it can be very difficult for one party to form a majority government. But in the last election, the Harper Conservatives were able to form a strong majority government, even though sixty per cent of people who voted, voted for another party. But the votes split to different parties in such a way as to elect a strong majority for the right-wingish Harper conservatives.

    I know it does not seem to want to compute, but it is not only possible but has happened.

    (Something a little bit similar happened in U.S. when votes split off to Ralph Nader and thus elected George W. Bush.)

    The Harper gov’t attitude to Israel/Palestine is prejudiced against Palestine.

    The Harper gov’t usually likes to toady to U.S. desires.

    Having won a strong majority (due to the vote splitting several ways), — yeah, I know it doesn’t make sense, but the situation does obtain — the Harper gov’t is comfortably ensconced for the next four years and they will make Netanyahu and Likud happy.

    (Harper is a member of the evangelical Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and some of the evangelical efforts in the political realm are detailed in an excellent book “The Armageddon Factor” by Marci MacDonald. The book details what is an uncanny reflection of similar forces in the U.S., and indeed much actual connection exists.)

    ….it always comes down to religion….


    • Stacy Says:

      Thanks for that run-down. I don’t know a whole lot about Canadian politics other than that the government is extremely conservative.


      • Pilgrim Says:

        Yes, perhaps it could be said — perhaps — that the gov’t is “extremely” conservative. Even with the Conservative Party in control now, that is still almost oxymoronic, especially when contrasted with the American gov’t.

        Broadly speaking, the Canadian system has tended far more to the Liberal, both large L and small l liberal. Right now, things are different. The main opposition party right now is the New Democratic Party, rather leftish, which shot past the Liberal Party from its previous third-party status. But still, now that the Conservative Party has an absolute majority of seats in Parliament, the Conservatives can push their agenda probably with considerable success, and this worries people. Some say that Harper has become more centrist. I dunno about that.

        I follow American politics quite closely. I do despair somewhat but try to console myself with Winston Churchill’s wise observation that democracy, though so unsatisfactory, is still better than other alternatives.

        Bruce Bartlett has an excellent reflection on presidents going back to FDR, over at his Fiscal Times. He was on Hardball this evening, and didn’t pussyfoot around.



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