Gil Troy: Canada takes lead in fighting the new anti-Semitism

By Gil Troy, Canadian Jewish News, 3-25-09

Canada is leading impressively in fighting modern anti-Jewish bigotry, even when it’s camouflaged as criticism of Israel. The minister of citizenship, immigration and multiculturalism, Jason Kenney, has defined today’s obscenely trendy form of anti-Semitism as “predicated on the notion that the Jews alone have no right to a homeland, the anti-Zionist version of anti-Semitism.” Even though many Canadian campuses are polluted by systematic anti-Israel bias and most western countries are passive, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government is building Canada’s reputation for defending human rights. As well, Liberal party leaders such as Irwin Cotler, Bob Rae, and Michael Ignatieff have demonstrated that Canadians’ commitment to fighting Jew-hatred is bipartisan.

Canada has distinguished itself by being the first country to boycott the upcoming “Durban II” meeting in Geneva. In 2001, anti-Israel forces turned its predecessor – the United Nations’ conference against racism, held in Durban, South Africa – into an anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist hate-fest. Next month, the world’s human rights abusers who bash Israel to cover their own sins are preparing a repeat. Canada will not join this outrage. At the recent Inter-Parliamentary Forum against Anti-Semitism in London, co-chaired by Cotler, the distinguished Canadian jurist and MP, Kenney mocked his European colleagues for dithering, saying, “I always thought Europe prided itself as having its own independent foreign policy aligned with its own values and interests.”

Addressing the conference, Kenney singled out both the Canadian Islamic Congress and the Canadian Arab Federation (CAF) for fomenting anti-Semitism. Leaders of the CAF have circulated hostile e-mails demonizing Rae because of his wife’s Jewish communal activism, and its president recently called Kenney a “professional whore” for Israel when he denounced supposed “peace” rallies that championed Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists. Ottawa cut nearly $500,000 in grants to the CAF, showing that an organization that insults Canadian leader and demonizes fellow Canadians should not enjoy Canadian largesse.

In that same spirit, Ignatieff, the Liberal leader, denounced the week devoted to linking democratic Israel to the racist, apartheid regime that terrorized South Africans (repeating the week’s name furthers the unholy attempt to link Israel and that evil). Boldly criticizing union forces in CUPE and elsewhere who perpetuate these lies, Ignatieff wrote that such a week on campuses “betrays the values of mutual respect that Canada has always promoted.” This big lie moves beyond legitimate criticism to demonization, Ignatieff explained, because “international law defines ‘apartheid’ as a crime against humanity,” so the false equation is an attempt “to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state itself.”

In London last month, Kenney announced that he “would be delighted to host the next conference of the inter-parliamentary commission in Canada.” Next year, Canada will showcase its best practices in fighting anti-Semitism to the world.

As the parliamentarians monitor their progress in fighting this scourge, the parallel “experts forum” should reconvene, tapping into North American expertise in building positive group identity and fighting bigotry. Harper could talk about how his government has chosen to be a proactive force in fighting anti-Semitism. McGill University political philosopher Charles Taylor could speak about multiculturalism and modern identity-building. Cotler could speak about Canada’s contribution to the UN Human Rights Declaration and the fight against genocide. South African refugees could describe apartheid’s true nature and explain how false analogies minimize the systematic racism that South Africans endured.

Ottawa police officials could describe their unique community outreach efforts in fighting bigotry. Leaders of different faith communities could discuss their own struggles against prejudice and how they co-operate to achieve social harmony. Canadian Jewish leaders could describe how they foster a rich Jewish identity while fighting bigotry and contributing to the broader community. Bringing these kinds of local insights would enhance the discussions that took place this year in London on fighting Internet hate, stopping systematic demonization, changing the dynamics on campus and cataloguing hate crimes.

Ideally, by next year, such a conference will be unnecessary. But as long as it’s needed to combat discrimination, leaders such as Harper and his bipartisan colleagues should be hailed for refusing to stay silent amid this new outbreak of an ancient, but persistent, plague.

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