Cohen: The unspeakable silence of the Canadian Jewish establishment

Of note:

In its 75 years of nationhood, Israel has lived under a regime of unrelenting threat. Challenges to its security, unity and prosperity are as old as the country itself. Whatever the danger – invasion, war, terrorism, intifadas, boycotts, sanctions – it has come from beyond Israel’s borders.

No longer. The forces convulsing Israel over the past 10 weeks are made in Israel. They come from citizens protesting a religious, revolutionary government that wants to make the judiciary less independent, weakening the checks and balances that have protected minority rights. If Israel is in upheaval today, blame not marauding infidels, foreign armies or fifth columnists. Blame Israelis.

Oh, the irony. The power of its military, diplomacy and economy ensures Israel dominates the neighbourhood. As political scientist Steven A. Cook has noted, Israel has broadened relations with regional partners while ensuring Israel’s armed forces, brandishing nuclear weapons, are matchless. There is a mortal threat from Iran, yes. But Israel is less vulnerable than it was during the wars of 1948, 1956, 1967 and 1973, or any other time. “Israel is in a better strategic position than ever,” Mr. Cook argues. “And its sovereignty is beyond question.”

At home, though, Israel is roiling with insurrection. Its soul is under siege. Ehud Barak, the former prime minister, calls for “civil disobedience” if the new government passes its agenda; he says Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition is using “the tools of democracy in order to destroy [Israel] from within.” From afar, the Jewish diaspora watches this unravelling with a mix of acquiescence, incredulity, resignation, helplessness, fear and anger.

Among Canada’s 400,000 or so Jews, the response is muted. Some have voiced their opposition to Mr. Netanyahu’s plans through the campaigns of progressive Jewish organizations. From more centrist Jewish groups: silence.

It has come to this: In Israel’s hour of crisis, as thousands fill the streets, protesting the assault on democracy and human rights, mainstream Jews in Canada are unseen and unheard. They have been orphaned by timid, tepid leadership out of step with their views. This is the unspeakable silence of the Canadian Jewish establishment.

The emblem of that establishment is the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). It calls itself the “advocacy agent” of the Jewish Federations of Canada, an umbrella of organizations providing social services and advancing Jewish interests.

CIJA initially called itself “the exclusive agent” of Canadian Jews. Now, more modestly, it “represents the diverse perspectives of more than 150,000 Jewish Canadians affiliated with their local Jewish Federation.” That claim is dubious. Is every one of these 150,000 individuals “affiliated” with a federation (presumably as donors or volunteers) duly represented by CIJA? How does CIJA know? And even if all were aligned with CIJA, this would still represent less than half of Canadian Jewry, suggesting that CIJA – for all its hopes and boasts – is far less relevant than it admits.

Then again, CIJA has overstated its stature since it was created in 2011, when it absorbed the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) and the Canada-Israel Committee. Discarding its “legacy name” like day-old bagels, CIJA dropped “Canadian” and added “Israel.” It insisted its restructuring had “the overwhelmingly support of the community.” Not necessarily. Bernie Farber, who was at Congress (as it was called) for most of his long, distinguished career in Jewish advocacy, calls it a hostile takeover of what was known as “the parliament of Canadian Jewry.”

For many Canadian Jews, the end of Congress was an affront, reflecting the agenda of wealthy Jews sympathetic to Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. For me, it was a loss. Congress was founded by my great uncle, Lyon Cohen, among others, in 1919. He was president until 1934, supported by my grandfather, Abraham Zebulon Cohen. Although at first the CJC did little beyond establishing the Jewish Immigrant Aid Society, Congress eventually became a spirited democratic voice led by prominent Jews in business, law, the clergy and the academy. Among them were Samuel Bronfman, Gunther Plaut, Reuven Bulka, Irving Abella, Dorothy Reitman and Irwin Cotler.

Prof. Abella, the late eminent historian, called it “a unique organization” with “no parallel anywhere else in the Jewish world.” It was a forum “where all the problems of Canadian Jewry could be debated,” including human rights, equity, immigration, free speech, social justice and interfaith dialogue. “No one doubted that when the CJC spoke, it spoke on behalf of all Canadian Jewry,” he said.

Today no one believes CIJA speaks for Canadian Jewry. It is not a parliament. Its officers are unelected. Its annual budget is secret. It is evasive (after pleasantly acknowledging my queries, none were answered.) The organization does admirable things, such as fighting antisemitism. It also champions Israel, about which, let it be said, its chief executive officer, Shimon Fogel, cannot utter a discouraging word.

Scour CIJA’s Twitter account, its news releases and Mr. Fogel’s interviews, and it’s hard to find a single criticism of the Netanyahu government (except, recently discovering intestinal fortitude, it denounced Israel’s hateful Finance Minister for urging the eradication of a Palestinian village.) CIJA presumably believes its subtlety and caution serves the community, whose views on the unrest in Israel have been unclear.

Now, though, we know more. A comprehensive poll by EKOS Research Associates finds that Canadian Jews overwhelmingly oppose changes to Israel’s high court and other proposed measures, such as banning gay pride parades and imposing gender segregation in public spaces. That is just one poll, commissioned by JSpaceCanada and the New Israel Fund of Canada (NIFC). Still, it provides “a fair baseline representation of Jewish community perspectives in issues of vital importance,” says Robert Brym, a sociologist at the University of Toronto who oversaw the survey.

If this is a correct reading of Jewish attitudes, CIJA is ignoring them, even as Mr. Fogel insists otherwise. “While marginal groups may heckle from the sidelines,” he told the Canadian Jewish News, “in fact, CIJA not only has the access but has used its privileged position to meet with senior Israeli leadership” in and out of government. Those recent meetings were preceded by other private interventions, he reported.

Mr. Fogel, who lacks the influence of the luminaries who ran Congress, suggests his quiet diplomacy is more effective than public pressure. His scorn for other Jewish voices – heckling from the sidelines – reflects an erosion of civility within the community. Relations are so fraught that CIJA has threatened, in writing, to sue the NIFC and JSpaceCanada for attributing statements to Mr. Fogel that he denies are his.

Mr. Farber, who was CEO of the CJC, says this level of rancour is unprecedented in Canada. “There were always differences, sometimes prickly, but it was always ‘Macy’s versus Gimbels.’ It was always kept within the community. There was an unwritten rule that we ought not air our dirty laundry in public. We kept things unzera, in Yiddish, ‘among ourselves.’”

Then, again, it’s understandable that some Jews are reluctant to speak out, even though Jews are acutely sensitive to injustice and have historically protested it everywhere, notably as leading participants in the U.S. civil rights movement. They were raised to revere Israel and to remember the Holocaust. They don’t want to give ammunition to antisemites. The rabbi of my synagogue, who presides over a large, conservative congregation, says that were he an Israeli, he would join the protests. From his pulpit, though, he argues Israel is “a liberal democracy” that will get by without his advice.

There are other explanations for this reticence. It may be our character, which is less assertive than Americans, Australians and Britons. It may be that shutting up is the price of access, be it in Ottawa (which has been less critical of Israel than other governments) or Jerusalem. It may be the absence of a lively Jewish press as a forum for liberal Zionist voices.

And what good, skeptics might ask, is rushing to the ramparts anyway? Do we think Jerusalem really cares? Actually, Mr. Netanyahu might listen to the diaspora and foreign governments, if they made enough noise – and some threats, too. Meanwhile, he pushes his illiberal project forward because he can.

It isn’t that there are no critics among prominent Canadian Jews. Former Supreme Court Justice Rosalie Abella has warned of the dangers to the independence of Israel’s judiciary. So has Mr. Cotler among about 175 jurists who have signed a petition. The NIFC and JSpaceCanada are rallying opposition and raising public awareness, vigorously and effectively, as are Canadian Friends of Peace Now. To them, CIJA and its silent partners are marginal while they are mainstream, and this is no time for nuance.

But where are other Jews – entrepreneurs, doctors, artists, professors? Where are the philanthropists declaring their alarm, as Charles Bronfman, the Canadian co-founder of Birthright, and other Jewish billionaires and foundations have in the U.S.? Where are rabbis as passionate as Micah Streiffer of Toronto, who says it is our obligation to speak up when Israel abandons basic values, a response that is the real expression “of our love”?

In 1965, a young Elie Wiesel visited the Soviet Union to observe the life of its three million Jews. That produced his haunting cri de coeurThe Jews of Silence. Curiously, he confessed that he was less concerned about Soviet Jews than the detachment of his American co-religionists, a lament that has an eerie contemporary resonance amid Israel’s moral crisis.

“What torments me most is not the silence of the Jews I met in Russia,” he wrote, “but the silence of the Jews I live among today.”

Andrew Cohen is a journalist and professor of journalism at Carleton University. His most recent book is Two Days in June: John F. Kennedy and the 48 Hours That Made History.

Source: Cohen: The unspeakable silence of the Canadian Jewish establishment

Coren: Roald Dahl was repugnant but altering books a misguided solution

Some interesting background and sensible and balanced approach:

In 1983 I was a very young writer for Britain’s New Statesman magazine. I was asked to interview children’s author Roald Dahl, who had reviewed a book about the war in Lebanon that went far beyond criticism of Israel and bordered on downright anti-Semitism.

I assumed he would explain the difference between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism and clarify his stance. What he said instead was, “There is a trait in the Jewish character that does provoke animosity, maybe it’s a kind of lack of generosity toward non-Jews. I mean, there’s always a reason why anti-anything crops up anywhere; even a stinker like Hitler didn’t just pick on them for no reason.”

The rant continued, with references to Jewish men not fighting in the Second World War. When I told Dahl that my Jewish grandfather had won several medals and been wounded, and that Jews were over rather than under-represented he refused to withdraw his comments or apologize.

I mention this again now because Dahl’s publishers recently announced that they were to produce versions of his books with allegedly offensive words such as “fat” and “ugly” removed. Not, is should be emphasized, because generations of children and parents who read the books had complained but because, if we’re to be candid, someone, somewhere thought they might cause offence.

The angry reaction to the idea was so strong that the publishers have changed their minds, or at least hedged their bets. The criticism came not just from those who see dangerous censorship everywhere but leading authors and intellectuals. Because it was a very stupid idea. Am I still allowed to say stupid?

Dahl was an anti-Semite. I know that better than most people. He was a nasty man with repugnant ideas. He was also a gifted author who understood children’s minds and fantasies. And — this is vital — we can read and enjoy him while still detesting his racism. This entire issue requires sense, sensibility, and basic common sense.

In 2011 Peter Jackson commissioned Stephen Fry to write the screenplay for a remake of “The Dambusters.” Guy Gibson, the heroic commander of the RAF squadron featured in the 1955 movie, owned a black Labrador dog. It was named the N word. Pilots used the dog’s name to signal successful attacks. Thus it was used repeatedly in the original movie.

Quite clearly it would be deeply offensive, and just bizarre, to use the word now and Fry, a man who is extremely suspicious of any form of censorship, gently and wisely changed it to Digger. There was, however, outrage. For some people it was as if a tiny edit that did nothing to change the story was a monumental act of what they described as political correctness. They were wrong.

Source: Roald Dahl was repugnant but altering books a misguided solution

Clark: Three Conservative MPs who saw no evil until after lunch

Good analysis and depressing reality that Pierre Poilievre is overly beholden to the more extreme elements in the party. And Max Bernier is already fundraising off this “discreet” repudiation of the AfD by Poilievre:

If you’re not familiar with the policies of the Alternative for Germany, the party represented by MEP Christine Anderson, you’re not alone. But the three Conservative MPs who met her for a long lunch last week didn’t get there by accident.

That is not to say the three MPs are racist. Leslyn Lewis, Colin Carrie, and Dean Allison aren’t known as that at all. They are the Conservative Party’s unofficial conspiracy caucus.

So when the Conservative Party issued a statement that said the three didn’t know Ms. Anderson’s views, and later two organizers of the three-hour lunch said the MPs knew a lot about who they were meeting, well, both of those things might be sort of true.

It’s easy to find out the AfD stands for anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and xenophobic views, because it can be quickly discovered on the internet, in newspapers or videos, or from many sources. But it also seems very possible that these three read about it and didn’t believe it.

Mr. Carrie apparently didn’t believe COVID-19 vaccines were safe, so, according to a Conservative source, he was one of the four MPs who did not go the Commons in person in the fall of 2021. Mr. Allison apparently didn’t believe public health officials who said the veterinary anti-parasitic drug Ivermectin wasn’t proven for treating COVID-19, and he gave a presentation about it to a group of Tory MPs. Last year, Ms. Lewis falsely claimed a then-undrafted World Health Organization treaty would give the WHO power to dictate all of Canada’s health care decisions in a pandemic. The three wink at the theory that the World Economic Forum is a cabal to control Canada and the world.

And guess what? Ms. Anderson shares a lot of their views about vaccine mandates and globalists. They saw her as an ally, and apparently chose not to see the rest. She tells people she is not xenophobic or anti-Muslim, although she doesn’t really eschew those sentiments. “I do not have problems with Muslims. I have a problem with Islam. I do not consider Islam to be a religion,” she told the right-wing website Rebel News.

Prominent AfD figures have played down the Holocaust and Nazi era, and spoken of immigrants as invaders. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs raised concerns about the three MPs meeting with Ms. Anderson. The AfD tends to target Muslims with its policies, but they include banning kosher meat and “non-medical” circumcision. Its politicians aren’t the advocates of freedom they claim to be.

So Conservative Leader Pierre Poilievre did the right thing when he issued a statement to reporters who asked that criticized Ms. Anderson’s views as “vile.” That’s unequivocal. The party issued a statement saying the three MPs had not known about her views. Mr. Carrie took the extra step of tweeting that he regretted his mistake and will do better.

That didn’t settle it, however. Mr. Poilievre didn’t put his statement on his or the party’s social media or website, and critics accused him of try to keep it low-key with his own base.

But he probably got more criticism from the right – and Mr. Carrie got a helping of it, too – from people who accused him of backing down in the face of criticism from the media. Rebel News ran a piece that said Mr. Poilievre “panicked” and threw his MPs to the “media wolves.” They didn’t feel the Conservative Leader stood up for principle, but rather that he caved.

That is a message to Mr. Poilievre that he will pay a political price on his right wing if he distances the Conservative Party from extremists like the AfD. And, by the way, the People’s Party is waiting there.

It’s worth noting Ms. Anderson’s AfD evolved into what it is because of how it dealt with extreme elements.

Alternative for Germany came out in 2013 as an anti-European Union splinter from conservative parties, but its first leader, Bernd Lucke, quit in 2015 complaining the party was taken over by xenophobic elements under new leader Frauke Petry. In 2017, Ms. Petry lost a power struggle with the more extreme far right wing of the party, and later quit the party, too.

So if there’s a vein of folks in the Conservative Party that doesn’t want to see the extremism of some who claim to be allies, they should be warned. There is a line. If you choose not to see it at your lunch table, it just gets closer.

Source: Three Conservative MPs who saw no evil until after lunch

Why Rewrites to Roald Dahl’s Books Are Stirring Controversy

As the rewrites should. Much better to provide context and background, to improve understanding, rather than efface (disclosure, his books were one of our kids favourite reads, and both are fairly woke adults):

A British publisher has come under fire for rewriting new editions of Roald Dahl’s children’s books to remove language that today’s readers deem offensive when it comes to race, gender, weight, and mental health.

Puffin Books, a children’s imprint of Penguin Books, worked with the Roald Dahl Story Company (RDSC), which is now exclusively owned by Netflix, to review the texts. RDSC hopes that rewriting books by one of the world’s most popular children’s authors, whose books have sold more than 300 million copies worldwide, would ensure that “Dahl’s wonderful stories and characters continue to be enjoyed by all children today.”
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Dahl is the author of many popular titles such as Matilda, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and The Witches. But in the years since Dahl’s death in 1990, some have turned their focus to a number of harmful tropes used by the late British author, including a history of anti-Semitic comments.

The language review was conducted with Inclusive Minds, an organization that works with the children’s book world to support them with diversity and inclusion initiatives. The organization told TIME they “do not write, edit, or rewrite texts, but provide book creators with valuable insight from people with the relevant lived experience that they can take into consideration in the wider process of writing and editing.”

Some writers and voices within the publishing industry have criticized the updated works as an act of censorship they believe was brought about by Netflix’s 2021 acquisition of the RDSC. However, others say there is merit and precedent to rewriting books for a contemporary audience.

Below, what to know about the changes to Dahl’s work, and the reactions to it.

Dahl’s anti-Semiticism and controversial legacy

Dahl, who died at age 74, had a history of making anti-Semitic comments and including racist tropes and language in his works. For example, he originally wrote characters like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Oompa Loompas as an African Pygmy tribe. In James and the Giant Peach, the Grasshopper declares at one point: “I’d rather be fried alive and eaten by a Mexican.”

Dahl has also been called a misogynist for his unfavorable depictions of women in books such as The Witches.

In 2018, The Guardian reported that the British Royal Mint rejected a proposal to mark the 100th anniversary of Dahl’s birth with a commemorative coin. The idea was rejected on the grounds that he was “associated with anti-Semitism and not regarded as an author of the highest reputation.”

Amanda Bowman, vice president of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, a community organization, backed the Mint’s decision. “He may have been a great children’s writer but he was also a racist and this should be remembered,” she said.

In 2020, the Dahl family and RDSC preempted public criticism of their literary patriarch, quietly issuing a statement apologizing for the hurt caused by his views.

“Those prejudiced remarks are incomprehensible to us and stand in marked contrast to the man we knew and to the values at the heart of Roald Dahl’s stories, which have positively impacted young people for generations,” it read. “We hope that, just as he did at his best, at his absolute worst, Roald Dahl can help remind us of the lasting impact of words.”

Which of Dahl’s books have been rewritten?

According to The Independent, hundreds of changes have been made to Dahl’s body of work. These edits include the Cloud-Men in James and the Giant Peach becoming Cloud-People, while in The Witches, the use of “old hags” has been replaced with “old crows.”

In Matilda, a mention of the English novelist Rudyard Kipling has also been replaced with Jane Austen. Kipling, who was born in 1865 in Bombay, India, has been variously labeled a colonialist, a racist, and misogynist in recent years.

In The Witches, Dahl had written, “You can’t go round pulling the hair of every lady you meet, even if she is wearing gloves. Just you try it and see what happens.” That passage has now been changed to read: “Besides, there are plenty of other reasons why women might wear wigs and there is certainly nothing wrong with that.” In the same text, women who were described as being supermarket cashiers or letter-writers for businessmen were rewritten as top scientists or business owners.

Several amendments have been related to violence, including the removal of references to the electric chair in George’s Marvellous Medicine and a Quentin Blake illustration of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’s Mike Teavee with 18 toy pistols.

Some have suggested that the rewrites are a bid to shield Netflix from controversy as it continues to adapt the books for the big screen. Deadline reported that Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical, directed by Matthew Warchus, has grossed over $33 million in U.K. cinemas since its Nov. 25 release, and it was also nominated for two BAFTAs.

Why are some claiming censorship?

Among the critics of the rewrites are Booker Prize-winning author Salman Rushdie, who spent years in hiding after Iran’s Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 issued a fatwa because of the alleged blasphemy in his novel The Satanic Verses. On Feb. 18, Rushie tweeted, “Roald Dahl was no angel but this is absurd censorship. Puffin Books and the Dahl estate should be ashamed.’’

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, the first racial minority to hold the U.K.’s top political job, likewise criticized the decision. A spokesperson said on Monday: “When it comes to our rich and varied literary heritage, the prime minister agrees with the BFG that we shouldn’t gobblefunk around with words. I think it’s important that works of literature and works of fiction are preserved and not airbrushed. We have always defended the right to free speech and expression.”

Suzanne Nossel, CEO of PEN America, a nonprofit organization that defends free expression in literature, also condemned the move in a Twitter thread. “The problem with taking license to re-edit classic works is that there is no limiting principle,” Nossel said. “You start out wanting to replace a word here and a word there, and end up inserting entirely new ideas.” Instead, she suggests, publishers should include introductions to works with offensive language to prepare readers with context.

But Karen Sands-O’Connor, a professor of children’s literature at Newcastle University, says Dahl was no stranger to editing out offensive language and even did so in his own lifetime. “Admittedly under pressure from his publisher,” Sands-O’Connor says. Dahl transformed Oompa Loompas, she adds, from an African Pygmy tribe in the 1964 edition, to people from the fictionalized Loompaland in order to avoid controversy.

Sands-O’Connor says publishers have three choices: stop publishing the work and lose money while risking another publisher releasing the works, leave it as it is and face accusations of sexism, racism, classism, or tailor it to a present-day audience. The latter, she says, is the “least problematic option.”

However, Philip Pullman, a prominent British author, appeared on BBC Radio 4 and said publishers should simply let Dahl’s books go “out of print.” Pullman also encouraged listeners to read the work of other authors, such as Michael Morpurgo, Malorie Blackman, and Jaqueline Wilson.

What other authors have seen their works rewritten?

In March 2021, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced that six Dr. Seuss books such as And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street and If I Ran the Zoo would no longer be published as they contained racist and insensitive imagery.

The organization told the Associated Press in a statement that the books portray people in “hurtful and wrong” ways and the ceasing of sales was part of a broader plan for inclusivity.

A number of other famous works have been pulled over the years, including Herbert R. Kohl’s Babar’s Travels, which was removed from a British library in 2012 for containing racist imagery of African people. However, textual tweaks appear to be a less common approach.

Sands-O’Connor says that Hugh Lofting’s Doctor Doolittle faced revisions in the 1960s and again in the 1980s after concerns about racism but despite these tweaks, children today typically engage with the film adaptations rather than the book.

She cautions that original copies will always be available and children’s classics will continue to sell if parents feel nostalgic about them. The better option, Sands-O’Connor adds, is to focus on discovering new and exciting storytellers: “The books are out there, people just need to look for them.”

Source: Why Rewrites to Roald Dahl’s Books Are Stirring Controversy

Irwin Cotler: To combat antisemitism, we must first agree how to define it

While I am a great fan of Cotler’s contribution, his advocacy for the IHRA definition needs to be nuanced as it can and is sometimes being used to discourage criticism of Israeli government policies. Given the Netanyahu government’s various actions (judicial reform, settlements, citizenship revocation), Israel will come in for more criticism that cannot and should not be deemed antisemitic – but some may do so invoking the definition.

Personally, I was surprised that Cotler in not among the signatories to Statement by Canadian jurists on proposed transformation of Israel’s legal system:

We are presently experiencing a resurgence in global antisemitism — the oldest, longest, most enduring and virulent of hatreds. Indeed, since my appointment as Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism in November 2020, I have witnessed the increasing mainstreaming, normalization and legitimation of antisemitism in the political, popular, campus, and media and entertainment cultures.

In order to combat this concerning surge in antisemitism, we must begin by defining it. Because antisemitism knows no borders, it is important that Canadian institutions at all levels embrace the same definition, in order to facilitate collective efforts to combat it.

Significantly, in 2022, Canadian governments and institutions continued to embrace the most authoritative, comprehensive and representative definition of antisemitism that exists today ­— the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Working Definition of Antisemitism.

The provinces of Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan all officially adopted the definition in 2022, as well as the City of Vancouver. The Government of British Columbia has also expressed support for the use of the definition in B.C. These governments join Ontario, Quebec and New Brunswick, as well as the Government of Canada, which all previously adopted the definition.

The IHRA definition is the result of a 15-year-long democratic decision-making process involving intergovernmental bodies, governments, parliaments, scholars and civil society leaders. Holocaust survivor and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Elie Wiesel was a leading inspiration for the definition and a key initiator of a process in which I had the privilege of participating as a parliamentarian and minister of justice, and which ultimately led to its approval by the IHRA — a 35-country intergovernmental body — in 2016.

As Canadians, we can be proud of the distinct Canadian connection to this process of adoption. The IHRA definition is anchored and drawn from the 2010 Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism, which was endorsed by every major Canadian political party and unanimously adopted by Parliament.

It is also inspired by the equality rights and anti-discrimination provisions in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, reflecting, as Ahmed Shaheed, the United Nation’s special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, put it, “The human-rights lens through which antisemitism should be viewed.”

It likewise offers an explanation of the different manifestations of antisemitism that exist today. Traditional antisemitism is the discrimination against, assault upon and denial of the rights of Jews to live as equal members in whatever society they inhabit. The new antisemitism is the discrimination against, assault upon and denial of the rights of Jews and the State of Israel to live as an equal member among the family of nations. What is common to each form of antisemitism, traditional and new, is discrimination.

The IHRA definition provides examples of both forms of antisemitism. The examples addressing older forms include stereotypes of Jews as controlling the media, world governments and the economy. Examples of newer forms include denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination and holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the State of Israel.

These latter examples have provoked some opposition, with opponents alleging that the IHRA definition will stifle criticism of the actions of the Israeli government, as well as advocacy for Palestinian human rights. This claim is as misleading as it is unfounded.

In fact, distinguishing between what is and what is not antisemitic enhances and promotes free expression and peaceful dialogue. In particular, the IHRA definition explicitly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that levelled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

Accordingly, the definition serves to protect speech that is critical of Israeli policy — which I have myself engaged in — so long as it does not cross the delineated boundaries into antisemitism. Conversely, using this definition, genuine antisemitism, such as those examples listed above, can be defined and recognized.

The IHRA definition therefore sets the parameters for a healthy, democratic, tolerant debate and dialogue. It fosters non-hateful communication, and prevents both actual instances of antisemitism as well as unjust labelling of antisemitism. In doing so, it aligns with Canadian values of equality, diversity and human rights.

My hope for 2023 is that the Canadian jurisdictions that have not yet adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism will do so, and that the ones that have adopted it begin to implement and use it. The IHRA definition is an indispensable resource in helping to identify, recognize and define antisemitism, and adopting it is the critical first step towards Canada’s collective effort to combat the rising tide of antisemitism.

National Post

Irwin Cotler is Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating antisemitism and a former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada.

Source: Irwin Cotler: To combat antisemitism, we must first agree how to define it

Canadian Heritage changes vetting process for anti-racism funds after nixing contract

Of note. This should catch most of the problems and the inclusion of reviewing social media activities is unfortunately necessary with respect to all forms of hate, whether antisemitism, anti-Asian, anti-muslim etc:

Canadian Heritage has changed the way it vets funding requests for community and anti-racism projects after it cut ties with an organization that was accused of antisemitism.

The federal government terminated a contract with the Community Media Advocacy Centre in September after it granted the group more than $122,000for projects to help combat anti-racism.

Ottawa has since attempted to recoup the funds, but has been unsuccessful in getting the money back, said Mala Khanna, an associate deputy minister at Canadian Heritage.

“It would be possible for the minister to take legal action,” she told a House of Commons committee on Monday.

That option has not yet been pursued, she said.

The federal government’s relationship with the group ended a few days after media reported that a senior consultant had posted what federal ministers described as antisemitic content on Twitter. The ministry decided to review its vetting process and says a new procedure is now in place.

Those applying for money will now have to put into writing that they will not espouse hate or discriminate, Khanna said.

Unlike before, the minister will have the power to immediately terminate a contract if its terms are violated. And staff involved with doling out funding have received anti-racism and antisemitism training.

Source: Canadian Heritage changes vetting process for anti-racism funds after nixing contract

Regg Cohn: Why don’t we recognize Jews as victims of racism?

More on the UofT medical school scandal:

Decades after the University of Toronto’s medical school phased out its racist “Jewish quota,” and atoned for its sins, the faculty is rife with recurring antisemitism. Again.

Next door at Queen’s Park, Ontario’s NDP — which purports to lead the charge against racism — had its own reckoning with antisemitic tropes this year. Again.

Why does the history of hatred keep repeating itself in today’s reality? If Canadians pride themselves on diversity, how does the adversity of antisemitism so often pass unremarked on campus and unnoticed in the media?

It is impossible to ignore a painstaking — and painful — analysis published this month on the pervasive antisemitism still deeply rooted in U of T, all these years after it phased out the racist quota against Jews. The author is a doctor and educational consultant who taught at the medical school, only to be schooled in a pervasive antisemitism harboured by the most erudite professors and brilliant students.

If the best and the brightest can be so thoughtless, we may be in for the worst and darkest of times.

What’s so illuminating about this academic paper, peer-reviewed in the Canadian Medical Education Journal, is that Dr. Ayelet Kuper has immersed herself in the anti-racism pedagogy and paradigm that defines so much teaching and preaching on diversity. An internist and education specialist on faculty, she is also at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.

After her appointment as senior adviser on antisemitism at the faculty of medicine, she describes how academic colleagues and student learners continued to manifest their antisemitism with her. Which means antagonists often don’t realize who they are talking to, and being degrading to, until, belatedly, they do.

She goes to the heart of the hatefulness paradox that sometimes prevents anti-racism advocates from showing solidarity: Jews are often (though not always) “white-passing in appearance,” as she describes herself, and therefore sometimes seen as fair game for attack and not entitled to empathy.

“Hateful attitudes about Jews have been on the rise at TFOM (Temerty Faculty of Medicine) for at least three years,” she notes. Across campus, the problem dates to “at least 2016,” when a working group was established.

The most bizarre manifestation of anti-Jewish paranoia and conspiracy theories came when people on campus demanded to know why awareness of antisemitism was “being forced on the students by the Jew who bought the faculty.” This was a reference to James Temerty, the donor after whom the school was named (turns out he’s not Jewish).

“Growing support for antisemitism at TFOM has been carefully reframed since the spring of 2021 as political activism against Israel and as scholarly positions held under the protection of academic freedom. The resultant physician advocacy has, however, been rife with dog-whistles (and) traditional antisemitic tropes.”

Jewish students are expected to denounce and renounce Israel and Zionism in the same breath — which is like demanding a Muslim student denounce, say, a bombing carried out (falsely) in the name of Islam somewhere across the world. New Democratic Party MPP Joel Harden belatedly apologized last month after he asked Jewish constituents to account for Israel’s human rights record.

Kuper describes the phenomenon of “Jew-washing,” when people try to inoculate themselves against allegations of antisemitism by recruiting minority Jewish voices to their cause on campus: “The presence of a very small group of self-identified Jews among those committing acts of antisemitism is used to justify inaction on the part of those who are witness to that antisemitism.”

Against that backdrop, the medical school too often seems paralyzed to the point of impotence. The administration and students too often try to make the problem go away by refusing to recognize Jews as victims of racism.

It’s easy to see why — and to be blinded into inaction. She writes about the “inability to accept Jews as victims of discrimination because of an inaccurate but pervasive belief in Jewish whiteness.”

In fact, first-year medical students are taught that race is a “social (not biological) construct,” and that “there’s nothing inherent in skin colour (or any other physical feature)” to explain racial divisions. “It was simply decided to be important by a group of powerful white Europeans (almost all of whom were also male, Christian, cisgender, and heterosexual).”

Jews were “white-passing,” but could hardly be part of the old “white supremacist” power structure, given that so many were enslaved and slaughtered by Nazis for falling short of Aryan ideals of whiteness; more recently, Jews were targeted alongside Blacks by the latest generation of white supremacists in the 2017 Charlottesville “unite the right” rallies. Yet when diversity training or equity surveys are undertaken, Jews are typically given “no options under the category usually labelled ‘race/ethnicity.’”

Antisemitism may be old news — “the world’s oldest form of hate,” she notes — but it keeps coming back. All these years after the medical school stopped the Jewish quota, which limited their enrolment count on campus, Jews are still not counted when the administration measures antisemitism and discrimination.

Such is the paradox of “white-passing” in our diversity paradigm.

Source: Why don’t we recognize Jews as victims of racism?

Lederman: University of Toronto medical school report reveals the shameful realities of antisemitism today

Disturbing and unacceptable:

Imagine being afraid to see a doctor. Not because of a deep-seated irrational fear or bad previous experience or because you are worried about a diagnosis … but because of what you’ve heard some doctors at the local medical school say about people like you.

In 2021, Ayelet Kuper, an Israeli-born Canadian physician and scientist, was appointed senior adviser on antisemitism by the Temerty Faculty of Medicine (TFOM) at the University of Toronto. The position was created in response to reports of increasing antisemitism affecting Jewish students, staff and faculty.

Last week, Dr. Kuper’s report was published in the Canadian Medical Education Journal. And it is shattering.

“I personally experienced many instances of antisemitism, including being told that all Jews are liars; that Jews lie to control the university or the faculty or the world, to oppress or hurt others, and/or for other forms of gain; and that antisemitism can’t exist because everything Jews say are lies, including any claims to have experienced discrimination,” wrote Dr. Kuper, who told The Globe and Mail that it is the most difficult paper she has ever written.

The report recounts incidents she was told about, witnessed or encountered herself. The culprits included faculty and as, she calls them, learners.

In what Dr. Kuper calls classic discriminatory victim-blaming, she writes that antisemitism at TFOM has been “carefully reframed” as political activism against Israel, relating to its treatment of Palestinians. She was repeatedly told that the current environment of growing antisemitism at the faculty was triggered by the spring 2021 war in Gaza. That does not jibe with the rise in antisemitism at TFOM, which goes back at least three years, she writes.

She notes that in the years before the war in Gaza, she overheard faculty colleagues complaining about “those Jews who think their Holocaust means they know something about oppression.”

Dr. Kuper, a descendant of Holocaust survivors, writes that she was “berated” for speaking about intergenerational trauma and told that Jews were appropriating the term from Indigenous people. (These complaints came from non-Indigenous colleagues.)

Other Jewish faculty and learners have been silenced when trying to speak about their personal or family histories of discrimination. White Jewish students, she writes, were told by peers that their skin colour means they aren’t allowed to claim to have any experience of oppression.

The myth of Jewish power is very much at play: Dr. Kuper has witnessed people at TFOM say or post that Jews control faculty hiring and promotions, as well as Canada’s residency matching service.

When a lecture on religious discrimination was instituted at the medical school in 2021, Dr. Kuper was asked by non-Jewish students why the Jewish content was “being forced on the students by the Jew who bought the faculty.” They were referring to James Temerty, the philanthropist who, with his wife, Louise, made a large donation to the faculty, which was subsequently named for them. The Temerty family is not Jewish.

“I was frequently at a loss as to how to escape from the circular reasoning that dismissed my experience of discrimination while dehumanizing me, calling me out as racist for defending myself against racism, and ascribing to me sinister, hidden power,” Dr. Kuper writes.

This is devastating stuff. And it’s happening at a medical school – that in the postwar period had a quota system restricting the number of Jewish students.

If the current and future doctors of Canada think this way, what do less educated members of our society think of “the Jews” (a recently trending topic on Twitter)?

This is not just a problem at TFOM. Dr. Kuper says there were instances where Jewish students in other University of Toronto departments were forced to express their beliefs about Israel before being allowed to participate in school activities.

And this is not just happening at the University of Toronto. Dr. Kuper points out that antisemitism has been reported at other higher education institutions in Canada.

Since the article was published, Dr. Kuper says she has heard not only from “many dozens” of Jewish people at TFOM who said her paper resonated with their experiences, but also from Jewish academics elsewhere at U of T and other Canadian universities and medical schools. They have thanked her, she says, for encapsulating their experiences. She has also heard from Jewish Torontonians in other fields who have experienced antisemitism at work.

This as hate crimes against Canadian Jews have risen, and as antisemitism has been spouted by some big-name, influential celebrities in the United States.

Jews aren’t always thought of as a marginalized group, but the discrimination is real. And discrimination opens the door to marginalization – and worse.

In her report, Dr. Kuper points out that a large proportion of Jewish Torontonians are Holocaust survivors or their descendants.

In Ottawa, the National Holocaust Monument “recognizes the immense contributions these survivors have made to Canada and serves as a reminder that we must be vigilant in standing guard against antisemitism, hatred and intolerance.”

I read that plaque at the monument last weekend, a few hours after reading Dr. Kuper’s paper. I pictured some poor old Holocaust survivor in her 90s – perhaps someone who had been the victim of medical experiments at a concentration camp – going to the doctor in good, safe Canada, and possibly being subjected to this antisemitism, either blatantly, as a microaggression, or worse, as silent dismissal.

For shame.

Source: University of Toronto medical school report reveals the shameful realities of antisemitism today

Stephens: Thank Ye Very Much

Good column:

Dear Kanye West, or “Ye”:

We’ve never met and I hope we never will.

Still, I’d like to express a sort of gratitude. With a few outbursts in a few days — you threatened in a tweet this month to go “death con 3” on “JEWISH PEOPLE” and it’s been downhill from there — you’ve probably done more to raise public awareness about the persistence, prevalence and nature of antisemitism than any other recent event.

It’s remarkable how long it took us to get here. For 2020, the F.B.I. reports that Jews, who constitute about 2.4 percent of the total adult population in the United States, were on the receiving end of 54.9 percent of all religiously motivated hate crimes. On many nights in New York City, Hasidic or Orthodox Jews are being shoved, harangued and beaten.

So far, this has been one of the most underreported stories in the country — itself a telling indicator in an era that is otherwise hyper-attuned to prejudice and hate.

At times, the reporting has all but accused Jews of bringing the violence on themselves, with lengthy stories about allegedly pushy Jewish neighbors or rapacious Jewish landlords. At other times — such as after the attack in January on a Texas synagogue by a British Muslim man who had traveled 4,800 miles to get there — reporters seem to have gone out of their way to find non-antisemitic motives for nakedly antisemitic attacks.

More often, attacks on Jews are treated as regrettable yet somehow understandable expressions of anger at Israel. In May 2021, Jewish diners at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles were physically assaulted by a member of a group that, according to a witness, was chanting “Death to Jews” and “Free Palestine.” A KABC report of the event was headlined, in part: “Mideast tensions lead to L.A. fight.”

To suggest that “Mideast tensions” led to a “fight” is to obscure both the nature and motive of the assault. Imagine the absurdity of a headline that read: “High Levels of Crime in Minority Neighborhood Lead Police Officer to Kneel on Man’s Neck for Eight Minutes.”

Actually, Ye, you probably can imagine it, since you’ve also blamed George Floyd for his own death. But it’s worth pondering the extent to which, in American culture today, Jews are excluded from inclusion and included in the excluded. That is, the Jewish people’s status as an oft-persecuted minority goes increasingly unrecognized, while the Jewish people’s position as a legitimate target for contempt and ostracism is becoming increasingly accepted.

Take Hollywood, where the new Academy Museum of Motion Pictures opened its doors last year with a panel dedicated to “Creating a More Inclusive Museum.” Yet, as The Times’s Adam Nagourney reported in March, “Through dozens of exhibits and rooms, there is barely a mention of Harry and Jack Warner, Adolph Zukor, Samuel Goldwyn or Louis B. Mayer” — the Jews who essentially founded the modern movie industry. (After an outcry, the museum now plans a permanent exhibition for them.)

Or take the law school of the University of California, Berkeley, where nine student groups announced in August that they would not host any speakers who support Zionism, a move that is tantamount to the exclusion of most Jews. In an astonishing defense, law school dean Erwin Chemerinsky noted that the bylaw, which he acknowledged was “discriminatory,” had been adopted by only “a handful of student groups” and had not yet been acted upon — as if Berkeley or any other public law school would tolerate for one instant a single student group that announced its intention to exclude, say, a speaker who believes in trans rights.

Or take Israel itself. Is the Jewish state so uniquely evil that, alone among 193 U.N. member states, it has no moral right to exist? Or is it the unique evil of antisemitism that directs this kind of obsessive hatred at one state only — while generally ignoring or downplaying the endless depredations of regimes in, say, Caracas, Ankara, Havana and Tehran?

These are surely not the things you had in mind when you decided to go “death con 3” on my people. Nor were they necessarily top-of-mind for many of the celebrities who denounced you in tweets and Instagram posts. But your bigotry is as good a place as any to begin to have an honest conversation about antisemitism — one that will hopefully last longer than your own career’s self-destruction.

Honest would be to acknowledge that antisemitism is as much a left-wing phenomenon as it is a right-wing one. Honest would be coming to grips with the fact — as Henry Louis Gates Jr. did in these pages in 1992 — that antisemitism infects corners of Black politics as much as it infects the politics of white supremacy. Honest would be holding to account people who were complicit in your antisemitism — such as Tucker Carlson, who praised your “bold” beliefs while editing out your antisemitic remarks from his interview with you. Honest would be coming to terms with the extent to which anti-Zionism has become the antisemitism of our day, echoing the same sordid conspiratorial tropes about Jews as swindlers and impostors.

Honest would also be admitting that you speak for more people than many Americans would have cared to admit. For that, but only that, you deserve thanks.

Source: Thank Ye Very Much

Diversity Minister condemns CRTC for not severing ties with consultant under fire for tweets

Needed but questions remain regarding how Canadian Heritage and CRTC decisions to provide funding to the Community Media Advocacy Centre were made. Recommended by officials (“activists on a pension”) and/or pushed by the political level:

Diversity Minister Ahmed Hussen says he is “surprised and disappointed” by the federal broadcasting regulator’s decision not to ban an anti-racism organization that employs Laith Marouf, a consultant who has been widely condemned for a series of derogatory tweets about “Jewish white supremacists” and francophones.

The Minister made his comments on Friday to the Commons heritage committee, which had summoned him so he could explain how his department’s anti-racism unit had granted the organization, called the Community Media Advocacy Centre, a contract to run an anti-racism project in which Mr. Marouf was to play a key role.

CMAC has been paid over $500,000 to participate in proceedings held by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, Canada’s broadcasting regulator. Most of the money was provided by the Broadcast Participation Fund, an independent body set up by the CRTC to administer payments to public-interest groups taking part in those proceedings.

The Broadcast Participation Fund told The Globe and Mail in a statement on Friday that it was “currently reviewing the CMAC matter.” The fund is paid into by broadcasting companies, which have no influence over who receives the money.

Opinion: Ahmed Hussen demands to know how someone else let his government partner with an apparent antisemite

A spokeswoman for the CRTC said on Thursday that the regulator would not ban CMAC from its proceedings because it would be inappropriate “to establish lists of parties that may or may not participate.”

At Friday’s committee hearing, Mr. Hussen told MPs that he had been warned by Liberal MP Anthony Housefather about Mr. Marouf’s offensive tweets on July 19th or 20th – a month before the Minister spoke out publicly.

Facing sharp questioning from MPs, the Minister admitted that the Heritage Department’s vetting process failed when it decided to pay $133,000 to CMAC to run the anti-racism project.

Mr. Hussen apologized to Jewish and francophone communities, which he said Mr. Marouf has “continuously attacked with his hateful comments.”

He said it was “completely unacceptable” that “this individual fell through the cracks” and was approved to run a government-funded project. The Heritage Department, which he said approved the funding before he became Diversity and Inclusion Minister, has now cancelled the initiative and is asking CMAC for its money back.

“The antisemitic, hateful and xenophobic comments made by Laith Marouf … I condemn them in the strongest possible terms,” Mr. Hussen said. “The fact that the Community Media Advocacy Centre received federal funding while employing Mr. Marouf is unacceptable and should quite frankly never have happened.”

CMAC describes itself as a non-profit organization supporting the “self-determination of Indigenous, racialized and disabled peoples in the media through research, relationship-building, advocacy and learning.”

Mr. Marouf denies he is antisemitic or racist. He said in an interview that CMAC is currently in discussions with the Heritage Department about the contract. CMAC and Mr. Marouf had already started the project when it was terminated.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in August that the government has launched a complete review of funding for CMAC. He added that it was unacceptable “that federal dollars have gone to this organization that has demonstrated xenophobia, racism and anti-Semitism.”

Mr. Hussen told MPs that CMAC would be blocked from applying for any future funding. He said he has introduced tighter vetting procedures for such contracts, including an obligation to check social media profiles for hateful speech. And he said his department’s contracts now include a clause that allows them to be terminated if hate speech comes to light. He said he has paused all new departmental contracts until more checks are made.

Jewish groups, including the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre, called on the CRTC to follow the government’s lead in severing ties with Mr. Marouf and CMAC, and to ban the organization from taking part in regulatory proceedings.

“Laith Marouf’s hateful statements should have disqualified him, and CMAC, from access to any government funding, let alone to money from an anti-racism program,” said Shimon Koffler Fogel, president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. “It is imperative that the values promoted by the government be reflected in the orientation and work of their partners outside government.”

Conservative MP Kevin Waugh told the heritage committee that CRTC chairman Ian Scott and Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez should both be summoned to appear before the committee to explain their organizations’ links to CMAC.

Rachael Thomas, a Tory MP, and Melissa Lantsman, deputy leader of the Conservative Party, issued a statement saying “Canadians deserve answers” from Mr. Rodriguez.

Source: Diversity Minister condemns CRTC for not severing ties with consultant under fire for tweets