Why Canada’s plan to criminalize Holocaust denial could be unconstitutional — and redundant

Good discussion of some of the issues involved.

Reminds me of Holocaust denier David Irving suing Deborah Lipstadt for libel in her book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, and the legal strategy involved which ensured that she herself would not take the witness stand to maintain the focus on Irving:

Sidney Zoltak, who has spent a significant part of his life recounting his experiences as a child survivor of the Holocaust, says he’s not sure how he would characterize the effort by some to deny the historical genocide.

“I don’t know what to call it … whether it’s a crime, a shame, a lie — what would be more appropriate,” said Zoltak, 91. As a child, he, along with his family, escaped the Jewish ghetto set up by Nazis in his Polish hometown and went into hiding.

“But what kind of a crime it is, I am not a legal person, not a lawyer, so I wouldn’t know how to legislate that.”

Yet, that’s what the federal government will attempt to do, and join several countries in Europe, including Germany, that make Holocaust denial a crime. However, like any legislation that seeks to curb expression, it could be subject to Charter challenges.

‘Probably unconstitutional’

The Holocaust refers to the state-sponsored initiative by the Nazi government during the Second World War that led to the murder of more than six million Jews and millions of others, such as Roma. 

The government’s plan to criminalize denial of those events — outside of private conversation — was first unveiled inside this year’s 280-page federal budget. Along with a number of initiatives to fight antisemitism, including $20 million for a new Holocaust museum in Montreal, the budget also revealed the government’s intent to amend the Criminal Code. Currently the Criminal Code makes it illegal to communicate statements in public that wilfully promote hatred against any identifiable group.

The amendment would “prohibit the communication of statements, other than in private conversation, that willfully promote antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust.”

But while many advocates welcome the legislation, some legal experts question its constitutionality.

“I think it’s problematic to criminalize Holocaust denial,” said Cara Zwibel, lawyer and director of the Fundamental Freedoms Program at the Canadian Civil Liberties Association. “That’s not to say that that kind of expression is not harmful. But the truth is, we don’t criminalize lying for the most part.”

“I think if it adds things that sort of go beyond the narrow definition of what the court has said is hate speech, then it’s probably unconstitutional.”

‘Reliable predictor of radicalization’

The news was welcomed by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, which said the amendment would “provide the necessary legal tools to prosecute those who peddle this pernicious form of antisemitism.”

“Denying the Holocaust is a reliable predictor of radicalization and an indication that antisemitism is on the rise,” Gail Adelson-Marcovitz, chair of the national board of directors of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said in a statement.

Record levels of antisemitism took place in Canada in 2021, according to an annual audit by Jewish advocacy group B’nai Brith. The number of violent incidents toward Jews last year increased by more than 700 per cent.

Sarah Fogg, a spokeswoman for the Montreal Holocaust Museum, said while the organization was surprised to see such a measure in a federal budget, they welcomed the news as an “important step.”

“It’s a really meaningful legislative effort to combat antisemitism,” she said. “I think this this sort of makes that link really obvious between Holocaust denial and antisemitism.”

Putting the Holocaust on trial

But Zwibel warned the legislation could give Holocaust deniers a platform.

She cited the case of Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel, who was tried twice in the 1980s for publishing the pamphlet Did Six Million Really Die? The Truth At Last. Although convicted, Zundel was eventually acquitted when the Supreme Court of Canada struck down the country’s laws against spreading false news as a violation of free speech.

His trials also put the Holocaust on trial, with the crown bringing in Holocaust researchers and survivors to support their case, while the defence put noted Holocaust deniers on the stand.

“What being prosecuted did for [Zundel] was give him a big platform and basically allow him to parade a bunch of witnesses in court to try and prove that the Holocaust didn’t happen and have the government put survivors before the court. It’s atrocious,” Zwibel said.

Zwibel also suggested there could be problems with how the amendment would define terms such as “condoning’ and “downplaying” in relation to the Holocaust.

“There’s a lot of different questions to try and figure out what would be caught here.”

Geneviève Groulx, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice, said ultimately, the courts will assess what words like “downplay” mean

“But generally it is understood to encompass actions that try to make (something) appear smaller or less important than in reality and to minimize (something). A court would have to conclude that the downplaying wilfully promotes antisemitism,” she said in an email.

Richard Moon, a University of Windsor law professor whose research focuses on freedom of expression, said any such law that restricts speech will likely be challenged at some point to determine whether that limitation can be justified under Section 1 of the Charter.

But Moon questioned whether the proposed amendment would add anything to what is already covered in the Criminal Code, other than to potentially specify or clarify in some way.

“So one possibility, it’s not actually doing anything new,” he said.

“The way this is framed, it sounds like someone being prosecuted under it, the prosecution would have to establish what they already have to establish under the existing Criminal Code.”

Zoltak and his family were some of the lucky few to survive the Holocaust. His family was on the run for two years, staying with different villagers, forced to change locations every few months. They eventually found one Polish family that hid them for 14 months in an underground bunker, where they did not see daylight for half that time.

When they were liberated and returned home, only 70 Jews remained in their village from the 7,000 prior to the war.

We know a number of nations around the world have made Holocaust denial a crime,” Zoltak said. “And they have been living with that for quite a while. And it works for them. And why should we be shying away from that?”

‘Has to be bulletproof’

Bernie Farber, chair of the Canadian AntiHate Network, said while any tool that can deal with antisemitism is worthwhile, the legislation will have to be carefully thought out.

“It has to be kind of bulletproof in terms of the constitutionality test,” he said. “I think it’s all going to be in the wording of the  legislation.

“I accept this in principle. I think it’s a long time coming. But people do have the right to be stupid and offensive. And if people want to say that the Holocaust didn’t happen, that’s kind of their business. But that said, we know that these are, antisemitic dog whistles. And it’ll be really important in terms of the wording of the legislation on how it traces back to antisemitism.”

Zoltak and his family were some of the lucky few to survive the Holocaust. His family was on the run for two years, staying with different villagers, forced to change locations every few months. They eventually found one Polish family that hid them for 14 months in an underground bunker, where they did not see daylight for half that time.

When they were liberated and returned home, only 70 Jews remained in their village from the 7,000 prior to the war.

We know a number of nations around the world have made Holocaust denial a crime,” Zoltak said. “And they have been living with that for quite a while. And it works for them. And why should we be shying away from that?”

Source: Why Canada’s plan to criminalize Holocaust denial could be unconstitutional — and redundant

Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

Unfortunately true, as recent history illustrates, whether Rwanda, China in Xinjiang, or as Russia is trying to do in Ukraine:

As the images of mass graves and murdered civilians in Ukraine flash across our screen, we think of those who commit genocide as pure evil.

But a man who has dedicated his life to fighting the bigotry that causes genocide and has discovered more than 3,100 execution sites and interviewed more than 7,400 victims around the world knows better.

“A human being has the capacity to heal people, to save people, but also the capacity to do the worst crimes,” Father Patrick Desbois said. “The first thing to accept is that genocide is inside humanity.”

Desbois, an author and founder of Yahad-In Unum (Together In One), a non-profit organization dedicated to discovering genocidal practices, spoke Monday night inside the Arizona Ballroom of the Memorial Union as part of Genocide Awareness Week, put on by Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Desbois, who has received several awards for his work documenting the Holocaust, including the Legion d’Honneur, France’s highest honor, said the perpetrators of genocide often are ordinary people who become embroiled in extraordinary situations.

He cited the case of Sabrina Harmon, a former U.S. Army reservist who was convicted of war crimes for her involvement in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal in Baghdad during the Iraq war.

“I always say to my students (at Georgetown University) that I’m sure she was a normal girl,” Desbois said. “I’m sure she was not a monster. Genocide is not in a hell place away from everything. It’s not true.”

Genocide often is the result, Desbois said, of propaganda feeding brainwashed minds. It was that way in Nazi Germany, in Angola in the 1970s, in Sudan and in Ukraine, where Russian president Vladimir Putin justified his country’s invasion with the propaganda that Ukraine is “openly pro-Nazi.”

“Hitler never missed people to do the job,” Desbois said. “There is no country where Hitler said, ‘Oh, nobody wants to do the job for killings. He found people to do everything, to dig the mass graves, to fill the mass graves, and even if Jews are not dead, they are buried alive, to take the belongings and sell them by auction, etc. etc.

“Because when you brainwash people, when you make propaganda to designate a target, you wake up the criminals. And you find clients for everything … Why are young soldiers coming from Russa doing awful things in public, under cameras from CNN? Why can Putin deny it every day?

“Propaganda is still strong. Propaganda has a capacity to whitewash the brain. And when people are brainwashed, any violence is possible … Everybody can be a victim. Everybody can be a killer. It depends where you are.”

Desbois said propaganda – and the resulting Neo-Nazi movement — is in part responsible for the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, including the United States. According to FBI statistics in 2020, Jews living in America are the target of 58% of all religiously motivated hate crimes.

Desbois said that when he posts something about the Holocaust on his Facebook page, “there’s always somebody who denies it, for any reason.”

“I will never forget the first time I went to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.,” he said. “I took a cab from the airport and had an Arab driver. I gave the address, and he brought me to the museum. After I went to pay, he told me, ‘You go to a place which shows the genocide that never existed.’”

That attitude, Desbois said, is why it’s important to teach high school and college students about the Holocaust. Already, he said, the Holocaust is not taught in schools in Mexico, Asia, China, India, Russia, most African countries and most Arab countries.

“I see year after year students (at Georgetown) know nothing about the Holocaust,” Desbois said. And the young generation, they will have very few chances to meet a (Holocaust) survivor. They will meet people who say, ‘Ha, it never existed. It’s a Jewish trick to make money to build Israel.’

“So, it’s a strong responsibility to teach, to train a generation of leaders and to do it so that they have the capacity to resist the huge movement of hate.”

Holocaust by Bullets,” a program and exhibit by Yahad-In Unum, can be seen in the Hayden Library through April 17. Members of the ASU community can access the free exhibit any time during library hours. Non-ASU community members can access the exhibit during docent-led tours from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Sundays and from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Mondays.

Source: Expert says genocide is part of humanity, often result of propaganda

Serwer: Whoopi Goldberg’s American Idea of Race

Good thoughtful analysis and commentary, and the importance of understanding historical experiences:

It made sense, to the New York Daily News sports editor, that these guys dominated basketball. After all, “the game places a premium on an alert, scheming mind and flashy trickiness, artful dodging and general smartalecness,” not to mention their “God-given better balance and speed.”

He was referring, of course, to the Jews.

In the 1930s, Paul Gallico was trying to explain away Jewish dominance of basketball. He came up with the idea that the game’s structure simply appealed to the immutable traits of wily Hebrews and their scheming minds. It sounds strange to the ear now, but only because our stereotypes about who is inherently good at particular sports have shifted. His theory is not any more or less insightful now than it was then; his confidence should remind us to be skeptical of similar, supposedly explanatory arguments that abound today.

Looking back at old stereotypes is a useful exercise; it can help illustrate the arbitrary nature of the concept of “race,” and how such identities shift even as people insist on their permanence and infallibility. Because race is not real, it is malleable enough to be made to serve the needs of those with the power to define it, the certainties of one generation giving way to the contradictory dogmas of another.

Whoopi Goldberg, the actor and a co-host of The View, stumbled into a public-relations nightmare for ABC on Monday when she insisted that “the Holocaust wasn’t about race.” After an episode of The Late Show With Stephen Colbert aired in which she opined that “the Nazis were white people, and most of the people they were attacking were white people,” she was temporarily suspended from The View. She has apologized for her remarks.

I don’t mean to pile on Goldberg here, who I think is struggling with an American conception of “race” that renders the anti-Semitism that led to the Holocaust illegible. I regard her remarks not as malicious, but as an ignorant projection of that American conception onto circumstances to which it does not apply. In America, distinctions among European immigrants that were once considered deeply significant dissolved in the melting pot, leaving an absence in popular memory that might explain their salience elsewhere, and how someone could be seen as white in America and yet still be subject to persecution based on their “race.”

The Nazi Holocaust in Europe and slavery and Jim Crow in the United States are outgrowths of the same ideology—the belief that human beings can be delineated into categories that share immutable biological traits distinguishing them from one another and determining their potential and behavior. In Europe, with its history of anti-Jewish persecution and violent religious divisions, the conception of Jews as a biological “race” with particular characteristics was used by the Nazis to justify the Holocaust. In the United States, the invention of race was used to justify the institution of chattel slavery, on the basis that Black people were biologically suited to permanent servitude and unfit for the rights the nation’s Founders had proclaimed as universal. The American color line was therefore much more forgiving to European Jews than the divisions of the old country were. But they are branches of the same tree, the biological fiction of race.

In the United States, physical distinctions between most Black and most white people have misled some into thinking that the American conception of race is somehow more “real” than the racial fictions on which the Nazis based their campaign of extermination. Applying the American color line to Europe, the Holocaust appears merely to be a form of sectarian violence, “white people” attacking “white people,” which seems nonsensical. But those persecuting Jews in Europe saw Jews as beastly subhumans, an “alien race” whom they were justified in destroying in order to defend German “racial purity.” The “racial” distinctions between master and slave may be more familiar to Americans, but they were and are no more real than those between Gentile and Jew.

Adherence to religious belief was not required to be subject to Nazi persecution, and unlike some prior moments in European history, conversion was insufficient to escape danger. Jewish ancestry was enough, because it was ancestry—a person’s “race”—that made someone inescapably Jewish. In his infamous memoir, Adolf Hitler regretted that, early in life, he’d seen anti-Semitism as persecution of a people on the basis of religious belief, which he thought wrong. He later came to think of this as a Jewish lie to hide the reality that the Jewish people were a separate “race” whose goal was to enslave the rest of mankind. It should not be lost that enslaving all of mankind is a concise summary of Hitler’s own political project.

“Judaism predates Western categories. It’s not quite a religion, because one can be Jewish regardless of observance or specific belief,” my colleague Yair Rosenberg wrote. “But it’s also not quite a race, because people can convert in! It’s not merely a culture or an ethnicity, because that leaves out all the religious components.”

This is all true, but Black Americans are not really a “race” either, and the borders of Black American identity can also be difficult to define or agree upon. To some extent, shared history, culture, and ancestry exist, but as the scholars Karen and Barbara Fields write in Racecraft, the very concept of race implies a material reality where none exists. Most American descendants of the emancipated have white ancestry, and millions of white Americans with African ancestry have no knowledge of it. “Race is not an idea but an ideology. It came into existence at a discernible historical moment for rationally understandable historical reasons,” the Fieldses write, “and is subject to change for similar reasons.”

It is not necessary for race to be real for racism to be real. It is only necessary that people believe race to be real. When people act on fictions, those actions have repercussions even if the underlying belief is false—even if the people know that the underlying belief they are acting on is false. The fact that anti-Semitic conspiracy theories about Jewish control of the media, of governments, and of financial institutions are untrue does not rob them of their explanatory power for those who choose to believe in them. For Thomas Jefferson to know, somewhere in the disquiet of his own conscience, that slavery was a “cruel war against human nature itself” did not in and of itself grant freedom to those he owned as property.

“The people who settled the country had a fatal flaw. They could recognize a man when they saw one. They knew he wasn’t—I mean you can tell, they knew he wasn’t—anything else but a man; but since they were Christian, and since they had already decided that they came here to establish a free country, the only way to justify the role this chattel was playing in one’s life was to say that he was not a man,” James Baldwin wrote in 1964. “For if he wasn’t a man, then no crime had been committed.”

To this, we could add Jean-Paul Sartre’s observation that “if the Jew did not exist, the anti-Semite would invent him.” Race allows humanity to keep inventing, in language that can bend the most rational minds, groups of people whose supposed characteristics justify whatever cruelty we might wish to indulge.

Adam Serwer is a staff writer at The Atlantic, where he covers politics.

Source: Whoopi Goldberg’s American Idea of Race

Heckbert: Advice to Well-Meaning Protestors: Don’t Stand with Nazis

Really good piece:

A quick primer for those who wanted to “support the truckers” with this protest:

  1. It wasn’t really truckers – any more than it was carpenters, or nurses, or bricklayers. Calling it a Freedom Convoy – rather than “bunch of white guys in pickup trucks going for a long drive” – is the mistake.
  2. If you want to know why Erin O’Toole, Pierre Poilievre and others were quick to support this movement – there are eight million reasons why. A GoFundMe effort raised $8 million in a week – to Conservative fundraisers, that was their money. Or worse, it’s money that could have gone to Maxime Bernier. Until politicians say, “if these are your beliefs, you are not my people” to groups like this, the temptation to stay with the money is there.
  3. Numbers don’t matter – just because 10,000 people, or 100,000 people, or even a million people support something – that doesn’t mean you’re on the right side of the issue. The earth, for example, is round. You can get a million people to believe it isn’t, and yet, there it is – still round.  Look around you when you’re angry about something – is your anger focused on the right thing, or are you howling in the wind? Are people frustrated with the pandemic and government responses to it? Absolutely. Does that mean yelling at a teenager at a hotel in downtown Ottawa, and honking your horn as you drive around yelling “Freedom!” will convince others of the rightness of your viewpoint? Ummm, no, it won’t.
  4. If you’re a parent and you brought your child out to support this yesterday, maybe some shame wouldn’t kill you. Again, admitting you were wrong is a sign of intelligence – take your child and say, “I misunderstood what we were supporting – we, in fact, are not in favour of the things that represented.”
  5. It’s time for social media companies to be held accountable, and here’s a quick way to start: no more anonymous accounts. Zero. Every account verified. “But that will be hard to do,” say the people at Meta, Twitter, Google, et al. The truth? Your revenues suggest you can afford it.
  6. Expectation management matters – people can see, with their own eyes, when your numbers don’t come anywhere near what you said they would, and while, yes, there was some support along the route, it wasn’t nearly as evident as people said it would be.
  7. Once the Nazi and Confederate flags show up, once you desecrated the Terry Fox statue and the National War Memorial, and once you started harassing the young men and women just trying to do their jobs, your protest turned into a national embarrassment, not a movement. And, please, if you want to tell me about “the good people there who aren’t like that,” let me quote Chris Rock – if ten white guys are standing somewhere with a Nazi, that’s 11 Nazis.

Some basic facts: more than 80 per cent of truckers are vaxxed, a percentage not out of line with the general population. A large percentage of those truckers come from a very diverse background – if this were really a Freedom Convoy, it would have looked a little more like Canada and a little less like a rural Albertan’s idea of Canada.

My father was a diesel mechanic. My father, in 1980, let a young man park his van beside our small business and handed him all the money out of his wallet while he was early in his Marathon of Hope. I grew up around truckers. The ones I grew up around would not have had the time, nor the desire, to spend any time with the bros on the Hill this weekend. So, please, thank a trucker – a real trucker – for their ongoing efforts. And don’t let this group claim to represent truckers.

Finally – it bears repeating you have to spend time understanding someone – or some group – before you give them your support and your money. For anyone prone to blame the “media” for “not covering the real story” – I can’t hear you because of where you’re standing. Don’t stand with Nazis, and maybe then we can talk.

The co-author, with Phil Gaudreau, of “Headliner,”and the co-host of Headliner: The Podcast, Stephen Heckbert is a professor of public relations at Algonquin College.

Source: Advice to Well-Meaning Protestors: Don’t Stand with Nazis

Regg Cohn: Ignoring antisemitism hasn’t made it go away

Good reminder:

We haven’t heard much about deep-seated antisemitism in Canada since the notorious Jim Keegstra. Infamous and unforgettable, he taught Holocaust denial in Alberta classrooms and testified to it in Alberta courtrooms.

Well that was decades ago, you think. Not in Ontario today, you say?

You’ve likely never heard of Joseph DiMarco, because you probably haven’t seen his story anywhere.

DiMarco is an Ontario teacher fired for preaching Holocaust denial and spouting antisemitism in a Timmins Catholic school. After earning his education certificate at Nipissing University 16 years ago, he taught his students to question the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

After a hearing last November, based on an agreed statement of facts (DiMarco did not attend or contest the charges), the provincial regulator revoked his licence to teach. In the weeks since, there’s been barely a ripple in the mainstream media — I’d not seen anything on this until someone passed on a recent story in the Canadian Jewish News online.

“When students tried to challenge or question the … assertions about the figure of six million deaths not being accurate, the (teacher) was dismissive, reminding the students how much research he had done,” a discipline committee of the Ontario College of Teachers concluded.

The regulator noted that DiMarco “provided students with learning material about the Holocaust from disreputable and unapproved sources which contradicted the facts.”

He tried to justify his conspiracy theories as merely anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, not antisemitic as such. But he knew what he was doing when he curated his own “Zionism slide show” as a teaching tool.

DiMarco ridiculed a school field trip to a Nazi concentration camp as evidence that the “powers that be” were spreading propaganda. He also taught his students that Israel was the evil force behind the 9/11 attacks that killed thousands in the U.S.

The regulator quoted from DiMarco’s email to the school chaplain explaining that “If some people actually understood who was pulling the strings, and the truth came out — antisemitism will return with a ferocity seldom seen throughout history.”

What’s noteworthy is that his teachings, and his firing, never seemed especially newsworthy. 

We read a great deal in the media about the rise of racism and white supremacy in society today. Yet when we come across someone who denies the genocide that claimed six million Jewish lives in pursuit of Nazi ideals of white supremacy — in the guise of Aryan purity — it barely rates a mention.

Is it because most Jews immigrated and integrated so long ago that they are deemed well entrenched, and hence less deserving of coverage? Does the old media credo to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” diminish journalistic interest in Jews (or anyone else) who might be comfortably established?

If Jews have agency, is there less urgency?

Behold the risk of complacency: After the terror of a rabbi and Jewish worshippers being taken hostage in a Texas synagogue this month, by a gunman ranting online about the putative power of Jews, the FBI reassured Americans that this was not, actually, an antisemitic act. The media dutifully, uncritically, incredibly, reported that as fact — until, days later, the FBI reassessed and recanted.

And yet according to FBI statistics, 60 per cent of all victims of anti-religious hate crimes in 2019 were targeted because of anti-Jewish bias. About 13 per cent were victims of anti-Muslim bias.

Well that’s just America with its own peculiar blinkers, you think. Not in Canada, you say?

A recent headline proclaimed: “Toronto saw an ‘unprecedented’ spike in hate crime in 2020, including rise in anti-Asian and anti-Black incidents, police say.”

Yet the headline skipped over the reality — noted in the story — that antisemitic attacks were as high as ever, and disproportionately so: “Although Jewish people represent just 3.8 per cent of Toronto’s population, the community saw 30 per cent of reported hate crimes in 2020” — less newsworthy because they’ve always been historically high, and hence old news?

I first wondered about this phenomenon last year after writing a column about the continued Islamophobic attacks on two high-profile Toronto Muslims — Paramount Fine Foods founder Mohamad Fakih, and Walied Soliman, chair of the Norton Rose Fulbright Canada law firm. The unprecedented success of these two in counterattacking in court — effectively silencing and subduing their tormentors — received remarkably little coverage despite the recent proliferation of racism stories.

Antisemitism and Islamophobia are close cousins. Will journalistic indifference to the same old same old antisemitism translate, increasingly, into a similar kind of Islamophobia fatigue if the targets are prominent, or prosperous, or well-protected?

None of this is to diminish the impact of discrimination on other groups or individuals. But auspicious archetypes and hateful stereotypes have a way of blurring our vision and vigilance — Muslims aren’t all well-connected, just as all Jews aren’t well-established — and even if they were, would the hate be any less harmful? 

Intolerance strikes in all shapes and sizes — and all social classes of all societies. I got into journalism to “comfort the afflicted.” But not even the comfortable, of any race or religion, deserve the affliction of discrimination and persecution.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2022/01/24/ignoring-antisemitism-hasnt-made-it-go-away.html

UN defines Holocaust denial in new resolution

Significant, at least symbolically:

The UN has adopted a resolution aimed at combating Holocaust denial and is urging member states and social media firms to help fight anti-Semitism.

The resolution, put forward by Israel and Germany, was passed without a vote by the 193-member General Assembly.

The move sends “a strong… message against the denial or the distortion of these historical facts”, the UN said.

Six million Jewish people died in the Holocaust – Nazi Germany’s campaign to eradicate Europe’s Jewish population.

“Ignoring historical facts increases the risk that they will be repeated,” Germany’s UN Ambassador Antje Leendertse said.

The text commends nations that preserve sites that once served as Nazi death camps and concentration camps and urges member states to provide educational programmes on The Holocaust.

Germany’s Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and her Israeli counterpart, Yair Lapid, said in a joint statement they were concerned by a recent dramatic increase in Holocaust denial.

The resolution lists distortion or denial of The Holocaust as:

  • Intentional efforts to excuse or minimise the impact of The Holocaust or its principal elements, including collaborators and allies of Nazi Germany
  • Gross minimisation of the number of the victims of The Holocaust in contradiction to reliable sources
  • Attempts to blame the Jews for causing their own genocide
  • Statements that cast The Holocaust as a positive historical event
  • Attempts to blur the responsibility for the establishment of concentration and death camps devised and operated by Nazi Germany by putting blame on other nations or ethnic groups

While the resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly, Iran – a member of the organisation – said it was disassociating itself from the text.

When the Nazis came to power in 1933, they began to strip Jewish people of all property, freedoms and rights under the law. At the Wannsee Conference in Berlin in January 1942, the Nazi leadership decided to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe, and deportations of Jews to extermination camps began.

Source: UN defines Holocaust denial in new resolution

Jewish federal employees form network to combat antisemitism in government service

Yet another group network. Sad that felt needed:

Jewish civil servants met the prime minister’s special envoy on fighting antisemitism to ask for support dealing with anti-Jewish abuse and slurs in the federal public service.

The government officials have formed a support network to provide a “safe space” where they can share experiences of antisemitism and to change the culture in the sector.

On Tuesday, they met Irwin Cotler, the prime minister’s antisemitism envoy, to relay to him the problem in government offices. Some expressed fears that anti-Jewish hatred risked becoming marginalized in the government’s fight against discrimination and racism in the public service.

Artur Wilczynski, Canada’s former ambassador to Norway, said this is the first time in his 30 years working in the public service that Jewish public servants have formed such a group, which met for the first time during Hanukkah this month.

He said while some government departments — including his own — take antisemitism seriously, some within the public service have been “tone deaf to the experiences of Jewish colleagues.”

The Jewish public service network, founded by public servant Jonathon Greenberg, met the Privy Council Office this month to voice their concerns and to try to ensure that inclusivity and diversity training in all government departments includes antisemitism. The group said the Privy Council was receptive to their concerns.

Kayla Estrin, a federal official for 30 years, said antisemitism “has caused many of us stress and anxiety.”

She said the network had been founded because antisemitism, including casually hurtful jibes at work and tropes about Jews in the office, was preoccupying many Jewish employees.

“This is very much being felt now,” she said. “There’s lots of dialogue about diversity and inclusion but antisemitism seems to be absent from that discussion. We just want to make sure that we are part of that dialogue and to raise awareness of antisemitism. We appreciate how receptive the Privy Council has been.”

The group wants to make sure that Jewish employees are not excluded from the terms of a “call to action” on anti-racism, equity and inclusion in the federal public service, published by Ian Shugart, Clerk of the Privy Council and head of the public service.

Cotler, a former justice minister, said he was concerned by a rising tide of anti-Jewish hatred and would seek to get antisemitism included in not just the call to action, but all strategies across government to combat racism and discrimination.

“I would like to see an express reference to antisemitism and its importance. If we don’t include antisemitism it relegates it to a subject of no concern at a time of an alarming rise,” he said. “What is happening is that antisemitism is being increasingly normalized with an absence of outrage when it occurs.”

The Treasury Board of Canada, which is responsible for federal public servants, said the “work of eradicating bias, barriers, and discrimination, which have taken root over generations, demands an ongoing, relentless effort.”

It said it would engage with Jewish employees along with other equity-seeking employee networks. In a statement it said its Centre on Diversity and Inclusion had a “mandate is to address barriers and challenges to a diverse and inclusive workplace and to prevent discrimination for all equity-seeking groups, including religious minorities.”

The public service has also faced allegations of anti-Black racism, with a group of former and current workers filing a proposed class-action lawsuit alleging systemic discrimination in hiring and promoting. The allegations have not been tested in court.

Wilczynski, an assistant deputy minister and senior adviser for people, equity and inclusion at the communications security establishment, says he has experienced — as a Jewish, gay man — more antisemitism than homophobia during his lifetime, including at work.

“I have never seen the community as vulnerable and concerned. People are worried,” he said. “There isn’t a good understanding of how antisemitism has permeated its way across society including the public service.”

Wilczynski said he was very encouraged that the government was devoting so much energy and resources to inclusion. But, he said, it should make sure it is “committed to creating a safe space for all its employees, including Muslim, Jewish, Black and Indigenous staff.

Doree Kovalio, a member of the Jewish public service network’s steering committee and public servant for 17 years, also welcomed the push for diversity and inclusivity training within government and outside. But she said it had become “acutely apparent” to Jewish public servants that acknowledging and addressing antisemitism was not a priority in these discussions.

Jewish federal employees have shared numerous accounts of antisemitism at work, she said.

“Thankfully we have a safe space for Jewish public servants where they feel open to share their experiences without judgment or reprisal,” she said.

Former Bloc Québécois MP Richard Marceau, of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said it was very troubling that Jewish civil servants for the first time ever had to create an association to combat antisemitism.

“I commend them for standing up to combat antisemitism in the biggest employer in Canada. This shows that antisemitism has become mainstream in Canada.”

Tory MP Marty Morantz said he is glad Jewish civil servants are able to come together to offer each other support over antisemitism which he said is “pervasive.”

Source: Jewish federal employees form network to combat antisemitism in government service

U of T accepts all recommendations of Anti-Semitism Working Group

Significant and sensible, not adapting the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism or other definitions as “They are not suitable to the distinctive context of the university:”

The University of Toronto’s Anti-Semitism Working Group has delivered its final report and made a series of recommendations to tackle anti-Semitic racism and religious discrimination on campus – all of which have been accepted by the university.

The report’s eight recommendations also address definitions of anti-Semitism, the extent and limits of academic freedom in a university setting and the provision of kosher food on campus.

“Anti-Semitism is an ancient but still present and problematic form of hatred,” said Arthur Ripstein, chair of the working group and a University Professor of law and philosophy. “Our aim in drafting this report is to make realistic and actionable recommendations of the ways that the university can move forward in addressing it and to ensure that U of T is a place where Jewish members of the community feel safe and welcome.”Comprising student, staff and faculty representatives, the working group conducted extensive consultations across the three campuses. Its findings draw on nearly 700 survey responses, more than 200 email submissions, six focus groups and several interviews with Jewish student organizations, as well as one with Jewish faith leaders.

The Anti-Semitism Working Group was established last December by U of T’s president, provost and vice-president, human resources and equity (now people strategy, equity and culture) to review programming, activities, processes and practices in place at the university, as well as to make recommendations to support the university’s response to anti-Semitism.

The review comes at a time when incidents of anti-Semitism are sharply on the rise in broader society. In July, the chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission warned that there had been “an alarming increase in antisemitic acts” during the pandemic.

Ripstein recounts that the university has a troubling history of anti-Semitism. In the 19th century, Jews were not able to become faculty members, and through to the middle part of the 20th century some faculties had quotas on the number of Jewish students that could be admitted.

“The situation for Jewish members of the university has improved considerably since that time,” said Ripstein. “But there are still situations in which they are made to feel unwelcome or harassed. Our aim is to address those issues in ways that are sensitive to the particular position of the university as a place of learning and as a place of academic disagreement.”

Each of the working group’s recommendations focuses on ways the university can make itself a more inclusive and equitable place. That includes calling for the university to apply its equity, diversity and inclusion policies consistently, and procedures to ensure that anti-Semitism is treated in the same way as other forms of racism and religious discrimination. Other recommendations include:

  • The university should focus on problems and issues specific to the distinctive context of the university as a place in which difficult and controversial questions are addressed. In so doing, it should not adopt any of the definitions of anti-Semitism that have recently been proposed because of concerns about their applicability to a university setting.
  • Academic units, administrative units and student organizations in which enrolment is mandatory must not make participation in their activities or access to their resources conditional on taking a particular position on any controversial question.
  • The university should issue regular communications about its approach to controversial events, emphasizing that it will not enforce content-based restrictions on such events but that such events must be held in a respectful, safe and open manner.
  • The university must develop measures for responding to various forms of social exclusion, harassment, micro-aggressions and bullying (including online instances) for all equity-deserving groups and apply these consistently.
  • The university and its divisions and academic units should apply the Policy on Scheduling Classes and Examinations and Other Accommodations for Religious Observances consistently, avoiding scheduling mandatory events on significant Jewish holidays and permitting Jewish members of the university to participate fully in a range of accommodations.
  • The university should ensure kosher food is readily available on its campuses.

In response, U of T President Meric Gertler, Acting Vice-President & Provost Trevor Young and Vice-President, People Strategy, Equity and Culture Kelly Hannah-Moffat said they were pleased to accept all the working group’s recommendations.

“We are profoundly opposed to anti-Semitism,” the university leaders said in their official response to the report. “We are determined to ensure that our campuses are places where members of the Jewish community feel that they are safe, included and respected as members and friends of the U of T community.”

They also thanked the members of the working group, as well as all those who took part in the consultations. “Through their consultations and deliberations, and through their report, [the working group has] made an extremely valuable contribution to the University on behalf of its Jewish community,” they said.

The working group report examined the tensions between the essential need for a culture of respect and inclusion and the university’s unique position in society, where, in the words of the Statement of Institutional Purpose, “the most crucial of all human rights are the rights of freedom of speech, academic freedom, and freedom of research.”

Within this context, the working group recommended that the university not adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism. “The reason that we are not recommending the adoption of the IHRA, or other definitions, is that all of them are designed for different purposes,” explained Ripstein. “They are not suitable to the distinctive context of the university. Adoption of them would not integrate with the requirements on us and our other existing policy commitments.”

The university’s senior leaders confirmed that a definition of anti-Semitism will not be adopted: “We appreciate that some members of the University community as well as external stakeholders may be disappointed … We also acknowledge and appreciate the working group’s principled and thoughtful reasoning on this point.”

The working group report noted that free speech and academic freedom requirements mean that unpopular views must not lead to any form of sanctions or exclusion from the university experience. Also, academic units should not pressure or require individuals to endorse or oppose political causes, the report said.

The institutional response highlights several ways in which individuals will be reminded of their responsibilities, including through proactive communications and training that address anti-Semitism. There will also be a review of existing policies and guidelines to ensure that they respond to the particular challenge of addressing racism and faith-based hatred that’s found on social media.

The university will provide progress updates on the implementation of the report’s recommendations on its Anti-Racism Strategic Tables webpage.

Source: U of T accepts all recommendations of Anti-Semitism Working Group

Document suggesting students learn positive aspects of Nazi Germany deleted by Alberta education officials

Striking that the document dates from 1984 with multiple revisions without anyone noticing or taking action:

A document that suggested Alberta students learn about the positive aspects of Nazi Germany has been deleted from the Ministry of Education’s website, following criticism from multiple groups.

The document, a set of guidelines for “recognizing diversity and promoting respect,” suggested considering whether a given educational resource addressed “both the positive and negative behaviours” of various groups.

“For instance,” it read, “if a video details war atrocities committed by the Nazis, does it also point out that before World War II, German government’s policies substantially strengthened the country’s economy?”

Source: Document suggesting students learn positive aspects of Nazi Germany deleted by Alberta education officials

Tremblay: Nuit et brouillard sur le passé [those who make Holocaust/Nazi comparisons to COVID restrictions]

Good commentary:

On s’inquiète beaucoup, à juste titre, devant les autodafés et les livres expédiés au nouvel enfer où croupissent les damnés. Mais ces ouvrages ne brûlent-ils pas davantage dans les mémoires ? Qui pousse à lire les trésors du passé tant que ça, au fait ? Faute de nombreux emprunts dans les bibliothèques, plus vite des chefs-d’œuvre se feront pilonner. À force de lever le nez sur la culture générale, taxée d’élitiste, vrai garde-fou pourtant et fanal d’éclaireur dans nos nuits, l’ignorance devient la norme et l’aveuglement, son terme.

Prenez les antivaccins défilant dans la rue avec leurs pancartes qui associent l’imposition du passeport sanitaire au sort des Juifs sous la botte nazie. Ils croient sentir le poids historique de l’étoile jaune sur leur t-shirt ou sur leur veste en s’en bricolant des récentes. Toute une coquetterie ! « Même oppression ; même combat pour les parias d’hier et d’aujourd’hui ! » crient-ils dans les manifs. À tous ceux-là, pour qui l’Holocauste ne fut qu’une répétition générale destinée à paver la voie aux supplices d’une vaccination générale réclamée au nom du bien commun, on dit : faites vos recherches. Voyez ! Lisez !

Le Troisième Reich est assez loin derrière pour verser nuit et brouillard sur les annales de l’humanité en ne laissant à des générations montantes que de vagues clichés de persécutions, récupérés pour mieux s’en draper. Mais les familles des survivants des camps de concentration, toute la communauté juive par extension, ne l’entendent pas de cette oreille et hurlent à l’indécence. On n’était pas là quand les Juifs de tant de pays d’Europe se sont fait imposer l’étoile infamante comme au bétail le sceau du maître. Pas là, quand ils se firent entasser dans des stades, puis des trains bondés, avant de se voir recrachés dans des camps pour être asservis ou brûlés. Mais comment plaider l’innocence ?

Pas là, mais transformés par certains témoignages à l’écran, à l’écrit. Du moins ceux d’entre nous qui s’y sont branchés. Que de nouveaux lecteurs se lèvent ! Car le nazisme aura brisé des illusions humanistes à jamais. Ces fringants SS torturant et tuant en série des foules d’innocents avant de repartir écouter du Wagner et du Brahms étaient des êtres dits sophistiqués ! La barbarie fleurit partout, clame ce terrible épisode et n’a pas fini d’obscurcir nos esprits. L’histoire récente en témoigne sous tous les méridiens. Reste que l’Holocauste, par sa démesure, s’inscrit comme le record du pire à dépasser.

À ceux-là qui font des amalgames entre le vaccin apte à sauver des vies et le processus d’extermination d’un peuple entier, on conseille la plongée en eau profonde dans les œuvres écrites jadis à l’encre rouge.

Bien sûr, les documentaires sur le règne d’Hitler sont présentés à la télé, des films de fiction en témoignent encore, mais les rescapés se font de moins en moins nombreux au fil des décennies. Se mettre à l’écoute de leur voix, c’est toucher du bout du doigt l’impensable et s’incliner devant la mémoire de ceux qui l’affrontèrent.

On n’était pas là, mais l’Italien Primo Levi, survivant d’Auschwitz, nous fait entrer par la petite porte dans le quotidien d’un camp d’extermination à travers son témoignage Si c’est un homme. Sans y avoir été, on saisit en fragments noirs, la peur infinie face aux bourreaux, le manque de solidarité des détenus affamés, même si l’auteur lui-même s’estimait incapable de traduire pareille expérience de déshumanisation ; voire de l’envisager : « Nous ne reviendrons pas, écrivait-il. Personne ne sortira d’ici qui pourrait porter au monde, avec le signe imprimé dans sa chair, la sinistre nouvelle de ce que l’homme, à Auschwitz, a pu faire d’un autre homme. »

Pas là, mais Elie Wiesel y était, lui. Et pénétrer ses souvenirs dans La Nuit, où il décrivait également Birkenau-Auschwitz, ses cheminées, l’odeur de la chair brûlée, le camp de Buna, puis la grande marche finale des morts-vivants entourés de nazis fuyant les troupes alliées, c’est ressentir un peu dans notre chair de quoi se nourrit une déchéance programmée. En effet, Elie Wiesel s’était même détourné de son père mourant qui implorait sa présence, pour s’éviter des coups, et la honte de son attitude ne l’a plus jamais quitté.

Pas là, mais on aura vu en plusieurs volets au cinéma Shoah, de Claude Lanzmann, sans voix hors-champ, sans images d’archives, sans experts commentant la chose ; juste des entrevues de survivants et de leurs bourreaux, qui glaçait le sang. Tout est accessible sur Internet, même ce documentaire de plus de neuf heures par les voix des témoins directs. Après avoir vu ça, qui oserait encore s’y référer pour se comparer ? On n’était pas là, piètre excuse ! La culture de l’ignorance est le principal cimetière des œuvres capables d’éclairer l’humanité.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/chroniques/640200/chronique-nuit-et-brouillard-sur-le-passe?utm_source=infolettre-2021-10-14&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne