On Wednesday June 10, 2020 the Centre for Free Expression (CFE) held a virtual forum titled “Fighting Anti-Semitism Or Silencing Critics Of Israel: What’s Behind The Push For Governments To Adopt The IHRA [International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance] Definition Of Anti-Semitism.” the event was co-sponsored by theCanadian Civil Liberties Association and moderated by Bernie Lucht, the Executive Producer of CBC Radio’s Ideas from 1984-2012 and currently aSenior Fellow at Massey College, University of Toronto.
- Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor, Osgoode Hall Law School, York University and Former Vice-chair, Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. Faisal Bhabha is also the legal adviser of the National Council and Canadian Muslims (NCCM) and the chair of the NCCM National Security Policy Committee.
- Bernie Farber, former CEO of the Mosaic Institute, the Canadian Jewish Congress, and the Paloma Foundation
- Richard Marceau, Vice President, External Affairs and General Counsel, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs
- Sheryl Nestel, Independent Jewish Voices
Here are excerpts from the debate:
Faisal Bhabha: I’ll clarify what I said. I said nothing about Jewish self-determination. I said Zionism is about Jewish supremacy and that’s what you Richard [Marceau] defend and I stand in opposition to that.
Question: Is there any precedent for the incorporation of examples of this kind [IHRA] into legislation?
Faisal Bhabha: Not that I can think of. I mean, I can’t think of any. I don’t know of any example of any sort of definition being, of this kind of legislative move. I don’t know that there’s any precedent or comparator in any way whatsoever. And this is symptomatic of the problem which is not that Israel is subjected to a double standard, but that it’s given special special privileges and special protections to the point that virtually every state in the United States has adopted legislation or is considering adopting legislation to chill speech of Palestinian human rights activists, but Canadian provinces and jurisdictions are now doing the same. It’s highly unusual and it’s uh, and I would argue that it [IHRA] actually will promote antisemitism, because it promotes some of the negative stereotypes of Jews that are so damaging to the status of that vulnerable community here in Canada. And I think that’s where we need to be focusing our energies on protecting Jewish minorities around the world, not making the Jewish majority in Israel stronger.
Richard Marceau: There’s no doubt in my mind that the ultimate goal of the BDS movement, and they say the leaders say themselves, is the erasure of the only Jewish majority on the planet.
Faisal Bhabha: I think it needs to be clarified by, I mean what Richard [Marceau] is calling erasure of Jewish majority state or annihilation of the Jews is not a call for the eradication of people. I think what is being referred to is the proposal for creation of one democratic state for all the people of the region, which is actually a call based firmly on human rights principles and notions of justice, and I think it’s a terrible slur to describe things as Richard just did.
Bernie Lucht: Faisal if you could go first please with a concluding statement that would be great, thank you.
Faisal Bhabha: Sure yeah, I mean, I’ll just give a personal example of York University where I work, where we’ve seen precisely the phenomenon that I’m describing, the problem with this definition, with the thinking that informs it, where in November we had an incident in which a number of pro Palestinian students were violently assaulted by members of the Jewish Defense League, which is a Jewish extremist organization with a good record of having carried out Islamophobic assaults, and while the university took action to ban the JDL from campus which says a lot, it has not offered a single word about concern over Islamophobia or anti-Arab racism. Meanwhile it continues to express concern about antisemitism when there’s no evidence that antisemitism was in any way at play in the events described. What was at play were strong assertions of Palestinian national identity, of Palestinian culture and of Palestinian cries for freedom and justice. And this is precisely what the IHRA does, is it criminalizes delegitimizes and demonizes Palestinian, Arab and Muslim forms of expression. And for that reason it’s racist and ought to be opposed.
- Faisal Bhabha: “You can’t be a Zionist and claim to care about Palestinian human rights”
- Faisal Bhabha opposes aspects of IHRA definition of antisemitism
- Faisal Bhabha: “Zionism isn’t about self-determination, it’s about Jewish supremacy”
Related articles about the conformation at York University:
- York University President: “We condemn anti-Semitism in all its forms”
- York U suspends Zionist, pro-Palestinian student groups “to avoid a further escalation”
- Testimonies from York University: “Go back to the ovens and Kill Jews”
- Toronto Police investigate possible hate crime during anti-Israel protest at York University
- Trudeau on anti-Israel protest at York University: “Anti-Semitism has no place in Canada”
- Pro-Palestinian protest at York University: “Viva, Viva Intifada” against Israel