Rima Berns-McGown is the NDP Member of the Ontario Provincial Parliament for Beaches-East York.
On December 14, 2019 MPP Rima Berns-McGown tweeted:
Thread: Antisemitism is rising globally, here too. It’s scary as hell. We need real action to deal w white nationalists who are its primary proponents
We also need to be clear when leaders enable it — as Trump has done with his antisemitic comments; as Ford did when he refused to denounce Faith Goldy, a white nationalist who was running for mayor under the slogan FordNation is FaithNation
Ford is all tokenism: he has not enacted my bill to take action on Islamophobia; he has undertaken a review of anti-Black racism w no independent Black reviewers; he eviscerated the Anti-Racism Directorate; slashed programs & legal aid that BIPOC rely on; refused to take Reconciliation seriously, etc. etc. You get the picture
This week, both Trump & Ford acted on the IHRA definition of anti-semitism. In the US, reaction was swift…
@NewYorker’s @mashagessen & the liberal Zionist group @jstreetdotorg were a few of the ppl/organizations that slammed Trump’s tokenistic move
IHRA is problematic bc it does nothing to stem antisemitism & serves only to curb discussion of Israel’s human rights abuses
I want to be clear that I love Israel. I lived there for 3 years from 1982-85. I seriously considered spending my life there. When I criticize it, it comes from a place of deep love & intense familial disappointment. I want it to be the very embodiment of Torah in the world
We need a new conversation on Israel/Palestine, one that does not include antisemitism or Islamophobia & that tries not to trigger two traumatized populations
We also need to act firmly on white nationalism to combat actual antisemitism. IHRA does neither of those things
On December 14, 2019 Rima Berns-McGown posted on Facebook:
Antisemitism is alive & thriving around the world — including in North America and here in Ontario.
Trump has emboldened white nationalists and other antisemites with his use of frequent antisemitic comments — from his “very fine people” remark referring to torch-bearing white nationalists to his recent comment to a Jewish audience that they were “not nice people at all,” “brutal killers” who nonetheless had no choice but to support him because the alternative was higher taxes. That’s a lot of antisemitic tropes in a couple of seconds.
Despite his bromides around racism, Islamophobia, and antisemitism, Ford has been no better. He says there’s no room for any of those isms in Ontario but his actions belie his words: his party has yet to enact my bill calling for a day of remembrance and action on Islamophobia in the wake of the Quebec mosque shooting; the government’s review of anti-Black racism includes no independent Black reviewers and no Black outreach coordinators; he has eviscerated the anti-racism directorate; and everyone will remember his refusal to denounce white nationalist Faith Goldy, who was running for mayor under the slogan that Fordnation is Faithnation, even when pressed for two weeks straight to do so.
Both Trump and Ford this week embraced the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. It was passed by executive order in the US with regard to college campuses and in the legislature had its first reading on Wednesday, introduced in a private member’s bill by Will Bouma, a white man who has never personally experienced a nanosecond of antisemitism in his life.
The IHRA definition is problematic because it gets used to shut down criticism of Israel. Both the New Yorker and the editorial board of the New York Times — as well as multiple other editorial boards and organizations, including the liberal Zionist group J-Street — slammed Trump’s use of it. All of these folks — groups very very alive to and concerned about the rise of antisemitism — are loud and clear that adopting IHRA will do absolutely nothing to stop antisemitism but will have a chilling effect on anyone’s ability to speak about Israel’s civil rights abuses.
Which ultimately doesn’t help Jews feel safer, frankly.
For clarity and context, I want to be clear where I stand here. Three of my four grandparents were Jewish and my father’s mother converted to Judaism. I was raised and educated as a Jew. I lived in Israel for three years between 1982 and 1985 — when lefty Jews wore keffiyehs and Peace Now was a thing and it was possible to believe in the end to the occupation. I was briefly married to an Israeli air force pilot. He flew rescue helicopters, but there you have it 🤷🏽♀️. I seriously considered spending my life there.
I love Israel. I want it to be the living, breathing embodiment of Torah. When I criticize it, that criticism comes from a place of intense love and familial disappointment. Its human rights abuses take it farther away from Torah, and not talking about them doesn’t make it better.
Many, many Jews feel the way I do, which is why this is a subject of intense discussion around Shabbat tables and in Jewish communities.
(Yes, I also embraced Islam a few years ago, for many reasons that I don’t have the time or space to detail here, but I of course am still Jewish — sorry not sorry if that confuses you 🤷🏽♀️ — and especially where it comes to Israel I speak as a Jew.)
I’ve put the links to The NY Times editorial and the New Yorker piece in the comments.
You can bet that if Jews as a community had not done well in North America, neither Trump nor Ford would be wasting time on IHRA. It shuts down legitimate criticism of human rights abuses and it allows the real business of antisemitism to continue unabated.
We need a new conversation on Israel/Palestine. One that doesn’t include antisemitism or Islamophobia; one that tries to avoid triggering two traumatized populations. IHRA doesn’t move that conversation forward one iota.