By Yves Engler
Last week the Trudeau government announced it would hold an emergency National Summit on Anti-Semitism. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and B’nai B’rith (BB) were delighted as they’ve campaigned for the summit since the upsurge of pro-Palestinian activism last month. That the objective of the summit all along was to discredit antiracist and anticolonial Palestine solidarity activism was confirmed when Irwin Cotler was appointed to lead it.
Speaking from his apartment in Jerusalem, Cotler was the keynote speaker at a May 13 online rally in support of Israeli violence in which the moderator lauded Montrealers’ fighting in the Israeli military. On June 30 Cotler is scheduled to speak at a B’nai B’rith conference on “Current Issues in Jewish and Pro-Israel Advocacy” while on May 27 he published a column in the Times of Israel celebrating Israel’s violence. In it, he wrote, “while the deliberate and indiscriminate bombardment of Israeli civilians — underpinned by genocidal antisemitism and incitement — have been the trigger for this latest war, there is a longer and underlying proximate cause: the Hamas Terrorist War of Attrition against Israel since 2000.”
Cotler-backed attacks that left 4,000 dead in Gazza in 2014 and 2009 as well as its war on Lebanon in 2006. He has sought to pressure the International Criminal Court against investigating Israeli war crimes, supports moving Canada’s embassy to Jerusalem and attends fundraisers for the explicitly racist Jewish National Fund.
The Cotler-led anti-Semitism summit is a transparent effort to deflect criticism from Israel’s ethnic cleansing and violence, as well as an encouragement to those promoting that violence and ethnic cleansing against Palestinians. It is also (less directly) an encouragement of Islamophobia, which lead to an entire family recently being killed in London, Ontario.
The anti-Semitism summit is the outgrowth of weeks of disingenuous claims from the Israel lobby that are often in and of themselves racist. Under the guise of fighting anti-Semitism, B’nai B’rith has relentlessly linked Arabs to terrorism in recent weeks. “For the third week in a row, antisemitism and support for terrorism were on display Saturday at a massive protest in downtown Toronto”, they tweeted. In a statement to the Winnipeg Sun BB CEO Michael Mostyn said, “it is unacceptable that anti-Jewish taunts and support for a banned terrorist group be expressed outside the Manitoba legislature.”
B’nai B’rith has also pushed the argument that anti-Semitism is being “imported” to Canada, which is a coded reference to Arab and Muslim immigrants. Hours before the murder of the Afzaal family in London came to light, they tweeted “we cannot import the conflict to Canada. … and [must stay] united in our stand against antisemitism.” In a National Post opinion article three weeks ago Mostyn wrote:
“Over the past two decades, tens of thousands of Jews have fled France due to out-of-control anti-Zionism and society’s reluctance to address it. Some of those French Jews thought they had found refuge in Canada, particularly in Quebec — but what are they to think given what they are now seeing? The anti-Semitic murders of French Jews such as Ilan Halimi and Sarah Halimi (no relation), the terror attacks on Jewish schools and stores in France — none of this emerged from a vacuum, but was rather the inevitable result of a culture of hate and impunity that was allowed to fester.”
Anti-Muslim bigotry from B’nai B’rith and CIJA isn’t new. In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the Middle East, CIJA and BB regularly target Arab and Muslim community representatives, papers, organizations, etc.
They did so again when Imam Munir El-Kassem innocuously stated at the end of Tuesday’s vigil for the Muslim family killed in London that “you all said everything that needs to be said except one angle I would like to share with our officials. Now there’s a reason why they say the world is a small village. Every country has a foreign policy. I just want to say whatever is happening in Jerusalem and Gaza, is related to whatever happened in London, Ontario.” BB tweeted or re-tweeted a dozen messages condemning what Mostyn described as El-Kassem’s “inflammatory remarks”. The other messages called El-Kassem’s comment “disgusting”, “contemporary bloodlibel”, “vile hatred”, “the vigil for the victims was used as an opportunity to vent Jew-hatred”, etc.
CIJA and BB regularly hype “Islamic terror” and openly aligned with the xenophobic backlash against the term “Islamophobia in bill M-103, which called for collecting data on hate crimes and studying the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” In a 2017 BuzzFeed article titled “Zionist Groups in Canada Are Jumping On The ‘Creeping Sharia’ Bandwagon” Steven Zhou detailed CIJA, B’nai Brith and other pro-Israel groups backlash to M-103 and “how Muslim Canadians define Islamophobia.”
A ‘summit’ about anti-Semitism led by Irwin Cotler will have a pre-determined outcome. It will conflate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism. It will encourage those promoting ethnic cleansing and violence against Palestinians. It will be used by the Israel lobby to stoke even more Islamophobia.
– Yves Engler is the author of Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid and a number of other books. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit his website: yvesengler.com