A Toronto-based group, the , is co-organizing an event for this November. It’s called “”
According to its , the event is about promoting education around human rights and celebrating Jewish pride. If that were in fact the case, this would be a wonderful event. However, there is good reason to believe that it’s simply not true and that CAEF is not a genuine social justice group at all.
For starters, CAEF published an —addressed to the Mayor of Toronto, John Tory—where it not only denies the illegal occupation of Palestine but the existence of Palestine itself. How does that align with social justice? Isn’t social justice about fighting against Palestinian erasure, including the occupation—a material and observable fact?
States the letter:
Israel is not occupying anyone else’s land.
Israel is not an apartheid state.
Israel has never committed ethnic cleansing. …
There has NEVER been a country called Palestine and the word was only applied to the Arabs in the land after 1964, but they are not a distinct people.
This is just but one example of the anti-Palestinian racism that CAEF promotes. Do a basic search for “Palestine” on CAEF’s site and you will find several others including:
The Arab Palestinian “narrative” is a concocted history, one which has appropriated Jewish history, and is ideologically based without any supporting evidence. There are no ancient “Palestinian” artifacts in the land of Israel, no evidence of any such state.
The definition of a “Palestinian refugee” is inaccurate and should be unacceptable to the United Nations and all the donor countries which continue to send millions of both humanitarian and development aid to a government that funds itself, commits fraud, rewards terrorism, has a bloated (and uncivil) civil service, paying folks in Gaza despite not being the government in Gaza. The refugee status assigned to the so-called Palestinians by UNRWA doesn’t even require that someone has lived on the land for more than 2 years.
(“Remembering Not Rewriting History”, August 5, 2022)
These ISRAELI born musicians are not from any country called Palestine as no such country has ever existed. They are beneficiaries of a democratic, free, multi faith rule of law country called Israel and that is the real story
(“CAEF Letter to City News“, July 27, 2022)
There has never been a country called Palestine and the increasing use of the label “Israel-Palestine” is another trick in their bag of myths and lies. There is no country with that name and we must not acknowledge such language. Remember, until 1967, the Arabs did not identify themselves as an ethno-national people called Palestinians, because they have no distinctive language, culture or history that distinguishes those who lived in Mandate Palestine, from those in Syria, Jordan or Lebanon. There were until 1948, Jewish Palestinians and Arab Palestinians, ie [sic] people who lived in the Mandate area, and the symbols for Palestine at that time included the Star of David.
(“‘Palestine’ is a False Cause, a Word of Lies and an Antisemitic Campaign” May 29, 29 2022)
#FreePalestine is generally a genocidal call to eradicate Israel. It is unconscionable. There is no Palestinian country and never has been, and the people who are called Palestinian Arabs will only be free when they rid themselves of the evil Islamist dictators who govern their lives.
(“How many lies can one NDP member squeeze into a Facebook post?“, April 20, 2022)
What CAEF really cares about is not social justice but lying, as if the Palestinian people are a “genocidal” force for evil while wholly papering over Israel’s routine criminality. In doing so, it seeks to reinvent the “truth”, creating a pseudo-version of events that are conveniently at odds with what major international human rights organizations—from the United Nations and B’Tselem to Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch—have all confirmed: Israel is an apartheid state, destroying the life and heritage of the Palestinian people.
Of course, such a state of affairs may be different in an imaginary world where Palestine, as CAEF would have us believe, “has never been a country” or is simply a “word.”
Disconcerting is that CAEF is an officially registered charity in Canada. What public benefit, however, does promoting anti-Palestinian racism and erasure have? Recalling the etymology of “charity” itself, namely love for others, is involved in Palestinian denialism?
Last week, I emailed both the offices of Canadian Prime Minister (PM), Justin Trudeau, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mélanie Joly. I asked that they denounce the group for its anti-Palestinian racism, not unlike the Canadian government’s rightful condemnation of hate groups throughout the country. I’m yet to receive a reply from either official.
This is noteworthy. In August it was brought to the attention of federal Diversity Minister, Ahmed Hussen, that the Community Media Advocacy Centre (CMAC) was receiving public funding while its senior consultant, Laith Marouf, was making antisemitic tweets. Shortly thereafter not only was CMAC condemned by the minister but the group’s funding cut. Why not the same swiftness when it comes to anti-Palestinian racism?
Worrisome still is that one of the public supporters of CAEF’s November event is the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). This is one of two groups that received as sizeable grant from the Ontario government earlier this year and which I also wrote about for The Palestine Chronicle.
The government press release announcing the grant states:
“$150,000 to the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) to develop bilingual classroom resources, targeted at students in grades 5-8, on the dangers of antisemitism. Parent resources will also be developed on how antisemitism manifests on social media and online gaming.”
How can CIJA, supporting a group that both denies the existence of Palestine and the illegal Israeli occupation of it, be trusted to deliver any legitimate educational material related to social justice, including antisemitism? What business does such a group have within any democratic schools, which should not only be free from but reject the influence of anti-Palestinianism—in all its forms?
To boot CIJA, much like CAEF, is contemptuous of Palestinian justice efforts. Recently it attacked Jagmeet Singh, leader of Canada’s National Democratic Party (NDP), for an email advancing such efforts, as well as launched a petition for the NDP to cease from it. Included in the email are the following demands, directed towards the Liberal Party of Canada (LPC)—the country’s party in power and led by PM Trudeau. They are rather impressive coming from a major political party, at least in Canada, as such parties mostly fall short of robust support for Palestine. Nonetheless, the NDP calls the LPC to:
- respond to reports from Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Israeli human rights NGOs and the United Nations and accept their recommendations to states
- refer the killing of journalist Shireen Abu Akleh to the International Criminal Court
- increase pressure on the Israeli government to stop its plan to annex Palestinian territory in violation of international law
- condemn the construction of illegal settlements, demolitions of Palestinian homes in the West Bank, and evictions from East Jerusalem, including Sheikh Jarrah
- call on Israel to end forcible displacement of villagers in Masafer Yatta
- increase funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) which supports Palestinian refugees
- condemn Israel’s undemocratic nation-state law
- condemn the Israeli government’s attacks on civil society in Israel and Palestine, including the recent designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as “terrorist”
- condemn the ongoing blockade of Gaza and increase Canadian humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza
- condemn military detention of Palestinian children, and reaffirm support for the Convention on the Rights of the Child
- vote for Palestinian human rights at the United Nations
- end all trade and economic cooperation with illegal settlements in Israel-Palestine
- suspend the bilateral trade of all arms and related materials with the State of Israel until Palestinian rights are upheld
There’s nothing controversial about this. In fact, such demands are long overdue in Canada where Palestinian activists are constantly having to contend with pro-Israeli voices that, instead of exemplifying the “democratic” spirit they purport to uphold, smear or undermine them—with the larger goal of weakening the Palestinian struggle for justice.
Both CAEF and CIJA do this. If they were truly human rights groups like they say they are they wouldn’t. For Palestinian justice is fundamentally about human rights—the end of arbitrary detentions, torture, brutality, violence, rape, harassment, murder, population transfers, and everything that characterizes the illegal occupation of Palestine (and other human rights atrocities around the world). But the actions of these groups are to deflect attention away from that, delegitimize those fighting to end it and endorse the outsized culprit of human rights abuses: the Israeli state.
Instead of denouncing CAEF, the Canadian government is endorsing it. Scheduled to be a “VIP speaker” at RISE UP Ottawa! is Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism. This erroneously signals to the public: you can be against antisemitism and for Palestinian racism at the same time. We should not be surprised. Cotler himself is a Nakba denier, something it’s still legal to be unfortunately in Canada. The same and rightfully is not the same for Holocaust denial, which is illegal in Canada.
Those of us who genuinely care about combatting hate embrace both the Jewish and Palestinian people. What we don’t do, however, is embrace the criminal state of Israel. That’s undoubtedly not a function of the religion it purports to represent—Judaism—though impossible to take seriously given the state’s abysmal human rights record. It instead emanates from a refusal to accept the ethnic cleansing of Palestine just as much as we refuse to accept bonafide antisemitism (that does not include criticism of Israel).
You can call the opposite “Zionism” or Israeli “ultranationalism”, among a host of other terms. In the final analysis, however, words don’t change facts on the ground. The Israeli state is murdering innocent Palestinians.
In avoiding any acknowledgment of this, while completely demonizing (and trivializing) the Palestinian people, CAEF does not have the right to call itself a “human rights” group. There are countless other pro-Israeli groups internationally doing the same. If it’s not illegal it’s at least morally fraudulent. The groups invoke the language of social justice to disguise their common hatred for Palestine. At best they are knockoffs, fake human rights groups with the “right” PR, websites, advertising, etc. to make them appear legitimate.
We’re not talking enough about this in Canadian schools. We ought to. Students have the right to learn about truth and not what groups like CAEF and CIJA are liable to teach them regarding Palestine. That empowers students to reject hatred, which ruins education.
– Paul Salvatori is a Toronto-based journalist, community worker and artist. Much of his work on Palestine involves public education, such as through his recently created interview series, “Palestine in Perspective” (The Dark Room Podcast), where he speaks with writers, scholars and activists. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle.