By Jim Miles
The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance has actively supported and succeeded with implementing its definition of antisemitism in various countries, regions, and cities around the world. The definition itself is open enough that it can be and has been used to block all criticism of Israeli actions against the people of Palestine.
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
The phrase “a certain perception” leaves the idea of anti-semitism wide open to interpretation – interpretations that can be contrived to disguise and dissimulate valid criticisms of Israel. People’s perceptions are easily manipulated, less so when they have the information, facts, and support material for an opposing perspective. The following term, “may be expressed as hatred,” implies by corollary that the criticism can also be expressed without hatred.
A qualifying statement is then made about “manifestations of antisemitism are directed towards” people, institutions, and religious facilities. Well, yes, sure. If those people, those institutions, and those religious facilities have expressed and have practiced racism and have defied and ignored international war crimes and humanitarian laws, then these criticisms, these “manifestations”, have to be directed at those concerned.
It is a weak definition that can be extrapolated in many different directions, and has been used by many Jewish organizations to suppress criticism of Israel. Interesting however are the supporting statements which, if read properly, indicate that Israel knows it is subject to valid criticism on its standards against international law and human rights.
Canada is a Racist State…
There are two “contemporary examples” after its working definition that essentially are an admission of guilt by the Israeli state in its racist policies towards Palestinians. Allow me to take them out of order.
The first example is, “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.” Standards are only “double” if they apply to one country and not another. Israel is accused of being a racist state, a standard that is also properly applied to my own country Canada, and after four brutal years under Donald Trump, the US has demonstrated its underlying racist culture.
Canada is a colonial settler colony, a racist enterprise from its origins continuing up to the present day. Canada exercised its own style of “violence over land”, using illegal annexations of territories, ignoring treaties, and occupying land that has never been ceded by the indigenous people. They used starvation, deprivation, and removal from lands in order to quell the “savage” Indians and force them to assimilate.
One of the larger enterprises was the genocide, both cultural and physical, of thousands of indigenous children by their forced removal from families by the government and the church (“directed toward…individuals and/or their property, toward….community institutions and religious facilities.”).
This did not end until 1996, well within my own lifetime, well within my own years of not being aware of it. The purpose was to remove the child from his culture, his language, his people, his land. They succeeded to a degree and have caused generational harm to many indigenous people, their families, their tribes, and their culture. With many, they succeeded well beyond that as many died from various causes – malnutrition, disease, beatings, and attempts to run away.
Racism is still prominent in Canadian society against the indigenous population. The government uses specialized military forces to break up indigenous protests (the Wet’suwet’en protests in B.C. that took place on the unceded aboriginal territory is the most recent example). The long record of murdered and missing women and children reflects societal and governmental lack of concern for native people.
The recent Truth and Reconciliation, sponsored by those same institutions, may have helped the indigenous people express their realities to Canadians, but the subsequent efforts to do anything is very minimal. Beyond truth and reconciliation, justice and restoration – of rights, of property, of health and education, of infrastructure, of legal equality – are required, and are singularly lacking in Canada.
…and So is Israel
There is no need to discuss US racism as it is fairly obvious to anyone paying attention to cultural and political events as well as social media presentations of many individual cases of racism.
But the arguments against Canada can also be applied to Israel, and because I demand those standards of Canada to support the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, to support the UN Charter of Rights, to support Canada’s own Constitution (barring the inclusion of the infamous Indian Act of 1876), to support the Geneva Conventions and its additional protocols and common articles, there is no double standard in accusing Israel of being a racist state.
My standard of behavior of governments is applied to all racist states, other so-called democratic states (a state is not democratic if it is racist). I do demand of my government, and of the Israeli government, to adhere to standards of equality for all races as determined by the above-listed documents.
According to the qualifying statements of the IHRA, “ by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor” I am denying “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination.” Simple answer – no way. You can have the right to self-determination; what you cannot have is the right to impose your racist militaristic society on another people and expropriate their land and their culture and then try to call yourself a democracy.
That is clearly defined in the many international human rights agreements and accords written in the last century. You, Israel, are a colonial settler state denying the right of self-determination to the indigenous people of Palestine.
Why Israel then, why not focus on Canada and fix problems at home before arguing against Israeli settlements, annexation, starvation (as expressed for Gaza), removal and torture of children, destruction of Palestinian homes, and many military and civic laws limiting the social, civic, and political life of Palestinians? Good question.
From my perspective (”a certain perception”) Canada and Israel are both part and parcel of the US empire. Canada however has little power and is mostly dominated by US militarism and social culture – we’re just a bit friendlier in our racism and sycophantic following of US foreign policy.
Israel on the other hand is a militarily powerful nation even while pleading it is always the victim. It was established as an “outpost” of British military control of the Suez Canal route to India and to control the resources of the region, oil becoming one of the main factors.
In general, it was established to control the Arab people and their demands after both World Wars to have their own states free from European colonial control. After the British Empire faded, the US took over the role of benefactor and protector to the degree that Israel effectively controls a large portion of US foreign policy – vis a vis oil and the Arab states, and thus the petrodollar – and a large portion of U.S domestic policy – vis a vis the Jewish vote for Congress, and the financial largesse distributed to political and corporate institutions.
US foreign policy, with its support of theocratic states – Saudi Arabia and Israel – is the largest purveyor of militarism and terrorism in the world. Israel is both a willing participant in this and because it has “field-tested” much of its military and ‘security’ hardware on the civilians of Palestine, it is also a leader in certain aspects of the military-industrial global complex.
The two-state solution is dead, and in fact, was never a viable solution. It was a trap wherein the Palestinian leadership and the Israeli politicians could talk for decades while more and more land was taken over for settlements (illegal under international law).
Meanwhile, the ‘western’ world could live with its feel-good liberalism continuously announcing their support of a second state for Palestine, a solution that would never be allowed by the Israelis, a solution that would never be backed up by any action – sanctions, or BDS, or blockades – on the part of any other country. In referencing Canada above, it applies equally well here: all Canadian political parties officially declare for the two-state solution, willfully ignorant of the realities within Israel.
There are two solutions left. First is the status quo, a slow genocide and ethnic removal of the Palestinian people, preferably to surrounding Arab states (Saudi Arabia, a US-Israeli ally would certainly not welcome them), or less preferably to small islets of apartheid. The whole process could be sped up by a regional war, say with Iran, under cover of which Israel could attempt to expel masses of Palestinians.
The second solution is what many have demanded of Canada (remember, no double standards): justice and restoration – of rights, of property, of health and education, of infrastructure, of legal equality as well as full political participation in the governance of the country. Simple solution, but entirely against the beliefs of the current Israeli system.
Yes, Israel is a racist state. Canada and the US are racist states. The IHRA “working definition” is weak and vague allowing for many distorted functions to protect the Israeli image it wishes to broadcast globally. Criticisms “may be expressed as hatred” but many other criticisms are valid critiques of the Israeli state and are not based on hatred. Ironically, its admission of double standards on racism for democratic states implies that like other democratic states, it too is racist.
– Jim Miles is a Canadian educator and a regular contributor/columnist of opinion pieces and book reviews to Palestine Chronicles. His interest in this topic stems originally from an environmental perspective, which encompasses the militarization and economic subjugation of the global community and its commodification by corporate governance and by the American government.