By Yves Engler
As more and more Canadians, including university students across the country, oppose Israel’s apartheid policies, the Liberals devoted millions of dollars in the recent federal budget to strengthen anti-Palestinian forces.
They put up $5.6 million over five years for Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism. The position was created a year and a half ago for one of Canada’s chief apartheid apologists, Irwin Cotler. A staunch proponent of Israeli colonialism, Cotler has a home in Israel and his daughter was recently a member of the Knesset.
In response to a recent speech Cotler delivered at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, 45 faculty members sent the Dean a letter to say the event “reinforced anti-Palestinian racism in a way that is consistent with a broader pattern of silencing and erasure of Palestinian voices.”
Cotler has been bemoaning the “new anti-Semitism” of those who support Palestinian rights for decades. After Canada’s largest ever Palestinian solidarity demonstrations — largely by racialized Canadians — in May 2021 Cotler led an antisemitism summit and began decrying the worst antisemitism in Canada since World War II. (As Cotler knows, it wasn’t until the 1950s that it became illegal to block Jews and other groups from purchasing property in some neighborhoods. Some social clubs also restricted Jewish membership into the 1960s.)
Mimicking Canada, the Israeli government recently created its own Special Envoy for Combating Antisemitism and Delegitimization. In appointing Noa Tishby to the position Foreign Affairs Minister Yair Lapid talked about those accusing Israel of “apartheid”, making it clear the aim of the position is to combat groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that have detailed Israeli apartheid. Cotler immediately applauded the Israeli government’s move to set up an envoy and announced he was planning to work with Tishby.
The Liberals’ budget also funneled $20 million into a new Montréal Holocaust Museum, which is scheduled to move to the center of the city in 2025. That institution lists the Federation Combined Jewish Appeal (CJA) of Montréal as its “Beneficiary” and its largest donor was the Azrieli Foundation.
The Azrieli Foundation has financed projects that benefit the Israeli military and the Azrielis made a controversial donation to Im Tirtzu, which was deemed a “fascist” group by an Israeli court. CJA has promoted Canadians joining the IDF. Its website also proclaims that its Community Recovery & Resilience Campaign co-chair Mitch Garber’s “eldest son Dylan just completed his service as a lone soldier serving in an elite Cyber Defense Intelligence Unit of the IDF in Israel.”
The museum has co-sponsored initiatives with CJA, B’nai Brith, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and other anti-Palestinian lobby groups. A former museum fundraiser, Mikhael Goldshtein, boasts that he fought in the IDF for eight years.
In 2020 it released a statement titled “The Montreal Holocaust Museum regretfully notes the Montreal Mayor’s refusal to support the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.” The IHRA definition seeks to label criticisms of Israeli policy as antisemitic. Seven of the definition’s 11 illustrative examples refer to Israel.
In addition to the Montreal Holocaust Museum’s overt anti-Palestinian alignment, Hitler’s destruction of European Jewry has long been weaponized against Palestinians. In his 2000 book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, Norman Finkelstein, whose grandparents perished in Nazi death camps, argues that the American Jewish establishment exploited the memory of the Nazi Holocaust for economic and political gain and to further the interests of Israel. Since the book was written, Israel lobbyists’ reliance on antisemitism/Nazi Holocaust claims to undermine Palestine solidarity has grown substantially.
If the Montréal Holocaust Museum refuses to distance itself — by declaring its support for Palestinian rights — from those using the Nazis’ extermination of European Jewry to justify subjugating Palestinians it should be opposed. Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism should be categorically rejected. Cotler is a liberal imperialist who has spent his life working to subjugate Palestinians.
With their recent budget, the Liberals have reaffirmed their anti-Palestinian policy. People who support human rights for all and oppose Israel’s apartheid policies take note.