[acc-cca-l] Jewish group urges Canadian government to condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian civil society

Jeremy Stolow Jeremy.Stolow at concordia.ca
Sun Aug 28 15:18:29 MDT 2022


Dear colleagues:

Professor Barber has proposed that this list is not the appropriate place to discuss the issues raised in her and Prof. Berland’s emails to this list, but it has not restrained the former from leaving several incendiary remarks on her way out the door.

It is unfortunate to see the group Independent Jewish Voices Canada<https://www.ijvcanada.org/about-ijv/> (IJV) so mischaracterized in the comments below. As a signatory to past public statements issued by the IJV, I cannot restrain myself from addressing a couple of these, if you will indulge me.

First, while there is little doubt, to my mind at least, that IJV represents a small minority position among Canadian Jewish organizations, this is hardly evidence that the positions taken by IJV in no way reflect the concerns or views of “the larger Jewish community.” I dare say, neither Prof. Barber nor I are qualified to make claims about the views of this larger constituency, in the absence of sustained research that would examine, not only the stated opinions of official leaders and members of community and religious organizations, but also the large number of unaffiliated Jews, who now constitute the demographic majority of the Canadian Jewish population. The case has been made by more than one observer that there has been a markedly growing discomfort among many (especially but not only unaffiliated) Jews with regard to positions taken by official Canadian Jewish organizations who publicly defend Israeli policies or criticize the way issues are handled in the media, and enforce a vision of Jewish solidarity that dismisses criticism of Israel as abhorrent and, in Prof. Barber’s words, merely “fringe." A marked decline in successful fundraising efforts among these official groups might offer some interesting evidence of the popularity of the positions they have taken. The point here, lest we get lost in the weeds about who represents the ‘real’ Jewish community or what the position the majority support, is that there is a diversity of opinion on many matters, criticism of Israel policies and actions in Palestine being a clear case in point.

The conflation of criticism of Israel with antisemitism is an ongoing, and increasingly deployed tactic adopted by a number of Canadian Jewish organizations, and the argument they put forward conforms well with the position articulated by Prof. Barber. The tactic has been used in recent years to put pressure on Western governments, including Canada, to officially adopt the working definition of anti-semitism proposed by the intergovernmental organization, International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance<https://www.holocaustremembrance.com/resources/working-definitions-charters/working-definition-antisemitism> (IHRA) which conflates criticism of Israel and antisemitism on several fronts. In response to this definition, promoted by Canadian organizations such as B’nai Brith Canada, and recently enshrined by the Government of Ontario and the Government of Canada (and others now?), the IJV encourages an alternative model for defining and fighting against antisemitism, based on the 2020 Jerusalem Declaration<https://jerusalemdeclaration.org>, which has been signed by hundreds of academics and others around the world. We urgently appeal to fellow Canadians, Jewish and non-Jewish, to consider carefully the terms of the Jerusalem Declaration, which insists that it is not necessarily antisemitic to support alternative political solutions to the crisis of Israel/Palestine, or to compare the Israeli treatment of occupied territories with settler colonialism and apartheid, among other contentious positions. Criticism of Israeli political policy, military actions, even support for the BDS movement are not inherently antisemitic. This is not to say that there are no antisemites among critics of Israel. Of course there are and hateful racist attacks on Jews must be challenged and denounced. But all Canadians, Jewish and non-Jewish, should also be alarmed and disconcerted at the success with which the Canadian government has bought into the IHRA definition of antisemitism and the threats that definition poses to legitimate criticism of Israel’s occupation of Palestine, freedom of speech, anti-racist activism, and not least the (very weak but still existing) prospects for future Jewish-Palestinian alliances that might point to some ways forward.

As scholars concerned with the power of images and words to shape our world, we all should be concerned about the issues raised on this list over the past day or so. This is not in any way intended to excuse, rationalize, or dismiss concern over recently surfaced tweets from Laith Marouf, although as media experts, we surely know even in this alarming case, it is important to carefully parse the words that were actually used rather than rush to make claims about their meaning or consequence.

I offer the remarks above in the spirit of encouraging some badly needed reflection on not just Mr. Marouf’s words, but on the terms that have been used to dismiss the political view he presents. Without this, I humbly submit, I see no way out of this mess.


Jeremy Stolow
Department of Communication Studies<http://www.concordia.ca/artsci/coms/faculty.html?fpid=jeremy-stolow>
Concordia University, Montréal, Canada
jeremy.stolow at concordia.ca<mailto:jeremy.stolow at concordia.ca>

Concordia University is located in Tiohtià:ke/Montréal, on unceded Indigenous lands. For more details about this territorial acknowledgement and why I post it as part of my e-signature, please see here<https://www.concordia.ca/about/indigenous/territorial-acknowledgement.html>.
l'Université Concordia est située à Tiohtiá:ke / Montréal, en territoire autochtone, lequel n’a jamais été cédé. Pour des précisions sur cette reconnaissance territoriale, voir ici<https://www.concordia.ca/about/indigenous/reconnaissance-territoriale.html>.

On Aug 28, 2022, at 3:01 PM, Marsha Barber <m2barber at ryerson.ca<mailto:m2barber at ryerson.ca>> wrote:

Attention This email originates from outside the concordia.ca<http://concordia.ca> domain. // Ce courriel provient de l'exterieur du domaine de concordia.ca<http://concordia.ca>


This is not the place to conflate these issues, Professor Berland, in the shadow of the recent federal funding of antisemitism:  https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/hussen-tweets-contract-cancelled-1.6558541<https://can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cbc.ca%2Fnews%2Fpolitics%2Fhussen-tweets-contract-cancelled-1.6558541&data=05%7C01%7CJeremy.Stolow%40concordia.ca%7Cf600e751b838473d130408da8927df1b%7C5569f185d22f4e139850ce5b1abcd2e8%7C0%7C0%7C637973102325331341%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=sNlbieU%2Bv3%2BwAbdMll6dBqdN96cr262CLeiaQpSBBOo%3D&reserved=0>

To say that it's circumstances in the Middle East that "inspire such comments" is vile. It's also vile to justify such comments because an angry individual's "spirit is assaulted."

This opinion piece in yesterday’s Globe and Mail provides insight:

The headline for the piece is “The Public Service Does Not Understand Antisemitism.” I would add that neither do some in academe.

I won’t engage in further discussion of this issue in a public forum dedicated to academic issues. If anyone reading this has a thoughtful and civil comment to make, perhaps they could use our private email addresses, not the CCA's.

As much as I respect individual members of Independent Jewish Voices and their supporters, including Professor Berland, they're described as a fringe group. In no way do their views reflect those of members of the larger Jewish community. All peoples should be entitled to self-determination, including the Jewish people. Anyone who disputes the right of Israel to exist (the classic definition of Zionism) is engaging in antisemitism, whatever disingenuous rationalizations might be used. Supporting Israel's statehood is, of course, different from criticizing policies of specific Israeli governments.

Finally, in case it needs to be spelled out, my opinions are my own. I don't speak for my university.

Marsha Barber
Professor, School of Journalism
The Creative School
Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University)
Toronto, Canada
m2barber at ryerson.ca<mailto:m2barber at ryerson.ca>

On Sun, Aug 28, 2022 at 12:32 PM Jody Berland <jberland at yorku.ca<mailto:jberland at yorku.ca>> wrote:

I concur with everyone’s outrage at the expression  of crude anti-Semitic sentiments recirculated on this list. They are terrible as are all vile racist smears against any people defined by race or religion.
I just wish our media and our government would take an equally strong (or even just more balanced) position on the circumstances in the Middle East that inspire such comments. Where is the outrage about the well documented illegal violence being committed every day year after year by the Israeli government against Palestinian journalists, human rights organizations, universities, hospitals, medical staff, refugee camps, homes, students, and civilians?  These military attacks have been condemned by many governments (not ours), Amnesty International, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

I believe we can and should criticize the policies and aggressions of a government whose actions have been deemed war crimes with the same concerns that lead us to criticize the colonizing violence of our own governments or the racist comments of a single angry individual whose spirit is assaulted by the actions described below and the complicit silence of our elected representatives about them.  I encourage CCA members to push for a fair and truthful accounting of this tragic state of affairs from our media and from our governments.
I have attached the statement calling for a revised policy  on Israel and Palestine just released by Jagmeet Singh. It is the first statement by a Canadian politician supporting the rights of Palestinians in line with the policies of The United Nations, Amnesty International, and human rights organizations within both Israel and Palestine. When an MP from Hamilton posted Singh’s statement, he was accused of being antisemitic.
The widespread use of anti-racist language to suppress the human rights claims of Palestinians is unfortunately common
in our media and our universities. I hope the critique of that strategy will be as instant and energetic.
Jody Berland

---------- Forwarded message ---------
From: Sid Shniad <shniad at gmail.com<mailto:shniad at gmail.com>>
Date: Sat, Aug 27, 2022 at 8:02 PM


WAFA -- Palestine News and Information Agency                                             21/August/2022

Jewish group urges Canadian government to condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian civil society
[Jewish group urges Canadian government to condemn Israeli raids on Palestinian civil society]

MONTREAL, Sunday, August 21, 2022 (WAFA) – Independent Jewish Voices Canada has called on the Canadian government to condemn the Israeli raids on the offices of seven civil society organizations in Palestine last week. The raids come ten months after Israeli occupation designated six of these organizations as ‘terrorist’ groups, although it has failed to provide any substantial evidence to support its claims.

“Israel’s crackdown on these organizations is a blatant anti-democratic attempt to delegitimize and ultimately silence Palestinian civil society,” said IJV Communications and Media spokesperson Rowan Gaudet. “This motive is made especially clear by the attack on Defense for Children International–Palestine which is investigating the killings of some 37 Palestinian children this year alone.”

In July, the foreign ministries of Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Sweden jointly investigated Israel’s designation of these organizations as terrorist groups and came to the conclusion that the charges were unsubstantiated. The decision has also been protested by more than twenty Israeli human rights groups and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, among others.

In December 2021, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said she was in contact with Yair Lapid, then foreign minister, who she claimed to have asked for “clarity” on the situation.

“The government has had ample time to seek clarity” continued Gaudet. “It’s time for Canada to take action. We call on the government to immediately condemn Israel’s attempted shut down of Palestinian groups who are exposing and opposing its well-documented system of apartheid.”

“Just this past June, Justin Trudeau reiterated that Canada and Israel ‘are close friends bound together by shared democratic values’,” said Gaudet. “Does this mean we can expect Canada to shutter the offices of Canadian human rights and Indigenous groups and seize documents they’re using to investigate our government? Or will Canada finally condemn these actions and join with its European allies in rejecting Israel’s claims?”


*IJV website: www.ijvcanada.org<https://can01.safelinks.protection.outlook.com/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.ijvcanada.org%2F&data=05%7C01%7CJeremy.Stolow%40concordia.ca%7Cf600e751b838473d130408da8927df1b%7C5569f185d22f4e139850ce5b1abcd2e8%7C0%7C0%7C637973102325331341%7CUnknown%7CTWFpbGZsb3d8eyJWIjoiMC4wLjAwMDAiLCJQIjoiV2luMzIiLCJBTiI6Ik1haWwiLCJXVCI6Mn0%3D%7C2000%7C%7C%7C&sdata=N0P8lsgfGkEMVPfTZ5Dk9on1O6fy9JgvStarWhV46jY%3D&reserved=0>

Jody Berland
Professor, Department of Humanities
York University, Toronto, ON  M3J 1P3 Canada


Jody Berland

Professor, Department of Humanities
234 Founders College,  York University
Toronto, ON  M3J 1P3 Canada

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