Friday, July 22, 2011

Canada clamps down on criticism of Israel

No coincidence that this comes at the same time as U.S. Congressman Howard Berman introduces a bill to outlaw U.S. boycotts of Israeli occupation and apartheid.

In an affront to free speech, government committee declares that criticism of Israel should be considered anti-Semitic.


Jillian Kestler-DAmours
22 July, 2011

Nearly two years after the first hearings were held in Ottawa, the Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) released a detailed report on July 7 that found that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada, especially on university campuses.

While the CPCCA's final report does contain some cases of real anti-Semitism, the committee has provided little evidence that anti-Semitism has actually increased in Canada in recent years. Instead, it has focused a disproportionate amount of effort and resources on what it calls a so-called "new anti-Semitism": criticism of Israel.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, 
a staunch supporter of Israeli policy,
has described criticism of Israeli as
a form of "new anti-Semitism". [EPA]

Indeed, the real purpose of the CPCCA committee seems to be to stifle critiques of Israeli policy and disrupt pro-Palestinian solidarity organizing in Canada, including, most notably, Israeli Apartheid Week events. Many of the CPCCA's findings, therefore, must be rejected as both an attack on freedom of speech and freedom of protest, and as recklessly undermining the fight against real instances of anti-Semitism.

The CPCCA and its findings

The Canadian Parliamentary Committee to Combat Anti-Semitism (CPCCA) was born out of a conference held in London in February 2009 by the Inter-Parliamentary Committee for Combating Anti-Semitism. Formed in March 2009 and not directly linked to the Canadian government, or to any NGO or advocacy group, the CPCCA included 22 Canadian Parliament members from across party lines. Former Liberal MP Mario Silva chaired the Inquiry Panel and Conservative MP Scott Reid led the Steering Committee.

Between November 2009 and January 2010, the CPCCA held ten separate hearings during which time representatives of various non-governmental organizations, religious institutions, police departments and Canadian and Israeli universities presented papers meant to assess the level of anti-Semitism in Canada. While groups critical of Israel were denied the chance to address the committee, major Zionist organizations like B'nai Brith Canada, Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies, and the Canadian Jewish Congress were welcomed.

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