August 4, 2016
B’nai Brith Canada (BBC) has a lengthy history of using tactics of intimidation in its recurrent efforts to silence criticism of Israel. It has even engaged in the exploitation of the Holocaust—and publishing such exploitation—for its own political gain. Presented here are a few of the innumerable examples of BBC using intimidation and smears to defame those who dare challenge Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ human rights.
BBC’s now-defunct newspaper, Jewish Tribune, contained frequent smears against critics of Israel’s actions, with too many examples to include a complete list. Some dishonourable mentions include reference to Archbishop Desmond Tutu as “One of the most vile and vociferous anti-Semites in the world today” (September 18, 2014 issue) and a letter stating that “For 90 per cent of NDP activists, hating Israel is what being ‘progressive’ is all about.” (April 9, 2008 issue)
BBC appears to have removed Jewish Tribune from the Internet, but through web archives we have been able to track it down.
Working to shut down voices critical of Israel’s actions
1) In 2007, BBC tried to prevent a debate from taking place in the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF). An OSSTF council meeting was scheduled to debate a motion put forth by members wanting their union to produce educational materials that support Palestinians‘ human rights. BBC described the motion as being based on “bringing hate into the classroom.”
BBC responded by launching a campaign against OSSTF, sending an alert to its members urging them to pressure OSSTF members not to engage in the debate at the upcoming council meeting. The Jewish Defense League (JDL)—identified as a “violent extremist Jewish organization” by the FBI—protested outside of the union’s council meeting.
Doug Joliffe, President of OSSTF District 12 Toronto, said in a January 17, 2007 press release: “This can be seen as nothing short of an attempt to intimidate our membership.” He went on to say “…for an outside organization to encourage and engage in this kind of heavy-handed, intimidating action before a decision as to whether these motions are ones we can support, is absurd.”
BBC and their allies in the JDL appear to be repeating these tactics with the Green Party of Canada, trying to intimidate the party into disengaging from a debate about Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. BBC is once again sending out action alerts to its members and sympathizers, and the JDL has announced its intention to appear outside the convention to bully and intimidate Green Party members.
2) In 2009, BBC tried to shut down a play in Toronto called Seven Jewish Children, which was put on by the National Theatre School of Canada’s directors program. Deeming the play anti-Semitic, BBC called on then-mayor David Miller to cancel it, since it was being held in a city-owned building.
The play was critically acclaimed, having been praised in London, England—where it was first shown—by The Times and The Guardian. It delved into issues pertaining to Palestinians’ human rights, which for BBC meant that it promoted anti-Semitism.
3) BBC put pressure on university administrations in 2009 to ban a poster for Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), depicting an Israeli hellfire missile projected from an Apache helicopter heading towards a Palestinian child. This poster was made in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, in which 345 Palestinian children were killed. BBC said that IAW itself should be banned, calling it a “hatefest”.
4) In 2014, BBC celebrated as a “victory” the University of Manitoba Student Union’s (UMSU) decision to strip Students Against Israeli Apartheid (SAIA) of club status, and ban it from using student space and resources. BBC described this as a “precedent-setting move that should be emulated by students on every campus where IAW events take place.” The move was made against the advice of the UMSU’s lawyer, who said it opened up the student union to litigation. UMSU’s President opposed the move, as well, saying “the actions of SAIA were well within the ground of legally protected and acceptable political discourse.”
5) In 2010, BBC was angered by a question on a High School exam in Manitoba, as it referenced the suffering of Palestinians in Gaza. According to the Winnipeg Free Press, BBC “wants the department of education to check every student’s paper, and count the anti-Israel comments.” This kind of reaction is reminiscent of George Orwell’s Thought Police.
6) In the October 2, 2014 issue of Jewish Tribune, an article by writer Mitch Wolfe entitled “Chow endorses radical Muslim terrorist sympathizer for trustee” describes current Toronto District School Board Trustee Ausma Malik as “an admitted supporter, fundraiser and sympathizer for local radical Muslim terrorism. She is also an enthusiastic supporter of Hezbollah—a Jew-hating, anti-Semitic, anti-Israel terrorist group. And Malik would like to bring in or impose Sharia type religious and educational practices in Ontario schools.”
Not only is each of these claims baseless and defamatory; they may have played a role in inciting anti-Muslim hatred against Malik during her campaign, described as such by the Toronto Star:
TDSB War 10 Trustee candidate Ausma Malik appears to be the target of an anonymous co-ordinated attack. In addition to being heckled at a candidates’ debate, her campaign office says that thousands of flyers were distributed throughout the ward this week which, among other things, accuse Malik of being a supporter of the Toronto 18 terrorist cell and a proponent of Sharia law. One flyer even has a photo of Malik superimposed over a yellow and green Hezbollah flag.
Exploitation of the Holocaust for political gain
1) In 2009, BBC ran a full-page ad in the National Post comparing radical Islam (and particularly the Iranian regime) to Nazism, offending numerous Holocaust survivors, and drawing the ire of the Canadian Association of Jews and Muslims.
2) Through its Jewish Tribune, BBC published a letter in the January 13, 2011 issue—their prominently displayed “Letter of the Week”—stating that academic Norman Finkelstein is a “very prominent Holocaust denier”. Finkelstein is the son of Holocaust survivors, and also happens to be a well-known critic of Israel’s human rights violations. His research into the Holocaust has been endorsed by the world’s preeminent Holocaust scholar, Raul Hilberg. Publishing this letter was nothing short of defamation.
3) The “Letter of the Week” that ran in the October 6, 2011 issue of BBC’s Jewish Tribune was a lengthy piece praising Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s current Defense Minister, who has called for disloyal Palestinian citizens of Israel to be beheaded, and implied that Israel should use nuclear weapons on Gaza. The letter writer states, in the context of Gaza: “Sooner or later the R&D approach will be the only solution left. ‘R&D” means ‘Reoccupy and De-Nazify.’ The people of Gaza deserve it now like the people of Japan and Germany deserved it in 1945.” In addition to the grotesque violence implied in this statement, referring to Gaza as a Nazi-controlled territory constitutes the making of an outrageous comparison. This is terribly insulting to the victims of the Holocaust.
BBC will likely continue to smear those who criticize Israel’s actions or in any way support the human rights of Palestinians. In the absence of arguments to defend their positions, it is unsurprising that they resort to defamation and outright lies, with the aim of distracting from the topic at hand: Israel’s morally abhorrent behaviour.
We are confident that BBC’s appalling record of intimidation and dishonesty will allow increasing numbers of Canadians to view them through a more accurate lens.