Letter supporting the stand taken by York University President, Dr. M. Shoukri
Nov. 28, 2010
Dr. Mamdouh Shoukri
President, York University
4700 Keele Street
Toronto, ON M3J 1P3
Dear Dr. Shoukri:
Ours is an organization of Jews who stand for human rights for all people. It is our view that you have been the victim of a vicious attack by Rabbi Hoch, the Friends of Simon Wiesenthal, and other pro-Israel Jewish lobby groups.
We applaud your stated intention to mount legal action against Rabbi Hoch for his libel against you, and we commit ourselves to challenging the attacks on you for taking this stand. Rabbi Hoch and his supporters do not represent Canadian Jews. Furthermore, your decision to take a strong stand against their abusive tactics is crucial for the integrity of Canadian universities. These people are using this attack against you to intimidate other Canadian university presidents into implementing the recommendations of the so-called “Ottawa Protocol” of the misnamed Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (ICCA).
Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) has forcefully opposed both the ICCA and the equally misnamed Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA), particularly their campaign to criminalize legitimate criticism of the state of Israel and to libel those who support justice for Muslims, Arabs and Palestinians by calling them anti-Semitic.
On the opening day of the recent ICCA conference in Ottawa, we released a video entitled Defend Free Speech: The threat is from the new McCarthyism NOT the new antisemitism at this address: www.youtube.com. It explains our view that the misuse of the term anti-Semitism is being used to suppress valid criticism of Israel and its actions.
We congratulate you for taking this courageous stand.
Diana Ralph, Ph.D.
for Independent Jewish Voices
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) submission to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-semitism
August 25 2009
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) represents Canadian Jews who share a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights.
We especially promote justice, ethics, and humanity in Israel and Palestine, as well as in Canada.
IJV offers a range of Jewish perspectives which differ from those of the Canadian Jewish Congress, B’nai Brith, the Canada-Israel Committee, and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy, all of which encourage the view that Judaism and uncritical support for Israeli policies and practices are synonymous.
IJV has chapters in seven cities across Canada (Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Winnipeg, and Vancouver) and members in many other Canadian cities.
As Jews, we take true anti-Semitism—that is, discrimination and attacks on Jews and Judaism—very seriously. However, we reject the false assumptions on which the CPCCA and its efforts are based.
Despite protestations to the contrary, the CPCCA conflates legitimate criticism of Israel with anti-Semitism.
The CPCCA claims that its purpose is not “really about limiting legitimate criticism of the State of Israel.” However its web site says that “calls for the destruction of the State of Israel are inherently antisemitic.” IJV believes that this statement is part of an organized attempt on the part of partisans of Israel to conflate the call for the dismantling of repressive Israeli institutions and ending repressive Israeli practices regarding Palestinians with the physical destruction of the Jewish population of Israel.
The London Declaration states,
“We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations – in rhetoric and political action – against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel.”
This is another conflation of criticism of Israel with prejudice against Jews. Our organization is actively involved in the former, while we are adamantly opposed to the latter. There is a fundamental difference between the two.
Independent Jewish Voices includes a broad spectrum of opinion on this issue, ranging from strongly Zionist to strongly anti-Zionist. This diversity of views enriches and deepens our understanding. As Jews, we hold that free speech includes the right of all people to openly discuss their views on all matters related to the political reality in Israel, including whether or not they should support an ethnocratic state which privileges Jews by imposing brutal discrimination and deploys indiscriminate violence against its indigenous population as well as against its neighbours.
The CPCCA asserts, without foundation, that “the extent and severity of antisemitism is widely regarded as at its worst level since the end of the Second World War.
There is no evidence of any significant rise in anti-Semitism in Canada or elsewhere. In fact, as Globe and Mail columnist Michael Valpy reported in March 2004, an extensive survey on anti-Semitic attitudes by the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy found very low levels of anti-Semitism. We find it very revealing that the CJC chose not to publish this survey and put off our requests for copies of the results. Similarly, the Anti-Defamation League’s 2002 survey of U.S. anti-Semitic attitudes found an almost steady decline in the proportion of Americans who are anti-Semitic from 29% in 1964, to 20% in 1992, to 12% in 1998, with a slight rise to 17% in 2002—just after the massacre that Israeli forces carried out at the Palestinian city of Jenin. The 2002 ADL survey found that the majority of Americans hold highly positive attitudes toward Jews, and that it was concerns over Israeli war crimes that were generating anti-Semitic attitudes.1
Even these studies are flawed, however, because they confuse individual prejudice with institutionally oppressive anti-Semitism. As Jason Kunin points out,
“it’s important to distinguish between prejudice and oppression. Prejudice is simply an opinion based on limited information or stereotypes. Everyone has prejudices. We all have some opinions based on incomplete information….Prejudice can exist at both an ideological level (e.g. “white people are ignorant and mean”) and at an individual level (e.g. “I won’t vote for that white politician”), but unless that prejudice can also translate into institutional practices that marginalize or exclude, then that prejudice is not oppression but merely a prejudice. Given the current reality of global white supremacy, neither of the examples I have given above have the potential to oppress.” On that basis, he concludes,
“Anti-Semitism, pervasive and deadly only a couple generations ago, is no longer a form of oppression.”2
What is unprecedented is not the level of anti-Semitism in the world, but rather the rising level of international outrage over Israel’s actions. To reiterate, this is not anti-Semitism, but rather a legitimate, growing expression of concern and moral outrage.
According to the drafters of this initiative, there is a pressing need to respond to what they characterize as the “new anti-Semitism,” in which “anti-Zionism is being used as a cover for anti-Semitism.” IJV believes that it is legitimate for critics of Israel’s behaviour to describe it as a system of apartheid and to deny the legitimacy of any state that engages in such practices. This is not anti-Semitism of any kind, new or old.
The CPCCA alleges that Canadian Jewish students are particularly ridiculed and intimidated for being Jewish.
For example, its press release claims “Jewish students are being threatened and intimidated to the point that they are not able to express themselves, or are even fearful to wear a Jewish skull cap or star around their necks.” IJV has co-sponsored and participated in a broad range of activities critical of Israeli abuses of Palestinian rights, including Israel Apartheid Week events, tours conducted by the Palestinian Human Rights organization Al Haq, locally-based tours of the Palestinian town of Bi’lin, and demonstrations against the horrific Israeli assault on the people of Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009.
In all those events, pro-Israeli Jewish students as well as Jews generally were welcomed and their comments treated respectfully. By contrast, YouTube has captured a number of incidents in which pro-Israel students barged into demonstrations critical of Israel or mounted provocative counter demonstrations, using the heated arguments with Palestinians and their supporters that their interventions generated as evidence that they were being “intimidated and threatened.”3 These were not cases of Jews being attacked for their Judaism, but Palestinians and their supporters arguing back forcefully against belligerent Zionist students trying to suppress their freedom of speech.
Unlike those organizations which seek to stifle open debate about this and related subjects by labelling those who oppose their views as anti-Semitic and seek to punish them for expressing them, IJV actively promotes the rights of all individuals to express themselves freely and without threat of sanction.
By launching such an inquiry, the CPCCA implies that existing human rights mechanisms are not sufficient to address actual incidents of anti-Semitism in Canada.
The Canadian Jewish Congress and B’nai Brith have been trying for years to broaden the definition of “hate crimes” to include criticism of Israel. So far, thankfully, they have been unsuccessful. The CPCCA is just the latest in this attempt to attack free speech and silence criticism of the Israeli government’s oppressive and illegal policies. It is our view that Canada’s existing human rights commissions and criminal code are more than sufficient to deal with actual incidents of anti-Semitism.
The CPCCA implies that those who are critical of Israeli policies are calling for “the destruction of the State of Israel and its inhabitants.”
This tendentious position holds that because of the Holocaust, Jews must have a Jewish state in order to be secure, and that anyone who is critical of the Jewish state and its behaviour must therefore support the destruction of the Jewish people. This is nothing more than classic fear-mongering, designed to divert attention from illegal and unethical policies carried out by the Israeli government. Thankfully, it is carrying less and less weight over time, thanks to its overuse by apologists for Israel.
To be critical of Israeli policies or even to challenge the legitimacy of the existence of a Jewish state is not equivalent to calling for the physical destruction of the State, or advocating genocide against Israeli citizens. By far the strongest military power in the region, Israel is in no danger of physical destruction. All of its neighbours, with the exception of Iraq, have recognized the state of Israel, and the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas have also recognized the state of Israel Fatah explicitly and Hamas implicitly.
The Coalition contends that there is a new, virulent form of anti-Semitism spreading across the world.
What is new is the unprecedented level of organizing, particularly on campuses, in response to Israel and its actions. Of particular importance with respect to this issue has been the rise of the organization known as the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, which engages in the kinds of activities that the members of the CPCCA appear determined to stamp out. CAIA’s purpose is to focus attention on the plight of Palestinians living in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and to generate action to combat what it characterizes as the system of apartheid that exists there. Discussion about and disagreement over the appropriateness of the term “apartheid” as a descriptor for Israel and the regime that it has created in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is completely legitimate. Our organization has endorsed CAIA and has members who have actively participated in it. We categorically reject any attempt to describe the activities of CAIA as anti-Semitic and draw the Coalition’s attention to CAIA’s basis of unity, which contains the explicit statement that “We oppose all forms of racism, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism.” [Emphasis added.]
The CPCCA ignores other, far more significant incidents of hate crimes and discrimination.
Muslims, Arabs, Palestinians and other racialized people are suffering the effects of racial profiling, as well as discrimination and stereotyping that is being actively promoted by the governments of Canada, Israel and other western countries in the name of national security. In Canada, Muslims and Arabs have been subjected to official no fly lists, intrusive surveillance, extraordinary rendition and torture when they travel abroad, and they are being imprisoned without charges under Security Certificates. As the case of Suaad Hagi Mohamud demonstrates, the Canadian government treats our Muslim citizens in a clearly discriminatory manner, often failing to provide them with the same kinds of protections that other Canadians expect as a matter of course when they are abroad.
Largely as a result of the grotesquely ill-conceived “war on terror,” racist abuse of and discrimination against Canadian Muslims and Arabs is increasing dramatically. An extensive inquiry into the experiences of Muslim students conducted by the Canadian Federation of Students in 2007 found that many had experienced serious and frequent harassment and abuse both on and off campus.
The CPCCA provides no evidence for its claim that anti-Semitism is on the rise in Canada.
In summary, it is our view that what is really involved here − despite repeated disavowals − is an attempt to label criticism of Israel and its behaviour as well as organized efforts to change them as anti-Semitism and to criminalize both.
This Coalition is an illegitimate endeavour. We condemn it for what it is: an effort to whitewash Israeli behaviour and to protect it from both scrutiny and organized opposition.
Resolution to the IJV-Canada Annual General Meeting
(passed unanimously, with two abstentions, March 22, 2009 by BC IJV). Ottawa-IJV unanimously approved this motion in principle on May 16, 2009.
Whereas there will be no lasting peace without implementation of international law, United Nations resolutions and respect for the human rights of both Palestinians and Jewish-Israelis, and
Whereas the United Nations Security Council unanimously passed resolution 242 in November 1967, calling on Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza, East Jerusalem, which it had invaded and occupied in June 1967, and
Whereas Israel has refused to implement resolution 242 and instead has illegally established Jewish-only settlements in these areas in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and
Whereas Independent Jewish Voices is based on a strong commitment to social justice and universal human rights, and
Whereas it is our view that the grave situation in the Middle East threatens the future of both Israelis and Palestinians as well as the stability of the whole region, and
Whereas we support a negotiated peace between the Israeli and Palestinian peoples and oppose attempts by the Israeli government to impose its own solutions on the Palestinians,
Therefore be it resolved that Independent Jewish Voices -Canada will
Work towards an end to military assaults and other acts of violence that target civilians;
Demand that the Israeli Government immediately and permanently withdraw from the West Bank, Gaza and the Golan and cease all discrimination against Arab Citizens in Israel.
Call on the Canadian government to 1) cease its one-sided and uncritical support for Israel and 2) insist that Israel abide by international law in its relations with Palestinians.
Support the Palestinian call for a campaign boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and complies with the precepts of international law, including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.
IJV Letter to government leaders:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper
Michael Ignatieff, Leader of the Opposition
Gilles Duceppe, Leader of the Bloc Quebecois
Jack Layton, Leader of the New Democratic Party
Dear Mssrs. Harper, Ignatieff, Duceppe and Layton,
I am writing on behalf of Independent Jewish Voices Canada to ask you to support the following motion, which Member of Parliament Libby Davies has drafted for Parliamentary consideration:
That this House calls on the Government of Canada to act swiftly as part of the International Community, to end the 20 month blockade of Gaza; to follow through on its promise for aid and assistance to the people of Gaza; and exercise its responsibility under international law to condemn the use of force and violence; and begin the process for normalized relations to attain a Palestinian state and peace for the region, including the ongoing control of Gaza’s border.
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada) represents Jews across Canada who are committed to social justice and universal human rights. We strongly endorse this motion. Canada stands almost alone in giving unqualified support to the Israeli government’s illegal blockade of and assault on the people of Gaza, which is widely considered to involve major violations of international law and war crimes. Taking this position seriously undermines our government’s international reputation and credibility. Passage of Ms. Davies’ motion would play an important part in rebuilding Canada’s international reputation.
Organizations that give unqualified support to Israel regardless of its actions and claiming to speak for the Canadian Jewish community will undoubtedly oppose this important motion, making the false claim that it is anti-Semitic. We urge you to reject such attempts to muddy the water and to stand up for justice for the people of Palestine.
Co-Chair, Independent Jewish Voices ( Canada)
Jewish Human Rights Group Praises Women Who Sat in at Israeli Consulate in Toronto
Ottawa - “Our organization strongly supports the eight women who sat in at the Israeli consulate in Toronto today,” declared Independent Jewish Voices coordinator Diana Ralph. “It is clear that such action is desperately needed in the face of the war crimes Israel is committing against the people of Gaza and the Canadian government’s role as apologist for these crimes.”
Ralph was referring to the actions of a group of eight Jewish women who occupied the Israeli consulate, including professor Judy Rebick, psychoanalyst Judith Deutsch, filmmaker B.H. Yael, and Canadian Israeli peace activist Smadar Carmon.
“Those of us who are serious about bringing an end to the crisis in Israel and Palestine cannot sit idly by while Israel subjects the Palestinian people to ever-escalating levels punishment,” Ralph stressed. “It is clear from its behaviour that Israel will not renounce its aggression against the Palestinians unless it is compelled to do so. By occupying the office of the Israeli consulate, the women in Toronto have exhibited tremendous courage and principle. Independent Jewish Voices believes that it is the responsibility of all people of good will to generate sufficient pressure on Israel that it will be obliged to change its behaviour,” she concluded.
IJV- Canada signs petition critical of the Jewish National Fund
The Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada is holding its annual Negev Gala Dinner at Canada’s Museum of Civilisation on 24 November 2008. The Museum’s Guiding Principles inform the public that the museum’s choice of activities are “informed by respect: we will not engage in activities or present materials which may promote intolerance.” Yet, by providing space to the JNF we believe the Museum is in violation of this basic principle. And the residents of three Palestinian villages destroyed in 1967 over which the JNF’s “Canada Park” has been built agree, as their attached letter to the Museum attests.
According to the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz (23/09/07), approximately 500,000 out of almost 625,000 acres owned by the JNF were confiscated from Palestinians fleeing war in 1948, and were not purchased with contributions from Jews around the world, as is commonly represented in its propaganda. During 1948-53, the Israeli state transferred ownership of this land to the JNF for the sole use of Jews—as per the JNF’s governing articles—without any compensation to its rightful Palestinian owners. This confiscation violates international law and is an ongoing source of grievance inside Israel amongst its Palestinian citizens and amongst Palestinian refugees in the occupied Palestinian territories and neighbouring Arab states.
In Israel, this “redemption of land,” which in fact is the appropriation of Palestinian land and its “transfer” to Israeli Jews, is ongoing in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, occupied by Israeli forces since 1967. The so-called “Canada Park”, which is maintained through JNF-Canada contributions, is built on the site of three Palestinian villages captured in 1967, which were evacuated and razed to the ground. Forcible transfer of civilians and extensive destruction and appropriation of property in occupied territory are war crimes amounting to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention—international legal codes adopted after World War II in recognition that maltreatment and atrocities against civilians in wartime should never happen again. Indeed, in 2007, the United Nations’ Committee on Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) rejected the application of the Jewish National Fund (JNF)-USA for consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) because of its discriminatory practices and complicity in violations against international law.
The Canadian government has consistently called for restoration and promotion of rule of law at home and abroad. The Museum, as an institution of the government, has an obligation to uphold this principle. Moreover, in providing space to the JNF-Canada, the Museum is in violation of its own principle to promote Canada’s fundamental “commitment to democracy in its political and social sense.”
We call on readers to sign this petition in support the villagers of ‘Imwas, Yalo and Beit Nouba asking the Museum to rescind its agreement to provide space to the JNF for its Negev Gala. In addition, we ask you to call and send letters of protest (and cc firstname.lastname@example.org—you can use or adapt the form letter at the bottom of this petition, or write your own) to the Museum’s Board of Trustees, listed below, and its President and CEO, Dr. Victor Rabinovitch at (819) 776-7116 email@example.com.
Museum of Civilization Board of Trustees
Chair: Fredrik S. Eaton, Toronto, Ontario
Vice-Chair: André E. Audet, Montreal, Quebec
Judith Baxter, Clifton Royal, New Brunswick
Linda Cardinal, Ottawa, Ontario
Jean-Claude Cyr, Montreal, Quebec
Jack L. Granatstein, Toronto, Ontario
A. Webster Macdonald, Calgary, Alberta
Stéfanie Pelletier, Montreal, Quebec
Claudia Simon, Big Cove, New Brunswick
Harvey Slack, Ottawa, Ontario
Laurie Watson, Dogpound, Alberta
Dr. Victor Rabinovitch
President and CEO
Canadian Museum of Civilization
Gatineau, Quebec, Canada
Dear Dr. Rabinovitch,
I have learned that the Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Canada is holding its annual Negev Dinner at Canada’s Museum of Civilisation on 24 November 2008. The Museum’s Guiding Principles inform the public that its choice of activities are “informed by respect: we will not engage in activities or present materials which may promote intolerance.” Yet, by providing space to the JNF the Museum is in violation of this basic principle.
Most of the land “owned” by the JNF were confiscated from Palestinians fleeing war in 1948, and were not purchased with contributions from Jews around the world, as is commonly represented in its propaganda. During 1948-53, the Israeli state transferred ownership of this land to the JNF for the sole use of Jews—as per the JNF’s governing articles—without any compensation to its rightful Palestinian owners. Moreover, the so-called “Canada Park”, which is maintained through JNF-Canada contributions, is built on the site of three Palestinian villages captured in 1967, which were evacuated and razed to the ground. Forcible transfer of civilians and extensive destruction and appropriation of property in occupied territory are war crimes amounting to grave breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention—international legal codes adopted after World War II in recognition that maltreatment and atrocities against civilians in wartime should never happen again.
The Canadian government has consistently called for restoration and promotion of rule of law at home and abroad. The Museum, as an institution of the government, has an obligation to uphold this principle. Moreover, in providing space to the JNF, the Museum is in violation of its own principle to promote Canada’s fundamental “commitment to democracy in its political and social sense.”
I am concerned that a Canadian institution is associated in any way at all with the JNF, which is complicit in the commission of war crimes. As such, this letter asks you to remain true to the Museum’s Guiding Principles and rescind the Museum’s agreement to provide space to the JNF for its Negev Dinner.
Independent Jewish Voices (Canada): Letter for Omar Khadr
We are requesting that individual members of Parliament and the Government of Canada publicly demand the immediate repatriation of Omar Khadr to Canada. He is due to go to trial by an illegal military tribunal where he will inevitably be sentenced to life imprisonment at Guantanamo Bay or within the United States prison system. It is certain that he will not receive a fair trial. Military commissions are illegal and infringe a number of international conventions on human rights and the rights of the child. The Military Commissions Act in the U.S. dangerously strips Mr. Khadr and more than three hundred prisoners of their right to immediately pursue habeas corpus. As is well known, all other Western countries have successfully repatriated their prisoners, and even Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Rwanda, and Uganda rehabilitate rather than punish their child soldiers.
The details of Mr. Khadr’s imprisonment are well known and are well publicized by the CBC, Amnesty International, the Council of Canadians and other civil society groups. It is reliably verified that he has endured physical and emotional torture, lengthy periods of solitary confinement, the withholding of medical care and education, no access to a parent, guardian or legal representative. He is the only child in modern history to be charged with war crimes, yet Canada continues to ignore his plight.
From the beginning, the Canadian Government did not seek consular access and subsequently lied to Mr. Khadr and to the Canadian people about the complicit role of CSIS, DFAIT, and the RCMP in illegal interrogations that involved torture. The Canadian government has yet to express concern about these military commissions which violate international fair trials standards.
We ask you to:
- Demand the repatriation of Omar Khadr unless US authorities bring him to trial in a civilian court, taking full account of his age at the time of any alleged offenses.
- Assure the public that if returned to Canada, Omar Khadr will be released or charged with a recognizably criminal offence and given a fair trial, and that no evidence obtained under torture will be used in any proceedings.
- Call for an independent investigation into the involvement of Canadian officials in Omar Khadr’s detention, interrogation and torture.
- Provide the necessary resources for Omar Khadr’s rehabilitation and reintegration into Canadian society.