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ICCA News: Group questions premise of anti-Semitism conference
Coalition to push governments, universities to adopt definition of anti-Semitism that outlaws criticism of Israel
Nov 10, 2010 – Free speech advocates warn that Canadians face severe restrictions on freedom of expression if the definition of anti-Semitism recommended in Ottawa this week is adopted.
The definition of anti-Semitism advocated by the self-styled Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (ICCA) would outlaw legitimate political opinion as a means to silence criticism of Israel and its treatment of Palestinians.
According to the Seriously Free Speech Committee, if governments and other bodies adopt the proposed definition contained in the Ottawa Protocol, the following statements would be condemned or criminalized:
• I consider Israel’s bombardment of Gaza in 2009 that resulted in the killing of 1,400 Palestinians, many of them children, to be a crime against humanity.
• Israel’s apartheid policies make it an appropriate target for an international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions
“Whether or not Canadians agree with these examples, surely they agree that these are political opinions that should be protected under our Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” said Brian Campbell, co-chair of the committee formed to encourage free and open debate about the contentious issues in the Middle East.
The committee is particularly concerned that the ICCA plans to target universities to silence students who have organized increasingly popular Israel Apartheid Weeks and supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against the State of Israel, similar to the international campaign waged against South Africa.
“Israel’s supporters are using charges of a new anti-Semitism to intimidate people who describe Israel as an apartheid state or who encourage others to boycott Israeli products, “said Campbell. “The ICCA and its Canadian off-shoot, the CPCCA, are essentially lobbyists for Israel. “
According to the committee, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s pledge to the ICCA conference that Canada would defend Israel no matter what the cost and no matter what Israel has done is a chilling sign that the government will impose the new definition of anti-Semitism contained in the Ottawa Protocol.
Campbell challenged the ICCA’s claim that there has been a dramatic increase in antisemitism that warrants restricting Canadians right to free speech. “Their alarming statistics rely on reported incidents, not incidents that were investigated and determined to be discriminatory or hateful.” B’nai Brith’s annual surveys of anti-Semitism have been widely criticized for their poor methodology and exaggerated claims.
According to Joanne Naiman, retired Ryerson University professor and SFSC member, there is no evidence of an increase in anti-Semitism in Canada. In fact, statistics show that anti-Semitism is at an all-time low and Jewish leaders agree that Jews in Canada do well and feel safe.” She concluded that the ICCA and its Canadian counterpart have been trying to inflate and reframe the statistics to justify a crackdown on critics of Israel.
“It is actually the Ottawa Protocol, in true Orwellian fashion, that is trying to blur the lines between true anti-Semitism and criticism of the Israeli state,” she said. “The protocol says it is anti-Semitic to hold Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel when, in fact, it is the Israeli government that repeatedly tries to conflate the State of Israel with Jewish people. For example, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently referred to himself as ‘leader of the Jewish people.’”
“We must all be vigilant against real anti-Semitism — discrimination against Jews simply because they are Jews — but we must not allow people to use charges of antisemitism to limit free speech and to stifle criticisms of violations of the human rights of the Palestinian people,” she said.