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IJV rejoiced after Vancouver city hall rejected IHRA

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Opposition to municipalities adopting the IHRA definition of antisemitism scored a disturbing victory in Vancouver in 2019 (Photo: middleeasteye.net)

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“It’s not a lie… if you believe it.”  – George Costanza, “Seinfeld” 

On July 23, 2019, Vancouver City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung introduced a Motion for the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, to officially adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. 

In her Motion, Councillor Kirby-Yung wrote, in part: “Statistics Canada reports that members of the Jewish community are the most frequently targeted ethnocultural group when it comes to police-reported hate crimes;” 

Indeed, an audit commissioned by B’nai Brith Canada found that British Columbia had the highest provincial increase (up 126%) of antisemitic incidents from 2017 to 2018. 

On the heels of this report, and the Government of Canada adoption of the IHRA definition in June 2019, Councillor Kirby-Yung presented her motion to Vancouver City Council stating: 

“The rapid rise in hate crimes in our city is alarming. It’s time for the City of Vancouver to stand together against hatred and show that antisemitism is not welcome here.” 

Both camps quickly drew battle lines. On one side, Councillor Kirby-Yung, along with the overwhelming majority of the BC Jewish community; B’nai Brith Canada; and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA). On the other, anti-Israel organizations like Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) Canada; Palestinian rights groups; the Vancouver & District Labour Council; and the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association. Although the Canadian Parliament adopted the IHRA definition in 2019, it was without support from the New Democratic Party (NDP). 

IJV employed a massive misinformation campaign against both the motion and IHRA itself, pursuing Vancouver City councillors, creating websites, and penning opinion pieces with spurious claims that the IHRA definition of antisemitism undermined freedom of expression. 

Despite a valiant effort by Jewish groups, such as CIJA, to counter the misinformation and highlight the importance of addressing antisemitism as incidents continued to rise across Vancouver, Council voted against the motion by a margin of 6-5. 

While Jewish groups in the area lamented that the Council’s decision was sending the wrong message, IJV and other anti-Israel and anti-Jewish organizations and media celebrated it as a victory for free speech and a win for Palestinian rights. IJV claimed: “In addition, the Councillors ultimately supported the argument that fighting racism in a multicultural city by singling out the fight against antisemitism alone was not the best approach.” 

What were they celebrating beyond stifling efforts to stop hate speech against Jews? 

Why are so many self-proclaimed “progressives” – from IJV to the NDP – so oppositional toward the IHRA definition, one drafted by an association started to remember the Holocaust?

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Perhaps emboldened by the Vancouver “success”, two former NDP MPs Svend Robinson and Libby Davies with a long reputation for obsessive anti-Israelism have proposed a resolution opposing IHRA at the upcoming NDP Policy Convention that focuses on the common chestnut of: “Criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitism.” 

Reasonable members of the NDP caucus agree that it’s outrageous for a progressive party to tell any minority group what hate and discrimination mean to them; that’s precisely what the crafters of this resolution have done by failing to consult the Jewish community, except for a fringe group like IJV. 

Blinded by their hatred, the anti-IHRA campaigners continue their disinformation campaign. The IHRA definition makes it clear that criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitic, provided: 

  1. It’s constructive and based on fact. 
  2. It doesn’t invoke hateful messages or imagery such as those drawing parallels to Nazism. 
  3. It doesn’t hold Israel to a standard, unlike all other nations. 

False and nuanced statements made as though they are cut-and-dry are neither constructive nor based on fact. Therefore, when someone says, “Criticism of Israel isn’t antisemitic”, what they mean is “I don’t want to be labeled as a racist.” 

Therefore, a clear definition of antisemitism, such as IHRA, would help distinguish between reasonable criticism and hate; and that’s precisely what they fear. 

City Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung proposed the City of Vancouver adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism. (Photo: Facebook)

IHRA’s preamble states, in part:

“[…] criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” 

The definition goes on to provide clear examples of what that means, such as: 

  • Accusing Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust 
  • Calling for, aiding or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion 
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the Government of the State of Israel 
  • Denying Jews the right to self-determination, e.g. claiming the State of Israel’s very existence, is a racist endeavour. 
  • Accusing Jews as a collective of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by an individual Jewish person or group 
  • Using the symbols and imagery associated with past antisemitism (e.g. Jews killed Jesus, blood libel, Nazi imagery, etc.) to characterize Jews or Israel 
  • Accusations of dual loyalty (e.g. Jewish Canadians are more loyal to Israel than to Canada) 

The only reasonable conclusion is that IHRA does not curtail free speech unless hate speech has become acceptable. Overwhelmingly Canadians have said, ‘No, not here!’ For, indeed, what decent person wants the right to peddle hate? 

As the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks (z “l) put it: 

Antisemitism is the world’s most reliable early warning sign of a major threat to freedom, humanity, and the dignity of difference.” 

Therefore, it is vital for decent people to present a united front against antisemitism, not just for the safety of Jews but for the safety of all of us. 

That is why IHRA matters. That is why it must be adopted universally as we seek to end all discrimination and hate.

Moshe Appel has been involved in Jewish activism for most of his life, and regularly calls out antisemitism from all levels of government. Originally from Montreal, Moshe currently resides in Victoria, British Columbia and works in the healthcare field.

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Thank you for choosing TheJ.Ca as your source for Canadian Jewish News.

We do news differently!

Our positioning as a Zionist News Media platform sets us apart from the rest. While other Canadian Jewish media are advocating increasingly biased progressive political and social agendas, TheJ.Ca is providing more and more readers with a welcome alternative and an ideological home.

We revealed the incursion of anti-Israel progressive elements such as IfNotNow into our communities. We have exposed the distorted hateful agenda of the “progressive” left political radicals who brought Linda Sarsour to our cities, and we were first to report on many disturbing incidents of Nazi-based hate towards Jews across Canada.

But we can’t do it alone. We need your HELP!

Our ability to thrive and grow in 2020 and beyond depends on the generosity of committed readers and supporters like you.

Monthly support is a great way to help us sustain our operations. We greatly appreciate any contributions you can make to support Jewish Journalism.

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