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Museum challenged to support IHRA definition of antisemitism and oppose BDS

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Pressure has been mounting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights to display the Palestinian ‘Nakba’ theme that the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948 was a catastrophe. (Photo: Ron East)

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In a Zoom meeting on Wednesday, leading Canadian Zionists told the Canadian Museum for Human Rights that consideration of the Palestinian Nakba narrative would put the museum on the side of a historical revision movement advancing genocidal plans originally hatched between Hitler and the Grand Mufti.  And the senior museum official assured the participants, “I have absolutely heard you. We don’t take any concern that actions we could take could fuel antisemitism, we don’t take that lightly.”

Newly-minted CMHR Chief Executive Officer Isha Khan found herself in the crosshairs of controversy when an online panel of Palestinian activists in March discussed how Khan “is trying to open doors to the Palestinian narrative to ensure that the museum is inclusive… this facilitates the discussion beyond war crimes including illegal settlements in discussion of right of return and apartheid … we could not have started a better way. Ms. Kahn assured us their position is that they want to do more work to increase the presentation of the Palestinian experiences.”

The panel, hosted by the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), told their audience this opportunity was made possible because of a long-standing personal relationship that Rana Abdulla had established with Khan through their membership in the Canadian Council of Muslim Women (CCMW). Both Abdulla and Khan, as well as the museum, are located in Winnipeg.

As a result, Ron East of the Israeli Canadian Council wrote to Khan insisting on a meeting, pointing out “that 4,000 people with Israeli heritage call Winnipeg home and a further 40,000 live in the rest of Canada,” noting that “the goal of the proponents of this Palestinian narrative is to establish a permanent exhibit of the fraudulent Nakba – an event which never took place in the context of the establishment of the Jewish homeland”. In the meeting, he explained that Abdulla’s remarks created the perception she was “using her relationship with you (Khan) as a Trojan horse.”

The session with Khan and museum vice-president for external relation Riva Harrison sought to redress East’s contention that the ICC, “representing Israelis in Canada and headquartered in Winnipeg (is) being left out of these secret discussions about our history, our legitimacy and our experience of the events surrounding the 1948 War of Independence which was forced upon us by 5 Arab armies.”

The meeting was conducted under the shadow of bombardment on Israel by Iran-funded missiles by the terror group Hamas, with civil violence breaking out not only in Israeli towns but elsewhere.

One of the kindlings of the Arab riots was the attempt last week to exert Jewish ownership, confirmed by the courts, of properties in the Sheihk Jarrah neighborhood of East Jerusalem. The properties were legally purchased by Jewish residents in the 1850’s. This situation – essentially a landlord dispute with non-rent paying squatters – is used as an example to further the Nakba concept that European Jews invaded the Holy Land and displaced Muslims.

To further educate the Museum CEO on the history of the Jewish experience leading to the creation of the State of Israel, East – publisher of TheJ.ca – showed the British Mandate-issued passport of his grandfather. He explained how his family was ousted from Hebron after the pogrom in 1929, and then forced again from East Jerusalem in 1948, after which “Jewish homes were given away to Palestinian families.”

“The Nakba is used to further scary words with no factual basis like ethnic cleansing, and inflame the situation in Israel,” East said. He reviewed recently resurfaced evidence of a close relationship between the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem with Hitler, including the Mufti going to view concentration camps on two occasions, leading to his urging the Nazi’s to help him effect the Final Solution in Palestine.

“This is the framework the Jews in mandate Palestine were dealing with. Butcher, murder and exterminate the Jews, this was the rhetoric given to the Palestinian people.”

The ICC Western Canada field region field agent, Richard Weiss, also spoke up. A retired IDF soldier, he explaining how about 80% of his family was murdered in the Holocaust. Addressing the Nakba Day narrative that IDF soldiers are “babykillers” and “colonizers”, he told the human rights museum officials directly, “that is a lie.”  

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Toronto immigration lawyer Guidy Mamann, born in Morocco, provided Khan with a broader perspective of the plight of Jews in the region that occurred parallel to the Nakba time frame.

“As soon as the Jewish state was declared it was attacked by the Arab states. In this particular case, intending to wipe the Jews off the map … at the same time, I was born in a Muslim state, we were a very tiny minority. Jews a started to leave (Arab lands) because of the threat to the communities,” citing an estimated 800,000 Jews were displaced.

“In the end the result was the Palestinian Arab side declared the date of Jewish sovereignty as a disaster – Nakba”, he explained, “a declaration that the effort to destroy the Jewish state was a disaster. To say the Jews returned to their ancestral land is a disaster, it’s as if the Germans lost World War II and celebrated the day and called it a disaster. We wouldn’t necessarily think the loss of the Nazis would be a disaster.”

Mamann said that in his law practice he has represented “every version of every race, lots of people who suffer, but when you use language like Nakba is taking a side. It means you wanted them to succeed.” He added that “If your museum is going to take on the conflict you have to talk about my family that had to leave after 500 years, you need to acknowledge that. It would bother me tremendously if your staff would call (the establishment of the State of Israel) a disaster.”

He called on the museum to stick to its mission: “If you want to talk about human rights problems in the Middle East we know a lot about that. There are Christians, Muslims who have suffered. There are lots of ways to raise human rights issues. The Nakba isn’t one of them.”

Toronto lawyer Guidy Mamann told the meeting that if the ‘Nakba narrative’ is told at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, the forced eviction of 800,000 Jews like his family from Arab countries in that time period must also be shown to museum visitors. (Photo: Facebook)

The Nakba was not the only subject brought forward by the Zionist contingent.

Meir Weinstein of the Jewish Defence League, presenter of the weekly Never Again podcast and the sole organizer of counter-protests at the annual Al Quds Day hatefests in Toronto, pushed the question of exactly where the Museum stands when it comes to antisemitism shrouded as legitimate political debate.

Prior to the meeting, Weinstein had written to Khan about entertaining the demands of the Nakba proponents.

“I have become aware that there is an active BDS campaign to enter the “Nakba” into the Canadian Human Rights Museum on the same level as the Holocaust exhibit. The BDS “National Committee” includes the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine. This council includes several groups designated by much of the world as terrorist organizations: including Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. There are a few vitally important details in the Nakba narrative, such as Zionism is a racist endeavour built by European Jews, and that European Jews had no place in Palestine. These elements are fundamental pillars upon which the rest of the tale is built. The pure Nakba narrative is an ahistorical, hard-core anti-Zionist position… This BDS Nakba campaign is antisemitic and a justification of terror organizations such as Hamas which is also anti Canadian.”

Briefly touching on these same facts, the meeting also heard of Weinstein’s own family suffering gravely at the hands of the Grand Mufti’s Nazi cohorts. The longtime activist called the very idea of a Nakba exhibit at a federally-funded facility, “An obscenity. I want to know if the museum recognizes and accepts the IHRA definition of antisemitism.”

Khan, who came to the museum helm after years at the Manitoba Human Rights Commission, claimed, “it’s just hearing from community groups. It’s really a platform for storytelling. Part of our work is putting those stories out there. It’s intended to touch people… so they can do something and be inspired in some way.”

Weinstein pointed out the deep connections of CJPME with Samoudin  (the Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network), which is affiliated with a banned terrorist organization, PFLP (the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine). He persisted and asked Khan of her personal position on accepting the IHRA, given her prior links to the pro-BDS CCMW.

“I think, you know, in all honesty, that’s a conversation not for me in this call,” Khan replied, claiming “Some of our senior staff are involved, our research and curatorial staff, think about how we do our storytelling, we are here to hear you.” She conceded that, “you can appreciate we get a lot of email campaigns and yes, we are subject to an email campaign from CJPME… It is rather overwhelming the number of emails we are receiving.”

East followed up by asking her, “Has the museum taken the first steps to discuss at the board or committee level adopting the IHRA definition?” as a basis for considering exhibits. He also wanted to know the museum’s position on BDS, as the federal government has accepted the IHRA definition and opposes BDS.

Khan replied, “I cannot answer that question but I will find out the answer to that question.” She also said she could not recall whether the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg had ever contacted her about the Nakba or these other matters.

After trying to distance herself from Abdulla’s boasting about their personal connection, Khan concluded, “Mr. East, my role is a difficult one in some ways as the head of the museum. What I’m guided by is the museum’s mandate. There isn’t room for my personal perspective. Our mandate is quite clear. We don’t weigh in the way some would like us to, we are a platform for raising human rights issues, it is complex and hearing the issues you raise, not something we are going to take lightly. When people talk to us with the Palestinian perspective or the Israeli perspective, our job is to listen.”

Marty Gold is the Editor-in -Chief of TheJ.ca. Known for investigative reporting, he has specialized in covering municipal and provincial politics, and a wide range of sports and entertainment, in newspapers, magazines, online, and on his first love, radio. His business and consulting experience includes live events and sales, workplace safety, documentary productions, PR, and telecommunications in Vancouver, Los Angeles and across Canada, and as a contestant on CBC-TV Dragons Den.

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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.

We thank you for your ongoing support.

Happy reading!

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