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February 18, 2020

Israel and Antisemitism

Prof. Dr. Yakov M. Rabkin

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This is what I sent to The Gazette:

Lise Ravary feels ashamed that the City of Montreal did not adopt the IHRA definition of antisemitism (February 3, 2020). She has strong opinions, some more supported by facts than others. Here are a few that do not. Fact One. “Anti-Semitism stands alone historically.” The word “Anti-Semitism” was coined in Europe in late 19th century to cast Jews, long maltreated for their religious practices , as an alien race impossible to integrate into European society. At the very same time, European powers, imbued with the sentiment of racial superiority were colonizing Africa, committing mass atrocities there. Fact Two. Nazis massacred only Jews. They also massacred Gypsies classified as “an inferior race”. The Slavs fared somewhat better in the Nazi racial classification but not by much. It is the idea of hierarchy of races that is at the root of the Nazi massacres. White supremacists in our midst also profess an equal-opportunity hate. Fact Three. Palestinians advocate “for a Palestine free of Jews, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean.” No mainstream political movement among the Palestinians does this. In fact, the opposite is true: recent surveys suggest that anti-Arab racism in Israel has grown significantly. And history teaches us that it is racism by a dominant group that must be feared.

One of the authors of the IHRA definition has deplored the weaponization of the definition in the defense of the State of Israel from criticism. Unfortunately, Madame Ravary conflates the history of powerless Jews in Christian Europe with the reality of a military, technological and political power that Israel has become. She uses this opportunity to valiantly defend the sole nuclear power in the Middle East from criticism. It is this unfortunate conflation of Jews and Israel that explains the controversy around the IHRA definition.

Dr. Yakov M. Rabkin

Professor Emeritus

Department of History

Université de Montréal

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