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December 2, 2010

Manufacturing anti-Semitism in Ottawa

Reuel S. Amdur

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The Interparliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism was holding their convention on Parliament Hill on November 8, but they had competition. Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) booked a room for a press conference.

Dr. Michael Keefer, author of Antisemitism Real and Imagined, and IJV's Dr. Diana Ralph welcomed media from print, radio, and television. Copies of Keefer's book were available along with other handouts.

In welcoming media to the press conference, Ralph said that the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism “labels as antisemitic those who support justice for Palestinian people and aims to criminalize legitimate criticism of Israeli misdeeds.”

One handout, from the Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), noted that the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition (CPCCA) had no official mandate and that it refused to allow their group to testify at their hearings.

The CJPME also noted that Bloc Quebecois members of the Coalition quit because of the refusal to hear CJPME and other groups whose views differ from the Coalition's predetermined position.

While the CPCCA claimed to be undertaking their work because of an alarming increase in antisemitism, the press conference made available highlights from the CPCCA hearings in which university administrators from Trent, York, McGill, and Brock found no reason for Jewish students to be afraid.

Police officials who appeared at the hearings also failed to corroborate CPCCA's concerns.

Another handout tallied the witnesses at the CPCCA's hearings.

45% (33) were from pro-Israel organizations, of which 13 were from outside Canada. 15 university administrators and 16 police officials attended, along with 10 individuals and persons from other Canadian organizations.

However, no Jewish organizations opposed to the CPCCA's perspective who had made written submissions were invited, nor were any of the groups that were supporters of Palestinian rights who wrote submissions.

A report by Mordecai Briemberg and Brian Campbell, of the Seriously Free Speech Committee, was also available. They cited Irwin Cotler's statement to the Canadian Jewish News that “the new antisemitism aims at getting rid of the Jewish state.” The CPCCA and the ICCA set out to identify and label critics of Israel as new antisemites.

Briemberg and Campbell also quote Bernie Farber, CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress: “We have come to a point in the 21st Century where at least in the halls of government and I think very much in the mainstream of Canadian life, we are viewed as part and parcel of Canadian polity.” Hardly the stuff of victims of severe antisemitism.

One other handout took issue with the funding of the ICCA conference in Ottawa and London and of the Global Forum on Antisemitism in Jerusalem. The $451,000 for the Ottawa conference was questioned because the CPCCA and the ICCA are not incorporated bodies to which funds can be transferred.

Jason Kenney, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, told the CPCCA that MP's who took part in the overseas activities of ICCA and the Global Forum go at their own expense, with “no parliamentary defraying of expenses.”

However, the report of the Office of the Conflict of Interest and Ethics Commissioner has a record of Cotler being reimbursed $2.837.52 for the Jerusalem Forum in December, 2009. As well, the handout suggests that $1,439.30 USD for transportation in February, 2009, appears related to the London ICCA conference.

To see the video produced for the press conference, go to youtube.com/watch?v=GX0boA4CHk8.

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