Canadian Jews urge NDP party to uphold IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, reject BDS agenda

Radical members of a Canadian social democratic party attempt to dismiss the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as well as to endorse the anti-Israel BDS movement.

By World Israel News Staff

More than 100 Canadian Jewish organizations and synagogues across the country are appealing to the New Democratic Party (NDP) to reject an attempt by radical members to overrule federal party leader Jagmeet Singh’s support for the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism.

At the upcoming federal NDP policy convention in April, some party members will seek to overturn Singh’s support for the internationally endorsed definition of anti-Semitism as well as to validate the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which is recognized as anti-Semitic..

The coaliton of Jewish organizations sent a letter to Singh, noting the “shocking and terrifying rise of anti-Semitic attacks internationally” in recent years. “While Canada’s Jewish community represents only 1% of the national population, we represent almost 20% of the annual reported hate-crimes (Statistics Canada, 2018).”

“The IHRA definition is advisory, rather than legally binding,” the letter explains. “It encourages freedom of expression and welcomes legitimate criticism that is a core attribute of all liberal democracies. While a vocal minority seek to mischaracterize the IHRA definition as stifling debate about Israel, in fact, the text of the definition states explicitly: ‘… criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.’”

“While criticism against the government of Israel is allowed through freedom of expression, a core attribute celebrated by every liberal democracy, advocating for the disappearance of the State of Israel, or delegitimizing the Jewish community’s connections to it, is not acceptable,” the letter notes.

Furthermore, according to the letter, “A rejection of the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is tantamount to telling the Jewish community that we cannot define our own oppression.

“In today’s progressive circles, this type of belief is the epitome of hypocrisy. Just as we would not allow non-Queer individuals to define homophobia and transphobia on behalf of the LGBTQ2S+ community, so we should not allow non-Jews to define anti-Semitism.

“In 2021, no discussion about hate and oppression should take place without the impacted community. No discussion about anti-Black racism should happen without proper involvement of the Black community. No discussion about anti-Indigenous racism should take place without the Indigenous peoples implicated. As an ally of Canada’s marginalized communities, the NDP should work to amplify, not silence, community voices,” the letter states.

B’nai Brith Canada, a leading human rights organization that was not among the signatories, has also conveyed its concern to Singh about riding association motions recommending that the NDP oppose the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism.

‘The IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is the foundation of a still-growing global effort to confront the scourge of hatred against Jews. It has been formally adopted by 29 countries and a growing list of jurisdictions and institutions. Canada, as a leading IHRA member, has adopted the definition. It is now enshrined in Canada’s federal anti-racism strategy,” B’nai Brith said in a press release.

“We urge Mr. Singh to ensure that resolutions rejecting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism are, themselves, rejected. This definition is critical for addressing the growing anti-Semitism in our midst,” said B’nai Brith Canada CEO Michael Mostyn. “Indeed, it should be forthrightly accepted by the New Democratic Party as a signal of reassurance to Canadians generally and to Canada’s Jewish community in particular.”

“There have been efforts by some to mischaracterize this consensus definition and its examples, by claiming it is being used by ‘the Israel lobby’ to silence critics of the Israeli government. These interpretations are refuted by the facts,” said Brian Herman, B’nai Brith Canada’s director of Government Relations.

“The IHRA definition does not stifle legitimate criticism of Israel – and it explicitly states as much. Rather, as a non-legally binding and working definition, it facilitates how to distinguish anti-Semitic rhetoric from legitimate political discourse,” he added.

“The language of the IHRA definition could not be more clear on this point, namely that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as anti-Semitic.’ Accordingly, and contrary to the claim of many of its critics, the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism does not infringe on free speech in any way.

“Rather, as a carefully crafted guideline, it plays an important role in combating hateful speech,” the organization said.

“By adopting the IHRA Definition, B’nai Brith Canada believes the federal New Democratic Party and its ridings can take a different road – a higher moral road to its own benefit and to the benefit of Canadian society, which must always be committed to combating racial hatred and bigotry.”