header image
Home arrow CPCCA Watch arrow A Witch Hunt Worthy of the Name
A Witch Hunt Worthy of the Name PDF Print E-mail
Dec 07, 2009 at 03:12 AM

Mordecai Briemberg

You know the expression – “a rose by any other name is still a rose”. And a witch-hunt by any other name still is a witch-hunt. The C-P-C-C-A is that other name, but a name does not change the reality. And the C-P-C-C-A is a witch-hunt.

As an acronym C-P-C-C-A is a mouthful, and an even bigger mouthful when written in full: Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-semitism.

Is CPCCA a parliamentary committee? Not at all, though they have chosen a name that might make people believe they are. But there was no decision in parliament to form this committee, not even discussion of such a possibility.

CPCCA is a committee of members of parliament who simply have self-selected to act as a lobby group, holding hearings on the premises of parliament, however, bringing people in agreement with their purposes to Ottawa from across Canada, Europe and Israel. Members of this “coalition” come from all four parties inthe House of Commons: Conservative, Liberal, NDP, and Bloc. Can you recall such an all-party “coalition” ever being formed before? Pat Martin and Judy Wasylycia-Leis, NDP members of Parliament from Winnipeg, joined this coalition without their caucus ever discussing or approving the decision. It is unlikely the Bloc members were approved by their caucus either. Irwin Cotler (Liberal) and Jason Kenney (Conservative) are the driving force in this lobby group, and perhaps their parties and leaders have given them their blessing, but if so -- not publicly.

You may ask who finances the CPCCA? Months and months ago they promised to reveal the source of their financing. So far all they have managed is to say who they are not financed by: not the government or NGO’s they say. As for who does finance them, we are told we must wait until a “future date”. How strange: they are firm and eager to say who they are not financed by, but have found no time as yet to say who they are financed by.

The purpose of this lobby, the coalition says, is to “combat anti-semitism” in Canada,  anti-semitism that CPCCA are trying to convince us is at a fever pitch   as it once was in Nazi Germany. You may be flabbergasted to hear this. For indeed organizations like the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which has a multi-million dollar annual budget to monitor and record anti-semitism in the United States, reports that the latest figures for anti-semitism are at the lowest level since ADL began their surveys decades ago.

Let’s be serious about bigotry in our country. Let’s deal with all the groups that experience bigotry, above all the first nations. But why raise anti-semitism as more urgent than prejudice against first nations, visible minorities and Moslems, or anti-woman violence in Canada? Where are the “parliamentary coalitions” to tackle these undeniable discriminations?

So what is the real purpose of the CPCCA? As explained in part one of this series (Gaza and the “new” anti-semitism), the advocates in Canada for Israeli government policies and practices know that the massacre early this year inflicted on the Palestinians in Gaza aroused the indignation and grief  of larger numbers of Canadians than never before. To shut the door on that indignation and grief, these advocates for Israel have launched a campaign to smear and silence  voices critical of Israel. And they think they can succeed by accusing critics of Israel of being “anti-semites”.

As real anti-semitism by all evidence has diminished, the advocates of Israel have to invent something they call “new” anti-semitism. They say “new” anti-semitism is criticism of Israel for its apartheid structures, criticism of Israel as a Jewish state, and advocacy of non-violent boycott campaigns as the way to end the injustices Israel inflicts on Palestinian people.

The smear and silence campaign targets those who make political criticism of Israel, both Jews and non-Jews. The campaign targets those internationally renowned– from Nobel Peace Prize winner Archbishop Desmond Tutu to South African Jewish lawyer and judge Richard Goldstone – to ordinary members of Mountain Equipment Coop who simply lobby their management to stop purchasing products from an Israeli, military connected, manufacturer.

Witch-hunts are by nature arbitrary and nasty. To see this we need look no further than the amazing scene of the Harper government’s campaign to smear the Liberals. In the midst of uniting together in the CPCCA as coalition partners who want to turn political criticism of Israel into a “hate” crime --- in the very midst of this effort to launch a sweeping witch-hunt -- the Conservatives have begun smearing their own coalition partner. Targeting constituencies with significant Jewish voters, including that of Irwin Cotler, the Conservatives are circulating literature accusing the Liberal party of being soft on “anti-semitism”.

If the Conservatives, simply for electoral advantage, are smearing Irwin Cotler with the label of “anti-semitism”, then who won’t they smear? Liberal MP from Vancouver Joyce Murray said in the House of Commons that the Conservative literature “makes a mockery” of the work of the CPCCA. In fact it exposes the true nature of the CPCCA, which aims to use this same tactic – just targeting different people. Once open, free political debate about Israel is shut down by dishonest accusations of “anti-semitism”, McCarthyism will be the order of the day.

Cotler (and the Liberal Party) respond by shouting “I’m as pro-Israel as you are”. But our country doesn’t need blind pledges of allegiance of Canadian parliamentarians to a foreign country. What we need is open, unintimidated discussion of Israel and its policies and practices.

Let’s start with the character of Israel as a “Jewish state”. Should this be open to debate? From the earliest days of the Zionist movement until today, individual as well as organized groups of Jews have held varied, and intensely different views about this political movement. Jews, neither in the past nor today, have a uniform response about whether the policies and practices of the State of Israel express and defend, or violate and threaten, their own values and interests. Israel and Jews are two different things. Being critical of the first is not to be critical of the second.

Take an example. In 1919 more than 300 prominent Jews in the US (members of Congress, diplomats, judges, officers of major Jewish organizations) sent a letter to President Wilson at the Versailles negotiations, saying: “As a future form of government for Palestine will undoubtedly be considered by the approaching Peace Conference, we, the undersigned citizens of the United States, unite in this statement, setting forth our objections to the organization of a Jewish State in Palestine as proposed by the Zionist Societies in this country and Europe and to the segregation of the Jews as a nationalistic unit in any country.” (emphasis added)

Another example: in the aftermath of the Israeli assault on Gaza, Dov Yermiya, an Israeli military officer who fought and was wounded in the war of 1948, wrote to a circle of friends saying: “I, a 95 year old Sabra [native born Israeli Jew], … declare herewith that I renounce my belief in the Zionism which has failed, that I shall not be loyal to the Jewish fascist state and its mad visions, that I shall not sing anymore its nationalist anthem....”

Were the 300 Jewish Americans and Yermiya living today in Canada, expressing publicly such views, who would propose prosecuting them for spreading “anti-semitism”? And if not them, why should any Canadian with similar opinions be treated differently? After all would you want Canada to be declared a “Christian state”, with privileges for Christians that were denied all other citizens?

As there is nothing bigoted about Canadians having differing and passionately opposing views about the policies and practices and guiding ideology of the governments of Canada, even the very legitimacy of the Canadian state, so there is nothing bigoted about Canadians – whatever their background -- having differing and opposing views about the policies and practices and guiding ideology of Israel. No one proposes criminalizing the former. Why does CPCCA work to criminalize the latter?

These fundamentally are political matters, and freedom to express, explore and exchange political ideas in public is indispensable to democratic culture.

And exactly the same is true when it comes to discussions of apartheid in Israel. Former US President Jimmy Carter wrote a book describing Israeli imposed apartheid in the territories it has occupied since 1967 in defiance of the United Nations General Assembly, the Security Council and the World Court of Justice. Ronnie Kasrils, a Jewish South African member of the Mandela government and decades long activist against apartheid in his own country, speaks of the same apartheid injustices existing in Israel since its creation.

And why should it be illegitimate to try and remedy the injustice that gives citizens of Israel different rights according to their ethnicity and religion? Why should popular, peaceful campaigns for pressure on the State of Israel by organizing economic boycotts, cultural boycotts, divestment from corporations that contribute to apartheid be ‘okay’ for other countries – like they were for South Africa – but ‘illegitimate’ in the case of Israel?

Justice is universal, or it is not justice at all. Laws apply to every country, or there is no rule of law at all.

For more information check the website of the Seriously Free Speech Committee:  http://seriouslyfreespeech.wordpress.com/ and click on CPCCA at the top of the page.

Part 1 of this series “Gaza and the “new” anti-semitism” can be found at: http://www.columbiajournal.ca/09-09/04-Gaza.html

Part 3 of this series will discuss the movement to defend the right to free speech on Israel and Palestine.

Mordecai Briemberg is a founding member of Canada Palestine Support Network (CanPalNet) and a member of the Seriously Free Speech Committee.
<Previous   Next>
Jewish women freed after protest at Israeli consulate

Jan 07, 2009 01:36 PM

Eight Jewish Canadian women who were arrested while holding a protest inside the Israeli consulate have been released.

The RCMP arrested and handcuffed the women, who were staging a sit-in protest against the ongoing Israeli assault on Gaza inside the consulate at 180 Bloor St. W. The women were held briefly inside a paddy wagon, but were not charged and were released.

Who's Online
We have 37 guests online