In the Beginning was the Word - CAEF Bulletin, October 30, 2020

Words Matter

Less than two years ago, Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (SPME) held an online program entitled Word Crimes, and speakers presented talks on how language has been corrupted by political agendas, primarily on the Left, where words like “progressive” have come to apply to certain political views that are opposed to others to the point of intolerance, and against Israel’s independent sovereignty and decision-making in many spheres of life. An article published on this topic, referencing a scholarly journal that expounds further can be found here.

Thus, “progressives” who may also claim to be Zionists, believe they have the moral authority to tell Israel when and how much to thwart its enemies, how much fire power to hit back with when attacked by Hamas, which areas of Judea and Samaria to hold onto or give up, and how many Jews can live on the land of our ancestors. To other people this is “regressive” or even “oppressive” and not consistent with the literal definition of “progressive,” (favoring or implementing social reform or new, liberal ideas) as the ideas they are promoting are illiberal, antiZionist, and divisive.

Other words that are distorted include “occupation” when applied to lands that are rightfully Israel under international law since the 1920 San Remo Declaration, the 1922 establishment of the League of Nations, and various treaties. The antiZionists claim that though acquired through an offensive war initiated by Jordan and other Arab countries, and held illegally from 1949-1967 by Jordan, the land of Judea and Samaria are forever “occupied” by Israel, when others would say they were “liberated” or “returned” to their owner. Consider also the word “settlement” to describe the city of Ariel, the cities of Jerusalem or Hebron, and others in Judea and Samaria. When does a community that has existed for several generations, cease being a “settlement?” What does the word itself imply and why is it used by Israel detractors who forever ignore the illegal land grabs of the Arab population which, it is understood under the Oslo Accords (yet to be actualized by the Arab leadership) that only Area A falls entirely under the control of the Palestinian Authority, and thus the seizure of land in Area C, that would always be under Israeli control, is in fact illegal and a “settlement?” Often no Arabs even take up residence in these seized areas, but buildings are thrown up overnight and the land claimed, which under the old Ottoman Empire laws still unfortunately controls the lives of two peoples in Judea and Samaria. Allowing Israeli sovereignty over the Jewish areas, would mean the end to squatters rights and better protection for Jewish residents.

Today language itself is under siege. Actions follow words, so the arbitrary and heavy use of words like “colonial,” “apartheid,” or “racist” inflame the listeners, and the cancel culture then obviates any attempt to rebut, to explain, to counter their usage when applied to Israel. Thus, Israel is vilified by the users who are very often academics, media, politicians, NGOs, and bodies of influence such as the EU, UN, UNESCO and others. Such words incite.

To understand the power of the word crimes and how they are applied to denigrate and demonize Israel, and the impact on Jewish students and allies of Israel, consider the potential harm that might have befallen a generation of students at the University of Toronto if Dr. Valentina Azarova were to have been hired by the Faculty of Law to head a new Human Rights Program. Azarova has a long history as shown in her bio below of working for the PA and against Israel.

"Al-Shabaka Policy Member Valentina Azarova is a visiting academic at the Manchester International Law Centre (MILC), University of Manchester, and a strategic and legal adviser to the Global Legal Action Network (GLAN). Valentina received her PhD from the Irish Centre for Human Rights, National University of Ireland, Galway. She was a co-founding member of the Al-Quds Bard College, Al-Quds University, where she directed and taught on the human rights program for five years (2009-2014). She also taught at Birzeit University’s Graduate Studies School (2014-2015). Since 2008, she has worked at HaMoked – Center for the Defence of the Individual; Al-Haq; and the MATTIN Group, and consulted a range of international and inter-governmental organisations on international law as it relates to the Israeli-Palestinian context. Her research concerns the role of third parties and the contribution of domestic and transnational regulatory processes to the enforcement of international law. Her publications can be accessed here."

Have a look at the titles of her publications and note the abundance of critical articles about Israeli institutions, military actions and support for the ICC (International Criminal Court) in relation to a non existent state of Palestine. Academic freedom is a high value in our society, but what about academic truth?

Below is an article published in The Jerusalem Post on October 14, 2020 by a Jewish University of Toronto student, Danil Konischev, who describes the already tainted anti-Israel atmosphere on that campus and its impact on Jewish students and the potential harm that would come from the appointment of Azarova, were she to have been hired. The second article by Doğan Akman, a retired lawyer and former federal civil servant, addresses the issue of academic freedom, and how that too has been co-opted by the cancel culture or “progressives’ who support lying and degrading Israel by all means available.

Read the article by Konischev here


We are about to see a new era in combating antisemitism in Ontario, thanks to the Government’s signing of an Order in Council on October 26th, adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition of antisemitism and its illustrative examples which include denigrating, demonizing and applying double standards to Israel. To understand the importance of having language to describe antisemitism, consider the article below from the Times of Israel, October 6th, 2020.

Europe can’t fight Jew-hatred without a working definition of anti-Semitism, screams the headline. This as a result of the failure of a German court to rule a synagogue torching was an antisemitic act. Read the story for an example of the imperative to having an agreed upon definition of antisemitism as a tool to confront and eliminate it, to shame and name the perpetrators, and develop appropriate consequences.

CAEF is committed to having all provinces and territories adopt IHRA.

Read the article here

Does Canada Need an Anti-Islamophobia Policy?

[The opinions expressed by the author are not necessarily those of CAEF, but offer ideas for consideration by our readers. Comments are welcome at]

Concerning a Definition of Islamophobia

By Doğan D. Akman