Letter for Mayor Sim and City Council of Vancouver
November 14, 2022
Mayor Ken Sim and Councillors
Dear Mayor Sim and City Council of Vancouver;
Re: Motion, Adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Non-legally Binding Working Definition of Antisemitism, November 15, 2022 (vancouver.ca)
We at the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation ("CAEF") are proud to add our voice in support of Motion B.15 to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism ("IHRA WD"), sponsored by Councillor Sarah Kirby-Yung. The CAEF is very grateful to Councillor Kirby-Yung for this compelling resolution, which we hope will be a model for Canadian municipalities and school boards nationwide.
The IHRA WD is the internationally recognized definition of antisemitism. It has been officially adopted by the Government of Canada (June 27, 2019), and the Governments of British Columbia, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New Brunswick. It has been adopted by over 35 national governments around the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, South Korea, Argentina, and the Philippines. In the United States, over 30 states have adopted this definition, and implemented it for the purposes of training and education for law enforcement and other public servants. A small sampling of the recent proclamations are attached.
The IHRA WD is the only authoritative definition of antisemitism accepted by governments and non-governmental organizations worldwide. We encourage you to look through the list of over 916 entities worldwide that have adopted this definition. CAM-Kantor-Center-IHRA-Working-Definition-of-Antisemitism-Worldwide-Adoption-Endorsement-Report.pdf (combatantisemitism.org)
Doubtless, you have received a lot of noise from certain groups opposing adoption of the IHRA WD. They usually say that it silences criticism of the Government of Israel. This is blatantly untrue, so let's unpack that argument. The main body of the IHRA WD states:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
It's obvious and unobjectionable. So what's the fuss? Critics point to the 11 examples provided in the IHRA WD which are essential to understanding antisemitism as it is widely expressed today. Here are a few illustrations to drive the point home.
1. Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
Calling for the murder of Jews for ideological or extremist religious reasons is antisemitic.
2. Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
This is an old trope related to claims of Jewish power and/or control, which varies from statements that claim Jews control the banks, control the media, control Hollywood, to the Jews are taking over the world etc. Clearly such fabrications are antisemitic. See below.
3. Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
Statements that Jews are collectively responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing by one or more individual Jews, have emanated over millennia as lies that generalize from one situation to all Jews, which is stereotyping and discriminatory, hence antisemitic.
4. Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
Holocaust denial and trivialization is antisemitic and a crime in Canada.
5. Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
The facts of the Holocaust are well known and irrefutable, thus the denial of such evidence based history is antisemitic.
6. Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel than to Canada, or more loyal to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations is antisemitic.
Dual-loyalty charges are unacceptable in a multicultural society such as Canada. Singling out Jews for dual loyalty accusations is classic antisemitism. See the 1894 trial of Alfred Dreyfus. Also see the example below. Such lies are in denial of Jewish ethnicity, as well as a betrayal of the fact that Jews have contributed enormously to this country and every other country in which they are citizens.
7. Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
Where the most familiar forms of Jew hatred are based on claims of “otherness” by religion or the false claims of a Jewish “race,” the current antisemitism treats the existence of a State of Israel as the “Jew,” falsely claiming Israel is a racist endeavor. This is meant to end the Jewish state, deny its legitimacy among the nations of the world, and endeavor to force the Jewish people to again face dispersion worldwide dispersion, at the mercy of their host countries, forever.
Throughout recorded history, Jews have faced discrimination in countries around the world, from harassment to pogroms, from second class citizenry to mass murders and the Holocaust so the denial of Jewish rights to self determinatinon in their ancient homeland is tantamount to committing another genocide. .
8. Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
Israel is a country like any other. It is far from perfect and not above international criticism. Singling out Israel, or judging it by a different standard, because it is a Jewish-majority country, is antisemitic.
9. Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libels) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
During the Middle Ages, Jews were libeled as being the murderers of Jesus, and for killing Christian babies for their religious rituals. These libels were used to rationalize pogroms and other persecutions. Criticism of Israel is not an excuse for depicting Jews as cannibals or monsters. The IHRA clearly states that criticism of Israeli policy is legitimate but not denying the right to a Jewish state or repeating classic tropes that are antisemitic.
10. Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
The Holocaust is unique in history as the deployment of the entire industrial and organizational resources of a major world power to the systematic extermination of a people.
Analogizing the Holocaust to the policies of the only Jewish majority country in the world is antisemitic.
11. Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
Canadian Jews are no more responsible, individually or collectively, for the actions of the State of Israel than Quebecois are responsible for the actions of the Republique Francaise.
Claiming otherwise is antisemitic.
Doubtless, you've heard from an organization called "Independent Jewish Voices" expressing views contrary to our own. While we generally do not make it a practice to disparage other Jewish organizations, we must make an exception in the case of IJV. IJV is a tiny fringe group that is wholly unrepresentative of the Jewish community as a whole. They're "independent" because the overwhelming majority of the Jewish community won't associate with them.
Thank you again for bringing this important resolution forward for consideration. We call for its speedy adoption.
Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation
Appendix - Recent Governmental Proclamations Endorsing the IHRA working definition