Chag Purim Samayach!
In his Purim message, Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks, referred to the importance, no the imperative, of not staying silent in the face of adversity and of acknowledging there is a purpose for each of us, in this place at this time. While Rabbi Sacks expresses it magnificently and with Biblical sanctity, here is my very brief summary, bringing it home for Purim. Queen Esther found herself in the court of King Achasheverus in order to save the Jews of Persia. Victor Frankl was in Auschwitz so he could help prisoners in the death camps survive the Nazi horrors, and teach us about having purpose in life. As told by Rabbi Sacks, Eddie Jacobson was called on, as a childhood friend and former business partner of Harry S. Truman, to arrange the meeting between President Truman and Chaim Weizmann, thereby ensuring that the US would recognize the soon to be created state of Israel.
Going on the Offensive!
Canadians for Israel’s Legal Rights (CILR) and Im Tirtzu, an Israeli NGO, launched a new public campaign aimed at Debunking the Occupation Lie.
The utterly baseless notion that Israel occupies “Palestinian land” is one of the most pernicious lies used to discredit, demonize, and delegitimize the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
This “Big Occupation Lie” has become the driving source of BDS and modern-day anti-Semitism, and with all the discourse surrounding the Deal of the Century it is critical to explain the simple truth that Jews are indigenous to the Land of Israel.
The campaign coincides with the 100th Anniversary of the seminal San Remo Conference, convened by the Allies of World War I in April 1920. The campaign is going on the offensive by creating and promoting a wide range of content debunking the “Big Occupation Lie,” including viral videos on social media; educational lectures in Israel and Canada; the distribution of advocacy materials throughout Israel and Canada; and large billboards in Israel’s major cities.
A key tool of this campaign, is truth telling. This former terrorist, a Palestinian Arab Muslim, speaks out against the Palestinian state.
Legislate to Prevent Antisemitism
The IHRA definition of antisemitism and anti-BDS legislation are crucial tools in the fight against antisemitism and may provide the best preventative measure. We often assume education is the key, but our educational institutions are letting us down greatly—in fact too many allow hateful campaigns against Israel which smack of antisemitism and degenerate into attacks on Jewish students. Too few young people are learning about the hatred that is antisemitism, or the truth of the Holocaust or relevant history, nor what is democracy, the rule of law and the ever important need to protect our freedoms.
Canada has adopted the IHRA and government provides funding for security services at synagogues, but how is that stopping the campaign of lies and hatred carried out by the Canadian BDS Coalition, or the annual Israeli Apartheid Week(s) on university campuses, or the complete nonsense of a group calling itself Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East? The latter stands neither for justice nor peace, as they invoke lies and distortions against Israel, ignore honour killings, jailing of Muslims who support Israel or sell land to a Jew, and persecution of LGBTQ people across the Arab world. The truth is that Israel is the only country in the Middle East that treats LGBTQ people of all faiths as equal citizens before the law, and in all matters recognizes the rule of law.
European countries are increasingly failing their Jewish populations, ignoring or rewriting history, and tolerating religious persecution but here is a good news story, coming from Austria.
Now let’s see the IHRA implementation plan. In Canada, we must demand a plan of action, and not merely the limited statement of the federal Anti-Racism Plan that will fund projects for NGOs or security for synagogues. Where is the federal strategy to tackle antisemitism? As Ontario moves to pass the Combat Antisemitism Act Bill 168, CAEF recommends the following:
Appoint an Envoy on Antisemitism, a watchdog and educator with resources to do something.
Require institutional adoption of the IHRA as a condition of funding for a university or other public body, including the police.
Require action plans from all departments, institutions and government corporations.
Update the educational curriculum so that all children are taught the truth about Israel, Jewish history and Judaism, within the appropriate courses and grade levels. Jewish Heritage Month is meaningless if only Jewish kids are even aware it exists. Black History Month has led to compulsory programming and curricula.
Fund a careful review of curriculum based on the IHRA and establish a baseline for each publicly-funded educational system.
Publish an annual report on measures taken, hate crimes reported and plans going