Update: June 9, 2021:
Following the issuance of our alert yesterday, the Hamilton Spectator today published an important rebuttal to Raza Khan’s op-ed which was replete with antisemitic tropes. Read Lawrence Hart’s email on the Spectator’s website or as it appeared in the print edition:
Original Alert: June 8, 2021:
In Raza Khan’s June 4 op-ed in the Hamilton Spectator: “Condemning Israel’s actions is not anti-Semitic,” he creates a chilling narrative where anyone with a pro-Palestinian view is punished in society.
Pro-Israel voices, he claims, are “perpetuating a global ‘gag culture’ to silence any criticism of Israel and label critics as ‘anti-Semitic,'” adding that “politicians and members of the public will either stay silent or vociferously tweet their ‘unwavering support of Israel’ for fear of receiving this dreaded label.”
Khan goes further, claiming that those with pro-Palestinian views risk their jobs and livelihoods at the hands of this mysterious pro-Israel force.
Despite this quite serious charge, Khan offers no real evidence of any kind for his outlandish claims. Who, exactly, is behind this alleged pro-Israel effort out to punish pro-Palestinian activists? Khan never does tell us.
Ironically enough, for an op-ed whose central argument is that criticizing Israel is not antisemitic, Khan veers rather close into classic anti-Jewish tropes about a shadowy group of sinister Jews who silence dissent. It hearkens to the 19th century classic forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.
Those who orchestrated the killings of these children, and those who support the governments who committed them such as Gustavo Rymberg, CEO of the Hamilton Jewish Federation, cannot even mention their names (We must unite to fight rising anti-Semitism, May 28). “
Importantly, according to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) Definition of Antisemitism, a statement is antisemitic by “Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” That is exactly what Mr. Khan has done.
In reality, criticism of Israel is not, nor has it ever been, antisemitic, and we challenge Khan to point out examples where a political figure or community figure who argues that criticism of Israeli government policies constitutes antisemitism. Khan is arguing against a fake straw man argument which nobody holds in the first place.
In Israel, which is a vibrant and loud democracy, criticism of the country’s policies happens daily, from every corner of the political spectrum. In fact, one of the members of Israel’s new governing coalition is Mansour Abbas, leader of one of Israel’s Arab parties, and most assuredly a critic of many of Israel’s government policies.
Israel is an imperfect country, just like all countries, and is not immune from criticism. Nobody has ever claimed that it ought to be. But Israel, unlike all other countries, faces more than just criticism. It faces not just rockets from Gaza, aimed at killing and maiming innocent Israeli civilians. It also faces a campaign of delegitimation and disinformation, where the very existence of Israel – the world’s only Jewish State – is denied.
Just as one can criticize the policies of any country, including Canada, one can criticize the policies of Israel. But when world leaders, movements and organizations call for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish State, and they are rightly criticized and condemned for it, there should be no misunderstanding: they ought to be condemned for their calls to destroy Israel, not for legitimate disagreements on government policy.
Reasonable people can disagree on how best Israel should have responded to Hamas, a medieval Islamist death cult, which murders homosexuals, bans women from leaving their homes without a male chaperone, and which fires thousands of rockets into Israeli population centres, purposefully targeting civilians.
But whereas everyone is entitled to their own opinion, we are not all entitled to our own facts. Israel does not, and has not for 16 years, occupied the Gaza Strip. In the summer of 2005, Israel removed thousands of its own people from the enclave, some of whom had lived there for generations, in an attempt to move peace forward with the Palestinians. Tragically, Hamas shortly thereafter turned the Gaza Strip into a terrorist playground, continuing to reject Israel’s very right to exist, and murdering as many Jews as possible.
So where does that leave us, here in Canada, when trying to determine where the line is drawn between legitimate criticism of Israel and its government policies, and hateful speech, which either calls for the destruction of Israel or other, nefarious lies, alleging shadowy Jewish conspiracies?
Fortunately, we have an answer.
Canada is one of dozens of countries, alongside the province of Ontario, in having accepted the (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which notes that antisemitism can often masquerade as denying the Jewish people’s collective right to self determination, claiming that the existence of the State of Israel is a racist endeavour, and applying double standards to Israel which are not applied to any other democratic nation.
Criticism of Israel is not now, nor has it ever been, antisemitic, but Khan should recognize the irony that, in a column attempting to explain that shadowy Zionist efforts to stifle pro-Palestinian views, he falls into the same anti-Jewish tropes used for centuries.
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