A Word from Our Chair | June 12, 2022

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|June 12, 2023
A Word From Our Chair | Gail Adelson-Marcovitz

Last week U.S. President Joe Biden released a National Strategy to counter antisemitism.

It is, arguably, unprecedented; and it is certainly an ambitious and comprehensive plan of initiatives to combat Jew-hate. It acknowledges the alarming rise in antisemitism and its impact on all society, calls upon social media platforms to regulate hateful content on social media, and promotes efforts to increase public awareness – particularly in schools and on campuses.

As we in Canada ramp up toward our major undertaking on the subject, the Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It conference in October, what can we learn from the American experience?

Theirs is a broad strategy that emphasizes education, addresses four main pillars of concern, and includes 100 new actions that the U.S. administration promises to pursue to raise awareness of antisemitism and its threat to democracy, to protect and safeguard Jewish communities, to reverse the normalization of antisemitism, and to build cross-community bridges.

It provides for wide-scale collaboration and partnership in the battle against hate and calls upon the cooperation of Congress, local government, and civil society organizations, as well as of the private sector.

It is not perfect, and its implementation has yet to be seen. The devil, as they say, is in the details. But it does acknowledge the evil of Jew-hate and lays out a broad-stroke plan to address its insidious growth.

Jewish groups from all sides of the spectrum were quick to weigh-in with criticism:

  • That it embraces – but does not definitively adopt – the IHRA definition and leaves the door open for the NEXUS document and other definitions to frame the conversation and inform action plans.
  • That anti-Zionism is not equated with antisemitism.
  • That it only provided examples of right-wing antisemitism and glosses over left-wing Jew-hate.
  • That it acknowledged other kinds of discrimination and other targeted groups which, while important to address, distracts from or dilutes the focus on antisemitism.
  • That it over-emphasizes Holocaust education to the exclusion of other equally important curricula.
  • And that it consulted with organizations such as CAIR, which has provided crucial support for terrorists and antisemitism.

So, is it an inherently flawed document and an abject failure, or is it a giant step in the right direction?

For certain, it is an acknowledgment of a dangerous and insidious trend, and it does set a tone and an expectation. It firmly rejects the “normalization” of Jew-hate. “The venom and vile of antisemitism will not be the story of our time,vowed President Biden.

It may come as a surprise, but many of the programs and initiatives outlined in the Biden administration strategy paper have already been adopted in Canada.

  • The Trudeau government has fully and unconditionally adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism, as have numerous provincial governments, municipalities, and public institutions.
  • The Federal government has amended the Criminal Code to explicitly include Holocaust denial as a criminal offence.
  • It has also made antisemitism a core element of its comprehensive anti-racism strategy, and added provisions to its granting process to ensure that any individual or organization that promotes antisemitism is disqualified from accessing public funds…ever.
  • Holocaust studies have been made mandatory in public school curriculums in many jurisdictions, including throughout the Ontario public school system.
  • Collection of hate crime data across the country and law enforcement training programs and dedicated hate-crime units are being established in multiple jurisdictions.
  • The Federal Security Infrastructure Program has been enhanced, and several provincial complementary programs are being established.

These comprise by no means a comprehensive list, but they signal a genuine and serious effort to address the challenge.

But, what we still do not have is a similar comprehensive rejection of antisemitism in all its forms, manifestations, and disguises.

For me, the time is now. We must all raise our voices, we must each express our concern, and we all must stand together in Ottawa on October 16 and 17 at the first-ever Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It Conference.

Learn about this quickly morphing virus and its impact on democracy and society as a whole. Understand the changing environment on campuses across the country and the impact of social media platforms actions or inaction. Explore the relationship between anti-Zionism and antisemitism and how it is being leveraged to delegitimize the State of Israel and deny its right to exist. Meet with your elected representatives and share your perspectives. Hear how you can participate and help fight against it all.

Community members frequently ask me: what can I do? how can I help? This is how.

Go online and register today at www.fightit.ca. Registration represents an important first step for each of us, one we cannot afford to miss.

Gail Adelson-Marcovitz
National Chair

The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations across Canada | Le CIJA est l'agence représentative des Fédérations juives du Canada

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The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs is the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations of Canada-UIA, representing Jewish Federations across Canada.
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