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BDS and Anti-Semitism

Is “remembering the Nazi Holocaust and where anti-Semitism can lead” a good thing? Unfortunately, thanks to people who constantly cite this horrible genocide in order to justify the illegal, immoral and anti-human behaviour of the Israeli state, one must answer, “it depends”.

Drawing attention to the Nazi Holocaust and anti-Semitism in Canada today often reinforces, rather than undermines, oppression and discrimination. This perverse reality was on display at two recent events in Toronto.

At a semi-annual Ryerson Student Union meeting a Hillel member pushed a resolution calling on the union to promote Holocaust Education Week in conjunction with United Jewish Appeal-Toronto, which marked Israel’s 2014 slaughter in Gaza by adding $2.25 million to its annual aid to that wealthy country. The motion stated, “this week is not in dedication to anti-Zionist propaganda” and called for the Week to “focu[s] solely on the education of the Holocaust and not on other genocides.”

Objecting to this brazen attempt to use the decimation of European Jewry to protect an aggressive, apartheid state many students left the meeting. When quorum was lost before the vote pro-Israel activists cried — wait for it — “anti-Semitism”. “Tonight I experienced true and evil anti-Semitism”, complained Tamar Lyons, vice president of communications for Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson University, in a racist social media post republished by B’nai B’rith. In it the StandWithUs Emerson Fellow, which trains university students to advance Israel’s interests, bemoaned how “a Muslim student ‘goy-splained’ me”.

After the meeting Lyons linked the purported anti-Jewish incident to the Ryerson Student Union endorsing the BDS movement two years earlier. She told the Canadian Jewish News it was “a direct result of [the] boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the anti-Israel sentiment that’s so prevalent on campus.”

Taking place on the eve of an Ontario legislature vote to condemn BDS activism, the national director of B’nai Brith jumped on the Ryerson affair. “What starts with BDS does not end with BDS,” said Amanda Hohmann. “More often than not, BDS is simply a gateway drug to more blatant forms of antisemitism.”

(Yup, take a toke of that leftist–internationalist ‘pressure Israel to follow international law’ bud and soon you’re longing for some Neo-Nazi ‘get-the-Jews’ smack.)

As B’nai B’rith hyped the Ryerson affair, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs pushed the Ontario legislature to pass a motion in support of the spurious “Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism” and to reject “the differential treatment of Israel, including the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement.” Passed 49 to 5 (with 53 absent), motion sponsor Gila Martow told the legislature: We would not be here supporting the Ku Klux Klan on our campuses, so why are we allowing [the] BDS movement and other anti-Jewish and anti-Israel organizations to have demonstrations and use our campuses, which are taxpayer-funded?”

In an interview with the Toronto Sun after the vote the Thornhill MPP described BDS as “psychological terrorism on the campuses … The motive behind BDS is to hurt the Jewish community by attacking Israel.”

The only MPP who spoke against the motion was the NDP’s Jagmeet Singh. But, even this defender of the right to criticize Israel spent much of his speech talking about how anti-Semitism “must be denounced.”

Notwithstanding the anti-Semitism hullabaloo, the BDS vote and Ryerson affair have little to do with combating anti-Jewishness. As is obvious to anybody who thinks about it for a second, comparing internationalist and social justice minded individuals to the KKK will elicit, not lessen, anti-Jewish animus. Similarly, labeling a nonviolent movement “psychological terrorism” and writing about “Muslim … goy-splaining” isn’t likely to endear Jewish groups to those concerned with Palestinian dispossession and building a just world.

The major Jewish organizations and trained Israeli nationalist activists scream “anti-Semitism” to protect Israel from censure, of course. But they also do so because few are willing to challenge them on it. As such, the “anti-Semitism” smears should be seen as a simple assertion of CIJA and B’nai B’rith’s political, economic and cultural clout.

Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces almost no discernable economic, social or cultural discrimination. Describing it as “the envy of the UJA federation world”, Alan Dershowitz told its 2014 Toronto Major Gifts dinner: “You must never be ashamed to use your power and strength. Never be afraid that people will say, ‘You’re too strong and powerful.’ Jews need power and strength. Without this strength – economically, morally, militarily – we can’t have peace.”

But, UJA-Toronto, CIJA, B’nai B’rith, etc. aren’t seeking “peace”. Rather, they’re working to strengthen a Sparta-like, Jewish-supremacist state in the Middle East.

The Ryerson affair and vote at the provincial legislature reflect a Toronto Jewish establishment drunk with its power. But the sober reality of constantly justifying oppression by citing the Holocaust/anti-Semitism is that it undermines the power of that memory and is an insult to all those who suffered and died at the hands of the Nazis.

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Yves Engler’s latest book is ‪Canada in Africa: 300 years of Aid and Exploitation.

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