Is the “anti-Semitism” label losing some of its punch as a weapon against political parties?

miranda 3The Israel lobby has been very active in this election, attacking candidates who are critical of Israel by claiming they are “anti-Semitic” and demanding that parties drop them. In some cases, it worked and parties flinched. But not always. Its campaign against NDP candidate Miranda Gallo (above) failed. Has the Israel lobby gone to the well too many times? Read more.

Anti-Semitism is a real phenomenon in Canada. It is a fear of, or a dislike of, Jews. It is a form of racism, and like other racisms, it deserves to be actively opposed.

All political parties are fearful of appearing racist (witness Trudeau’s recent embarrassing blackface scandal), and during election time they are especially fearful of being labelled as anti-Semitic. They know that most Canadians  rightly oppose anti-Semitism.

This sensitivity has been successfully exploited by the Israel lobby, including Bnai Brith Canada, CIJA and other organizations, to scare political parties away from nominating candidates who actively support Palestinian rights, and are therefore critical of Israel. During this election campaign, the “anti-Semite” accusation has already been successfully used on at least FOUR occasions to try to intimidate the NDP, the Liberals and the Green Party of Canada, attempting to get them to dump candidates or force them to recant. The results have been mixed.

Rana Zaman – NDP candidate – Halifax Nova Scotia

In June, Bnai Brith attacked Rana Zaman, a candidate in Nova Scotia, after a number of tweets emerged in which the social activist accused Israel of committing genocide, acting like Nazis and using money to influence Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Despite her protestations, and those of her supporters, that she was not in any way anti-Semitic, the NDP hurriedly dumped her for her “unacceptable” tweets. She later wrote an apology to the media for her choice of words while denying that she had any anti-Semitic intent.  ““I now appreciate that my tweets comparing Israeli actions to those of Nazi Germany were inappropriate, hurtful and sadly may be viewed as anti-Semitic,” she tweeted.

Imam Hassan Guillet  – Liberal candidate – Montreal

In August, Bnai Brith went after Liberal candidate Hassan Guillet. Mr Guillet was a very well known moderate Muslim cleric and had been considered a “catch” for the Liberals. Nonetheless, after Bnai Brith scoured his old Facebook posts, they found comments by him criticizing Israel and Zionism.

 “The antisemitic tropes of ‘Zionists controlling governments’ and of ‘dual loyalty’ are two of the more abhorrent expressions of paranoid anti-Jewish conspiracy theories, claimed Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada.

A panicky Liberal party, confusing anti-Zionism with anti-Semitism, quickly withdrew his candidacy, even though his nomination had already been officialised.

Dale Dewar – Green Party candidate – Regina

On September 12th, the lobby struck again. The Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Centre (FSWC) called on the Green party to dismiss Dale Dewar, a physician running in Regina as a candidate. FSWC cited a series of tweets which had been highly critical of Israel, including supporting BDS, the movement to boycott Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians.

‘There is no place in the political process for those who promote bigotry and racial hatred,” said FSWC president and CEO Avi Benlolo.

Dewar defended herself, saying that because of her dedication to human rights and progressive values, “I have been critical of the State of Israel and its treatment of the Palestinian people.” While sticking to her basic position, however, Dewar did apologize for the language she had used. “I am deeply sorry for the use of inflammatory language when describing the Middle East situation; it was unacceptable and I regret doing so, she said in a tweet.

“I utterly and completely condemn anti-Semitism.” she added. “I support a two-state solution and condemn violent behaviour on both sides. I support the right of the State of Israel to exist.” 

Ignoring the demands from the lobby for her dismissal, The Green Party accepted her apology and she remains a candidate.

Miranda Gallo – NDP -Montreal

Only a few weeks later, the lobby launched another strong attack this time against Miranda Gallo, an NDP Candidate in Montreal.  Gallo is well known as an activist for Palestinian human rights, and a voluble supporter of the movement to boycott Israel called BDS.

Bnai Brith thought they had caught Gallo “red handed” as an old Facebook post showed Gallo putting “Boycott Israel” stickers on goods in a grocery store and on Tuesday, Sept. 17, B’nai Brith demanded that the NDP drop Gallo as its candidate.

“Not only do Ms. Gallo’s actions demonstrate her anti-Israel bigotry, but they also reveal a profound disrespect for the rule of law,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. 

But Mostyn and Bnai Brith miscalculated. An active push back campaign both inside and outside the NDP, orchestrated in part by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME) (where Gallo is listed as an employee) and Independent Jewish Voices Canada gathered many signatures challenging the Bnai Brith accusation of anti-Semitism and calling the organization out for trying to use the anti-Semitism label to sideline a candidate critical of Israeli actions.

This time, the NDP stood its ground. Two days later, the NDP responded to B’nai Brith, declining to drop Gallo as a candidate, adding that the NDP’s policy is “to work towards a just and lasting two-state solution between Israel and Palestine that respects human rights and international law.” The Party also said that Gallo was made aware of this policy and has agreed to support it.

Lessons learned

There may well have been other cases which have not been so high profile where various elements of the Israel lobby have tried desperately to keep candidates critical of Israel sidelined. But it seems that there are at least 4 lessons that can be drawn from these four examples.

  1. The Canadian public is rightfully concerned about racism, including anti-Semitism. Political parties are concerned about being tarred with this label.
  2. The lobby is not “all powerful”. If used recklessly or excessively, the Israel lobby may find the using “anti-Semitism” card to scare the leaders of political parties is diminishing in effectiveness. In fact, it could backfire when used to besmirch the personal reputations of people already well known in the community – such as the Montreal Imam, or the Regina doctor.
  3. Language is important. Several of the candidates agreed that it was their use of strong language (“inflammatory”, two said), that had given the lobby a stick to beat them with. This suggests that candidates who have a principled critique of Israel, but who use measured language in expressing their opinions, will be more difficult to attack in the future.
  4. Public confusion over “anti-Zionism” and “anti-Semitism” remains significant. All political parties know that Canadians are not very clear on the difference between “anti-Zionism” and “anti-Semitism”. (Of course the Lobby actively equates the two, and this confusion has even been promoted by Prime Minister Trudeau himself.) In the face of this, and given the justifiable concern Canadians have over anti-Semitism itself, candidates are probably on safer ground emphasizing their support for equality and human rights for all, instead of directly attacking the discriminatory nature of Zionism.


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  1. Excellent commentary and good conclusions on how to criticize Israel and work for Palestine without being accused of anti semitism by Israel lobby Bnai brith Cija etc. But while this tactic may be less effective and its rejection by parties in the cited cases is admirable it will continue to be a threat dangling over the head l( sword of Damocles) of pro Palestine activists criticizing Israel.

    The inclusion in the IHRA definition of antisemitism that certain criticisms of Israel constitute antisemitism supports the Israel lobby’s position, even if the examples are skewed, self interested and badly applied. But the fact that Jews can oppose Israel and Zionism and that political rhetoric in Israel can degenerate into Nazi comparisons or worse ie Kapos or real and accused “apartheid” shows that these egs are mainly distracting propaganda to constrain speech.

    Advocating a 2 state solution can avoid these antisemitism accusations up to a point since the Israel lobby no longer advocates such a solution as the Israeli political system has moved to the extreme right and now specifically excludes both a 2 state and a 1 state secular solution. Eventually, the,Israel lobby may have to support some sort of solution or be content to see Israel revert to a non democratic Jewish state increasingly outnumbered by Arab Palestinians from the river to the sea.

    Hopefully something more acceptable will emerge in Israel Palestine but it will require considerable pressure on Israel. Canada and EU can recognize the state of Palestine as 1st step and insist on it’s full independence from Israel..

  2. Yet we have a member of the nazi party and a neonazi running without a word of protest that I’ve seen. Things that make you wonder.

  3. A Palestine/Israel with equality and human rights for all, i.e no discrimination by what Israel terms “nationality”, would be a better place for everyone, i.e. both Jews and non-Jews. Emphasizing that fact serves to contradict any accusation of anti-Semitism.

    1. Except the charge that a secular equal single state of Israetein ( as Qadaffi used to quip) means the end of the Jewish state and undermines Jewish right of self determination and therefore constitutes extreme antisemitism. May be nonsense but more difficult to argue that a 2 state solution of Jewish Israel and Arab Palestine means the end of the Jewish state except for the extremists who argue that any state of Palestine is an existential threat to Israel. Of course the Israeli extremists are content to have an undemocratic apartheid discriminatory occupation 1 state solution.
      This is the position of Bnai brith which supports any Israrl position right or wrong implicitly without comment or criticism.

      1. As long as many groups occupy a single world, no individual group has a “right of self-determination”. All must remember the old saying, “My rights end where yours begin”.

      2. Hey David, good point.
        i have always been a bit troubled by this. Both Israelis and Palestinians often invoke the “right to self-determination’ as if it were gospel. Human rights activists on both sides also do the same.
        But if Israelis have the right to self determination – what are the geographical contours of that? And if Palestinians do, what about the contours of their land?

        As soon as you examine it that way, one right negates the other. Unless, for some mystical reason the “borders of ’67” are magically just the right size for both peoples to exercise self determination?

        The Israelis were able to take by force 78% of Mandate Palestine and almost all of the best land (mostly on the coast and in the Galilee). So why should their right to self determination give them the best land, while the Palestinian right gives them only 22% of the land, most of it desert?

      3. Peter,

        Your argument seems to assume that there has to be a geographical division. Why?

      4. No, I don’t think so. I think the notion of “national self-determination” is a bit problematic. If there is to really be “national self determination” (as in “our nation gets to decide our own affairs”), then I can’t see how that can work other than on a specific territory.
        In the Israel/Palestine situation, where peoples of different nations/cultures are intermixed, its not possible for each group to live by its “own” laws.
        I don’t think this CAN be solved by a territorial division.

      5. Why is it anti-Semitic to say that Israel should be a “state of all its citizens”? Like Canada. Would you like Canada to be a Christian state in the same way that Israel is a Jewish state?

      6. It is not antisemitic to say that Israel should be a state for all its citizens. It is,just easier for the srael lobby to argue that this is tantamount to a rejection of a Jewish state and Zionism and Jewish self determination. Ergo it is antisemitism. These are precisely the Israrl examples,used in the slanted IHRA definition of Antisemitism. The Jewish nation state law in Israrl made clear that there were two classes of citizens: Jews with civic and national rights and Arab Palestinians with only civic rights.

  4. The first thing that comes to mind when I hear or read the term anti-semitism is that apparently someone somewhere criticized Benni Netanyahu yet again.

  5. When an airhead like Prince Trudeau lumps anti-semitism and anti-zionism together it’s obvious the “jewish lobby” does dictate to government the way we never could no matter how we vote. I disagree with the conclusions. 1. The Canadian public may keep hearing about anti-semitism everywhere from Michael Fegelman, Michael Mostyn and company, whose job it is to bully, smear and silence any and all criticism of Israel, but there is little or no anti-semitism in Canada. There’s a helluva lot more sympathy and support for Palestinians and BDS, however. 2. Yes, the Israeli/Jewish lobby is all powerful. If it owns the Yankee MSM, the POTUS, the congress and the senate, it also owns the CBC and our federal government. If it can get candidates dropped and professors with tenure fired, who can’t it banish and silence? 3. Anyone, political candidates
    or rappers who doesn’t know how to speak in precise, impersonal and morally critical language
    on the airs waves, on the stump or anywhere, should remain silent. 4. Public confusion between
    the two concepts will always be there as long as government, media and schooling are owned by the bullies. What politician will dare speak up for Palestine and condemn Israel’s
    racist homicidal behavior? What media columnist will speak up for BDS ? What newspaper? What school board ? The two Mikes are doing their jobs well. They ought to. I’m sure they’re paid enough.

    1. Hey Frank, thank you for your straightforward comments, some of which I agree with, some not.
      1. I do not think the Israel lobby is all-powerful. They don’t always get their way. It does not “own” the CBC or the federal government. Of course they have a great deal of influence. But if they were “all powerful”. we should just give up.
      2. I think anti-Semitism still does exist in Canada, though not as much as a generation ago, and not as strongly as racism against blacks or muslims. But to deny it, is in my view, not wise.
      3. I think that many people (not just Trudeau) ARE confused about the difference between anti-semitism and anti-Zionism. That has to be changed. Only patient education can do that, in my view.
      Thanks again for your comment

      1. 1. It doesn’t follow that we should just give up. Rather we should not underestimate the power of the bully or cower before them. Can you site anytime, anywhere in human history when/where obeying and apologizing to bullies ever made them go away? 2. Except for the KKK (who don’t
        as far as I know have a chapter here) who are, where are the anti-semites in Canada? Swastikas on tombstones ? B’nai Brith will be sure to scream “anti-semitism” when swastikas
        appear on jewish headstones. But we don’t know who put them there, do we? Do you know what an “agent provocateur” is, what a “false flag” is ? Abe Foxman (of the ADL) and Michael Mostyn have the right to scream “anti-semitism!” only when obviously insulting things are said by identified groups or individuals and/or obviously prejudiced actions are taken by same. It ain’t anti-semitism to criticize Israel as a racist, supremacist state, unless of course you agree that the Jews as God’s chosen people are exempt from the golden rule and may murder, dispossess and slander goyim as they please. I don’t even have to be Jewish or even homo sapiens to say this but you needn’t look far to fine Jews who say it too. As for the other phobias and aversions of race, gender and class, (the big one all politicians ignore) the same principle holds true. I further contend any prejudices and phobias are built into our society from the top down as a means of confusing, dividing, and thus conquering the masses. We powerless individuals who have never committed an unkind word or deed need feel no guilt for “white privilege” or “latent racism,” or “sexism”. 3. As I already said, they’re confused because no professors, politicians,
        media people, clergy, no natural community leaders dare stand up to these Zionist bullies, so the bullies keep conflating the terms. Anyone with sense who thinks it through knows this. Anyone who doesn’t is at best a moral coward and at worst a time serving hypocrite. Is that strong enough language for you?

      2. Hey Frank, your language is plenty strong. It’s just that I don’t think that strong language helps very much, except perhaps as therapy for those who are using it.
        If your objective is to change people’s minds, (rather than just show how much more ethical you are than others) I think its far more effective to be firm on the principles, and be soft on the words.
        IMHO there are lots of very ethical people who are wrong. I see my job as to help them see things in a different light.

  6. Hey Peter, It isn’t possible to be firm on principles and soft on the language unless you’re a hypocrite/politician. Principles and language are the same thing. Israeli snipers didn’t use firm principles and soft bullets on unarmed Palestinians at the Gaza fence last year.They used hard lies and the latest lethal fire when they murdered 160 +. Soft language whatever principles it claims only teaches others to continue being self-righteous and ineffective. Bullies and murderers love this stuff, that’s why all their servant politicians, pundits and professors do it so well. How many decades have comfortable self-righteous westerners been using soft language and firm principles? And how many Palestinian homes, villages and lives has it saved? None! Doing the same thing again and again with no results is one definition of sanity. Human injustice is done by two complementary methods only: lies and violence. Violence always lies, conceals, and justifies itself when caught. Similarly, lies always precede threatened or actual violence. Lies and violence go together like smoke and fire. It ain’t possible to break the golden rule with other human communities and individuals if you don’t lie or violate.Think about it for a change. Don’t take my word for it. (I might be lying to you.) If we in the western mock democracies would just fearlessly confront the lies of bullies, that would be a start. And if everyone everywhere did the same, masses of people would demand a stop to Yankee and Canadian obedience to Jewish/Israeli power. Conscientious Jews hate Israel more than any of us goys, because Israel not only destroys, murders and lies, but in claiming to be a Jewish state, it gives moral Jews a bad name and makes life more dangerous for them every month. Claim firm principles with soft (cowardly) language and bullies everywhere will love you. What’s the right thing, the moral thing to do? It’s to do and say what we should all do and say to make a safer more equitable world. Don’t take my word on that either. Look up Immanuel Kant’s “Categorical imperative.” He was a smart fella; he had a lot of my ideas.

    1. Hey Frank, Thanks for continuing the discussion
      Are you speaking from experience? What groups do you talk to? What successes have you had in changing people’s mind on the Israel/Palestine issue? Do you ever talk to Zionists? Or to people who support the idea of a Jewish State. In what context? With what result? What arguments do you find the most successful. Perhaps if you shared a bit more of your successes we could be in a better position to appreciate your stand.

      1. Peter, am I speaking from experience? Well, I was never shot at by Zionists but I’m proud to say that in the St. John’s Telegram last year, “Honest Reporter” Mike Fegelman, called me an anti-semite who compares with the late Helen Thomas. I wrote him back that if his masters would get out of Palestine and assist Palestinians in their right to return, he could call me whatever he wanted. I sweetened the offer further by volunteering to deliver myself to Israeli authorities to be put on show trail in Jerusalem and executed as a famous anti-semite, (after Israeli withdrawal and reparations were complete of course.) I even suggested Deborah Lipstadt or Alan Dershowitz might write a book about it perhaps calling it “Holden in Jerusalem,” provided all proceeds went to rebuilding the schools, hospitals, farms and infra structure Israelis have destroyed in Palestine since 1947. If Israel wished to thank me posthumously, I suggested they might erect a modest life size statue of me outside the Knesset. The statue would stand on one foot as in a hopping motion while one hand grasped the other foot and the free hand gestured magnanimously in the direction of Palestine. Any conscientious yeshiva student would of course recognize the meaning of this pose and no doubt be happy to explain it to politicians, Mossad and the Israeli Offence Force. To my surprise, I haven’t heard a word back to this very day. Now, I think it’s time you Mr L told your readers just how long you’ve been speaking soft words and firm principles and how many minds you’ve changed so far. As Berty Russell said, ” Many people would sooner die than change their minds, and they do.” Yet, happily, there aren’t many minds left to change here in Canada.The stats are already in that most Canadians are not bamboozled by Zionist hasbara about the Israeli/Palestine “conflict.” This isn’t because they know Israel has hundreds of nukes or the best equipped and most cowardly military on earth while Palestine has neither a country nor a military to defend itself. Canadians don’t know this because they’ve never heard it on the Jewish/Zionist MSM media that surrounds them. But they saw the slaughter at the Right of Return marches last year on video, they now have the internet and they can smell Zionist lies and bullying ten thousand miles off. Does this answer your questions about what groups I’ve spoken to? I take no “therapeutic” relief (as you’ve suggested) neither preferment nor payment for what I write. I write only as a man of conscience. I’m not interested in keeping a cozy career going for myself as a professional soft talker. I have a background in media, the school system and more degrees than a thermometer. I know the passive media and the active school system, primary to grad school, is an instrument of status quo power, in this case pro-Zionist power. I want justice for Palestine, and civil and equal rights for everyone on the planet. To see a problem rightly is half the problem solved.Calling liars liars and murderers murderers is merely seeing the problem rightly. It’s a necessary start. The law charges you with murder when you’ve committed murder. It doesn’t try to dialogue with you and change your mind. It investigates you, looks for evidence and acts upon it. My success has been the honor of being slandered by Zionist witch hunters. I’m happy to have earned such enemies. If everyone would have the nerve to renounce them as I do, they still wouldn’t smell their own lies and bullying but they’d have to back down from many millions of like minded critics. As for Israelis, for at least 3 generations now they’ve been brainwashed into a) believing the world hates them so they have a right to lie and violate others in preemptive self defense, and/or b) believing they’re god’s chosen people with every right to lie and violate other humans. They are by now thoroughly blind to the contradictions therein. They can’t think of any good reason why the world might hate them in particular, yet they insist on lying and violating because they are god’s chosen people. How morally blind can you get? No wonder moral orthodox Jews like Neturei Karta are furious anti-Zionists. As well, at least since the ’73 war Israelis have been living very comfortable and privileged lives on Yankee taxpayers’ dollars. The commonest human sin is to conflate power and privilege with righteousness. Nothing I or anyone can say will change their minds at this point. Why? Ben-Gurion, the first militant Zionist, put it best when he quipped, ” It doesn’t matter what the goyim say. It only matters what the Jews do.” Israelis by the millions will have to be made to eat those words, to start obeying the golden rule and behaving like equal members of the human race.Then, in time, their minds may change. If many Canadians like yourself, find this talk too strong, it’s because Canadian schools, media and leaders of all kinds have been bullied or bought into silence and complicity by Zionist witch hunters. So the least we can do is to call them the liars and murderers they are. I can’t say much more without repeating myself. I hope your readers are humane and courageous enough to understand me.

      2. Frank, Thanks for telling us about what you have done and your opinions. Please continue by telling us what you have accomplished. Have you improved the lives of any Palestinians? Have you changed the opinion of any Zionists?

        I like Peter’s “soft words” because it seems that people on all sides of this issue are listening to him. I have seen responses from strong Zionists as well as from Palestinians. Both read Peter’s blog as well as the comments; that means that they are listening to each other. Sharp words tend to turn people’s ears off and there is no hope of improvement when that happens.

  7. It should be noted that as Israel and its Zionist supporters are ready to jump to label any criticism of Israel as antisemitism, or scream about any fake antisemitism, yet when Netanyahu and his cronies make alliances with real antisemites like Ukraine, Hungary, Austria, ultra nationalists and more, there is absolute silence.
    I’m not denying that there are real instances of antisemitism.

    1. Jake: Within Israel, i.e. in its news media, there are plenty of complaints about Netanyahu’s efforts to draw closer to European countries that have antisemitic forces. It is just here that the silence rules.

  8. Best to understand that Bnai brith has only 1 strategy on Israel and Palestine and that is potentially denigrating anyone in Canada of import who is effectively pro Palestine ian anti Israel often with accusations of anti semitism.

    Bnai brith will never comment on the substance and history of the Israel Palestine conflict or on the many violations of international law or the resolutions that have been proposed within the context of the UN for a 2 state solution. While like AIPAC BB Canada might have supported a 2 state solution subject to an Israeli veto and without any criticism of Israel’s undermining of such a solution, it can no longer do that because of Israel’s rejection of any 2 state solution and active proposals for further annexation of Palestinian territories which Israel lobby may silently support.

    It must be recognized that in these circumstances Bnai brith has advanced its single minded strategy based on anti semitism with some small victories. There has been some official recognition of the IHRA definition, with its accurate definition of antisemitism being against Jews Judaism being rendered problematic by the references to certain critiques of Israel being anti semitic. This was amplified by the Parliamentary resolution rejecting BDS and trying to compare it to antisemitism in some official quarters.

    While admitting that real anti semitism exists in Canada, mainly on the right, it is imperative that the conflation of anti Israel and antizionism with anti semitism be rejected as firmly and soundly as possible. In this respect the efforts of Jewish Voice for Peace JVP and Independent Jewish Voices are key since as Jewish organizations they have an insight on what is real antisemitism. There have been law suits against Bnai brith for false accusations of antisemitism but these are only effective in the most slanderous damaging cases.

    A more positive and coordinated discussion of the very best ways to get to a solution for Israel and Palestine, whether 2 state or 1 secular state, is the best way to counter Bnai brith’s single minded strategy to use accusations of anti semitism against individuals and organizations. Suggestions that Bnai brith is an integral part of at least the informal Israel lobby do not seem out of place.

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