On June 8th, the Federal Government Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security issued a report on violent extremism in Canada. One of its 30 recommendations called for the government to “condemn” strong criticism of Israel on Canadian campuses. How criticism of Israel might be related to violent extremism was not clear. OFIP wrote an open letter to Mr. Carr asking for an explanation. His answer was less than satisfactory. Read more…
Just before the federal parliament rose for the summer break, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security issued a report on “Ideologically motivated violent extremism” in Canada. A committee made up of over 20 members of Parliament, chaired by Hon. Jim Carr, a former cabinet minister, had been holding hearings and reviewing information for over six months.
The topic of the report is significant. From attacks on Muslim worshippers at a Mosque in Quebec City to reports of infiltration of right-wing movements into Canadian military and police ranks, the Canadian public and the Government of Canada need to understand and address the threat of violent extremism to the security of Canadians.
However, the report included a surprising and alarming recommendation apparently aimed at limiting Canadians’ right to freedom of speech when it comes to Israel.
Report Recommendation 20:
“That the Government of Canada thoroughly reject the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and condemn all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups, or individuals, including university campus associations, to promote these views, both at home and abroad.”
Curiously, this recommendation was not supported by any evidence cited in the report. And no argument was made anywhere that criticism of the State of Israel – even “demonization or delegitimization” – represents a threat to Canada or its public safety or has any link to organized violent extremism.
OFIP noted that the committee had called on several pro-Israel lobby groups as expert witnesses including the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Bnai Brith Canada. Had the pro-Israel agenda of those groups, we wondered, somehow been insinuated into the report of a Parliamentary Committee on terrorism?
We decided to ask Hon. Jim Carr directly. Following are excerpts from a letter OFIP wrote to him asking what Recommendation 20 had to do with “Ideologically Motivated Hate crime”.
“Dear Hon. Mr. Carr”, we wrote, “The Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine has read with some concern the recent report of the Standing Committee on “Ideologically Motivated Violent Extremism (IMVE) in Canada.”
“As you are likely aware, Israel is a state under investigation by the ICC for war crimes. We also know that a wide range of well-known and respected human rights organizations, both international and Israeli, have accused the Israeli regime of the crime of apartheid.
“The Israeli government claims that these reports amount to “delegitimizing and demonizing” of Israel motivated by antisemitism.
“We are concerned that the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security has inadvertently allowed interest groups to insert wording conflating legitimate criticism of Israel with antisemitism and even with “violent antisemitism”.
We concluded our letter with a suggestion to Mr. Carr
“OFIP suggests that the Committee revisit recommendation 20, and either eliminate it completely or revise the report to bring forward evidence to justify its inclusion including the threat to Canadian citizens’ public safety and national security.
A complete copy of our letter to Hon. Mr. Carr can be found here.
Follow up – Mr. Carr answers... sort of
Mr. Carr’s office did respond with a short letter from his parliamentary assistant on July 22.
“Dear Peter Larson,
“Thank you for contacting the Office of Hon. Jim Carr MP in his capacity as Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.
“We have ensured that MP Carr has read the attached letter.
“The committee adopted this recommendation not in any attempt to prevent scrutiny of Israel but to counteract the sharp rise in antisemitic incidents in recent years.
“You are certainly correct in suggesting that rational and balanced discussion about Israel is important. The committee does not view this recommendation as a threat to those discussions.
“Thank you for reaching out with your concerns.”
Mr. Carr made no attempt to answer the question we asked of how criticism of Israel is linked to hate motivated violent extremism. Instead, his answer refers to an alleged “sharp rise in antisemitic incidents”.
OFIP is strongly opposed to antisemitism, of course, but the effort to link criticism of Israel to a rise in violent hate crime and antisemitism is part of the Zionist “scaremongering” rhetoric, that CTIP has already identified.
Parliamentarians should be cautious about interested parties who are seizing any opportunity to introduce their corrosive narrative into the Parliamentary agenda.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
Want to learn more about us? Go to http://www.ottawaforumip.org