New report details concerted efforts to suppress rising pro-Palestinian voices on Canadian campuses

Detailed research by two investigators from Independent Jewish Voices Canada has documented repeated attempts to shut down voices supportive of human rights for Palestinians on Canadian campuses. It reveals widespread efforts by a variety of Israel advocacy organizations in Canada to use the spectre of anti-Semitism to vilify voices critical of Israel. We speak to one of the authors. Read more.

Dr. Sheryl Nestel and MA candidate Rowan Gaudet spent the last year conducting research about the repression faced by anyone expressing support for the Palestinian cause, especially on university campuses across Canada. Their report, entitled “Unveiling the Chilly Climate: the suppression of speech on Palestine in Canada” is based on approximately 80 testimonies from academics, students and Palestinian solidarity activists across the country. It brings to light extensive and determined efforts to shield Israel from criticism on campus, often by attempting to associate criticism of Israel with “antisemitism”.

One of the “tools” used is a highly politicized definition of antisemitism called the “IHRA” definition, which includes a list of “examples” of anti semitism, many of which are in fact criticisms Israel (a state) or Zionism (a political movement), rather than animus towards Jews. Israel advocacy organizations have successfully lobbied several levels of government to adopt the IHRA document as a guide to opposing anti-semitism in Canada.

Examples of obstruction or intimidation

The report lists many examples of obstruction or intimidation reported by academics, students and activists aiming to raise the Palestinian narrative:

  • cancellation of planned public events on Palestine, or even attempts to prevent access to events by threatening disruption
  • attempts to undermine or oppose candidacies to academic positions of those seen as “pro-Palestine”
  • actual threats of violence and genuine acts of violence against student activists,
  • Students subjected to warnings of disciplinary measures by university administrators whom respondents often described as being hostile to Palestine solidarity activism on campus.
  • Faculty members face restrictions on academic freedom, discriminatory treatment by academic publishing platforms, harassment by pro-Israel advocacy groups and media outlets, attacks from colleagues, political interference by university administration,
  • classroom surveillance by pro-Israel student groups, and
  • antiPalestinian and anti-Arab racism.

Why? Why now?

Attempts to suppress discussion of Palestinian human rights on campus appears to be increasing. If so, why might this be the case?

It might be related to a rising sense of concern among Israel’s apologists in Canada who see on campus after campus, student and faculty groups voting to support BDS, and criticising Israel for its actions – from the bombing of Gaza to construction of new settlements.

After many years of being marginalized, Palestinian Canadians are edging into the mainstream in the professions and especially in universities. There are now serious Palestinian Canadian academics in many Canadian universities. In 2021, the University of Windsor named Professor Reem Bahdi as the first Palestinian Law Professor in Canadian history and the first Palestinian Law Dean in North America. The University of Waterloo has now established a Foundation for Palestine studies, whose inaugural lecture drew over 500 attendees, both in person and on line. And at the University of Toronto, ”Hearing Palestine” has provided an intellectual hub that facilitates advanced and interdisciplinary research on Palestine since 2020.

Presidents from 15 Canadian universities visit Technion University in Haifa, Israel in August 2022 sponsored by Canada’s Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs

This Canadian trend closely copies a US tendency, where the campuses have become a growing front in the debate over Israel/Palestine.

In the face of this sea change, university administrators, are being wooed by pro Israeli groups in Canada, including by offering free trips to Israel. University presidents, always strapped for funds, are concerned about the opinions of the many donors who support Israel, many of whom have been generous in supporting Canadian Universities. In a few cases, major donors have withdrawn support from Canadian universities because of events or faculty appointments they deemed to be anti-Israel.

Who seems to be responsible?:

The report identifies several Canadian pro-Israel advocacy groups which have been at the forefront of a campaign to stifle critical speech on Israel’s human rights violations. Respondents to the study named the following organizations as active participants in campaigns of harassment and intimidation:
B’nai Brith Canada
Honest Reporting Canada
• Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA)
Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies
Hasbara Fellowships.
The IJV report describes each of these organizations and highlights some of their actions and
political campaigns to repress speech on Palestine on and off campus.

CTIP spoke to Rowan Gaudet, one of the report’s authors about the significance of the report’s findings. Watch the short video interview here:

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


  1. There goes Peter Larson again with his one sided biases towards Israel, Jews and Jewish organizations. He condemns Jewish organizations for doing the job they were created to do. The only conclusion one can make about Mr. Larsons protestations about Israel and Jews is that he is an anti semite in a world where anti semitism is growing at epidemic proportions. He is neither a Jew nor a Palestinian but his prejudices towards Jews and Israelis seems to have taken over his life.

    1. Hey Mr. Ehrenworth, this is getting silly. I reported research done by Independent Jewish Voices. And interviewed one of the researchers. If you don’t agree with their findings, please tell us why. Or write to them and explain why you disagree.

      Attacking me won’t solve your problem.

  2. The history of the Zionist lobbies shows that they never stood for any human rights or justice, when it was about Palestinians. they did their utmost what they are doing recently, only it gets more despicable and brutal..

    1. The Zionist organizations are not “human rights” organizations. They promote the national rights of Jews in their ancestral homeland. Additionally, they debunk the antisemitic criticism displayed by “Palestinian” “Human Rights” organizations as well as discredited non-Palestinian “Human Rights” organizations that are considered to be criminally obsessed with Israel. They also debunk “as a Jew” organizations, like JVL, JVP, IJV, INN who use the fact that they have some connection to Judaism to try to masque their obvious antisemitism.

  3. Sigman do you really think that if you repeat endlessly the word “antisemitism”, and few other slogans, without any facts, you succeed in covering up Israeli atrocities.

    You say “Zionist organizations are not human rights organizations”, Read this by B’nai Brith site:
    B’nai Brith Canada is the country’s oldest independent Jewish Human Rights organization. We are a principled grassroots voice, dedicated to eradicating racism, antisemitism and hatred in all its forms, championing the rights of the marginalized, while providing basic human needs for members of our community.

    You say – Zionist lobbies protecting their ancestral homeland” nonsense. 4000 years ago and up to a hundred years ago, all kinds of people or forces came and gone. Among them were some Jews. So now only Jews have the right to go there and steal, ethnic cleans and murder.
    Read the book by Israeli historian Shlomo Sand: The invention of the Jewish people.

    The Jews and Palestinians who lived in Palestine for ever, are true “Semites”. Could it be that you’re actually antisemite?

    All the Jewish groups of activists you label antisemites, they and hundreds of thousands other Jews in Israel and elsewhere, were pro Israel, but changed their views with time. (That includes myself, I lived there for 20 years).

    Re the seven Palestinian human rights groups, which Israel destroyed recently. The policy is to systematically destroy anything Palestinian. No credible evidence was presented, according to EU and US.

    Sigman, don’t look at all the facts, just repeat “antisemitism”.

      1. Hey Mr. Sigman,
        Thank you for your helpful and informative comment.

        Now, do you have anything useful or helpful to say about the subject of the article?
        It was about the report finding that defending human rights for Palestinians on Canadian campuses is increasingly facing a concerted effort by Zionist groups to claim that doing so is antisemitic.

      2. It looks like this Sigman guy is going over the edge. He is getting desperate trying to defend Israeli crimes and can not provide any facts, so he resorts to profanity.

  4. Talking about antisemitism, a good read: “Whatever Happened to Antisemitism?” by Antony Lerman, British writer, former director of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and founding member of the Jewish Forum for Justice and Human Rights. In his book, Lerman explains how antisemitism, as codified in the IHRA definition, is a tool used by an international network – composed of the Israeli government, pro-Israel advocacy groups, Zionist organisations, Israel-friendly governments and institutions – to shield Israel from criticism and to scuttle free speech on Palestinian rights.

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