During the 2021 Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW), anti-Zionist activists organized events on Canadian university campuses in which participants demonized Israel as an oppressive, apartheid regime. These claims are based solely on misinformation, if they are based on anything at all, and simply spread anti-Semitism and hatred.
During an April 6 event sponsored by the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute, members of Canada’s New Democratic Party (NDP) expressed their fear of losing their voices to pro-Israel groups, claiming that the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism is being weaponized to silence and suppress pro-Palestinian voices. Ironically, they even urged audience members to visit their website to supposedly prove their point, when all it proves is that their voice is anything but silenced.
In reality, the IHRA definition is used to combat hatred and incitement, which is already illegal in Canada according to Canadian Criminal Code section 319. Furthermore, the IHRA definition does not forbid criticism of Israeli policy like the NDP claims. Instead, it combats demonization, delegitimization, double standards and denying the Jewish right to self-determination.
Zahia El-Masri, a member of the NDP and one of five speakers on the panel, claimed that the IHRA definition will prevent her from discussing her history as a Palestinian. This is manifestly false. Opposing hatred of Israel qua Israel in no way precludes discussions of Palestinian history. If she deems the denial of Jewish self-determination as crucial to her narrative, then perhaps she should re-evaluate her narrative.
I wholly agree with the panelists that silencing criticism is a characteristic of a totalitarian society, not a democracy. That is why it’s shocking that they are silent against the Palestinian Authority and Hamas as they suppress the Palestinian peoples’ freedom of expression by silencing dissenters.
For example, the Electronic Crimes Law imposes harsh restrictions on media freedom and forbids criticism of Palestinian authorities. Arbitrary arrests continue uninhibited, according to Amnesty International, which explains that Palestinians are targeted simply for criticizing P.A. policy on social media. Instead of discussing Palestinian authoritarianism and working to assist those affected by it, these panelists are worried about a thorough definition of anti-Semitism. If they were truly concerned about the elimination of the Palestinian narrative, they would hold the true oppressors accountable instead of trying to silence the Jewish people.
On March 25, an event organized by the Palestine Solidarity Collective at York University, which also partnered with other Palestinian solidarity groups at the University of British Columbia and McMaster University, revolved around the fallacy of alleged Israeli “medical apartheid”—the lie that Israel is distributing coronavirus vaccines based on ethnicity, thereby withholding vaccines from Palestinians. This appalling accusation is frequently cited by anti-Israel campus groups and even the mainstream media has jumped on the bandwagon.
The truth is that Israel has conducted the fastest inoculation campaign against COVID-19 in the world, and its Arab citizens are eligible to be vaccinated just like every other citizen. In addition, although Israel is not legally responsible for vaccinating the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, they have provided thousands of vaccines for Palestinian medical workers and have vaccinated 100,000 Palestinians employed by Israel or Israelis.
Another event organized by the PSC at York University addressed what it described as Israel’s “pinkwashing” propaganda. Employed by many anti-Israel groups, “pinkwashing” is the term for Israel’s alleged propensity to highlight its flourishing LGBTQ community solely to distract from its treatment of the Palestinians. These baseless allegations underscore that anti-Israel activists only care about certain issues when Israel is involved.
If they actually cared about Palestinians, especially LGBTQ Palestinians, then they would condemn the Palestinian leadership’s treatment of its own LGBTQ community. Gaza still bases its LGBTQ policy on section 152(2) of the British Mandate Criminal Code Ordinance of 1936, which deems sexual relations between two men a criminal offense punishable with up to 10 years in prison. In 2016, Hamas executed one of its own commanders for offenses including homosexuality. In 2019, the P.A. banned the activities of Al-Qaws, an LGBTQ rights group, on the grounds that it is “harmful to the higher values and ideals of Palestinian society.” The ban was quickly rescinded due to a significant backlash.
Amid a sea of countries that persecute LGBTQ individuals, the one Jewish state in the world takes pride in this community and grants them more rights than any country in the region. It is obvious that the “pinkwashing” argument made by anti-Israel groups doesn’t aim to improve LGBTQ rights. Rather, it’s just one more accusation rooted in an obsessive need to demonize Israel.
The lengths to which anti-Israel groups go to hide their anti-Semitism and hatred of Jews is alarming. But during Canada’s IAW, they let their true colors—and propaganda—show.
Sara Goel is a CAMERA Fellow at Sapir College in Israel.