Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Cotler to head coalition to fight anti-Semitism


By ANDY LEVY-AJZENKOPF, Staff Reporter    

Thursday, 28 February 2008 

Canadian MP and renowned human rights activist Irwin Cotler, left, will head the new International Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism.

Cotler, along with British MP John Mann – who chairs the British all-party parliamentary committee against anti-Semitism and commissioned a 2006 inquiry into anti-Semitism in the United Kingdom – announced the launch of the coalition on Sunday in Jerusalem at the annual Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.

In his address to the forum, Cotler said the new coalition is necessary because the world is witnessing “an escalating, sophisticated, global, virulent and even lethal anti-Semitism, reminiscent of the atmospherics of the ’30s, and without parallel or precedent since the end of the Second World War.”

Referring to the spate of anti-Semitic rhetoric and actions around the world over the past few years, Cotler said it’s time for a strong response.

“Silence is not an option. The time has come not only to sound the alarm – but to act,” he said. “For as history has taught us only too well while it may begin with Jews, it does not end with Jews. Anti-Semitism is the canary in the mineshaft of evil.”

According to Cotler, the coalition – a combination of scholars, activists and parliamentarians – will fight anti-Semitism in several ways.

It will promote Mann’s parliamentary inquiry as a template for other parliaments; develop an inventory of indices of anti-Semitism; and encourage nations to develop their own national coalitions to combat global anti-Semitism and organize task forces “built around the thematic templates” of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.

“This proposal is in its embryonic form,” Cotler added. “We hope that when this global forum convenes again next year, it will be activated and active.”

In related developments at the forum, Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni announced last week that Israel plans to boycott next year’s “Durban II” UN anti-racism conference, and she specifically cited Canada’s “courage” in doing the same.

Last month, Canada declared its intention to boycott the conference over concerns of repeated anti-Israel and anti-Semitic motifs.

The 2009 World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance is slated to take place in the South Africa city where its predecessor was held in 2001.

That event was marked by fierce anti-Zionist and pro-Arab agitation, which led Israel to watch preparations for the upcoming conference with concern.

“Israel will not participate and not give legitimacy to the United Nations follow-up conference on racism… unless it is proven that the conference will not be used as a platform for further anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic activities,” Livni told delegates to the forum.