In February, the British foreign office sponsored a meeting of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism in London to discuss the current disturbing rise of anti-Semitism globally.
Parliamentarians from 35 countries heard clear evidence of an “escalating, sophisticated, virulent rise” in anti-Semitism, not seen since the Second World War.
While this “new anti-Semitism” is increasingly evident in communities and campuses, more alarmingly, it has sprung into state-sanctioned political discourse under the guise of anti-Israeli, anti-Zionist rhetoric. Its most extreme form can be seen in fundamentalist Islamic nations like Iran, where Holocaust denial and genocidal rhetoric has become virulent. But in North America and Europe, anti-Semitism is clothed in “politically correct” language that lashes out at the State of Israel, while singling out all Jews as targets for ire.
While all would agree that universities and colleges are the fallow ground where debate and new ideas should flourish, on Canadian campuses Jewish students are increasingly harassed and intimidated, and debate is replaced by diatribe under the guise of “freedom of speech”.
Speaking against actions of the Israeli government or any nation-state’s administrative decisions is encouraged in democratic discourse. World outrage at the Bush administration’s war in Iraq comes to mind. But calls for the destruction of the State of Israel, which is the homeland of Jews, is barely disguised anti-Semitism that could result in genocide.
The London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism, signed on February 17, called for signatories to create committees to combat anti-Semitism in their own countries. The Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, which is a multi-party committee, was formed to gain an objective understanding of the nature and extent of anti-Semitism in Canada and develop strategies to combat it.
The CPCCA is independent of government and Jewish or other NGOs. We have submitted a request for funding from various departments of the federal government that are mandated to combat discrimination and hate.
The right of all people regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, language, culture, gender, sexual orientation, disability, and age is fundamental to Canadian values, human rights, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We have global histories that in every instance, beginning with simple stereotyping, escalated to genocide. We need to learn from those tragic lessons of the past.
Hedy Fry is the Liberal MP for Vancouver Centre and a member of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism.