IHRA strikes again

Ontario Premier Doug Ford has adopted the IHRA’s Working Definition of Antisemitism which puts Jews at risk by implicating them in Israel’s assault on human rights.


Under the guise of fighting antisemitism, the Conservative government of Ontario Premier Doug Ford has just boosted my exposure to that most vulgar genre of racism.

On October 27, by Order in Council (OIC 1450/2020), Canada’s most populous province adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA-WDA), thereby removing the Combating Antisemitism Act (Bill C-168) from the Order Paper, denying me the chance to testify against it, as I had requested.

Ontario’s OIC declares, tersely, that “systemic racism, including antisemitism, is a persistent reality in Ontario,” and that the government will consequently adopt and recognize the IHRA-WDA adopted in Bucharest in 2016.

Promisingly, the OIC makes no mention of the IHRA-WDA’s flawed inner core: those eleven ‘Illustrative Examples’ of ‘antisemitism’ cited in the Bucharest Declaration, seven of which involve commentary on the State of Israel.

But their absence from Ontario’s OIC offer little relief. Pro-Israel groups, including its “staunch defender,” B’Nai Brith Canada, are now crowing that the Ford government has adopted these perverse examples of Jew-hatred, and are preparing to weaponize them.

The IHRA-WDA has been the subject of huge discussion, commentary and acrimonious debate, including on these pages. Cornerstone of the WDA’s eleven examples of ‘antisemitism’, number seven: “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Contradictions of the IHRA

So, if Ontario’s OIC is to be taken at its word and embraced, I, the son of Dutch and French holocaust survivors, born on Long Island, naturalized Canadian, never having set foot in Israel before the age of 31, have the right to move to Jerusalem today, to reside on land stolen from people now living in exile (lots of them in the province of Ontario), who themselves have no right to go home, and are abused and deported at Ben Gurion Airport, in that order, if they try to.

I refuse this right! By thrusting it on me, the codicil Ontario has just adopted implicates me in unsavory, highly unbecoming acts. It exposes me to opprobrium. Indeed, to antisemitism.

I am not indigenous to the Land of Israel. Israel is not my ancient homeland. My Ashkenazi genome contains less Levantine DNA than the genomes of my Palestinian friends — 60% vs. 80%, a recent study reportsAnother study reports that “at least 80% of Ashkenazi maternal ancestry is due to [DNA] indigenous to Europe, most likely through conversion.”

And, as any population geneticist can explain, mathematically, my roots can’t be traced back to more than a tiny fraction of the women and men who actually lived in Second Temple times.

Still, if I shout this out on Facebook and Twitter – someone so lost in diaspora as to deny the Land of Israel’s presence within himself, and his within Israel – ugly messages land in my inbox. “Self-hating Jew!” they spit at me. Or, worse yet, kapo! Indistinguishable from the death camp Jews who snitched and dug graves at Sobibor and Auschwitz (where almost a hundred Kattenburgs perished).

The Jewish ‘self-determination’ claim Doug Ford’s government has just adopted tars me with a brush I’d just as soon dodge. Where does Ford get off smearing this on me?

It gets worse. Playing the game both ways (as Israel’s advocates do), IHRA-WDA Example Six posits as ‘antisemitic’ that most invidious of claims — that Jews are “more loyal to Israel,” or to the “alleged priorities of Jews worldwide” [all of ancient Hebrew heritage], and Example Eleven declares as ‘antisemitic’ “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.”

So, connecting the dots: 1) All Jews, regardless of their place of birth or current domicile, anywhere in the world, have the right to go live in Israel, whereas native Palestinians do not, and denying this is antisemitic, and 2) Jews who refuse to arrogate this right to themselves are ‘self-hating’ Nazi collaborators (a parallel WDA Example Ten deems antisemitic). But, viewed from the other side, 3) It’s also antisemitic to point out civic conflicts emerging from such claims, or to suggest that any Jew on the street (e.g. me) should be held accountable for Israel’s crimes, notwithstanding the Land of Israel’s putative presence deep inside them.

Can the Ford government appreciate the bind it’s just placed me in?

Montagu’s warning

Edwin Montagu captured the hazardous contradictions implicit in the Jewish nation-state idea back in August 1917, three months prior to the Balfour Declaration.

“Zionism has always seemed to me to be a mischievous political creed,” the British Cabinet’s only Jewish minister wrote. “If a Jewish Englishman sets his eyes on the Mount of Olives and long for the day when he will shake British soil from his shoes and go back to agricultural pursuits in Palestine, he has always seemed to me to have acknowledged aims inconsistent with British citizenship and to have admitted that he is unfit for a share in public life in Great Britain, or to be treated as an Englishman.”

A hundred and three years after the Secretary of State for India’s anxious letter to the British Cabinet, the conundrum is stickier still: If me and my Jewish and Palestinian friends attempt to hold an event declaring Israel a “racist endeavor (an antisemitic claim, under Example Seven), or a settler-colonial apartheid state, or that all Palestinians have the right to return to the villages Zionist militias expelled them from in 1947/48/67, before demolishing them, or if we wave Palestinian flags and cry “Palestine shall be free from the River to the Sea!,” that event is highly likely to be cut short, very quickly, with the aid of a new Israeli government app (Act.IL) now in the hands of Israel’s zealous Ontario friends.

Or, if righteous Ontario Jews shine bright public light on the numerous extra-judicial murders the Israeli Defense Forces and Border Police have been charged with by reputable groups like Human Rights Watch or Israel’s B’Tselem, or suggest that the International Criminal Court should pursue war crimes charges against Israeli officials for the mass murder of unarmed Gazans, or that Israel should be held to account for its widely reported interference with Palestinian health efforts in the midst of the Covid pandemic, Israel’s lobbyists will charge us with “blood libel”, per IHRA-WDA Example Nine.

Not to mention “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” per Example Eight.

Talk about invidious inversions of the truth! Other than Israel, what other country — what supposedly democratic UN member state — gets to violate international law with impunity? Without the slightest consequence? Indeed, with the diplomatic and economic support of the international community, Canada front and center? 

Doug Ford may think the IHRA-WDA and its eleven Illustrative Examples of antisemitism are an effective tool for protecting people like me (The first four are, albeit superfluous). I don’t. True Jew-hatred is an ugly scourge, as are all forms of racism, ethnic hatred and misogyny. We don’t need the IHRA-WDA to fight these. Indeed, it constrains us.

So, we are preparing to defy Ontario’s new Order in Council. Stand by.

Adapted from: https://mondoweiss.net/2020/10/ihra-strikes-again/