How rare is it to see the leaders of the federal Liberal, Conservative, New Democratic, and Green parties come together quickly to take a common stand on an issue?
But that is what happened just before Rosh Hashanah when two Liberal MPs – Anthony Housefather (Mount Royal) and Michael Levitt (York Centre) – were subjected to an anti-Semitic tweet from prominent anti-Israel activist Dimitri Lascaris.
In his tweet, Lascaris, chair of the board of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, tweeted that Housefather and Levitt, who are both Jewish, “are more devoted to apartheid Israel than to their own Prime Minister and their own colleagues in the Liberal caucus.”
As Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs CEO Shimon Koffler Fogel pointed out in a statement on September 9, Lascaris’ tweet suggests the two MPs are disloyal to Canada, “a textbook example of anti-Semitism as defined by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA),” the definition of anti-Semitism that has been adopted by many governments and organizations in democratic countries.
Among the examples of anti-Semitism cited in the IHRA definition is, “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.”
“Vile anti-Semitic smears like this are completely unacceptable, and should always be called out. Thank you @LevittMichael and @AHousefather for standing up to this and for everything you do for your communities and our country,” tweeted Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Official Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer tweeted: “It’s shameful to see two MPs subjected to such anti-Semitism, accused of dual loyalties, simply because they’re Jewish & support Israel. The entire [Conservative Party] caucus & I stand w/ our colleagues across the aisle, proudly supportive of all Jewish Canadians.”
“Anti-Semitism has no place in Canada. I know what it’s like to experience racism & discrimination, and to have my loyalty to Canada questioned. @LevittMichael and @AHousefather, I stand with you today,” tweeted NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh.
And, from Green Party Leader Elizabeth May: “Just saw the attack on you both. So unacceptable. Your loyalty to Canada is unquestioned. See you soon. Sending love. @AHousefather @LevittMichael.”
I was particularly pleased to see May standing in solidarity with the other leaders, as Lascaris was a Green Party candidate and justice critic in the party’s shadow cabinet in the 2015 federal election. He also led the pro-BDS campaign within the party in 2016 – a campaign that led May to briefly consider her future as party leader.
As Fogel also pointed out, some of those seeking to demonize and delegitimize the State of Israel “through BDS and other toxic forms of advocacy, are becoming bolder and more aggressive. They are letting the veil slip on the false distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism … some of them openly seeking to undermine our rights as Jewish Canadians to be accepted as equals in Canadian politics, democracy, and civil society… It is a powerful statement to have federal party leaders unite, despite their many other differences, in defence of our community when we are targeted for anti-Semitism.”
As encouraged as I was to see the federal leaders come together in a united stance against anti-Semitism just before Rosh Hashanah, I was also concerned, at about the same time, to learn that Premier Doug Ford’s new Progressive Conservative government had ordered the dismantling of four sub-committees of Ontario’s Anti-Racism Directorate – including a sub-committee charged with developing provincial strategies to combat anti-Semitism – apparently as an austerity measure. The other affected sub-committees were charged with fighting racism directed at Blacks, Indigenous people and Muslims.
CANADIAN JEWISH LITERARY AWARD
Mazel Tov to University of Ottawa professor Seymour Mayne whose 2017 poetry book, In Your Words: Translations from the Yiddish and the Hebrew, was selected as the Yiddish category winner for 2018 by the Canadian Jewish Literary Awards. The awards presentation was scheduled for October 14 at York University in Toronto.