From the Editor: The Bulletin website and other updates

By Michael Regenstreif, Editor

I’m very pleased to report that the new Ottawa Jewish Bulletin website – at – went live online on March 5. The site’s streams – Jewish Ottawa, Agency News, Jewish World, Arts & Culture, Voices, and Library – will make it easier to find articles and PDF versions of current and back issues.

Under “Jewish Ottawa,” you’ll find articles about the community and community-wide events. Articles specifically about or submitted by a particular agency will be filed under “Agency News.” In “Jewish World,” you’ll find articles about Israel and Jewish topics that are broader than our local community. The “Arts & Culture” stream is for book, music, theatre and film reviews and news, while “Voices” is for our regular and guest columnists. The “Library” has PDF versions of our current and back print editions. So far, the Library has our back issues since 2016 with more years to be added soon.

The mostly-posted article in each stream is visible on the front page of the website. If you click on the article or accompanying photo you will be taken directly to the article. If you click on the name of the stream – "Jewish Ottawa," for example – you will be taken to the list of articles in that stream.

Israeli election

As this issue went to press on February 28, I can’t comment yet on the results of the March 2 election in Israel – its third in less than a year after governing coalitions were not formed after the first two. The latest opinion polls still showed Likud and Blue and White running neck-and-neck, with each winning 33 to 35 of the Knesset’s 120 seats – although it appears that Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu may be closer to finding enough coalition partners needed to form a government than he was after the last two elections.

Update (March 4): With 99 per cent of votes counted, it appears that Likud will take 36 seats in the Knesset with Blue and White receiving 33. In terms of forming a coalition, the right-wing/religious bloc now appears to have 58 seats, three short of a majority.

IHRA definition

In my column last issue (February 24, 2020) I wrote about the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism and noted that Canada – which adopted the definition in 2017 – was among the growing list of countries (now 33) to recognize the definition.

I also mentioned that Bill 168, An Act to Combat Antisemitism – a private member’s bill introduced by MPP Will Bouma – would, if passed, make Ontario the first province to adopt the definition. I’m pleased to report that Bill 168 passed second reading unanimously at Queen’s Park on February 27.

Bill 168 has now been sent to the standing committee on justice policy for review – including public input – before it returns to the legislature for third and final reading before final passage.

You can be sure that there will be briefs and/or testimonies at the committee opposed to Bill 168. Despite the fact that the IHRA explicitly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic,” groups and individuals seeking to delegitimize the very existence of the State of Israel push a nonsensical narrative that the IHRA definition “criminalizes” any and all criticism of Israel.

As I pointed out last issue, the IHRA definition does provide parameters pointing out how criticism of Israel can cross the line into antisemitism by “applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation,” or “using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis,” or “drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis,” or “holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.” But such antisemitic criticism in and of itself will not result in criminal charges. However, when such criticism motivates criminal acts, police and the courts could be guided in determining when criminal acts are also hate crimes.

So, when Ontario’s standing committee on justice policy does ask for public input on Bill 168, it is important that we make our voices heard in support. In an era when antisemitism and antisemitic hate crimes are on the rise, a commonly accepted definition of what constitutes antisemitism is important.