Stop Apologizing for Condemning Antisemitism
06/06/21: The war against Antisemitism had begun much before Israel's defensive war with Hamas. The attack on the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism had already begun in earnest weeks before the war.
In radical left wing circles and even at some universities, academics had even begun asserting the definition itself would bring them great harm. That it would silence free speech.
Before the war, some groups even challenged the existing internationally accepted IHRA declaration because of the inconvenient truth it reveals: that today's variants of antisemitism is linked to an unacceptable and disproportionate level of hate levelled against the State of Israel.
This reality proved to be too much for those often found campaigning against the Jewish homeland. Even while they were mostly silent on the genocide in Syria, gay rights abuse in Iran, gender apartheid in Saudi Arabia and the plight of the Uighur in China - coming after antisemitism itself was ultra important.
Now post-war, we see the true motivation against this insidious war on antisemitism. You see, the war on antisemitism is about legitimizing antisemitism. What we are seeing right now is an attack on antisemitism itself as part of a campaign against the Jewish people and their home land. There is an emerging pattern of behaviour that must be clearly identified.
Over the last few weeks, with telephone calls and emails from teachers, union heads, university students, bank staff, government run corporations and now a prominent government agency - common patterns are rising. They point to a common campaign that aims to challenge if not bury any public outrage against antisemitism. Institutions that condemn antisemitism are said to be met with a barrage of complaints.
This came to the fore this week concerning a government-funded organization. It correctly and with good intent reposted a denunciation of antisemitism by a Jewish community partner agency. But after receiving what it called "strong feedback" for what it believed caused "harm" - the not-for-profit removed the post from its social networking account and issued an apology:
"...our intention was not to ignore other communities" said the organization. Simply put, we are deeply sorry".
But after what appears to have been internal and external pressure, the organization reposted the original denunciation of antisemitism, but apparently left the apology in place.
Something similar happened at Rutgers University. On Wednesday May 26th the Chancellor and the Prevost issued a condemnation of antisemitism in a message to campus. The next day, they apologized. In an apparent email headlined "An Apology" they said their message "fell short" because they "failed to communicate support for our Palestinian members" and they "apologize for the hurt that this message has caused". The two apologies eerily sound similar.
But why apologize for condemning antisemitism? After all, since the Gaza war on Israel, antisemitism has skyrocketed around the world. From Toronto, to New York, Los Angeles and London - we have seen a surge of violent antisemitic attacks. Not to mention an immeasurable tsunami of online antisemitism. If any other group was discriminated against, would civil society not demand communion with that community?
The hallmark of our cherished society in the west is our intentioned effort to stamp out hate against anyone and ANY group. One of my proudest moments was calling a press conference and along with Holocaust survivors, calling for Bashar Al Assad to stop gassing his people. And following the attack on a New Zealand mosque, I was proud to stand should to shoulder with my Muslim brothers in a mosque and later at a public square to condemn this atrocity.
Silence and acceptance of antisemitism is being fuelled by a massive propaganda war against Jewish communities. In my column in the National Post this week, I expressed, "in a twisted logic, the campaign against the Jews is being linked to legitimate modern day anti-oppression movements in order to gain credibility and sympathy. In a recent tweet, a school board official who identified as a human rights and engagement officer and an equity educator actually wrote: Reminder that our fight against Israel's occupation of Palestine needs to be inextricably linked to our collective fight against Antisemitism, Islamophobia, Black racism and anti-Indigenous". What? Since when?
Sadly, this strategy is meant to silence anyone who wishes to stand against Antisemitism. An outrageous article in the Hamilton Spectator on June 4th claimed that "condemning Israel's actions is not antisemitic". Who says it is? Funny, with over 20 political parties, Israelis are the most critical of themselves - so why create an impression?
Antisemitism should be condemned free and clear of any nuances and politics. In a strong show of support for the globally accepted definition, this week Switzerland adopted the IHRA definition of antisemitism - joining the club of over 30 nations and many states and provinces.
In this vain, I commend BMO's CEO, Darryl White for taking a stand. Just this week, he posted the following message: "The rise in anti-semitic attacks across the globe, including here in North America, is outrageous and unacceptable. I've heard from many of my colleagues across BMO, and in our community and we all share a disbelief and sorrow. No one should live in fear of hate speech and violence".
Now this is a message that all public and private institutions should adopt immediately - and not be apologetic about. Antisemitism must be condemned unequivocally - period. Today, there are no more apt words than those spoken by Martin Luther King Jr. years ago: "in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends".
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A note from Avi: Hey...thanks for taking the time to read. Please share widely and help educate the broader community. To receive my briefings, subscribe to my list at www.avibenlolo.org
ABOUT: Avi Abraham Benlolo has been described as the nation's most prominent and noted expert in Holocaust studies, in countering Antisemitism and promoting human rights. He has dedicated nearly three decades in executive capacities, was founding President and CEO of a major organization in the Jewish community, has raised over $150 million for charities and is a leading voice in Canada. His academic research, graduate degree, Ph.D. coursework and nearly three decades of professional work has focused on these arenas in addition to peace and security in the Middle East. He has published hundreds of articles in these areas. In recognition of his national and international leadership in this area, he has received numerous awards including an Honorary Doctorate from a prestigious Israeli university for his work in Holocaust studies and combating antisemitism; an Order of Vaughan for his distinguished contribution to anti-racism, equity and diversity; the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award for his contributions to Canada and a race relations award for best practice, based on distinguished service in promoting human rights.
As a supporter of Israel, he is proud to have established "The Avi Benlolo Scholarship Fund in National Security" at Haifa University.