October 8, 2011

Canada signs Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism

Canada is seen by some as Israel's best friend.  It was the first country to withdraw from the anti-Semitic, UN sponsored Durban II and Durban III conferences.  It expressed serious concerns over the appointment of Richard Falk as the UN’s special rapporteur on the Palestinian territories after Falk compared Israel to Nazi Germany and authored an anti-Israeli article called "Slouching toward a Palestinian Holocaust."

Now, Canada has once again stepped forward.  It is the first country to sign the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Anti-Semitism. 

The Protocol, which was unanimously adopted in November 2010 at an international gathering hosted by Canada of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (ICCA) by some 140 parliamentarians from 50 countries, reaffirmed the London Declaration on Combating Antisemitism as a template for fighting against anti-Jewish prejudice.

According to ICCA Chair, Professor Irwin Cotler, a Liberal MP and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada: 
At a time when, as the Ottawa Protocol puts it, we are witnessing a global resurgence of antisemitism – the oldest, most enduring and toxic of hatreds – the Canadian initiative affirms the Ottawa Protocol’s Call for Action -  for governments to stand up and stand together in combating this paradigm of hatred.
The Protocol says: 
We remain alarmed by ongoing state-sanctioned genocidal antisemitism and related extremist ideologies. If antisemitism is the most enduring of hatreds, and genocide is the most horrific of crimes, then the convergence of the genocidal intent embodied in antisemitic ideology is the most toxic of combinations.
Agreeing to the Protocol is a commitment to institute tangible measures to combat antisemitism in all its forms, from classic anti-Jewish blood libels of medieval times to newer manifestations of this age-old hatred now masked in the language of anti-Zionism or anti-Jewish hatred disguised as criticism of Israel.  At the same time, it draws an important distinction:
Let it be clear: Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic, and saying so is wrong. But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium – let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction – is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.
The protocol will help nations to measure and articulate their progress in combating anti-Semitism.  Among other things, members commit to:
Calling on our Governments to uphold international commitments on combating antisemitism – such as the OSCE Berlin Principles – and to engage with the United Nations for that purpose. In the words of former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, "It is […] rightly said that the United Nations emerged from the ashes of the Holocaust. And a Human Rights agenda that fails to address antisemitism denies its own history."
Calling on Parliaments and Governments to adopt the EUMC Working Definition of Antisemitism and anchor its enforcement in existing law. 

Encouraging the leaders of all religious faiths – represented also at this Conference – to use all means possible to combat antisemitism and all forms of hatred and discrimination. 

Calling on Governments and Parliamentarians to reaffirm and implement the Genocide Convention, recognising that where there is incitement to genocide, State parties have an obligation to act. 

Working with universities to encourage them to combat antisemitism with the same seriousness with which they confront other forms of hate. Specifically, universities should be invited to define antisemitism clearly, provide specific examples, and enforce conduct codes firmly, while ensuring compliance with freedom of speech and the principle of academic freedom.
It also seeks establishment of an international task force to identify and monitor hate on the Internet and the development of a comprehensive system to record all hate crimes, including anti-Semitic ones. 

Last November, Prime Minister Harper addressed the parliamentarians, and noted that when "Israel, the only country in the world whose very existence is under attack, is consistently singled out for condemnation, I believe we are morally obligated to take a stand."

Canadian support is not simply a reflection of a right-wing government. "The differences between the Liberals and Conservatives are vastly overstated," said David Bercuson, the director of the Centre for Military and Strategic Studies at the University of Calgary and author of Canada and the Birth of Israel.

Taking a pro-Israeli stance is not without cost, however.  Canada lost its 2010 bid to Portugal for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. All 57 seats of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (now the Organization of Islamic Cooperation) opposed the Canadian nomination.  It was the first time since 1945 that Canada, a founding member of the UN, had not won a Security Council seat after having been elected in every previous decade.  Canada refused to water down its policy to curry the support of the UN’s despots and Muslim bloc to secure the seat.  As Harper told the parliamentarian gathering, "Canada will take that stand, whatever the cost." 
There are, after all, a lot more votes- a lot more- in being anti-Israel than in taking a stand. [...] The easiest thing to do is simply to just get along and go along with this anti-Israeli rhetoric, to pretend it is just about being even-handed, and to excuse oneself with the label of 'honest broker.'
Professor Cotler summarized the aspirations of those who pursue this issue: 
We trust that the Canadian initiative will inspire other governments to act – and parliamentarians to speak – in common cause. As Nobel peace laureate Prof. Elie Wiesel put it at the opening ceremony of the Conference, "Now is the time to mobilize a constituency of conscience on behalf of all humanity."
For as history has taught us only too well, while it may begin with Jews, it doesn’t end with Jews.


  1. "The easiest thing to do." Lord help us if it all as banal as that. Good for Canada.

  2. To just get along and go along, to pretend it is just about being even-handed.

    Sounds like many I know. As if that is the primary criterion for decision making.

    There is a scary lemming quality to this approach.