Online Panel – Is Criticizing Israel Antisemitic?

Panel – Is Criticizing Israel Antisemitic?

The Palestine Support Cttee (Saint John) and the Canadian Palestinian Organizations Coalition (CPOC) is inviting you to the online panel, “Is Criticizing Israel Antisemitic?” on January 16, 2021 at 2:00 pm (Atlantic Time).

By Zoom:

Meeting ID: 838 4941 2440

Passcode: 031417

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+16475580588,,83849412440#,,,,*031417# Canada

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On behalf of the Palestine Support Committee (Saint John), we would like to invite you to join an online panel discussion on the topic “Is Criticizing the State of Israel Antisemitic?” The Palestine Support Committee was formed over one year ago. Our committee has three main objectives:

  1. To support the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination, as defined by their own political, cultural, and economic institutions and not by external powers.
  2. To support peaceful and negotiated solutions to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
  3. To provide information to the Saint John and Canadian public about the history and culture of the Palestinian people.


As you might be aware, there has been considerable public debate in Canada and abroad about the working definition of antisemitism proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Read their statement in full here:

The public debate is not centred on the IRHA’s working definition of antisemitism itself. This definition reads:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The public debate is about one the “examples” of antisemitism provided after the working definition. This example reads:

“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.”

This example is not part of the definition itself: it is included in the document as a possible example of what some people might regard as antisemitism. It is important to mention that the IHRA document is called a “working definition” of antisemitism. One of the authors of the “working definition,” Kenneth Stern, wrote that the definition was drafted as a tool for research, and not as a basis for institutional policy. He lamented the fact that some extremists have appropriated this example into the actual “working definition,” which was never the intention of the authors of the document. (Manchester Guardian, Dec. 13, 2019). Unfortunately, some groups have not respected this distinction.

The question, however, remains: are criticisms of Israeli state policies by definition “antisemitic”? Attacking the Jewish people and their right to self-determination is antisemitic. The Palestine Support Committee supports the right of the Jewish people – and all peoples, including the Palestinian people – to the right to self-determination. But to be critical of state policies and the political programs of politicians is not necessarily antisemitic, especially if those criticisms target state policies, not the Jewish people. To equate the legitimate democratic right to criticize state policies with antisemitism threatens that very democratic right. For example, Canadian state officials, including the Prime Minister, have recognized systemic racism as a reality within our society and state. These acknowledgements in no way imply that the Canadian people are racists. Canadians, and people everywhere, should have the democratic right and obligation to condemn unjust and racist state policies, no matter the state. Sadly, no society or state is exempt from the reality of racism: the struggle against racism in any form must be a right and obligation for everyone, everywhere.

It is in this spirit of democratic public debate and the struggle against antisemitism and racism that we invite you to listen to the online panel discuss the topic: “Is Criticizing the State of Israel Antisemitic?”

Our speakers will be:

1- Faisal Bhabha, Associate Professor of Law at Osgoode Hall Law School, York University

2- Bruce Katz he is a founding member of Palestinian and Jewish Unity in Montreal. He is a writer and human rights activist.

The event is co-sponsored by Canadian Palestinian Organizations Coalition and Atlantic Canada Palestinian Society.

Accessing the event is by invitation only. At your request we will send you the secure link. There is no expectation that you will speak during the meeting, though of course your participation is very welcome and encouraged.

Sincerely, For the Saint John Palestine Support Cttee

Helmi Alfarra

Bob Whitney

Maryam Naser

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