On October 16-17, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Canada’s Jewish Federations are putting on a conference in Ottawa called Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It, co-sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Canada. While the gathering is framed as an attempt to fight antisemitism, the sponsors and the speakers slated for the conference give us reason to believe that there is another agenda in play here. In a recent article in the National Post, Shimon Fogel, the CEO of CIJA, revealed the purpose of the conference, declaring that “We want to hear leadership in the political sector declare that anti-Zionism equals antisemitism.”
Independent Jewish Voices strongly objects to this premise and has written to all members of Parliament to express our deep concerns about this attempt to conflate a political view that opposes Israeli domination over Palestinians with Jew-hatred. As Palestinian human rights defender Omar Barghouti recently put it, “There’s nothing Jewish about Israeli crimes, and there’s nothing anti-Jewish about opposing them.”
IJV is also appalled by many of the conference speakers, several of whom, or whose organizations, peddle in Islamophobia, anti-Palestinian racism and even antisemitism. These speakers represent some of the most chauvinistic figures in international Jewish politics. There are no recognized scholars of antisemitism among them. Many are associated with movements that support Israeli apartheid and regularly accuse those advocating for Palestinian human rights of antisemitism.
See below IJV’s letter to MPs as well as details on six of the speakers and one sponsor of the conference, providing information on their publicly stated views and actions that call into question the conference’s legitimacy. They will appear alongside Attorney General Arif Virani, Bloc leader Yves-Francois Blanchet, Opposition Leader Pierre Poilievre, and the Israeli Ambassador Designate Iddo Moed, among others. MPs have been invited to attend portions of the conference on Parliament Hill.
Open letter from Independent Jewish Voices about CIJA’s fraudulent conference on antisemitism
Dear Members of Parliament.
The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Canada’s Jewish Federations are putting on a conference in Ottawa called Antisemitism: Face It, Fight It, co-sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF) Canada. While the gathering is framed as an attempt to fight antisemitism, the sponsors and the speakers slated for the conference give us reason to believe that there is another agenda in play here.
In a recent article in the National Post, Shimon Fogel, the CEO of CIJA, revealed the purpose of the conference, declaring that “We want to hear leadership in the political sector declare that anti-Zionism equals antisemitism.” Arsen Ostrovsky, a featured conference speaker and notorious anti-Palestinian ideologue, reinforces Fogel’s message, proclaiming that “There can be no equivocation: anti-Zionism is antisemitism.”
It is essential to point out that Zionism is a political doctrine, calling for the creation and maintenance of a Jewish state, one which privileges the rights of Jews over non-Jews, in historic Palestine. Conflating opposition to Zionism with antisemitism, hatred of Jews, is wrong. An increasing number of Jews and others reject Zionism on ethical grounds. They cannot be dismissed as antisemites. Furthermore, Palestinians have every right to oppose Zionism because it provides the ideological basis for their oppression.
The conflation of anti-Zionism with antisemitism by Fogel and Ostrovsky calls into question the professed purpose of this conference. In recent years, Israel’s oppression of its Palestinian citizens as well as of Palestinians living under its control in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip has generated a rising chorus of international condemnation, along with demands for change. Rather than responding to these concerns by changing its behaviour, Israel and its supporters have chosen to mount an international campaign to label its critics “antisemitic.”
This conference is part of that campaign.
Speakers and sponsors of the conference represent some of the most chauvinistic Jewish organizations and individuals in the world. None of them is a recognized authority on antisemitism. Several are associated with movements that openly support Israeli apartheid and regularly attack those who advocate for Palestinian human rights. The politics embraced by many of these speakers are antithetical to Jewish social justice values and are not shared by many Canadian Jews.
It is especially telling that one of the core sponsors of this conference is the Jewish National Fund (JNF), an anti-Palestinian, settler-colonial organization that supports the growth of illegal Israeli settlement and actively contributes to Palestinian dispossession. It controls 13% of Israel’s land, which it reserves for the exclusive benefit of Jews, despite the fact that non-Jews comprise 25% of Israel’s population.
There is every reason to be concerned about the rise of Jew hatred and other manifestations of racism in the world today. All of them must be forcefully opposed. But we cannot allow efforts to combat these social scourges to be hijacked by those whose purpose is to justify and defend the racist policies of the state of Israel, which international, Israeli and Palestinian human rights organizations all now characterize as manifestations of apartheid.
The sponsors and speakers at this conference may attempt to exploit the country’s shock and outrage over the standing ovation given in Parliament for a former member of a Nazi organization. You may be asked to demonstrate your contrition by embracing the position that opposition to Zionism constitutes a form of antisemitism. But this insult to the memory of the Jews, Poles and other victims of this Nazi organization cannot be rectified by supporting or participating in a conference which justifies oppression elsewhere.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada
Meet some of the speakers and the conference sponsor
Arsen Ostrovsky – speaker
- CEO of International Legal Forum, a group which opposes students’ rights to criticize Israeli policy and which has been funded by the Israeli Ministry of Strategic Affairs, whose primary objective is opposing BDS, not antisemitism.
- Writes for the Gatestone Institute, a notoriously Islamophobic think tank known for platforming writers who say they “hate Islam” and endorsing anti-Muslim political figures, like Eric Zemmour in France’s 2022 presidential election
Kasim Hafeez, Christians United for Israel (CUFI) – speaker
- Hafeez is the Deputy Communications Director for Messaging for CUFI, the largest evangelical Christian Zionist organization in the world, many members of which believe that support for Israel helps pave the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ.
- CUFI is headed by John Hagee, a notoriously Islamophobic figure who holds extreme theological views – so extreme that US Republican John McCain disavowed Hagee’s support in 2008, per Ha’aretz
- Hagee – this speaker’s boss – suggested that Hitler and six million dead Jews were God’s instrument to facilitate other Jews moving to Israel
Gil Troy – speaker
- Refers to enclaves of Palestinian resistance as “tumors” that Israel was “cutting out,” adding that such “lethal growths must be removed.”
- Refers to non-Zionist, critical and anti-Zionist Jews as “un-Jews,” arguing that such Jewishness is antithetical to “proper” Jewishness and is bound to “wither away”
- Wrote that “terrorism infects Palestinian society and politics,” in a column for the Jewish Post, in which he also referred to anti-Zionists as “termites.”
Shai DeLuca – speaker
- a former IDF soldier who has partnered extensively with aggressive right-wing Jewish organizations CAMERA, Stand with Us and the United Grassroots Movement (UGM).
- DeLuca serves on the UGM board alongside several members who have been accused of Islamophobia, racism and endorsement of related conspiracy theories.
- He describes his time in the IDF as a “life-changing,” “great experience,” during which he spent time in active combat, as well as building explosives as an engineer.
Emily Schrader – speaker
- Schrader consistently dehumanizes Palestinians and makes inflammatory, racist comments on Twitter, claiming that “Nakba commemoration is offensive,” that “Arabs in 1948 […] were aggressors” and stating that “There has never been a Palestine”
- Campaigned online to discredit the experiences of Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah, describing their expulsion from their homes as a falsifiable “claim,” rather than a continuation of ethnic cleansing.
Mike Fegelman, Executive Director of Honest Reporting Canada (HRC) – speaker
- HRC tries to censor media coverage of Palestine-Israel, and has harassed over 80 Canadian news outlets.
- As The Maple journalist Davide Mastracci writes, HRC’s goal is “getting the media to be pro-Israel, but doing so through the guise of caring about facts, impartiality and honesty.”
- HRC pressures the media to say “terrorist” instead of “militant,” “Judea and Samaria” instead of the “West Bank,” and to stop referring to Israeli land grabs as “illegal settlements”
- Mike Fegelman has written in defence of Israel’s segregated, apartheid road system in which Palestinians are restricted from accessing Israeli-only roads.
Jewish National Fund Canada – sponsor
- The JNF is a parastatal institution in Israel whose lands were obtained through manipulative land sales and as a result of often violent, forced removals of Palestinians.
- In 2019, CBC’s Evan Dyer reported that JNF Canada funded Israeli military projects, in contravention of the rules governing Canadian charities
- In Israel itself, the JNF has been charged with corruption by the State Comptroller and has faced High Court challenges due to its explicitly discriminatory practices.
- “Jewish National Fund of Canada is a 1-star charity with a below-average results reporting score. It is not financially transparent and has reserve funds to cover program costs for over nine years,” Charity Intelligence Canada wrote in an assessment
- In 2019, the CRA Charities Directorate notified JNF Canada that it intended to revoke its charitable status, following IJV’s Stop JNF Canada campaign. JNF submitted an appeal, however, and retains its status today.