Stoking Islamophobia Should Bar Group From Quebec’s Discrimination Talks

Would a farmer ask a fox to help design a security system for her free-range chickens?

A group that stokes Islamophobia and defends an explicitly supremacist organization shouldn’t be part of a Public Consultation on Systemic Discrimination and Racism in Québec. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) should be removed from the “list of selected organizations” for this important initiative.

While groups participating in the just-launched consultation are supposed to “develop concrete proposals to combat systemic discrimination and racism,” last summer CIJA campaigned aggressively against a Green Party of Canada resolution calling on the Canada Revenue Agency to revoke the charitable status of an explicitly racist organization. The Green’s motion described the Jewish National Fund’s (JNF) “discrimination against non-Jews in Israel through its bylaws which prohibit the lease or sale of its lands to non-Jews.” Owner of 13 per cent of Israel’s land — mostly seized from Palestinians in 1948 — the JNF systematically discriminates against the 20 per cent of non-Jewish Israeli citizens. JNF racism is not the all-too-common “personal” or even “structural” variety; rather, a legalistic discrimination outlawed in Canada six decades ago.

CIJA and the JNF Canada often work together and sponsor each other’s events. Additionally, JNF Canada CEO Lance Davis previously worked as CIJA’s National Jewish Campus Life director.

Beyond defending racist land-use policies in Israel, CIJA has stigmatized marginalized Canadians by hyping “Islamic terror” and targeting Arab and Muslim community representatives, papers, organizations, etc. In response to a truck attack in Nice, France, last year CIJA declared “Canada is not immune to… Islamist terror” and in February they highlighted “those strains of Islam that pose a real and imminent threat to Jews around the world.”

CIJA demonizes some groups of Canadian Arabs and Muslims by constantly accusing them of supporting “terror.”

In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the region, CIJA demonizes some groups of Canadian Arabs and Muslims by constantly accusing them of supporting “terror.” Last week, the lobbying arm of Canada’s Jewish Federations said it was “shocked” Ottawa failed to rescind the charitable status of the Islamic Society of British Columbia. CIJA alleges that the Vancouver-area mosque supports Hamas, which the federal government considers a terrorist organization but Palestinians (and most of the world) consider a political/resistance organization.

While quick to attack Arabs and Muslims’ support for “terror” or “anti-Semitism,” CIJA clams up when explicit Jewish Islamophobia is brought to their attention. In 2012, the Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR-CAN) asked for CIJA’s help with an aggressively anti-Muslim textbook used at Joe Dwek Ohr HaEmet Sephardic School in Toronto. It described Muslims as “rabid fanatics” with “savage beginnings,” but CIJA refused to respond.

Anti-Hate and anti-immigration  protesters are separated by police at the Bill M-103 protests at the Nathan Phillips Square in Toronto, Ont.

In a more recent example of the group stoking anti-Muslim sentiment, CIJA aligned itself with the backlash against the term “Islamophobia” in Bill M-103, which called for collecting data on hate crimes and studying the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” CEO Shimon Fogel said the “wording of M-103 is flawed. Specifically, we are concerned with the word ‘Islamophobia’ because it is misleading, ambiguous and politically charged.” It takes chutzpah for a Jewish community leader to make this argument since, as Rick Salutin points out, anti-Semitism is a more ambiguous term. But Fogel would no doubt label as anti-Jewish someone who objected to the term anti-Semitism as “misleading, ambiguous and politically charged.”

An initiative promoted by committed anti-racist campaigners, the Public Consultation on Systemic Discrimination and Racism in Québec is important. It should not include a group that stokes Islamophobia and defends an explicitly supremacist organization.

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Author: Yves Engler