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Group questions premise of anti-Semitism conference Add to ...

As politicians from around the world meet in Ottawa to debate the so-called "new anti-Semitism," which they say is manifested in unjust and excessive criticism of Israel, a group called Independent Jewish Voices has released a video that says the premise of the conference is an attack on freedom of speech.

The video, titled Defend Free Speech: The Threat Is of from the New McCarthyism Not the New Anti-Semitism, features high-profile human-rights experts who argue that criticism of Israel is not synonymous with fomenting hatred against Jews.

What the delegates to the conference are trying to do "is to expand the definition of anti-Semitism to encompass any kind of criticism of Israel, which is a complete perversion of the whole concept of true anti-Semitism," said Diana Ralph, a spokesman for the group.

In addressing the conference Monday, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Israel may be subject to fair criticism but it is "consistently and conspicuously singled out for condemnation" and that is the face of the new anti-Semitism.

Ms. Ralph, on the other hand, said she has yet to hear the Conservative government and the opposition Liberals accept any criticism of Israel as legitimate. "They have been the most staunch cheerleaders for everything that Israel has done that has been condemned internationally," she said.

An unofficial, all-party parliamentary committee called the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism was formed after a similar international conference on anti-Semitism was held in London last year. That committee looked into incidents of the "new anti-Semitism" here in Canada, particularly on university campuses.

The Bloc Québécois quit the committee in March arguing that the CPCCA was unwilling to hear from dissenting voices.

A report of the hearings was expected in May. When it did not appear, the MPs who co-chaired the committee said it would be ready in time for this week's conference. It has still not surfaced.

Independent Jewish Voices wanted to appear at the committee's hearings but was refused the opportunity to testify.

But, according to the transcript of the testimony that appears on the committee's website, the CPCCA was told by several university officials that there is no evidence of Jewish students being systemically harassed and intimidated on Canadian campuses - or that to express anti-Israeli sentiment is to invite hostility.

"Even the CPCCA's biased process failed to support its claims that anti-Semitism is rising," Ms. Ralph said. "We think that that may be the reason they have failed to produce a report."

 

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