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Anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli construction in Jerusalem? Add to ...

I see in my morning read that The Inter-Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism (ICCA), which has been meeting in the nation's capital this week, ratified the Ottawa Protocol yesterday. And, from the closing press conference, the National Post reports:

Irwin Cotler, chairman of the international coalition and a noted human rights activist, told a news conference the protocol breaks new ground. For the first time, it provides detailed definitions of what constitutes anti-Semitism and puts in writing what the group sees as the distinction between anti-Semitism and legitimate criticism of the state of Israel, the Liberal MP said.

"Let it be clear: Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic, and saying so is wrong," the protocol says.

"But singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium -- let alone denying its right to exist or seeking is destruction -- is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest."

Also this morning, I see that The New York Times reports a heated U.S.-Israeli exchange at the highest levels concerning Israel's plans to construct an additional 1,000 housing units in East Jerusalem:

Mr. Obama said, "This kind of activity is never helpful when it comes to peace negotiations."

"I'm concerned that we're not seeing each side make the extra effort involved to get a breakthrough," the president added during his visit to Indonesia. "Each of these incremental steps can end up breaking trust."

A few hours later, Mr. Netanyahu's office responded with a statement, saying that "Jerusalem is not a settlement; Jerusalem is the capital of the State of Israel."

So here's the question I would have asked Mr. Cotler at the press conference in Ottawa yesterday:

Is it anti-Semitic to criticize Israeli construction in East Jerusalem?

And here's the follow-up question I would have asked:

"What's your position on that construction?"

I would have asked Mr. Cotler these two questions because of an incident that occurred when I was ambassador to Israel and he was a McGill University law professor who periodically brought justices of the Supreme Court of Canada to Israel to meet with their judicial counterparts.

The program had the backing of the Government of Canada. And the incident involved Antonio Lamer who, as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, stood No. 3 in Canada's Table of Precedence.

When I learned that Mr. Lamer was to be escorted on a visit to East Jerusalem by Israeli officials, I sought direction from Ottawa. I was advised by officials at the foreign ministry that this was not the first time the Israelis had tried such a manoeuvre in order to buttress their claim to that part of the city. And I was directed to discourage Mr. Lamer from carrying through with the visit under these arrangements, which he readily agreed to. Mr. Cotler was furious, and he severely upbraided me in the local press. Which I thought at the time, and still do, was entirely inappropriate.

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