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Website promotes hate, B'nai Brith member says

The B.C. representative for the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith Canada has filed a human-rights complaint alleging a Victoria-based website and its editors, manager and directors "contrive to promote ongoing hatred affecting persons identifiable as Jews and/or as citizens of Israel."

Eighteen articles allegedly containing anti-Semitic material have been removed by publisher Alan Rycroft from Peace, Earth and Justice News pending the outcome of an inquiry by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, and after the receipt of a letter from the commission detailing a complaint from B'nai Brith's Harry Abrams.

"There are a number of calumnies that need to be exposed," Mr. Abrams, a Victoria businessman, said in an interview. "The idea that Israel has no right to exist or that Israel is an apartheid state," he cited as examples.

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Mr. Rycroft said Mr. Abrams has quoted some of the articles out of context and that they are critical of the policies of the Israeli government and do not express hatred toward Jews.

A letter from the Canadian Human Rights Commission to Mr. Rycroft signed by Richard Tardif, deputy secretary-general, says the commission is required to address any complaint that alleges a violation of the Canadian Human Rights Act.

Many of the articles on the website, , discuss the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the war in Lebanon last summer. Some question Israel's right to exist or compare Israeli policy with Nazi persecution of Jews. One article, entitled We Should Nuke Israel, is an apparent spoof of a column in The Toronto Sun proposing a tactical strike on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Anita Bromberg, director of the legal department of B'nai Brith Canada, which has joined Mr. Abrams in the complaint, said the articles "are virulently anti-Israel to the point that they meet the criteria of crossing the line of legitimate criticism of the state straight into anti-Semitism."

Mr. Rycroft said removing the articles in question "is the respectful thing to do, until the issue is concluded."

"We removed all 18 articles ... named in the complaint within 24 hours as a courtesy to Harry Abrams and to show our goodwill. The 18 articles remain in our database and can be reactivated to public view at any time."

PEJ News, operated since 1996, provides articles and online discussions of peace, environment and justice issues written by its own writers and others. It is operated by the non-profit Prometheus Institute of Victoria and claims a global monthly per-page readership of 500,000 people.

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Mr. Abrams says other Canadian-based websites are being examined for possible complaints before the commission.

"We have to show that Canadian law extends to the Internet as well as the conventional printed word," he said.

Mr. Abrams is encouraged by the removal of the articles pending the outcome of his complaint. "I see that as a gesture of good faith. I am open to the idea of a mediated settlement."

The letter to Mr. Rycroft from the human rights commission said a settlement may be approved "if the parties reach an agreement during the course of an investigation."

Reaching a settlement is one option the commission tries in the early stages after a complaint is lodged, said Nathalie Dagenais, director of investigations for the commission.

Other options open to the commission include dismissing the complaint or referring the case to a human-rights tribunal for a hearing.

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