Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism is designed to protect Israel from growing criticism of its violence, colonialism and apartheid. That was confirmed by the envoy hiring an individual found by a McGill University inquiry to have fabricated claims of antisemitism to smear Palestine solidarity activists.
In his recent statement on Israel Independence Day Prime Minister Justin Trudeau explicitly linked the special envoy position to that country. The position was created a year and a half ago for Canada’s (arguably) chief apartheid apologist, Irwin Cotler. A staunch proponent of Israeli colonialism, Cotler has a home in Israel and his daughter was recently a member of the Knesset. In response to a recent speech Cotler delivered at the University of Toronto’s Temerty Faculty of Medicine, 45 faculty members sent the dean a letter to saying the event “reinforced anti-Palestinian racism in a way that is consistent with a broader pattern of silencing and erasure of Palestinian voices.”
Cotler has been bemoaning the “new antisemitism” of those who support Palestinian rights for decades. He claimed the 20001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa “became the tipping point for the coalescence of a new, virulent globalizing anti-Jewishness.” After Canada’s biggest ever Palestinian solidarity demonstrations — largely by racialized Canadians — in May 2021 Cotler led an antisemitism summit and began decrying the worst antisemitism in Canada since World War II. (As Cotler knows, it wasn’t until the 1950s that it became illegal to block Jews and other groups from purchasing property in some neighborhoods. Some social clubs also restricted Jewish membership into the 1960s.)
In the most recent federal budget, the Liberals put up $5.6 million over five years for the special envoy position. With taxpayer funds Cotler hired Noah Lew as a policy and program analyst to support his work. But Lew may be the only Canadian ever shown by an official university inquiry to have fabricated claims of antisemitism to smear Palestine solidarity activists.
In October 2017, Noah Lew cried “antisemitism” after he wasn’t voted on to the Students Society of McGill University (SSMU) Board of Directors. At a general assembly, Democratize SSMU sought to impeach the student union’s president Muna Tojiboeva. The ad-hoc student group was angry over her role in suspending an SSMU vice president and adopting a Judicial Board decision that declared a BDS resolution unconstitutional. While they couldn’t muster the two thirds of votes required to oust the non-Jewish president of the student union, Democratize SSMU succeeded in blocking the re-election of two Board of Directors candidates who supported the effort to outlaw boycott the investment sanctions BDS resolutions.
After failing to be re-elected to the Board of Directors at the same meeting Lew claimed he was “blocked from participating in student government because of my Jewish identity and my affiliations with Jewish organizations.” Lew’s claim received international coverage and the affair was even mentioned in the House of Commons.
In response the (anti-Palestinian) university administration launched a major investigation, which found the issue was… Palestine. After interviewing 38 students over three-and-a-half weeks, former student ombudsman Dr. Spencer Boudreau concluded that he could “not substantiate the notion that the vote was motivated by anti-Semitism” and couldn’t find “evidence that would equate students’ protests about Israel’s policies with anti-Semitism.” Rather, Boudreau found that the vote was “motivated by politics, that is, based on his [Lew] support for Israel and Zionism and/or for his view of the BDS movement.” Considering the uproar and political climate, this was a devastating finding. But it didn’t deter Cotler, a former McGill professor, from hiring Lew. Last year Lew interned at Cotler’s Raoul Wallenberg Center for human rights and in January he was hired to assist the special envoy.
Lew hiring’s confirms that Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism is designed to protect Israel from criticism. And to offer jobs to people who define support for Palestinian rights as antisemitism.
Over five and half million taxpayer dollars for this? Shame.
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