B’nai Brith is a racist, anti-left-wing organization that all progressives should shun. The fact that the Ontario NDP would smear an internationalist, social justice minded movement to gain favour with this anti-Palestinian group is unconscionable.
Over the past eighteen months Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Al Haq, B’tselem, the UN Special Rapporteur on Palestinians have all concluded that Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. Yet B’nai Brith openly calls itself “a staunch defender of the State of Israel.”
B’nai Brith openly and aggressively conflates opposition to Canadian support for Israeli colonialism with antisemitism. Independent Jewish Voices’ investigation of B’nai B’rith’s 2021 antisemitism report concluded it “purposefully conflates anti-Semitism with criticism of Israel and Zionism.”
Leaving aside their anti-Palestinianism, B’nai Brith has repeatedly whipped up hate against Muslims. B’nai Brith hypes “Islamic terror” and promoted the xenophobic 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.” In 2018 B’nai Brith sponsored an event in Vancouver with Ben Shapiro — a former Breitbart News editor. Shapiro has said the “Palestinian Arab population is rotten to the core”, “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage” and Islam is an “ideological representation of third worldism … and poverty.” Reportedly, the individual who killed six at a Quebec City mosque in 2017 visited Shapiro’s Twitter account 93 times in the month before his attack.
B’nai Brith is also overtly hostile to politicians and groups trying to build a fairer world. They’ve repeatedly attacked progressive Ontario NDP MPP Joel Harden and federal NDP MP Niki Ashton.
B’nai B’rith has also been campaigning aggressively to defund student unions and associated organizations. In March they released a statement that “called on McGill University to immediately cease funding SSMU [Student Society of McGill University].” In 2019 B’nai B’rith created a coalition of anti-Palestinian groups that called on Ontario students to take up “a unique opportunity to deny funding to” student associations. They pressed the University of Toronto’s administration to withhold its graduate students’ union funding. B’nai Brith was also granted intervener status on the side of the Doug Ford Conservatives in a court case between the Canadian Federation of Students/York Federation of Students and Ontario regarding the government’s move to force universities to grant opt outs for various student fees.
Should a progressive political party even respond to a B’nai Brith election questionnaire? They certainly should not be currying favor with the group by throwing Palestinians under the bus.
Recently the NDP responded to a B’nai B’rith questionnaire by endorsing the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism. The party also expressed opposition to a movement seeking to end apartheid. Its answer noted, “The Ontario NDP in no way endorses or supports the BDS [Boycott Divestment and Sanctions] movement…. Protest movements, however, should never become spaces where antisemitism, racism or hate is accepted.” Another part of the party’s response noted that “New Democrats also believe that public funds should not support programs that encourage a sense of hatred against the Jewish community or any other community.”
NDP Ontario is explicitly linking a nonviolent movement challenging what Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and many others have labeled apartheid with racism.
The party cannot claim to support anti-racist groups, progressive students challenging Israeli apartheid and Ontario’s Muslim community while at the same time cozy-up to an organization that supports racist policies, promotes Islamophobia, attacks progressives and denies that Israel practises apartheid. The Ontario NDP must decide which side it is on.
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