Last year Israeli human rights group B’tselem published “A regime of Jewish supremacy from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea: This is apartheid”. The landmark report provides mainstream Jewish Israeli endorsement of what’s long been clear to Palestinians and the internationalist minded: Zionism is a supremacist movement/ideology. As Osgoode Hall law Professor Faisal Bhabha put it in a 2020 debate with Bernie Farber, Zionism “is the suppression of Palestinian human rights for the purpose of ensuring Jewish supremacy.”
Chair of Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Farber is an unapologetic Jewish supremacist. Recently I discovered a video of a 2010 speech he delivered after Israeli troops killed 10 international activists challenging the brutal siege of Gaza. In it, Farber celebrates Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in Toronto’s Walk for Israel and labels the apartheid moniker — now adopted by Amnesty, Human Rights Watch and the UN Special Rapporteur — a “disgusting tissue of lies”. Farber describes the Turkish activists murdered by Israeli troops on the Mavi Marmara as “thugs” who engaged in “savagery”. But Israeli commandos killed 10 when they boarded a humanitarian ship in international waters to enforce an illegal blockade of a small strip of land largely populated by Palestinians ethnically cleansed from their homes in 1948.
In a unique twist on the age-old tradition of colonizers justifying their violence by claiming victimhood, Farber frames opposition to Israeli racism as a bid to subjugate Jewry. “Nor will we accept the implicit notion that the only good Jew is a subservient one or dead one”, he tells the cheering United Jewish Appeal Toronto audience.
In concluding the warlike speech Farber declares we must “stand in support of Jewish honour and most important my friends we must stand today and always for Israel.”
Farber worked at the now defunct Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) between 1984 and 2011. He repeatedly labelled supporters of Palestinian rights as racist. After the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Ontario) passed a 2009 motion in support of the Palestinian led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement Farber claimed, “anti-Semitism is once again amongst us.” For Farber the resolution was “bigoted and discriminatory and anti-Jewish” because only one country was targeted. “The sole target is Jews, is Israel,” he said.
In a 2010 letter to the Toronto Star denouncing Israeli Apartheid Week, CJC’s CEO wrote, “Anything that promotes the destruction, demonization and delegitimization of Israel, the world’s only Jewish state, is inherently anti-Semitic. To falsely accuse Israel, and by extension the vast majority of the world’s Jews who support the Jewish state, of ‘apartheid,’ is a form of anti-Semitic bullying.”
When the Israeli military killed 1,400 Palestinians, including 345 children, over 22 days in 2008 and 2009, Farber denounced those protesting the slaughter across the country for their purported “vile, disgusting, hateful rhetoric of the kind that should be absolutely frightening to Canadians.” Further stoking anti-Arab and anti-Muslim sentiment, he labeled the protests “uncivil, un-Canadian, that demonize Jews and Israelis.”
In 2003, Farber lobbied for noted Islamophobe and anti-Palestinian activist Daniel Pipes to speak at York University. “It would have set a very, very unacceptable precedent to cancel it because of students who didn’t like or what he had to say,” said the then-executive director of CJC Ontario. In 1996, Pipes asserted that Islam “would seem to have nothing functional to offer” and six years earlier said: “Western European societies are unprepared for the massive immigration of brown-skinned peoples cooking strange foods and maintaining different standards of hygiene … All immigrants bring exotic customs and attitudes, but Muslim customs are more troublesome than most.” The year before speaking at York University, Pipes launched Campus Watch, which created “dossiers” on professors and academic institutions viewed as critical of Israel.
Farber certainly didn’t support Pipes as a principled defender of free speech. In fact, Farber repeatedly promoted hate speech restrictions and a few years later the CJC pressured the York administration against holding an academic conference entitled Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace. Farber also applauded the Stephen Harper government’s 2009 move to block former British MP George Galloway from speaking in Canada, campaigned to suppress A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth and spurred Shoppers Drug Mart to withdraw Adbuster from its stores. Aligning himself with Doug and Rob Ford, in 2010 Farber called on Toronto Pride to ban Queers Against Israeli Apartheid from its parade. In an over-the-top Toronto Star opinion piece he co-wrote, “you’ve got to hand it to the organizers of Toronto’s annual gay pride parade. With their cowardly volte facein allowing Queers Against Israeli Apartheid (QuAIA) to march, organizers have pulled off the PR nightmare hat-trick: bowing to the bullying of political correctness; violating their own core philosophy by readmitting a group rooted in hate and demonization; and shifting media focus off their main objective.”
Farber attacked the United Church of Canada for supporting Palestinian rights and Independent Jewish Voices (IJV). Amidst an aggressive campaign targeting the United Church, the CJC head opined, “that a mainstream Christian faith group would provide funding to create an anti-Zionist, and anti-Jewish group is absolutely astounding.”
Farber has repeatedly denigrated IJV, which supports the Palestinian civil society’s call to put economic and diplomatic pressure on Israel. He called IJV a “small, radical rump group,” “a rump on the edge of Jewish society,” a “fringe group” that spews “vile, anti-Zionist” rhetoric, “a minuscule, fringe group” that backs the “anti-Semitic” claim that Israel practices apartheid, etc.
At the same time that he disparaged IJV, Farber gave political cover to the Jewish Defence League (JDL), which recruited in Jewish high schools and participated in Toronto’s Annual Israel Walk. According to Andy Lehrer, JDL head Meir Weinstein spoke glowingly of Farber. After being asked to do so for years, Farber finally distanced himself and the CJC from the JDL in 2011. Highlighting the tension between those who back its anti-Palestinian posture, but oppose the JDL’s alliances with fascist and white supremacist organizations, Farber denounced the group after it rallied in support of Britain’s extremist English Defence League.
Farber hasn’t apologized for his decades of anti-Palestinian racism. In fact, Farber’s Mosaic Institute co-hosted a 2015 event with the Consulate of Israel in Toronto, he supported the exclusion of IJV from a 2017 Ontario antisemitism committee and he called on the 2018 NDP convention to oppose a resolution that called for boycotting products from illegal Israeli settlements. In a 2020 debate Farber argued in favor of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism and he contributed to the Zionist lobby’s campaign to shut down left-wing Toronto sandwich shop Foodbenders for standing with Palestinians. Farber regularly tags Canada’s leading apartheid lobbyists on Twitter and the Canadian Anti-Hate Network collaborates with UJA Toronto, Canada’s leading promoter of apartheid.
Canadian Anti-Hate Network practises what might be labeled ‘associational politics’, criticizing politicians for meeting with objectionable characters or protests that include a few odious signs. Following that standard, everyone at Canadian Anti-Hate Network ought to answer for Farber’s supremacism. Yet the Canadian Anti-Hate Network has failed to release a statement distancing itself from Farber’s anti-Palestinianism.
Are Evan Balgord, Barbara Perry, Kurt Phillips, Nigel Barriffe, Richard Warman, Sue Gardner, Dan Collen, Étienne Quintal and others who work for/with Canadian Anti-Hate Network okay with Farber’s racism? If not, why haven’t they spoken out against it?
What do you call an “antiracist” group led by an open ethnic/religious supremacist?
Not an antiracist group.