Three weeks after smearing antiracist, social justice, protesters Bernie Farber backed away from his statement. The chair of Canadian Anti-Hate Network (CAHN) erased his tweet and made a partial mea culpa.
Farber labeled a December 17 rally in front of an event put on by Israel settler colonial NGO Regavim “an antisemitic act no matter how it is defined.” It was an outrageous smear.
In response over 500 individuals emailed the CAHN board to ask Farber to delete his Tweet and apologize directly, as well as for the organization to educate its board and staff about anti-Palestinian racism. The pressure prompted Farber to delete his tweet though he didn’t apologize, and CAHN doesn’t appear to have committed to raising any concern about anti-Palestinian racism.
It’s odd a supposedly antiracist organization wouldn’t jump at the opportunity to raise a prejudice that is widespread in Canadian politics. But CAHN is close to the anti-Palestinian lobby. CAHN researchers Dan Collen and Étienne Quintal have recently worked for United Jewish Appeal Toronto, which organizes Canada’s largest annual apartheid celebration (Walk with Israel) and sponsors Canada’s most influential apartheid lobby group (Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs). Still, Farber’s recent smear is particularly embarrassing for CAHN since the purported antiracist activist openly aligned with far-right Rebel News editor Ezra Levant and long-time Jewish Defence League (JDL) leader Meir Weinstein, who CAHN is supposed to be antagonistic to.
In a response to an initial email the executive director of CAHN, Evan Balgord, distanced the organization from Farber’s time as one of Canada’s leading apartheid campaigners. “While I personally agree with the substance and intention behind your email, I don’t think it’s fair to immediately jump to accusing Bernie of ‘promoting anti-Palestinian hate’ or of aligning with the JDL”, wrote Balgord in an email suggesting the former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress’ (CJC) politics had changed. “Bernie has taken some positions that I don’t agree with before I met him. That’s not the same person that I call a friend today. I think his views have changed quite a lot, and continue to grow, and that a lot of the criticism of him that uses quotes from 10, 15, 20 years ago is in bad faith and doesn’t reflect who he is now.”
As I’ve detailed, Farber repeatedly took aggressive anti-Palestinian positions as CEO of CJC. 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 a 2010 letter to the Toronto Star denouncing Israeli Apartheid Week, Farber wrote that “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.”
In a stunningly jingoistic speech after Israeli troops killed 10 international activists challenging the brutal siege of Gaza in 2010, Farber described 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 the speech Farber also celebrated Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s participation in Toronto’s Walk for Israel and concluded by declaring we must “stand in support of Jewish honour and most important my friends we must stand today and always for Israel.”
Since the CJC went defunct in 2011 Farber hasn’t been front and centre in promoting apartheid. But Farber hasn’t apologized for decades of anti-Palestinianism and he continues to enable Jewish supremacy in Israel as his recent Regavim smear demonstrates. Farber regularly tweets at leading apartheid campaigners and participated in attacks on the small left-wing sandwich shop Foodbenders and eco-socialist minded British Labour party leader Jeremy Corbyn. In a 2020 debate Farber and CIJA Vice-President Richard Marceau argued in favor of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) anti-Palestinian definition of antisemitism. Last month Farber was quoted promoting an odious report into antisemitism at the University of Toronto faculty of medicine that came in response to demonstrations of Palestine solidarity.
CAHN may be an ally in pushing back against elements of the far right. But they’ve also been anti-Palestinian and they need to come clean about that before real anti-racists will trust them.
The Canadian Anti-Hate Network should reach out to Palestinian-Canadians to educate themselves and their supporters on anti-Palestinian racism.
Email CAHN’s board to ask the organization to educate its board and staff about anti-Palestinian racism