The Canadian Federation of Students (CFS) is rejecting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which guides politicians and leaders around the globe on how to identify and combat anti-Jewish hatred.
On Wednesday, the CFS issued a press release claiming Bill 168, known as the “Combating Antisemitism Act,” violates freedom of speech. The bill, up for a second reading in the Legislative Assembly of Ontario on Thursday, looks to officially adopt the IHRA definition in Ontario.
The definition, which states that, “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews,” has already been adopted or endorsed by the Governments of Canada, the UK, and the EU.
The CFS also commended the efforts of Independent Jewish Voices (IJV), a fringe anti-Israel group that opposes Bill 168. IJV’s staunchly anti-Israel positions in no way represent mainstream Jewry according to a 2018 landmark survey of Canadian Jews of various political backgrounds.
“It is incredibly offensive that the CFS believes it can dictate what constitutes antisemitism and speak on behalf of Canada’s Jewish community, which overwhelmingly supports adopting the IHRA definition.” said Daniel Koren, Executive Director of Hasbara Fellowships Canada. “The definition is not political in nature nor does it infringe on freedom of speech. In fact, it quite clearly stipulates that ‘criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.’ It’s pretty much the first thing it says.”
He continued. “With thirty-three member countries and support from hundreds of global Jewish organizations, IHRA is literally the world’s only intergovernmental organization mandated to focus solely on Holocaust-related issues. I wonder, did the CFS even consult an IHRA representative before making its bogus claim that the definition suppresses freedom of speech? I doubt it.”
This is not the first time the CFS has been embroiled in controversy over its support for campaigns that delegitimize or demonize the Jewish State and/or people. In November 2018, three Canadian Jewish groups, including Hasbara Canada, urged the CFS to rescind its endorsement of the discriminatory boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
“It is no wonder Jewish students say they are targeted in the name of anti-Israel activism on campus when these are the positions taken by their own representatives,” Koren said. “The CFS should immediately apologize for its insensitivity. I’d also recommend that its executives take mandatory classes to educate them about the Holocaust and Jewish history and identity.”