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B’nai Brith to Jagmeet Singh: NDP Should Embrace IHRA Definition

An image of federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh speaking at an event (MacLean’s)

March 18, 2021

OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada has formally conveyed its concern to federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh about riding association motions recommending that the NDP oppose the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

We understand that this may presage an effort to have the IHRA definition of antisemitism rejected nationally at their party convention in April.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the foundation of a still-growing global effort to confront the scourge of hatred against Jews. It has been formally adopted by 29 countries and a growing list of jurisdictions and institutions. Canada, as a leading IHRA member, has adopted the definition. It is now enshrined in Canada’s federal anti-racism strategy.

“We urge Mr. Singh to ensure that resolutions rejecting the IHRA definition of antisemitism are, themselves, rejected. This definition is critical for addressing the growing antisemitism in our midst,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “Indeed, it should be forthrightly accepted by the New Democratic Party as a signal of reassurance to Canadians generally and to Canada’s Jewish community in particular.”

“There have been efforts by some to mischaracterize this consensus definition and its examples, by claiming it is being used by ‘the Israel lobby’ to silence critics of the Israeli government. These interpretations are refuted by the facts,” said Brian Herman, B’nai Brith Canada’s Director of Government Relations. “The IHRA definition does not stifle legitimate criticism of Israel – and it explicitly states as much. Rather, as a non-legally binding and working definition, it facilitates how to distinguish antisemitic rhetoric from legitimate political discourse.”

The language of the IHRA definition could not be more clear on this point, namely that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.” Accordingly, and contrary to the claim of many of its critics, the IHRA definition of antisemitism does not infringe on free speech in any way.

Rather, as a carefully crafted guideline, it plays an important role in combating hateful speech.

By adopting the IHRA Definition, B’nai Brith Canada believes the federal New Democratic Party and its ridings can take a different road – a higher moral road to its own benefit and to the benefit of Canadian society, which must always be committed to combating racial hatred and bigotry.