Jan. 25, 2021
OTTAWA – B’nai Brith Canada is calling on academic staff at Carleton University to reject a resolution targeting the internationally accepted definition of antisemitism.
On Jan. 28, 2021, the Carleton University Academic Staff Association (CUASA) will be considering a resolution put before it condemning the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism. The non-legally binding IHRA definition has been adopted by 28 countries, including Canada, and was anchored in Ontario policy via an order-in-council last October. The definition is an integral part of the federal government’s anti-racism strategy, ‘Building a Foundation for Change.’
The CUASA resolution is based on a false premise. It alleges that the IHRA Definition “includes criticism of Israel among its list of potentially antisemitic acts” and that “no state is above criticism or challenge.” In reality, however, the IHRA Definition with its contemporary examples of antisemitism explicitly states that “criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”
Since it was drafted, the working definition has gained currency in a growing number of nations and organizations. To date, 28 countries have adopted the definition to help them determine what constitutes antisemitism.
In October, 2020, the Global Council of Imams adopted the IHRA definition and, in a written statement, said: “we invite leading organizations of the Muslim world and all other Imams Councils to adopt the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism and all examples underneath it.”
In December, the Council of the European Union invited all EU member states to adopt the definition as part of a comprehensive EU strategy to fight antisemitism. The Secretary-General of the Organization of American States has said the IHRA definition would be applied to the work of the OAS.
Importantly in the field of education, there is no evidence that legitimate criticism of Israel has been impeded – nor is it feared – at prestigious international universities that have adopted the IHRA Definition, such as Oxford and Cambridge – among some 18-plus leading British universities.
The CUASA vote will be considered on Jan. 28 without the degree of consultation or transparency expected by our academic professionals. Many members are not aware of the proposed anti-IHRA resolution at all. Some Carleton faculty members have reached out to B’nai Brith, explaining that they are disappointed over CUASA’s obsession with the IHRA definition.
“Just as with legitimate criticism of Israel, the definition does not limit free speech; it allows us to identify speech that is antisemitic,” said Brian Herman, B’nai Brith Canada’s Director of Government Relations. “As the original drafters have said, the definition is ‘first and foremost an educational tool for those who need to know what antisemitism is’.”
“As a professional association, CUASA has an obligation to defend the rights of its entire membership, including Jewish members,” said Michael Mostyn, Chief Executive Officer of B’nai Brith Canada. “University campuses have been among the focal points of antisemitism in Canada in recent years, and this resolution threatens to make matters worse.
“B’nai Brith calls on CUASA leadership to act responsibly and openly reject this counter-productive resolution.”