Opposition to Spurious Definition of Anti-Semitism

Zionist Definition of Anti-Semitism Must Not Pass!

A motion may be presented to Montreal City Council to adopt the working definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) at its April 19 monthly meeting.

Such a motion had been expected at City Council's March 22-23 meeting. On March 9, in anticipation of such a motion, close to 30 Montreal-based anti-racist organizations sent an open letter to Mayor Valérie Plante and Montreal City Council demanding that they take a stand in opposition to the IHRA definition.

This definition says "Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities." This is a spurious as well as narrow definition. It is imbued with self-serving zionist notions, including the supposition that only Jews are Semites. Furthermore, of the 11 "examples" that the IHRA provides as guideline, seven refer to criticism of the state of Israel.

Independent Jewish Voices Canada has pointed out that "a similar motion to the one proposed for Montreal City Council was withdrawn following widespread grassroots opposition in January 2020."

It is instructive to revisit what took place at Montreal City Hall in January 2020 the first time the motion was presented and what followed.

On January 27, 2020, the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the liberation of prisoners from Auschwitz by the Soviet Army, also known as Holocaust Remembrance Day, Montreal City Council met to discuss a motion to adopt the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism presented by Lionel Perez, head of the official opposition and interim leader of Ensemble Montréal (formerly Équipe Denis Coderre pour Montréal), following Coderre's defeat in the 2017 municipal election. A picket outside Montreal City Hall opposed the adoption of the IHRA definition, which included members of Palestinian and Jewish Unity (PAJU), Independent Jewish Voices, the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist) and other progressive forces.

Inside Montreal City Hall, three citizens were chosen by roster to ask questions about the motion. One identified herself as the daughter of Soviet Jewish immigrants whose family members "did and did not survive" the Holocaust, another as the daughter of "survivors and refugees of the German government and state, concentration camps and violence," and a third as a member of Independent Jewish Voices.[1]

One of them noted that the IHRA working definition "actively criminalizes Palestinians and pro-Palestinian and anti-Zionist organizations" and "obscures and deflects attention from the very violent manifestations of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, while white supremacist groups like Atalante and La Meute march in the streets of Montreal and Quebec and are often protected by the police and take their ideological positions from the same ideologies that enabled the Holocaust." She asked when would the city name the active agents of anti-Semitism as white supremacist groups.[2]

Another participant noted the importance of public discussion, debate and criticism regarding the actions and policies of any state, including Israel and wondered how public discussion and protests against Israel would be ensured and Palestinian voices heard if the IHRA definition was passed.

Councillor Perez responded that the definition had been worked on for 12 years by about 30 countries, the UN, UNESCO and the European Union. "We have every single major democratic country, including Canada, that has adopted it and guess what? They have no concern in fact about impeding freedom of speech." He added that although criticism of Israel was fine, if "you start incorporating elements of hate, when you use anti-Semitic tropes [elements of conspiracy], when you start talking about subliminal messages, that's where hate enters."[3]

In response to a question about how to guarantee that people will always have the right to label states -- whether it be Canada or Israel -- as racist states if the definition is passed, he responded: "We can" and "must rely on our institutions," and that "for us, this shows that it is entirely legitimate and always an issue [...] of finding a balance and in a free and democratic society, we can do that."[4]

One of the interveners asked, "Can we not have a larger conception of anti-Semitism that sees this as a kind of hate that is not very different from Islamophobia, or homophobia or all other forms of hate because it targets all forms of hate and doesn't divide communities?"[5]

The day after Perez tabled his motion, the City of Montreal administration decided to refer it to committee for study, where it has remained since.

This year, again on January 27, the occasion of Holocaust Remembrance Day, at a special meeting of the Côte-des-Neiges--Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough council in Montreal's West End, of which Perez is a member, the "Motion adopting the operational definition of anti-Semitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance (IHRA)" was passed.[6]

Amongst the considerations contained in the motion, we find that "in 2015, the City of Montreal created the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence, the aim of which is to prevent radicalization leading to violence and hateful behaviour." Another is that "following the 2015 Montreal Roundtable Discussions against anti-Semitism the Montreal Police Service established a hate crimes unit in 2016 allowing it to more effectively investigate reporting and complaints received regarding hate incidents and crimes." We also read that "in November, 2020 Canada created the position of special envoy for the preservation of the memory of the Holocaust and the fight against anti-Semitism by nominating Irwin Cotler to head the Canadian government delegation at the IHRA." Still another consideration is that "over recent years there has been an increase in anti-Semitic attacks around the world and in Canada."[7]

One of the motion's resolutions reads that "the Borough Administration circulate the definition with services so that it is used based on their respective needs." The motion adopting the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism also resolves "that the Côte-des-Neiges--Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough request that the City of Montreal administration and City Council adopt the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as soon as possible."[8]

The following day, a letter to the editor appeared in the Montreal Gazette applauding Perez and the borough for adopting the IHRA definition. Amongst other things, it said: "We encourage other boroughs and the City of Montreal to follow suit." It added: "We are working with the Quebec government to produce a universal teachers' guide on the subject of genocide, including the Holocaust." It said that the guide "will help young people understand the meaning of and the ultimate consequences of hatred so that they will recognize the warning signs of genocide and prevent history from repeating itself." It was signed by a member of "The Foundation for Genocide Education, Montreal."[9]

The Foundation's stated mission "is to collaborate with governments to ensure that the history of genocide and the steps leading to it are taught in high schools across Canada and the United States."[10] Its partners include the Centre for the Prevention of Radicalization Leading to Violence as well as the Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights, which organized the visit to Concordia University of the phony Ambassador to Venezuela in October 2019.

On June 25, 2019, without prior consultation with Canadians or even in the House of Commons, the Trudeau Liberal government adopted the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism through its "Building a Foundation for Change: Canada's Anti-Racism Strategy 2019-2022." A year and a half later, Trudeau named Irwin Cotler Canada's "Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Anti-Semitism." Cotler leads the Government of Canada's delegation to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).[11]

It is important for people to inform themselves on the matter, discuss these issues with their colleagues, friends, neighbours and families and go all out to block passage of the IHRA working definition of anti-Semitism, whether at the municipal level or within our educational institutions.

Pretentious claims of fighting hate and intolerance, and defending human rights are being used by the Canadian government to cover up the fact that one of its main priorities has been and continues to be the defence of Israeli Zionism, as well as the criminalization of those defending the rights of Palestinians and others. It must not pass!


1. Montreal City Council Proceedings, Monday, January 27, 2020, 7:00 pm 

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Proceedings of Special Meeting of the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce Borough Council, January 27, 2021, pages 156-158

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. "Letter to the Editor: Education is key to fighting hate," Montreal Gazette, January 28, 2021.

10. The Foundation for Genocide Education 

11. The following countries have adopted the IHRA Working Definition of Antisemitism (as of February 2021):

Albania, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Kosovo, Lithuania. Luxembourg, Moldova, The Netherlands, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom, Uruguay.

(Quotations translated from original French by TML.)

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 4 - April 4, 2021

Article Link:


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