Mr. Speaker, as I am rising for the first time in this place since the last general election, I would like to begin by thanking my constituents in Calgary Midnapore who have given me the great honour of representing them for the seventh time in this place, previously in the constituency of Calgary Southeast, many of whose members I now represent in the new electoral district of Calgary Midnapore.
As well, I would like to congratulate you on your re-election and re-nomination to the august post of Deputy Speaker. I would also like to congratulate the member who preceded me, the member for Edmonton West, on his thoughtful remarks.
The motion now before the House states:
That, given Canada and Israel share a long history of friendship as well as economic and diplomatic relations, the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.
One reason that today's motion is so important is that the BDS movement represents a new wave of anti-Semitism, the most pernicious form of hatred in the history of humanity.
Anti-Semitism is the most durable and pernicious form of hatred in human history. That is why we, as parliamentarians in this liberal democracy, are called upon to reject and condemn these manifestations of the new anti-Semitism.
We are all familiar with what is sometimes called the old anti-Semitism, traditional anti-Semitism, which was sadly expressed through much of European history against the Jewish people and led to pogroms and ultimately created the ideological backdrop for the Shoah, the Nazi attempt to eradicate the Jewish people from the face of the earth.
Sadly, in recent decades and years, we have seen the development of a new form of anti-Semitism, which often takes the form of a kind of ideological fusion between movements of the extreme left and Islamist movements that seek, together, to obliterate the Jewish democratic State of Israel as a representation of what some call the “collective Jew”.
This is not the first time that our House has taken up these issues and, indeed, I am pleased to say that I played some small role in helping to bring together parliamentarians internationally to Ottawa through the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism. We hosted a gathering of parliamentarians from some 54 countries in 2010 to grapple with these questions.
Further to that, an all-party panel was created, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, which held exhaustive hearings across the country and here in Ottawa for the better part of two years, of which the member formerly of Lanark—Carleton and the former Liberal member Mario Silva were co-chairs. I would like to commend them for their work and recommend the report they submitted to the House in 2010 as an essential reference point for the reality of anti-Semitism and, in particular, its expression in the boycott, divestment, and sanction campaign.
One of the questions that this motion begs is this. What is anti-Semitism? The Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism produced the Ottawa protocol, which I was pleased to endorse as a minister of citizenship, immigration, and multiculturalism on behalf of the Government of Canada. We were, parenthetically, the first and only executive branch of a government in the world to have done so.
That report adopted the working definition of anti-Semitism that has been proposed by bodies in the European Union that have studied the phenomenon of the new anti-Semitism.
This comes from the EUMC and has been adopted by our own parliamentarians in the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism. Let me quote in part its definition of anti-Semitism:
Contemporary examples of anti-Semitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:...
Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination (e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour).
Applying double standards by requiring of it behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation....
Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
The ICCA and the Canadian equivalent went on to say that: “Criticism of Israel is not [in and of itself] antisemitic, and saying so is wrong”.
Indeed, if criticism of Israel were anti-Semitic, then there would be anti-Semitism expressed in the Israeli Knesset every single day in that pluralistic democracy.
This I say to my friends in the NDP who have reservations about this motion. Criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitic and saying so is wrong, but singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium, let alone denying its right to exist or seeking its destruction, is discriminatory and hateful, and not saying so is dishonest.
Through this motion hopefully we can collectively say that singling Israel out for selective condemnation and opprobrium and denying its right to exist, or seeking its destruction, is discriminatory and hateful and is a virulent expression of the new anti-Semitism.
How do we see this manifested? Sadly, in many of our university campuses it is expressed in the so-called Israel apartheid week. The member for Edmonton West talked about people getting shouted down on campus if they dare to defend the democratic nature of that Jewish state.
I have travelled campuses across the country to encourage Jewish students and other allies and supporters of the democratic State of Israel, and I have been harassed physically, shouted down, and rendered unable to speak against Israel apartheid week at Canadian university campuses.
It is not just deplorable to find passionate, neo-Marxist undergrads, who perhaps do not know better, being whipped into a frenzy in their hatred for the Jewish state, but it is deplorable to see tenured professors at too many of our academic institutions encouraging and inciting this form of collective anti-Semitism through, in part, the academic boycott movement. That is why I am proud to say that, in the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism report of 2010, recommendation 9 reads:
The Inquiry Panel agrees with the conclusion of the UK Inquiry that “calls to boycott contact with academics working in Israel are an assault on academic freedom and intellectual exchange.”
My time is drawing short, so let me say how important action is, not just symbols such as this condemnatory motion before us today. The previous government, of which I was proud to be a member, took the position that we must reflect a zero tolerance approach toward expressions of anti-Semitism, in part by removing public funding from organizations that give voice to such sentiments that support the BDS movement.
That is why, as minister of citizenship and immigration, I removed government funding from Palestine House in Mississauga and from the Canadian Arab Federation, which had been, under the previous government, receiving settlement funding to integrate newcomers but whose leading members had repeatedly given expression to the most vile anti-Semitic sentiments, including support for the BDS movement. I sincerely hope that the new government does not revert to funding such organizations. I think there has been some ambiguity about that.
Finally, for those who are interested in practical individual ways that they can demonstrate their solidarity for one of the great underdogs of history, the Jewish state, which rose out of the ashes of the Shoah as the final refuge and home of the Jewish people, whenever we see a boycott against Israeli products, we should launch our own “buycott”. That is what I have done.
Le Marcheur is a shop on Saint-Denis, in Montreal. That is where Amir Khadir started a boycott. I go to that store to buy my shoes. When there was a boycott against Sodastream, that was the first time I bought Sodastream products. One way for average Canadians to reject this campaign of hate is to do the opposite and support Israeli producers in their efforts to create a prosperous, free, and democratic society.