Stop Bill 168, Say No to IHRA in Ontario
(Palestinian Canadian Community Centre – Palestine House and Just Peace Advocates have launched an action call to write to all members of the Ontario legislative assembly to let them know the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism is dangerous and that Bill 168 calling for its adoption should not move forward. You can send the form letter supplied or personalize your own. Following is the letter that was sent July 22 by the chairperson of CPA.)
“This bill, if passed, will tell me that I am not allowed to criticize the very ideology, Zionism, that resulted in the dispossession of my family and my nation; that is both unfair and equally racist in itself.”
Dear Member of the Ontario Legislature:
I am writing to you as a Canadian Palestinian and the chairperson of Canada Palestine Association in Vancouver. I have lived much of my adult life in Canada after first immigrating here in 1974 and have both family and friends in Ontario; like the rest of my community, I have struggled to live in dignity and raise a family while navigating and going beyond the difficulties of immigrant life.
As Palestinians, most of us are not here by choice; we have been dispossessed from our ancestral homeland and forced to find refuge wherever we could. We have been cast to the four corners of the world; my own extended family has members in multiple countries. I hold the deed to our family’s property in Bethlehem, my birthplace; but due to Israeli policies that are supported by Canada, in flagrant violation of the UN resolution[i] reaffirmed annually, I am not allowed to live there. Why? Because I am a Palestinian Christian and a 1967 war refugee.
I am asking you to not support Bill 168 in the Ontario legislature.
This bill, if passed, will tell me that I am not allowed to criticize the very ideology, Zionism, that resulted in the dispossession of my family and my nation; that is both unfair and equally racist in itself. You may have been led to believe that adoption of the IHRA definition will aid in the important struggle against anti-Semitism, even though many voices from both within and outside the Jewish community disagree with such an approach. What you may not have heard is that this bill will also end up contributing to another form of racism, anti-Palestinian racism. It is flawed to claim that you are fighting against one form of racism by reinforcing another one; we must unite to fight against all forms of racism.
The Ontario Civil Liberties Association has clearly stated that it “opposes the international campaign to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which is targeting all levels of government in Canada, as well as universities, police, and other authorities.”
It also endorsed the BC Civil Liberties Association position, which noted: “We fear that if adopted, the IHRA definition will serve to severely chill political expressions of criticism of Israel as well as support for Palestinian rights.”
Most of our community is already terrorized by anti-immigrant, anti-Palestinian or anti-Muslim rhetoric. Some are even hesitant to admit their heritage to others, afraid that it may hinder their job prospects or relationships. Passing this dangerous and unnecessary bill will only further that alienation.
If Bill 168 is adopted and passed into law in the Ontario legislature, and Palestinians in the future are told to limit or dismiss or deny their lived history, then our worst fears have been realized. Please don’t set a precedent as being the first Canadian province to be officially complicit in eroding free speech, eviscerating the Palestinian people’s narrative and promoting anti-Palestinian racism.
Hanna Kawas, Chair, Canada Palestine Association