The False Foundation of B’nai Brith’s Data

Every year, B’nai Brith Canada releases its “Audit of AntiSemitic Incidents”. This report is then heavily marketed to multiple levels of government and often shows up in arguments for adopting certain policies, like the regressive IHRA definition and flawed online hate legislation.

The 2021 report hit a new low in attempting to conflate legitimate pro-Palestinian protest with actual vile acts of hatred against Jews. And this is the dangerous component here. B’nai Brith intentionally merges its reporting on anti-Jewish racism with its denunciation of “anti-Israel” activities. In fact, the pledge to fight anti-Semitism on the B’nai Brith Int’l website that people are encouraged to adopt includes as its second tenet: “To speak against demonization, delegitimization or double standards against Israel, as they are manifestations of anti-Semitism.”

On April 26, Canada Palestine Association questioned the credibility of the B’nai Brith report in a tweet that showed a photo of a picket sign from page 11 of their 2021 Audit, introducing the section on “Assessing the Data”.

This data led them to conclude that 2021 was another record year for anti-Semitic incidents. And although their report does include clear cases of vandalism against synagogues and hate graffiti, how much of their “assessed data” also includes cases of political protest by Palestinians and their allies? B’nai Brith claimed on page 12 of the report: “In fact, online hate has become the preferred method of targeting Jews. B’nai Brith logged 2,093 incidents of online hate, or an increase of 12.3% over the 2020 figures of 1,863 cases. This evidence should convince government that a review of current legislation regarding online hate is necessary.”

As the photo in the screenshot is presumably another case of alleged “anti-Semitic” behaviour, how many of their 2093 “online hate” incidents had nothing to do with hatred against Jews and everything to do with supporting the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle of the Palestinian people? Given that their info for the photo itself isn’t even correct (it was from a Vancouver support rally in June for #BlocktheBoat, not a Montreal rally in May), one questions the eagerness of the Zionist lobby to smear the growing solidarity with Palestine with the charge of anti-Semitism. In the “Highlights” section (page 34), B’nai Brith devoted half a page to denigrating Toronto students at Marc Garneau Collegiate that had staged a walkout to protest anti-Palestinian racism. This clear political agenda colours the whole foundation and intent of the B’nai Brith reporting and strips it of any credibility for serious anti-racism organizing.

This approach is not only flawed and promotes anti-Palestinian racism, but also extremely dangerous in that it serves to minimize the real cases of anti-Jewish hatred. It is preposterous that a person holding up a sign saying that Canada and Israel are partners in apartheid and colonialism is casually mixed with “Kill Jews, Gas Jews” graffiti at a religious centre (page 19). Or is this part of the effort to demonize the growing number of human rights organizations and officials that have recently classified Israel as an apartheid regime?

We denounce this attempt to create an institutional environment so hostile to pro-Palestine opinions, that activists and groups will either be censored outright or self-censor. The struggle against racism in Canada is too important to be manipulated by anyone with a self-serving political agenda, especially the Zionist lobby. Anti-racism organizing is not a competition to see who is the “most targeted religious minority in the country”; the fightback by multiple communities to deal with the systemic daily racism they face must be inter-connected and include a clear commitment to fight all forms of racism.