(photo credit: STEVE LINDE)
Irwin Cotler, a Jewish elder statesman of Canadian politics, warned on Tuesday that the Paris attack on a Jewish supermarket was an omen of terror to come.
“Anti-Semitism, as it always has been, remains the canary in the mineshaft of evil,” he said in an interview at The Jerusalem Post office in the capital.
“And, while it begins with Jews, it doesn’t end with Jews.”
A member of Canada’s parliament and former justice minister who made a name for himself in human rights advocacy, Cotler warned against “sanitizing anti-Semitism,” urging world leaders to identify Jew-hatred as such.
“If people sanitize anti-Semitism, then they’ll be sanitizing terrorism,” he said.
He pointed to a lack of global outcry against Hamas as subtle anti-Semitism, particularly in the wake of the Paris attack, since that group’s charter calls for the eradication of the Jewish people.
Last weekend’s events in France – including the supermarket attack and a massacre at the office of satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo – should prompt a movement against radical Islam, he said, singling out groups like al-Nusra, al-Qaida, Hamas and Hezbollah as part of that phenomenon.
“How do you combat terrorism when you’re not prepared to identify the perpetrator?” Cotler asked.
He described “genocidal anti-Semitism” and terrorism as two sides of the same coin.
Cotler characterized the month of December – during which the United Nations General Assembly passed 20 resolutions targeting Israel and four targeting other countries – as a tipping point for the international vilification of the Jewish state.
“Israel is portrayed as the enemy of all that is good and the repository of all that is evil,” he said.
Adding to that phenomenon were the rejection of a working group on anti-Semitism by the European Parliament and the removal of Hamas from the European Court of Justice’s list of terrorist organization, he said.
Along with condemnation from other bodies, these moves constitute the “laundering of delegitimization [of Israel] under universal public values.”
The march against Israel in international circles cloaks itself in the language of human rights, exploiting the “tabula rasa” with which most people approach the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said.
“If you’re a Canadian, then the UN is a part of your DNA internationally, like a centerpiece of your identity.”
Israel’s opponents, he said, exploit that deeply ingrained sense of human rights to attack the Jewish state while other more serious abuses go unchecked.
“The preoccupation with Israel has the effect of sanitizing other evils,” he said, pointing to the plight of political prisoners under repressive governments such as Iran, Venezuela, Mauritania and Saudi Arabia as examples.
“None of these things sort of dented the international radar screen,” Cotler said.
In particular, he mentioned the case of Raif Badawi, a Saudi blogger who was sentenced to a decade in prison and 1,000 lashes for his irreverent political writings.
Cotler, a lawyer who represented Natan Sharansky when the Jewish activist was a prisoner in a Soviet gulag, said he would be taking up Badawi’s case.
While in Israel, Cotler will attend a series of events in honor of Raoul Wallenberg, a Swedish diplomat who rescued thousands of Jews from the Nazi regime in Hungary.