Jewish anti-Israel conference sparks controversy in Canada

The Independent Jewish Voices is holding a conference in which a number of controversial anti-Israel speakers are set to take part.

AN ANTI-ISRAEL protest takes place in New York City during Operation Protective Edge, in 2014.  (photo credit: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
AN ANTI-ISRAEL protest takes place in New York City during Operation Protective Edge, in 2014.

Canadian organization Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) will hold its 15th Anniversary Conference and Annual General Meeting, titled "Anti-Racist Solidarity and the Fight for Justice in Palestine" this weekend.

While the organization claims to represent Jewish voices, its controversial stance and selection of speakers have raised concerns within the Jewish community in Canada. Critics argue that IJV's agenda promotes a one-state solution, undermines the legitimacy of the Jewish state, and aligns itself with individuals known for their anti-Israel views.

IJV's Origins and Controversial Partnerships

Founded in 2008, Independent Jewish Voices emerged with the support of the United Church of Canada, which provided financial backing for the conference that led to its establishment. The organization also collaborates with Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), its American counterpart, particularly in efforts to challenge the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

IJV actively promotes the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, supports the criticized Kairos Palestine Document, advocates for a Palestinian right of return, labels Israel as an apartheid state, and argues against the notion of rising antisemitism in Canada.

Controversial Speakers and Panelists:

One of the conference's key speakers, Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the BDS Movement, is known for his vocal support of a Palestinian one-state solution, which involves the dismantling of the Jewish state. Barghouti's use of Nazi rhetoric and derogatory language towards Jews who support Israel has sparked widespread criticism. He has unequivocally expressed his opposition to the existence of a Jewish state in any part of Palestine.

 Jewish Voice for Peace (credit: FLICKR)
Jewish Voice for Peace (credit: FLICKR)

Additionally, Mitchell Plotnick, in collaboration with Marc Lamot Hill, authored the book Except for Palestine, which also promotes a one-state solution and challenges Jewish claims to Israel.

Another panelist, Mark Ayyash, awarded the Calgary Peace Prize to Mohammed El-Kurd, who has been accused of spreading false information, normalizing terrorism, and promoting antisemitic tropes.

Michael Bueckert of CJPME, an organization vocal against the two-state solution, is also set to speak at the event.

Contentious Resolutions and Associations

IJV is expected to adopt resolutions during its Annual General Meeting, including one that resembles the revoked 1975 UN resolution equating Zionism with racism.

Furthermore, the organization plans to list the address of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME), a non-Jewish organization and anti-Israel BDS lobby group, in its legal documentation and government reporting.

Critics' Perspectives and Concerns

Shimon Koffler Fogel, president and CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), emphasized in a statement on behalf of his organization that the majority of the Canadian Jewish community and the Government of Canada support a negotiated two-state solution that ensures the integrity, security, and legitimacy of both Israel and the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinians. Fogel argued that IJV's decision to provide a platform to individuals like Barghouti, who actively promote the destruction of the Jewish state, reveals the organization's lack of commitment to peace and universal rights.

He also cautioned against perceiving IJV as representative of the Canadian Jewish community.

"No one should view this organization as a representative of the Jewish community in Canada beyond the fringe minority who actually affiliate with it. Those who do accord this group any credibility must be understood as doing so to justify their own anti-Israel political agendas.”