B'nai Brith asks governments to pull support for 'anti-Israel' conference in Montreal
B'nai Brith is asking the Montreal, Quebec and federal officials to pull their support for a major congress now underway in Montreal.
The World Social Forum runs Aug 9-14 in Montreal, with hundreds of events on social justice. Jewish groups, however, say too many of them are anti-Israel – including some they say are anti-Semitic.
“The World Social Forum had on its website caricatures that were reminiscent of the Nazi era,” said Liberal MP for Mount Royal Anthony Housefather. “There were caricatures of a Jew with a long hooked nose, with a long beard, eating Uncle Sam, that was eating Islam.”
After complaining to the organizers, they agreed the cartoon on the forum's website and the accompanying talk violated their own charter.
“They were talking about terrorists, and there was a caricature showing some racist images so we definitely are not supporting that kind of activity,” said Carminda Mac Lorin of the World Social forum.
Organizers cancelled the talk and removed the cartoon from their website.
B'nai Brith said there are many workshops taking place this week that focus negatively on Israel.
“The events hosted under the WSF umbrella include a bunch of workshops that are very anti-Israel, anti-Semitic, on apartheid, on BDS,” said Harvey Levine, the Quebec regional director at B'nai Brith Canada.
BDS or Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions against Israel has been rejected as a policy by all levels of government in Canada, but Montreal, Quebec and Ottawa all supported or sponsored the forum.
Two Liberal MPs pushed Ottawa to withdraw its support.
“It would have been inappropriate for the government of Canada to have left its logo up on a conference that is making one of its major themes BDS, that we oppose,” said Housefather.
On Wednesday, Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre reiterated that the city doesn't support BDS and will not tolerate any hate speech, but added that no one can speak for the entire forum’s 1,400 workshops.
Conference organizers say the goal of the forum is to create an open space to discuss the problems in the world and so as long as they don't promote hatred or violence, discussions on the topic of BDS can continue.
“If they respect the charter of the World Social Forum, they are welcome to express themselves freely but it doesn’t mean it's what everyone thinks,” said Mac Lorin.
Meantime B’nai Brith says many discussions at the forum are clearly dedicated to demonizing Israel.
Housefather said he questions why that is being permitted.
“They're not focusing on human rights violations in Iran, in North Korea, in all of these anti-democratic countries, but in democratic Israel,” he said.