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March 31, 2010

Antisemitism: real and imagined

The Canadian Charger

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Michael Keefer's new book Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism should be on the reading list of Canadians who value freedom of speech and resist all forms of racism in this country.

Keefer is a Professor in the University of Guelph’s School of English and Theatre Studies.

Professor Keefer’s introduction exposes the political extremism of the CPCCA’s prime movers, Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney (Conservative) and former Justice Minister and Attorney General Irwin Cotler (Liberal), and their all-too-obvious agenda of using an imagined ‘new antisemitism’ as a justification for stigmatizing and even criminalizing criticism of the state of Israel.

The book is, in part, a collaborative venture.

The first of its three sections contains a dozen texts written by Canadians who have distinguished themselves, as caring citizens and as scholars, in human rights issues: Rima Berns-McGown, Karin Brothers, Edward C. Corrigan, Mohamed Elmasry, Yves Engler, Bruce Katz, Jason Kunin, Lynda Lemberg, Joanne Naiman, Yakov M. Rabkin, and Craig Smith.

The texts they submitted to the CPCCA’s Inquiry were all effectively rejected.

The second section offers texts by seven human rights organizations—the Canada-Palestine Support Network, Canadian Arab Federation, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, Educators for Peace and Justice, Faculty for Palestine, Independent Jewish Voices, and the Seriously Free Speech Committee—whose expositions of questions of ethics and international law the CPCCA likewise found distasteful.

The book’s third part, written by Prof. Keefer, begins with an outline of the history of real antisemitism in Canada. This is followed by a thorough analysis of the empirical evidence of trends in antisemitism in this country, the UK, France and elsewhere (“Data and Deception: Quantitative Evidence of Antisemitism”), which demonstrates that the claims made by the CPCCA of a dramatic resurgence of antisemitism are groundless fear-mongering.

The book’s final chapter (“Desperate Imaginings: Rhetoric and Ideology of the ‘New Antisemitism’”) analyzes in detail the manipulative rhetoric used to brand criticisms of Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights as antisemitic, and shows that claims of antisemitic persecution in Canadian universities are an inversion of the reality.

The book concludes by raising searching questions about the current orientation of Canadian foreign policy—which, as the book’s contributors show in detail, stands in flagrant opposition both to the principles of international law and to the humanitarian principles of the prophetic tradition in Judaism.

The book (286 pp, $22 (+ $1.50 S&H) for a single copy – discounted for 10 or more) can be ordered online or by contacting the publisher The Canadian Charger at


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