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Irwin Cotler delivers remarks at signing of Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism

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Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney and Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird today signed the Ottawa Protocol on Combating Antisemitism, an action plan developed during the second annual conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA) which took place in Ottawa in November, 2010.


Professor Irwin Cotler, MP and Chair of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, delivered the following remarks:


Prof. Irwin Cotler:                          


Thank you Scott.  As someone who’s had the pleasure of working closely with you I want to single out your leadership as chair of the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism along with as you mentioned Mario Silva’s inspirational work as chair of the Canadian Parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism.  Indeed that work would not have been possible without the joint leadership of both of you.


I have the additional pleasure of serving as Mario did with you on the Foreign Affairs sub-committee on human rights and international development which in my view did some unsung and very compelling work in the area of international human rights.  Je suis très heureux d’être ici aujourd’hui et de participer dans la cause commune qui nous rassemble, la lutte contre la haine, contre le racisme, contre l’antisémitisme.


In particular to be here this evening to be able to witness together with everyone here in this room the Canadian government’s endorsement of the Ottawa Protocol on combating antisemitism whose action is as timely as it is essential.  I want to commend the government represented here this evening by Foreign Minister John Baird and Minister of Citizenship and Immigration Jason Kenney for spearheading, organizing and bringing to fruition this endorsement this evening.  Thank you both.




Indeed we are witnessing and we have been witnessing for some time a new escalating global virulent and even lethal antisemitism that overlaps with traditional or classical antisemitism but is distinguishable from it that first found its original and indeed juridical expression in the United Nations Zionism is Racism Resolution which the late United States Senator Daniel Moynihan called giving the abomination of antisemitism the appearance of international legal sanction.


It has gone even dramatically beyond that.  Perhaps best captured in the pithy words of the former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden Per Olmark (ph) himself a leading advocate in the combating of antisemitism when he wrote and I quote, “compared to most previous anti-Jewish outbreaks, this new antisemitism is often less directed against individual Jews.  It attacks primarily the collective Jews, the state of Israel and then such attacks start a chain reaction of assaults on individual Jews and Jewish institutions.”


He continued, “in the past the most dangerous anti-Semites were those who wanted to make the world judenrein, free of Jews.  Today,” as he put it, “the most dangerous anti-Semites might be those who want to make the world Judenstaatrein, free of a Jewish state.


Indeed this is this pandemic of antisemitism as it has been called old and new that caused Professor Elie Wiesel, Nobel Peace laureate, holocaust survivor, generally given to understatement to remark at the opening of the Ottawa Conference to combat antisemitism in a statement that he had made earlier but repeated here as well and I think bears mention this evening.


As he said, “may I share with you the feeling of urgency if not emergency that we believe antisemitism represents and calls for.  I have not felt the way I do now since 1945.  I feel there are reasons for us to be concerned, even afraid.”  Now is the time to mobilize the efforts of all of humanity due to the recent intensification and escalation of antisemitism that led Parliamentarians to gather first in London in February 2009 for the initial launching of the London Declaration and then for the largest inter parliamentary conference ever where some 140 Parliamentarians from 50 countries from every continent in the world came here to Ottawa.


Parliamentarians normally don’t easily agree on things nor even something as compelling as antisemitism yet unanimously adopted the Ottawa Protocol to combat antisemitism.  In effect what Professor Wiesel was describing, what the Ottawa Conference documented, what the Ottawa Protocol captured, what the endorsement this evening is achieving and giving expression to is a need to combat this oldest and most enduring and toxic of hatreds which regrettably is rearing its ugly head again.


The protocol, the Ottawa Protocol which is being endorsed this evening by the government is not only a compelling characterization and indeed definition of antisemitism old and new but also sets forth a blueprint for action, indeed is a template for action by governments and Parliamentarians all over the world.


Yet we still have people and with this I move to a close who put the question why the Ottawa Conference?  Why the Ottawa Protocol to combat antisemitism?  Are there not other hatreds that need to be combatted?  Yes there are and both the government and the Opposition and other parties are united in common cause in combatting racism and hatred generally speaking.


But there are a number of considerations which make antisemitism, as I said the oldest and most enduring of hatreds, not only distinguishable but warrant the action being taken by the government on our behalf this evening.  I’ll summarize and close with that.  Number one, we’re not only dealing with the oldest and most enduring and toxic of hatreds and one which assumes different mutations over time but which has ended up causing and having catastrophic consequences not only for Jews but for all who get enveloped in this virus of evil.


Second, antisemitism as Dennis McShane (ph) who chaired the United Kingdom parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism put, “antisemitism is the only hatred that has a global dimension.”  Simply put there is no other targeted minority that is the target of an international historical racist virus and where that racist virus as the Ottawa Protocol put it and as Minister Kenney stated so eloquently in the House today, not only propagates hatred against Jews but propagates hatred against Israel as the targeted collective Jew among the nations.


Third, there is the distinguishable feature of state sanction, state orchestrated incitement to hatred and indeed to genocide including in particular the state sanctioned genocidal antisemitism.   That is not a word that I would use easily or lightly but I have no other term to describe that which emanates from Ahmadinejad’s Iran and from their terrorist proxies Hamas and Hezbollah.


Fourth, there is no other racism that is laundered or masked under the rubrics of all that is good, under the protective cover of the United Nations, under the cover of human rights, under the imprimatur of international law, under the struggle against racism.  At the end of the day it is not only prejudicial to Israel and Jews which are the target of that laundering but prejudicial to all those institutions and those concerns and causes that we care about so deeply and which are used and abused for purposes of laundering antisemitism.


Five, there has been a dramatic spike in antisemitic attacks against Jews, Jewish property, Jewish communal educational and religious institutions.  The year 2009 had the highest incidence of antisemitic attacks ever recorded and in such disparate countries as the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and I can go on.  In 2010 while a certain drop, nonetheless the second highest that was recorded ever.


Finally we’re witnessing a resurrection of all the libels of classical antisemitism – the blood libel, the economic libel, the conspiracy libel, the poisoning of the wells libels, the protocols of the Elders of Zion libel and the what I would call the double entendre libel, the cruel libel that says the holocaust did not occur and at the same time not only denying the Nazi holocaust but accuses the jaws of behaving like Nazis while even accusing them of having brought about the holocaust, a bundle of contradictions but the most vicious kind of double entendre.


The time has come as this endorsement indicates not only to sound the alarm but to act.  The endorsement of this Ottawa protocol by the Canadian government will allow Canada – government, Parliament and people – to exercise moral, political and juridical leadership both domestically and internationally in combating as I said this most enduring oldest and toxic of hatreds.  Thank you.