By SHERI SHEFA, Staff Reporter
Thursday, 05 March 2009
Now that the United States has followed Canada and Israel’s lead in boycotting the upcoming Durban II world anti-racism conference over concerns about anti-Semitism, Canada’s citizenship, immigration and multicultural minister, Jason Kenney, said he hopes other countries will do the same.
“I would like to believe that we had some positive impact, and certainly the recent decision of the Obama administration, I am confident, will be followed by other European allies,” Kenney told The CJN on Sunday in Toronto, referring to the followup conference to the 2001 United Nations World Conference Against Racism, known as Durban II.
The 2001 human rights meeting in Durban, South Africa, singled Israel out for criticism and compared Zionism to racism. Israel and the United States walked out.
Kenney – who was meeting with representatives from Jewish groups, including Canadian Jewish Congress and UJA Federation of Greater Toronto, to brief them on last month’s inaugural conference in London of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism – said he hopes to deepen his close relationship with the Jewish community.
“Canada under the Harper government takes a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism, both domestically and internationally, and we understand the direct connection between Holocaust denial, anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism,” Kenney said.
He added that when he attended the Feb. 17 London conference, the Obama administration had not yet opted to pull out of the Durban II conference, set to take place in Geneva next month.
The CJC released a statement that applauded last week’s decision by the United States to join Canada and Israel in refusing to participate in the United Nations Durban Review Conference.
“In the preparatory conferences for Durban II, it has already become clear that Israel would be singled out among all the nations of the world for condemnation… Durban II has already become nothing more than a venue for the most pernicious and vile anti-Semitism,” CJC co-president Rabbi Reuven Bulka said.
Congress CEO Bernie Farber added that the refusal of democratic countries such as Canada, Israel and the United States to take part sends a message of tolerance and hope to the international community.
“We now call on all other democratic countries to be true to their pluralistic values. They should follow Canada’s lead, together with Israel and the United States, in dissociating from the hatefest that Durban II has already become,” Farber said.
Kenney told The CJN that anti-Semitism in Canada is fuelled by “anti-Zionist rhetoric” and has become “almost epidemic in Canada.”
But he said he hopes that the London conference last month will push other members of the international community to actively combat anti-Semitism, starting with a boycott of the Durban II conference.
Kenney said that Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has said that “Italy is ready to withdraw, but it wasn’t announcing that it was doing so.”
He added that Britain is also close to making the decision now that the United States has pulled out.
But the main message Kenney said he wanted to present to the Canadian Jewish community was that his government recognizes that “the new anti-Semitism – that is to say, anti-Semitism taking on the form of anti-Zionism, this notion that Israel is an abomination, that the Jewish people alone have no right to a homeland and that Israel must be destroyed – is [manifesting itself] even here in Canada.”
He said that events such as Israeli Apartheid Week, happening this week on campuses worldwide, are efforts to scapegoat and delegitimize the Jewish state.
“[Israel] is not a perfect country, and it is entirely fair, as I said in London, to disagree with particular policies of the Israeli government, but this anti-Zionism is much more profound than that,” Kenney said.
“It questions, essentially, the right of Israel to exist as a democratic Jewish state, and for the government of [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper, that is a totally outrageous and unacceptable position.”
Office of the Hon. Jason Kenney, PC, MP / Bureau du député
Calgary Southeast / Calgary-sud-est
Office of the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism/
Cabinet du Ministre de la Citoyenneté, de l’immigration et du Multiculturalisme
325 East Block / Édifice de l’Est, Pièce 325
House of Commons / Chambre des communes Ottawa ON K1A 0A6
Phone / Tél. : 613-992-2235
Fax / Téléc. : 613-992-1920