Barrie city council adopts IHRA definition of anti-semitism

Several speakers suggested the adoption could be used to stop pro-Palestinian causes

Barrie City Council has adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of anti-semitism.

The definition was adopted at the IHRA plenary in May 26 and reads:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

IHRA is an intergovernmental organization founded in 1998 and the definition has been adopted by 34 countries, including Canada.

During a deputation Monday night, Rabbi Audrey Kaufman of the Am Shalom Congregation in Barrie rejected any notion the definition is an attempt to silence criticism of Israel.

“The IHRA definition has nothing to with Israeli politics. It’s not pro-Zionist, pro-Israel or anti-Palestinian. It does not prevent anyone from criticizing Israeli policies.”

A couple of speakers suggested adopting the IHRA definition could make people hesitant to organize events or rallies that are pro-Palestinian.

Dan Freeman-Maloy called the resolution empty and counterproductive, while Michael Speers cited several examples he said where the IHRA definition was used to halt Palestinian causes, including one in Canada.

“Here in Canada, an event at the University of Winnipeg about the U.S. decision to move their embassy to Jerusalem was deemed to be anti-semitic by the university which used the IHRA definition as justification.”

Speers said he was confident that wasn’t what the local Jewish community was looking for under this definition.

He said “you can’t deny the reality when anti-semitism gets lumped in with the legitimate concerns of the Israeli government and its actions.”

Speers said that’s why people who stand up for Palestinian rights are worried.

Rabbi Kaufman said adopting the resolution provides a sense of protection.

“Accepting the IHRA definition of anti-semitism creates a sense of protection for the Barrie Jewish community. It is prove to us that expressions of hatred toward Jews will not be tolerated in this City and we have our municipal government’s full support.”

Kauffman said overt acts of anti-semitism are significantly on the rise throughout the world and at an alarming rate in Ontario.

City council unanimously adopted the IHRA definition.