NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh adjusts his webcam before announcing a campaign to reach out to young people and young families to understand their concerns at a news conference, Monday, March 29, 2021 in Montreal. Tensions over anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist within the NDP ahead of next week's policy convention. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

Tensions over Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist within NDP ahead of convention

Tensions over Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist within NDP ahead of convention

OTTAWA — Tensions over anti-Semitism and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict persist within the NDP ahead of next week’s policy convention, threatening to divide New Democrats and overshadow domestic policy concerns that serve as points of cohesion.

The party has released its list of potential resolutions that could make it to the virtual floor should they survive a vote ahead of the event, which runs online April 9-11.

The list includes a half-dozen that articulate solidarity with Palestinian causes or call for sanctions and stronger condemnation of Israel.

More than 40 NDP riding associations have endorsed a particularly contentious resolution that opposes a working definition of anti-Semitism set out by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), arguing it is used to chill criticism of Israeli policy.

An advocacy group called the Canadian Foreign Policy Institute is applauding the move for resisting what it dubs an “effort by anti-Palestinian lobby groups” to pressure party leadership into suppressing debate around the plight of Palestinians.

In response to the would-be resolutions, party members from 17 ridings — including some of those whose electoral district associations are against the IHRA definition — signed a letter sent to NDP riding presidents and obtained by The Canadian Press.

“The NDP policy convention, where at least 99 per cent of attendees will not be Jewish, is neither the time nor the place to debate a resolution that condemns the definition of this pervasive hatred for the Jewish people,” the March 26 letter states.

“Debating this resolution at our upcoming convention would put the NDP — Canada’s party of social justice — in the position of violating our fundamental principles of the work of social justice.”

Groups that back the working definition of anti-Semitism say it crystallizes understandings of hateful rhetoric that includes demonization of the Jewish state.

Several New Democrats have condemned the definition — adopted by the federal Liberal government in 2019 as part of its anti-racism strategy — while others including NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh say it can serve as a useful but non-binding educational tool.

Delegates registered for the convention will take part in a ranked vote next Tuesday to determine which of the 400-plus proposals make it to the virtual floor for debate and potential adoption as party policy.

The point of contention is not the IHRA’s 39-word definition itself, which describes anti-Semitism as expressions of hatred toward Jews, but rather the way some groups have applied it and the appended list of examples that contextualize it.

The statement’s lead author, Kenneth Stern, has disavowed its deployment, writing in a Guardian opinion piece that “right-wing Jewish groups” had moved to “weaponize” a definition created initially to assist European data collectors.

Former NDP MPs Svend Robinson and Libby Davies, who remain party members, have slammed the definition on those grounds. It was cited in a Jan. 3 Twitter post by Gila Martow, a Progressive Conservative member of provincial parliament in Ontario, to level accusations against NDP MP Charlie Angus, who spoke out on the issue of Palestinian access to vaccines.

Resistance to the working definition comes from “activists” and “fringe groups,” said Richard Marceau, general counsel for the Toronto-based Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).

“I believe that there is a small and active and vocal group of NDP-ers that have a suspicious obsession with the state of Israel. And their obsession borders on the unhealthy,” he said in an interview Wednesday.

The focus of the convention should revolve around more immediate issues facing Canadians at home, such as health care and the vaccine rollout, Marceau said.

B’nai Brith Canada has called on Singh to ensure resolutions against the definition are rejected, saying it serves as a “bedrock” in the global effort to confront anti-Semitism.

More than 600 Canadian academics have signed an open letter opposing the definition. Prominent Canadian activists, including Michele Landsberg and Avi Lewis, have also come out against the IHRA approach.

The definition, with illustrative examples that include Holocaust denial and stereotypes about Jews, states that “denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination” — for example by suggesting that the state is a “racist endeavour” — amounts to anti-Semitism. Critics say the phrase implicitly excludes Palestinians and their right to self-determination.

Asked about the issue and the riding association resolution earlier this month, the NDP responded with a statement from the party’s national director, Anne McGrath.

“Our conventions are guided by a democratic process that allows members to openly and freely discuss and vote on a variety of issues,” McGrath said.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published March 31, 2021.

Christopher Reynolds, The Canadian Press

Note to readers: This is a corrected story. A previous version said the NDP has released a list of resolutions up for debate at its policy convention next week.

politics

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

.
3-hour paid leave for Albertans to get vaccinated in the works

The UCP government intends to introduce legislation that will ensure working Albertans… Continue reading

Alberta completed 18,412 COVID-19 tests, as reported on Wednesday, for a test positivity rate of 9.5 per cent. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Highest daily count of 2021 so far: Alberta reports 1,699 COVID-19 cases

Variants now make up 59 per cent of Alberta’s active cases

Several cases of COVID-19 were reported among employees of stores at Bower Place Mall. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
COVID-19 cases reported at Bower Place mall stores

AHS said five complaints were investigated since March, and required changes made

Edmonton Eskimos' Tanner Green, right, knocks the ball from Calgary Stampeders' Romar Morris during first half CFL football action in Calgary in 2019. Green has been waiting for nearly 17 months to get back on the field with the Edmonton Football Team. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Lacombe’s Tanner Green happy to finally see a CFL return to play date

CFL announced Wednesday league will return on Aug. 5

Westerner Park’s Exhibition Hall was used as a vaccination clinic on Wednesday. A steady stream of people came to get their COVID-19 shots either by appointment or as walk-ins. Photo by PAUL COWLEY/Advocate staff
No long lineups at walk-in vaccination site in Red Deer

A steady stream of people walked into Westerner Park on Wednesday to… Continue reading

A school bag and a lunch bag are seen in the schoolyard at Bancroft Elementary School as students go back to school in Montreal on Monday, Aug. 31, 2020. Alberta Education Minister Adriana LaGrange says the organization representing the province's teachers is playing politics with a proposed new kindergarten to Grade 6 curriculum and isn’t sincere about a real bridge-building effort. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta teachers and education minister swap accusations of politicizing curriculum

Alberta teachers and education minister swap accusations of politicizing curriculum

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney shakes hands with Jason Nixon, minister of Environment and Parks after being sworn into office, in Edmonton on Tuesday April 30, 2019. Town council from the largest municipality in Nixon's constituency is concerned over the province's consultation plans for open-pit coal mining in the Rocky Mountains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Council in Alberta environment minister’s town wants better coal consultation

Council in Alberta environment minister’s town wants better coal consultation

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a cabinet meeting in Tehran, Iran, Wednesday, April 14, 2021. Iran's president on Wednesday called Tehran's decision to enrich uranium up to 60% after saboteurs attacked a nuclear site "an answer to your evilness," linking the incident to ongoing talks in Vienna over its tattered nuclear deal with world powers. (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)
US outlines possible sanctions relief for Iran in nuke talks

US outlines possible sanctions relief for Iran in nuke talks

Activists hope Chauvin convictions are start to real change

Activists hope Chauvin convictions are start to real change

CORRECTS THAT PHOTOGRAPHS ARE OF TRANSGENDERED WOMEN KILLED OVER THE YEARS, NOT PEOPLE WHO DIED BY POLICE VIOLENCE - A backstop at Cal Anderson Park is covered, Tuesday, April 20, 2021, in Seattle, with photographs of transgendered women who have been killed in the past years. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times via AP)
Grim list of deaths at police hands grows even after verdict

Grim list of deaths at police hands grows even after verdict

FILE - This file image made from a video aired Friday, Jan. 7, 2005, by Israeli television station Channel 10, shows what the television station claims is Israel's top secret nuclear facility in the southern Israeli town of Dimona, the first detailed video of the site ever shown to the public. The Israeli military said that a missile was fired into Israel from neighboring Syria early Thursday, April 22, 2021, and that it has struck targets in Syria in response. Earlier, air raid sirens sounded in Dimona, the Negev town that is home to Israel's secretive nuclear reactor, indicating a possible incoming attack. (Channel 10 via AP, File)
Israel says it strikes targets in Syria after missile attack

Israel says it strikes targets in Syria after missile attack

FILE - In this July 8, 2014, file photo, is a sign alerting visitors to water conservation efforts at the state Capitol in Sacramento, Calif. Gov. Gavin Newsom has declared an emergency executive order in two Northern California counties in response to drought conditions affecting much of the state. The announcement Wednesday, April 21, 2021, affects Mendocino and Sonoma counties, where Newsom says drought conditions are especially bad. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
California governor declares drought emergency in 2 counties

California governor declares drought emergency in 2 counties

Meng Wanzhou, chief financial officer of Huawei, walks down the street with an acquaintance after leaving B.C. Supreme Court during a lunch break at her extradition hearing, in Vancouver, B.C., Thursday, April 1, 2021. A judge is scheduled to release her decision today on a request to delay the final leg of hearings in Meng Wanzhou's extradition case. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rich Lam
B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

B.C. judge grants Meng Wanzhou’s request to delay extradition hearings

Most Read