Sunday, February 22, 2009

London Antisemitism Talk-Shop

Between February 15 and 17 2009 legislators from 35 countries met in London for The inaugural conference of the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA). A few things struck me about this conference. First, I note that some of the legislators who spoke (while I do not question that theirs hearts were in the right place) could not seem to resist playing politics with the event, for example the British Parliamentary Under Secretary of State who noted his record of discussing antisemitism with all cultural groups he meets, and Canada's Minister of Immigration who used the forum to announce that the Canadian Arab Federation, which was seemingly involved in activities of an antisemitic nature, would no longer be receiving federal funding. I understand of course that these individuals were making the point that they undertake activities which they think should be emulated, but still, if you take a look at their speeches, it's hard not to roll your eyes, a little.

That aside, the conference resulted in the publication of a declaration full of high minded ideals and useful resolutions for the combating of antisemitism and indeed a template for combating most forms of discrimination. I did read through it, and aside from some overly broad use of terms, the line that struck me most was in the preamble, which said "We are alarmed at the resurrection of the old language of prejudice and its modern manifestations –
in rhetoric and political action - against Jews, Jewish belief and practice and the State of Israel." The document does not go on to really explain why Israel is mentioned in this document about antisemitism. Fortunately, Canadian MP Irwin Cotler does provide an excellent explanation of this difficult point in his key-note address to the conference. A major weakness of this document is that it does not explain what Professor Cotler does.

Anyway, this document and this conference was a really lovely idea but such things often involve much preaching to the converted, so to speak. I'll wait to pronounce the value of these efforts once we begin to see some actual results come from them.

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