"To put it simply, B’nai Brith deliberately conflates incidents of antisemitic speech and violence with pro-Palestinian activism and criticism of Israeli policies. Right at the top of the cover page, the report includes an image of pro-Palestinian demonstrators urging a boycott of Israeli wine and places it directly next to antisemitic and white supremacist content."
April 18, 2023
Joanna Smith, Ottawa Bureau Chief, The Canadian Press
Dylan Robertson, Reporter, The Canadian Press – Ottawa Bureau
Dear Ms. Smith and Mr. Robertson
I’m writing to you on behalf of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME, https://www.cjpme.org) with feedback regarding the article titled “Canada's Jewish community faced 'disturbing and elevated level of violence' in 2022, B'nai Brith says,” as published by CBC News. The subject of this article, B’nai Brith’s “annual audit of antisemitic incidents,” is reported on every year. However, there are significant flaws in their methodology which we believe should be incorporated into your reporting.
To put it simply, B’nai Brith deliberately conflates incidents of antisemitic speech and violence with pro-Palestinian activism and criticism of Israeli policies. Right at the top of the cover page, the report includes an image of pro-Palestinian demonstrators urging a boycott of Israeli wine and places it directly next to antisemitic and white supremacist content. To give just a few examples of the “sample incidents” of antisemitism featured in their report, B’nai Brith points to:
- A Facebook post promoting a boycott of Israeli wine (p. 18).
- A tweet by NDP MP Niki Ashton using the terms “apartheid” and “settler-colonialism” (p. 20).
- A resolution by the Simon Fraser Student Society Council against Israeli “war crimes and apartheid” (p. 23).
- A bus advertisement in St. John’s, sponsored by Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), which cites Amnesty International’s claims that Israel is practicing apartheid (p. 27).
None of the above examples are antisemitic, but they amount to legitimate forms of criticism and protest of the Israeli government in support of Palestinian rights. The charge of “apartheid” in particular has been adopted by a consensus in the human rights sector, including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, UN experts, and many Israeli and Palestinian NGOs.
By including these ‘incidents’ in their report, B’nai Brith is deliberately conflating these forms of non-violent political expression with anti-Jewish violence, anti-Jewish tropes, and white supremacist symbols, failing to distinguish between Nazis and human rights activists. This calls into question B’nai Brith’s larger body of data on “antisemitic incidents,” which presumably includes a large sample of similar content, as well as their findings.
This is a problem that has been identified in the literature on antisemitism in Canada. A 2022 study by Robert Brym (University of Toronto) and Rhonda Lenton (York University) notes that B’nai Brith’s annual audit “lumps together under the rubric of antisemitism actions that are clearly antisemitic with various types of action that are critical of Israel,” and argues that this should “temper our alarm” over their findings. Brym previously wrote of this methodological tendency: “it remains the case that one may be critical of Israeli government policy without holding negative attitudes towards Jews. By lumping together anti-Jewish and some anti-Israel actions, and labelling both antisemitic, B’nai Brith Canada ignores this possibility.”
Similar methodological issues were investigated by Sheryl Nestle in a report for Independent Jewish Voices in 2021, who concluded that “B’nai Brith Canada cannot be understood as a neutral source for reporting on the nature and scope of antisemitism in Canada.”
B’nai Brith’s methodological errors seriously undermine the authority of its findings. Neither is it fair to human rights activists and other voices in support of Palestinian rights to have B’nai Brith’s unfounded allegations against them uncritically repeated in the Canadian media. The fight against antisemitism in Canada must not be at the expense of Palestinian human rights.
I’m requesting an update to this article to include a critical perspective noting that B’nai Brith’s audit conflates criticism of Israel with antisemitism. This should also be incorporated into future reporting on this topic.
Thanks in advance for making these changes. Should you wish, you can contact me at 438-380-5410 for more information.
Michael Bueckert, PhD
Vice President, Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East
 Robert Brym and Rhonda Lenton, “Antisemitism, Anti-Israelism, and Canada in Context,” in R Kenedy, C Ehrlich and U Rebhun (eds), Israel and the Diaspora: Jewish Connectivity in a Changing World (Cham, Swtizerland: Springer, 2021). Available online: https://www.academia.edu/44808306/Antisemitism_anti_Israelism_and_Canada_in_context
 Robert Brym, “Antisemitic and anti-Israel actions and attitudes in Canada and internationally: a research agenda,” Patterns of Prejudice 4(53), 2019. Available online: https://www.academia.edu/39961383/Antisemitic_and_anti_Israel_actions_and_attitudes_in_Canada_and_internationally_a_research_agenda
 Independent Jewish Voices Canada, “The Use and Misuse of Antisemitism Statistics in Canada, April 1, 2021, https://www.ijvcanada.org/the-use-and-misuse-of-antisemitism-statistics-in-canada/