Monday, January 27, was International Holocaust Remembrance Day. So designated by the United Nations. It was also the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
To coincide with this auspicious date and events, Ensemble Montreal interim Leader and leader of the Official Opposition at City Hall Lionel Perez introduced a motion for the council to adopt at its meeting that night that he was sure would receive unanimous approval. The motion called for Montreal to adopt the definition of anti-Semitism authored by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA).
The IHRA is composed of 32 countries including almost all developed democracies. Canada is a member. The IHRA began its work to establish a non-legally binding working definition of anti-Semitism in 1998. They finally concluded, published and member countries accepted in 2016. The definition is only forty words long.
“Anti-Semitism 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.”
Not exactly rousing or controversial vocabulary. Many have called it as dry and milquetoast as could be after all the compromises over the years that watered it down in order to reach consensus. Forty words. One word for every 150,000 Jews slaughtered in the Holocaust. But they were forty words too many for Mayor Plante.
She would not instruct her councillors to vote for it but instead wanted to strike a committee to come up with a Montreal definition of anti-Semitism. Lionel Perez rightly pulled his motion rather than have it subjected to the dissection by one of this city’s endless consultation committees. They have proven to be the graveyards of conscience. The government of a city that can barely repair roads within its mandate, was going to come up with a definition that took 32 countries almost two decades to author. Right. We’ve got a bridge in Brooklyn for you to buy if you believe that one. Mayor Plante gave Montreal a night of infamy.
The more important question to ask is why not accept the definition? Simple decency demands it. This administration’s constant trumpeting of “diversity” demands it. The souls of six million demand it. Or are we to understand that Jews do not deserve the same respect and protection that this Mayor has bent over backwards to demonstrate to every other community that has asked. It is not unreasonable to ask if this Mayor has a Jewish problem.
Yes, we have heard that a pro-Palestinian student group made representations objecting to the acceptance of the definition. The group, Independent Jewish Voices, is marginalized and composed of several dozen people. So what? A Mayor is supposed to lead. Where is Plante’s intellectual rigour? Where is her conscience? Or is it all about pandering to get every single vote of the Luddites and the Left?
Mayor Coderre also needed votes, yet every year he held and participated in a City Hall ceremony where the names of Holocaust victims were read out on the steps of City Hall. That ceremony was discarded by Mayor Plante.
But frankly, it is ungracious to engage in any more analysis. Let Mayor Plante’s actions speak for themselves and let her reap the consequences of what she has sown. The very night Mayor Plante refused to accept the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism, fhe City Council of Vaughan, Ontario passed a resolution accepting it. Vaughan has very few Jews. Nowhere near the some 90,000 Montreal has. The Mayor and councillors felt quite simply that it was the right thing to do. There is only one word for Valerie Plante. Shame!