Canada Skips UN Racism Conference Over Antisemitism

A couple of days ago, Matt commented on a post from back in September about antisemitism. His comment had me thinking about the relationship between antisemitism and racism, then this news comes from our neighbors to the north:

“Canada will not take part in a major United Nations conference on racism next year because the event is likely to descend into ‘regrettable anti-Semitism’, a top official said on Wednesday.”

Of course, this is all tied up with support of, and criticism for, Israel. I don’t know of any scholarly work that looks on these connections: between antisemitism and racism in the current political context of heated debates about what it means to support or criticize Israel. I’d love to learn something new about this. Matt mentioned a new book by Eric L. Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity (Princeton UP, 2007). I wonder if there are other titles to add to this reading list? Drop a reference in the comments, if you have one.


  1. Seattle in Texas

    Interesting topic. I think I understand why Canada made their decision. I would encourage anybody interested in learning more about this and wish to form his or her own judgments on the topic to read “A History of Israel From the Rise of Zionism to Our Time” by Howard M. Sacher. Sensitive stuff in the Northwest….

  2. I was so happy to hear that Canada was doing this. You might remember the disaster that the first Durban conference became, especially from the NGOs present. A pretty infamous poster suggested that the bad thing if Hitler had won WWII would be no new VW Beetle. As it turns out, I just found out today that the AJC put up a new website including this article recalling the anti-Zionist movement in Poland, part of a Stalinist antisemitic campaign, where anti-Zionism was used as a cover for antisemitism. Certainly, absolutely, criticism of Israel is appropriate. And fighting racism directed against Palestinians and other Arabs is important (only in part to secure peace for Israel). But political antisemitism is not new, and it’s important that people discuss the boundaries between legitimate criticism of Israel and antisemitism.

  3. Jessie Author

    Good links, Seattle and Matt. Clearly, I have some catching up to do in this area. One of the best books I’ve read about the connection between racism and antisemitism is G.L. Mosse’s Toward the Final Solution: A History of European Racism, which is quite good, but quite old now (1978). And, it doesn’t deal with the issue of racism directed toward Palestinians or the boundaries between legit criticism of Israel and antisemitism. I also think that for me, personally, it’s harder for me to recognize subtle antisemitism than subtle racism. I’ll have to think more about why that is.

  4. I think it’s a feature of antisemitism that it’s hard for a lot of people to recognize. Shulamit Volkov’s Germans, Jews, and Antisemites begins with asking why so many Jews didn’t even recognize the severity of the threat the Nazis posed. I think there are several reasons for that. The most important might be that antisemitism focuses more on Jewish power than Jewish inferiority (though it can include both).

  5. Seattle in Texas

    Jessie, I’m sure the book you read was fine—I would like to read it myself as well as the other suggested reading (sometimes the older ones never become outdated, but rather classics!). Matt, I stand pretty closely to where you do and you did a fine job of articulating the dilemma—although I am unable to really discuss it and have a difficult time rationalizing some things. It’s so very tough. I wish it could be done on peaceful terms with nobody harmed at all. I admire those who can discuss this topic openly, respectfully, and without it turning into a slow motion train wreck. And in terms of Canada, I am indifferent with their decision to withdraw, although am fully supportive of their decision to do so and on the grounds they set forth. What can I say? I love Canada! (personal bias)


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