Anti-Palestinian Racism in Canada

After months of research and analysis, CJPME published a landmark study highlighting the widespread problem of anti-Palestinian racism (APR) in Canada.  Entitled, “Anti-Palestinian Racism in Canada: CJPME’s 2022 Report,” the report constitutes the first-ever, non-exhaustive study of APR in Canada, and exposes more than 500 examples of this form of racism in online written content from 2022.

Although the study focused exclusively on examples from 2022, the report acknowledges the huge uptick in incidents of anti-Palestinian racism in 2023. Since Oct. 7, countless people in Canada have been warned, suspended, investigated, or fired by their employers or academic institutions due to the expression of their views on Palestine. CJPME looks forward to publishing a study on anti-Palestinian racism in 2023 soon.

The full report can be accessed here (in pdf.)  The key findings and recommendations are presented below.  If you appreciate this type of work from CJPME, please consider supporting our work financially.

Key Findings

CJPME’s study identified examples of APR based on the ground-breaking description published in May 2022 by the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association (ACLA). The 507 examples identified were drawn exclusively from online written content from 2022, 67 percent coming from non-profit organizations, and 33 percent from media organizations.

Importantly, 70 percent of the examples were defamatory in nature, slandering Palestinians and their supporters as antisemitic, terrorist-sympathizers, and anti-democratic. CJPME also identified many examples of sources denying the indigeneity of Palestinians and justifying violence against Palestinians.

“Palestinians in Canada face a form of racism tied to their very existence, yet it is rarely recognized as such. On the contrary, anti-Palestinian racism is interwoven into the political and media landscape of Canadian society,” said Thomas Woodley, President of CJPME. “While the current events in Gaza have brought more media attention to the issue of anti-Palestinian racism, this study shows how pervasive the problem is.”

Of the examples of anti-Palestinian racism where Palestinians were slandered as antisemitic, it was most common for this to be justified based on their 1) criticism of Israel, 2) being ‘anti-Israel’, or 3) being anti-Zionist. These results suggest that the conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel is a driving force behind anti-Palestinian racism. Definitions of antisemitism which engender this conflation, such as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance working definition (IHRA), should be recognized as purveyors of APR.

“Pro-Israel groups and right-wing media routinely engage in racist, anti-Palestinian tropes, seeking to build support for Israel by painting Palestinians and their supporters as antisemitic, antidemocratic, and as supporters of terrorism. This contributes to a climate of intolerance and violence towards Palestinians in Canada, and seeks to justify Israel’s acts of violence and annexation in Palestine,” explained Woodley.

Key Recommendations for the Public

The report urges all levels of government to take urgent action to address anti-Palestinian racism. Among other things, CJPME recommends that:

  • The federal government incorporate the problem of anti-Palestinian racism into its federal Anti-Racism Strategy;
  • Institutions at all levels replace IHRA with a definition that does not promote anti-Palestinian racism, such as the Jerusalem Declaration on antisemitism;
  • Institutions incorporate the issue of anti-Palestinian racism into anti-racism awareness programs.

Key Recommendations for Palestine Solidarity Activists

  • Don’t be silent, don’t submit; get the necessary help when victimized by APR.  Anyone who is a victim of APR must rally the support of their community to oppose it publicly and vigorously. Such individuals should also engage support from organizations like CJPME, and get legal help when necessary.
  • Prioritize the campaign against APR. For the Palestinian solidarity movement, there are campaigns that may garner more immediate attention (like BDS, or divestment campaigns), but a successful APR campaign will pay huge dividends in the long-term. For example, Palestinians and their allies should work to have APR incorporated into their institutional EDI frameworks. When employees are successful in having APR recognized by their employer, this could help to protect them from being wrongfully dismissed based on social media posts in support of Palestine.
  • Promote and participate in events and activities around APR. Palestine solidarity activists should make sure they and their network have the knowledge and training they need to identify and self-report APR.
  • Centralize and normalize the reporting of APR incidents.  The self-reporting of anti-Palestinian racism should be consolidated in one well-known and well-publicized Website.
  • Develop a Canadian APR task force.  There are many organizations and individuals which have an interest in fighting APR.  Organizations should communicate and share ideas on combatting APR, and one or two key organizations with the capacity and expertise to lead on the issue should be endorsed.
CJPME’s mission is to enable Canadians of all backgrounds to promote justice, development and peace in the Middle East, and here at home in Canada. Read other articles by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, or visit Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East's website.