PCAAN Statement on Anti-Palestinian Racism in Canada

The Palestinian-Canadian Academics and Artists Network (PCAAN) urges post-secondary education establishments across Canada to exercise anxious scrutiny and due diligence in reviewing any and all policies, rules, regulations and practices that discriminate against, delegitimize, marginalize, silence and dehumanize Palestinian and Pro-Palestine faculty and students on Canadian campuses. It insists on a thorough and genuine stocktaking, by all stakeholders, of the reality of Anti-Palestinian Racism (APR) and of the cumulative effects of pressures exercised by a host of players in bringing about a chilling effect on activism, scholarship and careers in relation to Palestine, Palestinian rights, and the envisioning of non-racist futures for Palestine/Israel. Evidence of APR within Canadian society and of the mechanisms of the chilling effect, most notably on Canadian campuses, has been recently documented in two groundbreaking reports –  the Arab Canadian Lawyers Association’s (ACLA) “Anti-Palestinian Racism: Naming, Framing and Manifestations,” (May 2022), and Independent Jewish Voices’ (IJV) “Unveiling the Chilly Climate: The Suppression of Speech on Palestine in Canada” (October 2022).

While APR is a form of anti-Arab racism intersecting with a host of other discriminations, its distinctive feature is the denial of Palestinian existence, history and rights, and the defamation and smearing of Palestinians and their allies as, inter alia, antisemites, terrorists and non-democrats. APR is pernicious in shutting down public debate about the systematic violation of Palestinian human rights, thereby rendering it socially unacceptable for society to express solidarity with Palestine and its beleaguered people. APR translates in exclusionary cumulative chilling effects, suppressing and erasing Palestinians and their narratives on campuses, including through:

  • donor interference with hiring, curricula formulation, and research funding;
  • organized smear campaigns by lobby groups and or anonymous actors (e.g. Canary Mission);
  • intimidation, harassment, violence (physical or psychological), perpetrated by purveyors of APR; and
  • censorship, direct or indirect, as well as self-censorship, by administrators, faculty and students.

APR is, in short, the expulsion of the Palestinians’ critique of Israel from respectable public discourse. Nowhere is the effort to erase the Palestinian experience more institutionalized today than in the adoption of the IHRA WDA.

Along with ACLA and IJV, PCAAN demands that Canadian institutions of higher education reject the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance Working Definition of Antisemitism (IHRA WDA), and recognize it for what it is – a dangerous weaponization of spurious claims of antisemitism to invalidate and shut down public discussion, study and research on Palestinian reality as that of a colonized indigenous people seeking accountability and redress for their collective plight in accordance with international law. By attempting to invalidate and shut down such public discussion, study and research, the IHRA WDA in effect mainstreams Anti-Palestinian Racism (APR). PCAAN therefore calls on these institutions to reject the adoption of the IHRA WDA or, if already adopted, to repeal it forthwith.

Furthermore, because the IHRA WDA is a threat to the academic freedom of those critical of Israel and could have serious implications for research and scholarship funding, universities should publicly challenge the federal government and provincial governments where the IHRA WDA has already been adopted.

PCAAN commends the principled anti-IHRA stance of the Canadian Association of University Teachers, of several regional and provincial associations along with over 40 faculty associations across the country and exhorts Canadian university and college administrations to follow suit by standing firm in their resolve to uphold academic freedom and equity within inclusive institutions of critical knowledge.

Along with ACLA and IJV, PCAAN also prompts stakeholders to acknowledge the ethical, political and epistemological promises involved in the APR framework, which seek to name suppression and describe prejudice so as to open up discussion of non-racist futures for Palestine/Israel. This, in stark contrast to the IHRA WDA which was exactly designed to shut down debate, in an absurd attempt to denounce as racist the denunciation of apartheid.