Tell Kenney BDS is not anti-Semitism

Canadian Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney revealed on December 16 in a speech in Jerusalem to the Global Forum to Combat Antisemitism that the ecumenical social justice organization KAIROS had $7.1 million in Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) funding cut because of its alleged support for the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel.

In his speech, Kenney said the following:

We have articulated and implemented a zero tolerance approach to anti-Semitism. What does this mean? It means that we eliminated the government funding relationship with organizations like for example, the Canadian Arab Federation, whose leadership apologized for terrorism or extremism, or who promote hatred, in particular anti-Semitism.

We have ended government contact with like-minded organizations like the Canadian Islamic Congress, whose President notoriously said that all Israelis over the age of 18 are legitimate targets for assassination. We have defunded organizations, most recently like KAIROS, who are taking a leadership role in the in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign …

Here is the official response from KAIROS to Kenney’s absurd comments:

The Minister of International Cooperation, Bev Oda, has been telling KAIROS, Parliament and the Canadian people that funding to KAIROS was cut because its work did not fit current Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) priorities of economic growth, food security and children and youth.

On Wednesday, however, a completely different reason was given in a speech by Jason Kenney, Minister of Immigration. Addressing the Global Forum to Counter Anti-Semitism in Jerusalem, Minister Kenney described his government’s fights against anti-Semitism and, as an example, said the government had “defunded organizations … like KAIROS for taking a leadership role in the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign” against Israel.

Minister Kenney’s charge against KAIROS is false. KAIROS did not lead this campaign. In 2007, KAIROS took a public position opposing sanctions and a boycott of Israel. A recently released document, Kairos Palestine, 2009: A Moment of Truth, is not a document of KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives. Kairos is a Greek word meaning “God’s time” and is commonly used by Christian groups.

A Minister of the Crown says that his government decided, for what is a highly political reason, to cut funds for a proposal developed in consultation with and approved by CIDA.

Canadians need the truth.

Two points must be made: criticism of Israel does not constitute anti-Semitism; and CIDA was developed to fund international aid and not to serve political agendas.

Minister Kenney’s statement, in a highly charged environment, raises very disturbing questions about the integrity of Canadian development aid decisions. If aid decisions are based on political rumour rather than on due diligence, development criteria and CIDA’s own evaluation process then this is a matter of grave concern for the entire international development sector — and for the Canadian people who pay for this aid.

Many non-governmental organizations have proposals before CIDA that have been on Minister Oda’s desk for months. Others are about to apply for funding. How can they possibly trust this decision-making process in the future?

In the past two weeks, Canadians from across the country have called for the restoration of CIDA funding to KAIROS.

People working for human rights are the true victims of the funding cut to KAIROS. This decision cuts funding for a new legal clinic in the Congo to help women who have been raped in the brutal conflict there. The 5,000 members of the Women’s Popular Organization in Colombia will lose funding for life-saving protection against rampant human rights abuses in their country.

To label KAIROS criticism of Israeli government actions as “anti-Semitic” silences dissent and honours no one. KAIROS has a clear position of support for the legitimate right of the Israeli people to a safe and secure state.

KAIROS asks that our funding be restored.

Take action!

Write to and call Jason Kenney, Prime Minister Stephen Harper, International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda and your MP (sample letter below) and tell them that criticism of Israeli policies is not anti-Semitism, and that international development funding should not be politicized to meet the narrow ideological views of the Conservative Party of Canada.

Jason Kenney
Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism
P. 613-992-2235
F. 613-992-1920

Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada or
P: 613-992-4211
F: 613-941-6900

Bev Oda
Minister of International Cooperation
P: 613-992-2792
F: 613-992-2794

You can find contact information for your Member of Parliament here.

KAIROS has also set up its own action page to call on CIDA to restore its funding.

Sample letter (for more effectiveness, please personalize the letter):

I have just heard the speech that Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney recently gave in Israel at an Anti-Semitism forum. In this speech Kenney accused the ecumenical social justice group KAIROS of being anti-Semitic, and said they have promoted an Israeli boycott. KAIROS has vigorously denied both of these assertions.

I am familiar with the work of KAIROS. It is supporting very brave local human rights groups in very difficult situations overseas. Cutting of CIDA funds to KAIROS will cripple their important human rights work. How can a government that is supposedly supporting human rights defend this decision to cut off funds to these human rights groups overseas?

I also strongly disagree with the assertion that criticism of the actions of the present government of Israel is somehow anti–Semitic. Criticism of the government of Israel and its policies is no more anti-Semitic than criticism of your administration is anti-Canadian. Canadians, and Canadian organizations, must be free to legitimately criticize the government of Israel and its occupation, which is illegal under international law, and which is now in its 42nd year.

Lastly, I am troubled by the blatant political interference in decisions about international development funding, which I feel compromises the effectiveness of Canadian aid.

Please consider reversing this ill-advised decision to cut CIDA funding which goes to support laudable human rights activities overseas.

I expect a response from you on this very serious issue.


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