The Liberal Party’s antisemitism problem has now been realized with one of their caucus members.
Newly elected MP of Pierrefonds-Dollard, Sameer Zuberi poses a grave threat to antisemitism within the country, and the potential to vote against party lines with regards to legislation that would impact Israel and the Jewish community.
The well-established Jewish community in the riding is concerned about their MP not representing the Liberal values of such as support for Israel and the condemnation of antisemitism.
Jewish constituents in the riding are disturbed with their MP and fear that they will be treated with a negative bias.
Never before in recent memory has a candidate with a concerning antisemitic past, before political office been elected to a governing party.
Antisemitism and anti-Zionism are continually on the rise and it frequently appears within the realm of politics.
Canadians see the associations certain MPs may have with anti-Israel personalities. While this does not mean the MP is antisemitic necessarily, it means that there still is a long way to go for politicians to truly understand the intentions that anti-Israel bigotry can have on their reputation.
However, there is a line that when crossed does fall under antisemitism. This is known as the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism. Calling Israel a racist endeavour, comparing the policies of Nazi Germany to the current policies of Israel, and holding all Jews accountable for the actions of the state of Israel, and countless other examples cross the threshold of being antisemitic.
We see it in multiple past actions of Mr. Zuberi. His anti-Israel bias led him to lead an initiative to close down his school’s Hillel club. Campus Hillels are the quintessential centre for Jewish life on many postsecondary campuses around the world. They support Jewish students and maintain a strong pro-Israel stance.
It seems like the initiative to close down the club was because of the blatant antisemitism of Mr. Zuberi. Closing down the main Jewish club on campus due to their support for Israel meets the antisemitic threshold.
Holding a violent protest against Israel by physically intimidating pro-Israel supporters is another area of danger in a political candidate. The activities of any candidate at any political level should be giving their on-campus involvement and affiliations as part of the vetting process.
The other student activists at Concordia, where Zuberi studied, had faced severe consequences, such as a permanent suspension from the school, arrests, and disciplinary hearings by the school. Many of the activists who coordinated the riot continue to act as anti-Israel activists in the public realm.
Mr. Zuberi did address his past behaviour to the Montreal Gazette, but would not respond to my requests for comment. He said that “in university, you are young, idealistic and rambunctious. There are rough edges.”
He also appears to have contradicted himself in his statements to the Gazette. “I intervened to calm the crowd on the day of the protest. I did not urge or promote any confrontation with the police.” Why would he say he need to say he had “rough edges” then?
It seems the rough edges are promoting anti-Zionism, the belief that Israel does not have the right to exist. The IHRA definition threshold is met here, as the “rough edges” is denying the Jewish people to self-determination in their indigenous homeland, Israel. He could do a lot better in addressing his past reprehensible actions than simply saying he was young.
The Jewish people are indigenous to the land of Israel. They have had a documented presence in the land for over 2000 years and truly have a right to self-determination in their own state.
Who can we really compare the past actions and potential political actions of Mr. Zuberi to?
None other than the notoriously antisemitic American Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar. There are so many comparisons that can be made between the three.
All three continuously meet the threshold of being antisemitic, and they all have past lives of supporting anti-Israel campaigns, such as the BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) movement.
The common phrase of “the elephant in the room” applies to this scenario. Virtually none of Omar’s or Tlaib’s party will properly come out and condemn their blatantly antisemitic language. They are both the elephants of the Democratic caucus.
Omar has not had her committee assignments taken away, and it is suspected Zuberi will not have his committee assignments taken away if he is appointed.
While we cannot predict the votes of Mr. Zuberi with exact accuracy, we can predict he will have an anti-Israel bias based on his pre-political office behaviour.
He may very well be the elephant in the Liberal caucus when it comes to issues relating to Israel and the Jewish community.
While multiple Liberal candidates came out to condemn Hassan Guillet who was stripped of his candidacy, none came out to condemn Mr. Zuberi. This will likely continue into the House.
Using the precedent set in the election, it is assumed that his Liberal colleagues will not come out and condemn him, as they have previously done in the protection of MP Iqra Khalid, due to her close affiliations and awards given (and rescinded) from anti-Israel activists.
Mr. Zuberi needs to understand the new threat of antisemitism. It is not just on the far right anymore. Antisemitic behaviour now occurs through the double standards, delegitimization, and demonization of Israel.
It is unfortunate that Mr. Zuberi will be in Parliament. He does not seem to share Western values, of acceptance, and the condemnation of hate and bigotry in all of its forms. That is why he has a similar comparison to concerning antisemitic Congresswomen.
At this point, the Canadian public can only hope that Mr. Zuberi has a change in thought and will actually support Liberal ideals of being pro-Israel and supporting Canadian Jews, instead of his pre-office life of being virulently antisemitic student activist.
Without a proper apology he’ll continue to be the big elephant in the room.