B’nai Brith Canada is suing a Hamilton, Ont. rabbi for “false, defamatory and damaging” statements he made about the organization.
In a lawsuit filed in June in Ontario Small Claims Court, B’nai Brith is seeking $35,000 in damages from Rabbi David Mivasair, a long-time anti-Zionist activist in Canada.
In its claim, the Jewish human rights group alleges numerous tweets attributed to Mivasair, including that B’nai Brith is “racist” and promotes “anti-Palestinian hate;” has been taken over by “racist hatemongers;” is “an agent of (a) foreign power;” and is a “small band of extremists enabled by wealthy racists.”
Other tweets from Mivasair B’nai Brith cites allege that the organization has “zero credibility,” is “an extremely well-funded, very loud bunch of right-wing racist cranks,” and “is not a Jewish human rights organization, (it) is a cover for a right-wing group that viciously attacks Canadians who stand for human rights for Palestinians.”
The lawsuit follows a warning to Mivasair in May by a lawyer representing B’nai Brith that unless he apologized and retracted the statements, legal action would follow.
None of the allegations have been tested in court. As of July 5, Mivasair had not filed a defence.
In an email to The CJN on June 30, Mivasair said he was “consulting right now with lawyers about how best to respond to your questions. I will get back to you when I am clear about that.”
On July, 5, he said,” the best I can say to you at this point is that I will file a defence.”
Mivasair’s tweets “were not made as statements of opinion, but represent an individual knowingly disseminating untrue facts in an attempt to maliciously discredit and cause harm to our human rights organization,” according to a June 28 statement from B’nai Brith.
“Everyone is entitled to their own opinions,” said Michael Mostyn, the group’s CEO. “However, (Mivasair) has repeatedly defamed our organization, which acts as a mainstream national voice of the Jewish community, with false and harmful statements.”
Mivasair, a prominent member of Independent Jewish Voices, which supports the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel, has a long record of anti-Zionist activism. He has led public campaigns to strip some Canadian Jewish charities of their tax status, and joined in two unsuccessful complaints that the Israel Defense Forces were illegally recruiting in Canada.
In early 2022, the Crown dropped a criminal charge against Mivasair after it was alleged he spilled red paint on the stairs of the building housing Israel’s Toronto consulate to symbolize Palestinian bloodshed in the previous spring’s war between Hamas and Israel.
In 2019, he was detained and later released by the Israeli army for helping repair a road to improve access to Palestinian villages in the West Bank.
According to his LinkedIn profile, Mivasair was ordained by the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 1991.
B’nai Brith Canada previously settled two other cases in which it had been accused of defamation. In 2021, the group settled a libel action brought by pro-Palestinian activist Dimitri Lascaris. And in late May, B’nai Brith reached a settlement with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers, which launched a libel action after B’nai Brith suggested the union supported Palestinian terrorism.