Shimon Koffler Fogel is the CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the advocacy agent of Jewish Federations across Canada.
If you’re not yet concerned by rising antisemitism in Canada, you should be. And every Canadian has a stake in fighting the spike in anti-Jewish hatred. Over and over again, history has taught us that once antisemitism takes hold, the foundations of a society can crumble – an outcome that is bad for everyone.
In Montreal, Jewish Canadians have been reportedly assailed with projectiles, and at a separate demonstration, police made 15 arrests on charges including armed assault. In Edmonton, a Jewish engineer alleged that “pro-Palestinian” activists sped through his parents’ neighbourhood, asking, “do you know if any Jews live here?” A student at Wilfrid Laurier University posted a video in which she brandished a knife at an emoji of the Israeli flag. Jewish businesses in Canada have been targeted online, while Jewish Canadians have experienced relentless harassment on social media.
In Los Angeles, several Jewish men at a restaurant exchanged “hand gestures and some words” with people waving a Palestinian flag and reportedly antisemitic slurs; they responded by assaulting the men, and shouting slurs in what the mayor called an “organized, antisemitic attack.” In New York, police have made arrests on hate-crime charges after a group of men brutally assaulted a man wearing a kippah in Times Square. In places such as Tucson and Chicago, synagogues have been vandalized. In London, vehicles draped in Palestinian flags drove through Jewish neighbourhoods, with one man yelling, “Rape their daughters.” In Brussels, protesters were recorded chanting “Jews, remember Khaybar. The army of Muhammad is returning!”
This is antisemitism, and we cannot allow it to deepen its toxic roots in our society.
Attacking Jewish Canadians because of a political conflict in the Middle East is the definition of bigotry. Boycotting Canadian businesses because they are owned by Jews is wrong. Having to advise Jewish Canadians to think twice about donning a kippah or Star of David necklace before going out is horrifying.
Unless Canadians push back on intolerance and efforts to intimidate the Jewish community in Canada and around the world, we are all going to enter a deeply troubling reality.
We have witnessed a resurgence of the rejection of Jews that has punctuated history for 3,000 years – the same rejection that was the driving force for the creation of the modern state of Israel, and the same continuing rejection of Israel itself which includes the determined effort of both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, abetted by many in the global community, to erase the Jewish connection to the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem. Too often, this rejection is fuelled by antisemitism, the exemplar of which can be found in Hamas’s oft-expressed objective to destroy Israel and murder Jews.
It was Hamas, after all, that led the way in suicide bombings in the second intifada; that kidnapped and murdered teenaged Jewish hitchhikers; and responded to a Jerusalem property dispute and civil unrest on the Temple Mount by firing more than 1,000 missiles irrespective of civilian life at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, with some falling short and killing Palestinians, touching off the horrific, unnecessary conflict. The spike of antisemitism we are seeing in Canada is inextricably linked to the violent rejectionism at the core of Hamas’s latest campaign in the Middle East.
Jewish Canadians who raise concerns about antisemitism are not overreacting. Recall that many of those Jews, and many more of their descendants, remember the last serious attempt to annihilate the Jewish people.
There are many around the world, Canadians among them, who simply want justice for the Palestinians – a laudable objective shared by the vast majority of Jews. But anger aimed at the Jewish community and Israel is misplaced.
It is Palestinian leaders who hold the balance of power. Yes, there would be painful concessions, but, if they wanted statehood, it would be achievable. Israel has proffered no fewer than three comprehensive peace proposals since 2000, all unanswered.
To the detriment of Israelis and Palestinians alike, extremist elements within the Palestinian leadership – with Hamas at the forefront – believe Muslims have a duty to eliminate Israel and rid the Middle East of “Zionists”.
There are two parties to this conflict. Incessantly singling out Israel infantilizes Palestinians and emboldens terrorist organizations.
Hamas wants the Jews dead, and that hatred has animated the faraway conflict. Now, that vitriol is leaching into countries around the world.
If you want to keep this toxicity out of Canada, demand that Jewish hatred be challenged for what it is – a poison to our society – if for no other reason than the fact that history repeatedly warns us that what starts with the Jews never ends with the Jews.
This is a collective challenge, but one that must begin with our political leadership. We call for the Canadian government to convene a national emergency summit on antisemitism to stop it from spreading – not only for the Jews, but for all Canadians.
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