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A Dangerous Slide Into Anti-Semitism by Mark Borkowski

By Mark Borkowski

·       The Globe and Mail (Ontario Edition)

·       22 Mar 2024

Antisemitic acts have been occurring in Canada in ever-increasing volume since the Oct. 7 massacre of 1,200 Israelis by Hamas terrorists, and the kidnapping of 250 more. In the weeks that followed Israel’s military response to those crimes, a Jewish school in Montreal was twice fired upon, leaving two bullet holes. A Jewish delicatessen in Toronto was fire-bombed. An Indigo bookstore in Toronto was vandalized, because the chain’s founder is Jewish.

Protesters in Toronto, Montreal and elsewhere opposed to the Israeli government’s actions in Gaza have targeted Jewish neighbourhoods, synagogues and businesses. Homes have been vandalized with antisemitic images and words.

And it’s not getting better. Toronto police say 56 per cent of the hate crimes in the city since Jan. 1 have been antisemitic. In Montreal, Jewish groups have had to get an injunction to keep protesters away from community centres and synagogues.

But as horrible as these acts have been, it was the news this week that the Hamilton Jewish Film Festival in Hamilton, Ont., had been cancelled, or at best postponed, that drove home how normalized antisemitism has become in Canada.

The venue pulled out because of safety concerns. If Jewish people cannot do something as everyday as celebrate their culture because of threats of violence, and political leaders fail to decry it loudly, then Canada is lost.

A democratic country cannot let this stand. And yet it is happening right before our eyes. Antisemitism has embedded itself in Canada.

As if to drive home the point, on Wednesday the country’s largest French-language newspaper, La Presse, ran an editorial cartoon depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as Nosferatu – an antisemitic movie character from 1922 based on Dracula that the Nazis went on to use a propaganda tool against Jews.

But that wasn’t even the worst thing to happen this week. On Monday, an NDP member of Parliament, Brian Masse, acknowledged the rise in antisemitism in Canada but said, “We’re not going to be able to fix anything right now until there’s a ceasefire [in Gaza].”

While Mr. Masse and both the editor and the publisher of La Presse apologized, the incidents were all too telling.

The cartoon’s portrayal of a Jewish man as a vampire displayed a shocking lack of sensitivity on the part of La Presse in the wake of Hamas’s atrocity.

But even more pernicious was Mr. Masse’s suggestion that Jewish Canadians are somehow complicit with the actions of the Israeli government, or that there is some logic to the hatred directed toward them, and that nothing can be done about it until, what, they personally talk Mr. Netanyahu into agreeing to a ceasefire?

Jewish people in Canada are no more responsible for what is happening in Israel than Russians in Canada are for the war in Ukraine, or Syrians in Canada are responsible for the actions of the Assad government, or Shia Muslims in Canada are responsible for the brutality of the Iranian regime.

Even to suggest such things is cause for discomfort. We have no doubt Mr. Masse would never go there about another people, and yet he was comfortable saying what he said in the moment.

Mr. Masse’s comment came during the NDP’s efforts this week to pass a motion in the House of Commons calling for, among other demands, Canada to recognize Palestine as an independent state. It was a one-sided idea that was thankfully watered down to a motion calling on Canada to continue to work for peace in the Middle East and support a two-state solution.

But if they are so keen to adopt motions, the NDP and the other parties should turn their attention to the crisis in the country they actually live in. Instead of throwing up their hands about the pain and fear felt by Jewish Canadians like Mr. Masse did, they should, as one voice, condemn the clearly visible rise of antisemitism in Canada.

We’ve taken the liberty of writing the motion they ought to bring forth and adopt unanimously: This House unequivocally condemns antisemitism in all of its forms, and in particular rejects the idea that Jewish Canadians are in any way responsible for the actions of the State of Israel.

It needs to be said and to be heard. And after all that has happened of late, it needs to come from Parliament.

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