With the rising tide of anti-Jewish hostility in Europe getting so much attention in recent months, it is somewhat surprising that an equally worrisome trend across the Atlantic has gone largely unnoticed -- mounting anti-Semitism in Canada.
With 360,000 Jews, Canada is home to the fifth largest Jewish community outside of Israel, and America's northern neighbor has long prided itself for its tolerance, openness, and freedom. But that legacy is now under assault amid a spate of recent, and deeply troubling, incidents.
Over the past 12 months, there have been more than 300 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada, or nearly one every day.
Over the past 12 months, there have been more than 300 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada, or nearly one every day. Four synagogues have been the targets of arson attacks, Jewish day schools have received bomb threats, and there have been numerous property crimes and hate propaganda directed against Jews and their institutions. The most serious incident occurred in July, when David Rosenzweig, an Orthodox Jew, was murdered outside a kosher restaurant in Toronto by a neo-Nazi skinhead.
Jewish students on Canadian campuses have also been particularly hard-hit, with a string of anti-Israel and anti-Semitic incidents. Take, for example, Montreal's Concordia University. In September, a riot broke out at the school forcing the cancellation of a speech by former Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. During the melee, a Holocaust survivor was physically assaulted and kicked in the groin.
On December 2, Concordia's student union voted to revoke the status of the Jewish student group Hillel as a recognized campus organization and suspended its annual funding. This has prompted Concordia Hillel members to file a civil suit against the student union.
The situation on other campuses is hardly better. In fact, it has gotten so bad that 100 prominent Canadians signed an ad in the December 17 Globe and Mail taken out by a group called Solidarity with Jews at Risk stating, "An increasing number of students in universities and colleges say that they fear reprisals if they challenge prevailing pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel views. If they argue that Israel has the right to exist, they are often greeted with threats, even physical assault."
Rhetorical attacks on Jews have also taken place with increasing frequency. Earlier this month, Saskatchewan Indian leader David Ahenakew referred to Jews as a "disease" and sought to justify the Holocaust, asserting, "The Jews [expletive] near owned all of Germany prior to the war. That's how Hitler came in. He was going to make [expletive] sure that the Jews didn't take over Germany or Europe. That's why he fried 6 million of those guys, you know." Only after coming under a wave of criticism did Ahenakew apologize for his remarks.
The Canadian government has not exactly helped things through its clumsy handling of a number of Israel-related matters. In early October, the Canadian Customs and Revenue Agency confiscated newsletters published by the Ayn Rand Institute entitled In Moral Defense of Israel, claiming they had to determine whether the material constituted "hate propaganda." The newsletters were released a few days later.
Federal authorities have also been targeting the Canadian branch of Magen David Adom, seeking to cancel its tax-exempt status because some of the ambulances it has donated to MDA here are used in the territories, as if geographical distinctions should be drawn when it comes to saving human lives.
And yet, when it came to terrorist groups such as Hizbullah, Canada's authorities showed far less alacrity in clamping down on their activities. In October, Prime Minister Jean Chretien went so far as to attend a conference in Lebanon alongside Hizbullah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah. Then, on November 27, when the Canadian government announced that it was adding six terrorist groups, such as Hamas, to its list of prohibited organizations, it incredibly refused to include Hizbullah. Only once B'nai B'rith Canada took the government to court was the Chretien administration embarrassed into reversing its decision.
It is time for the Canadian government to take a firmer stand against anti-Semitism.
For a country that has spent the past two decades fostering multiculturalism and decrying xenophobia, the spate of anti-Semitism in Canada is especially disconcerting. The fact that it has received less global attention than it deserves does not take away from the danger which it poses to Canadian society and its democratic institutions.
One Jew was already murdered earlier this year in the heart of Toronto because of his identity. It is time for the Canadian government to step in and take a firmer stand against anti-Semitism, before this age-old prejudice claims any more victims.
Reprinted with permission from the Jerusalem Post.