A pamphlet (excerpted above) was used to warn Ontario voters about the rising danger of anti-Semitism in Ontario. Along with the text there is a photo showing angry demonstrators holding a sign saying “Holocaust = Great lie”. But the photo is of a demonstration that took place in Iran… 16 years ago. The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) is using the scare of a rebirth of anti-Semitism in Canada for another reason, to dampen the rising criticism of Israel. Read more…
Anti-semitism does exist in Canada of course, along with other sorts of racism. It should be opposed wherever it appears. And if it crosses the line into hate, then of course it should be prosecuted.
But the insistent claim by the Israel lobby that anti-semitism is reaching crisis proportions in Canada, is based on shaky evidence and has a political purpose. Mistreatment and discrimination against marginalized groups like Black, Indigenous and Muslim Canadians by public officials (police, hospitals, schools, etc.) is much more widespread. In comparison a 2018 survey of Canadian Jews by Environics showed that far from being an oppressed minority like those other groups, Canadian Jews are well integrated and have more education and higher incomes than average Canadians.
According to that same survey, most Canadian Jews agree that others are more often targeted.
“While Jews in Canada are mindful of the burden of anti-Semitism, they do not see themselves as the most significant target of persecution in this country. They are more likely to believe that Indigenous Peoples, Muslims and Black people in Canada are frequent targets of discrimination.”
-Environics Institute, 2018 Survey of Jews in Canada
Why do the official statistics seem to point to a crisis of “anti-semitism”?
Some of the officially reported statistics are indeed shocking. “Jewish Canadians comprise one per cent of the Canadian population yet are the target of 62 per cent of all religiously motivated hate crimes,” points out Richard Marceau, vice-president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, quoting Statistics Canada annual Hate Crime report. “Anti-semitism is on the rise,” concludes Marceau.
If it’s true that discrimination against Black/Brown/Indigenous/Muslim/Asian Canadians is much more common than that against Jews, why do the CIJA statistics seem to tell a different story?
Simple: by selective reporting and eliminating context.
Marceau fails to mention that the Statistics Canada report reveals that:
- Three times as many hate crimes are motivated by hatred of a race or ethnicity than by hatred of a religion – and their number nearly doubled from the previous year.
- Almost half of all police-reported hate crimes target the Black and Asian communities.
- Hate crimes targeting the Asian populations are more often violent, while the vast majority (85%) of hate crimes targeting the Jewish population are non-violent.
- Police data on hate-motivated crimes include only those incidents that come to the attention of police services. Research shows that victims from marginalized communities are less likely to report incidents because of language barriers, issues of trust or confidence in the police, or fear additional victimization or stigma by the very act of reporting.
“Police data only include those incidents that are reported to police.”
Canadian Jews are actively encouraged to report any incident, however minor, from which Bnai Brith Canada prepares an “audit” of anti-Semitism. It includes almost any expression of criticism of Israel as an “anti-semitic” incident.
For example Bnai Brith reported a shocking 733% increase in reported VIOLENT hate crimes against Jews – from 9 reported incidents in 2020 to 75 in 2021!!
But 61 of these reported “incidents’ actually reflect violence at anti-Israel protests in Toronto last May following the expulsion of several families from Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem. Non violent protesters were attacked members of the Jewish Defence League, a US designated Jewish terrorist group. The clashes caused some minor injuries on both sides. Bnai Brith transforms peaceful anti-Israel protests into “violent hate crimes against Jews”.
While Jews are encouraged to report hate crimes, there has not been any comparable mechanism for Black, Brown, Indigenous and Muslim Canadians to register their own complaints. Fortunately some of that reporting imbalance is starting to be corrected. The National Council of Canadian Muslims has just launched a new website encouraging its members to report incidents of discrimination and or hate against Muslims.
Why would the Israel lobby want to exaggerate the danger of anti-semitism?
Organizations like the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs have two very good reasons for playing up the dangers of anti-semitism in Canada.
The first is practical – CIJA and the Jewish Federations that support it across the country want members. Scaring Jewish Canadians about an imminent threat encourages membership and financial support for CIJA, which presents itself as the defender of Canadian Jews.
The second is political. In the face of Israel’s increasingly visible brutality toward to the Palestinians, support for Israel (in both Canada and the USA) is declining. CIJA’s mandate is to protect Israel, and accusing Israel’s critics of “anti semitism” is one way to frighten them into mutism
Canada’s Anti-Semitism Envoy also muddies the waters
Unfortunately, Irwin Cotler, Canada’s official anti-semitism envoy, is adding to the confusion. In a recent interview with CBC’s Andrew Chang, Cotler warned about a dramatic rise in racism in Canada including a claimed 75% increase in hate crimes against Jews in one year!!! Worrying indeed… if true. Watch the 5 minute Chang/Cotler interview here. The interview was complemented by disturbing scenes of anti-semitic graffiti in a number of places, presumed to be in Canada.
But Cotler’s presentation mostly referred to a rise in anti-Semitism around the world, a lot of which is in fact criticism of Israel. And for Canada, he relied on those questionable figures from Bnai Brith Canada.
It appears that – intentionally or not – Cotler is also confusing legitimate opposition to Israel and its treatment of the Palestinians with “hate crimes against Jews”.
Canada’s troubling problems with racism of all kinds – anti Black, anti indigenous, anti Muslim, anti-Asian need to be treated seriously. But to use the spectre of anti-semitism as a “weapon” to protect Israel from criticism is unacceptable and misleading.
Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) is the weekly newsletter of Peter Larson, Chair of the Ottawa Forum on Israel/Palestine (OFIP). It aims to promote a serious discussion in Canada about Canada’s response to the complicated and emotional Israel/Palestine issue with a focus on the truth, clear analysis and human rights for all. Readers with different points of view are invited to make comment.
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