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Friday, October 31, 2014

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Canadian Jews fight back

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You’d like to believe it wasn’t inevitable, but perhaps it was. As the rockets fell over Israel these last few weeks and the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) battled Hamas in and below Gaza, anti-Semitic and anti-Israel sentiments have risen to the surface in Canada. Jews and Zionists have been physically assaulted and harassed in broad daylight. Hateful, threatening messages have been scrawled on Jewish property and in Jewish neighbourhoods. This new wave of overt violence and animosity has left Canadian Jews justifiably nervous.

In Montreal, there have been numerous worrying incidents. A Jewish tourist from France suffered a concussion and fractured cheekbone when he was punched outside a kosher restaurant on Queen Mary Road. A Jewish woman was slapped by a man riding by on a bicycle. Another woman, who was waving an Israeli flag at a pro-Palestinian rally, lost her balance and fell to the ground after a protester tried to rip the flag from her hands.

Meanwhile, in Calgary, a recent pro-Palestinian rally in front of city hall turned violent when a small group of Israel supporters was swarmed. During the ensuing melee, a pro-Israel demonstrator sustained a concussion, a second was punched in the face, a third suffered a broken nose and a fourth was punched in the stomach.

Calgary lawyer David Busheikin describes the tumultuous scene in a column for this week's CJN: “A cadre of 15 or so young men spearheaded a large group that repeatedly shouted slogans and waved flags and signs a short distance from where the speeches were taking place. It was members of this group that perpetrated the assaults, out of the range of control of the organizers.” Judy Shapiro, associate executive director of the Calgary Jewish Federation, put it more bluntly: “It was ugly,” she told The CJN’s Sheri Shefa.

In Toronto, Jews awoke last Wednesday (July 23) to news that a bus shelter near a Jewish day school had been spray-painted with swastikas and the message “F--- Jews.” Around the corner only days earlier, the sidewalk outside a Muslim community centre was vandalized overnight with the hateful words “Arabs go home” and “F--- Gaza.” At press time, police had yet to lay charges in either case.

As the stresses mount in Israel, Jewish communities in this country are clearly not immune. Given Canada’s reputation of combating anti-Semitism, there is good reason to believe law enforcement and political leaders will do their utmost to protect the Jewish community. And yet, the rhetoric leveled against Jews and Israel has become more explosive and the violent contingents at pro-Palestinian gatherings appear to be growing in number. When bellicose haters take charge, bad things happen  – the onslaught of anti-Semitism in Europe is proof of that.

The Jewish community of Canada is fighting back by joining together to support the Jewish State. From Vancouver to Halifax, Jews and their friends are rallying for the IDF – for the soldiers who have already given their lives for Israel and the ones who continue to do battle with terrorists – and democracy, for a positive future free of fear and civilian casualties. That’s the most appropriate way to counter those who would attack us, and our homeland.  — YONI

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