Anti-Semitism is masquerading as criticism of Israel, Sharren Haskel, the youngest member of the Likud party said in Toronto recently.
“Israel is the new mask of anti-Semitism, of racism” Haskel, the 35-year-old Toronto-born MK said, before going on to claim that this is why increased tensions in Israel often result in “a rise in attacks on Jewish communities all around the world.”
Haskel addressed around 200 people at the BAYT synagogue in Thornhill, Ont., on Aug. 22, part of a community rally meant to show solidarity with the people of Israel, and pay tribute to Dvir Yehuda Sorek, an 18-year-old Israeli yeshiva student who was killed Aug. 7 in a terrorist attack.
Haskel extolled the virtues of the Jewish state as a democratic, pluralistic society, and denounced the hypocrisy of its most vocal critics, including U.S. congresswomen Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Haskel expressed her support for the Israeli government’s decision to bar the two Democrats from entering the country earlier this month, calling them “terrorist sympathizers.’’
Later, a question was asked about the ability of females to serve in the IDF. Haskel, herself a former sergeant in the border police, was unequivocal in her statement that “[women] deserve to serve their country just as much as males deserve to serve their country.”
Haskel spoke with conviction and fervour about the necessity of Diaspora support for the Jewish state.
She downplayed the severity of the allegations against Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, indicating that the charges are a way for his political opponents to distract from their own shortcomings.
She also dismissed Likud’s failure to form a coalition government after the last election, saying “it’s natural in every democratic country.”
There was a large security detail on hand for the gathering as the BAYT prepared itself for a confrontation with BDS counter-protestors that never materialized. Guards with metal detectors stood outside the lone unlocked entrance to the shul, and at least four York Regional Police cars patrolled the building’s perimeter.
The only contentious moment of the evening came when a small cohort of members of the Jewish Defence League (JDL) were denied entrance to the rally. Synagogue staff eventually relented and allowed them to attend following a non-violent but heated confrontation in the parking lot, during which one JDL member could be heard invoking the Holocaust to justify the groups presence.
The rally began with several speeches including a moving eulogy for Sorek by Frank Dimant, national chairman of Likud Canada, who said the rally was a necessary response to “the general growth of anti-Semitism, the growth of BDS, [and] the continual harassment of Jewish students on campus”.
Thornhill MP Peter Kent also spoke.
The event was co-hosted by the Toronto Zionist Council and Likud Canada, which is trying to enlist the 300 members necessary for recognition by the Canadian Zionist Federation.