Recently, a board member of Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East, a national group that continually singles Israel out for condemnation, accused us of disloyalty to our country. This accusation that Jews are more loyal to Israel than their own nation is a textbook example of anti-Semitism. But whereas the accusation used to be that Jews were loyal to an internationalist conspiracy, Israel now serves as a convenient foil for those who plaster anti-Semitic comments with a façade of anti-Zionism.
It should go without saying, but after more than 250 years in Canada, after Jews have fought and sacrificed for this country in every war, and after having helped build this nation, Jewish Canadians deserve better than to have our devotion to this country questioned.
The anti-Semitic accusation was condemned by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Opposition Leader Andrew Scheer, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh, Green party Leader Elizabeth May, and by colleagues from every party.
While we are deeply grateful for this response, many Jewish Canadians who are the victims of far more serious incidences of anti-Semitism do not have this type of support. Nationally, a total of 1,752 anti-Semitic incidents were reported in 2017. This was a 1.4 per cent increase compared to 2016, according to B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audit of anti-Semitic incidents. On a per capita basis, there are more hate incidents reported against Jews than any other group in Canada.
The anti-Semitic accusation against us serves as a high-profile reminder that despite the political consensus that Jewish Canadians are respected members of society and deserving of every right and protection afforded to other citizens, there are still far too many individuals and groups in Canada that seek to foment hatred against this one community of approximately 400,000 Canadians. Let us be clear that there is also too much bigotry directed against indigenous Canadians, Muslims, Christians, racial minorities, the LGBTQ community, and others. All Canadians should be able to be proud of who they are and where they come from without fear of discrimination. That freedom is what makes Canada the great place it is.
While different forms of anti-Semitism have existed over millennia, ranging from the religious anti-Semitism of the Inquisition to the racial anti-Semitism of the Nazis, today’s anti-Semitism often takes on the pretense of contemporary discourse around Israel. It is not anti-Semitic to question Israel’s policies or commitment towards the peace process. However, it is anti-Semitic to hold the world’s only Jewish majority state to a different standard than all other nations.
We see this anti-Semitism permeating on many university campuses. Jewish students can find themselves facing an environment of hate-tinged BDS activism, annual Israeli Apartheid Weeks, and other anti-Israel groups. It is clear that we can do more to prepare Jewish university students, and change the status quo on campuses across this country.
Our recent experience has reminded us that we must do more to empower Jewish communal organizations to assist students to combat these challenges on campus through increased awareness, education, and advocacy. As members of Parliament, we want to work with students and their supporters on campus so that we can make the case that supporting Israel is not only legitimate but reflective of Canadian values.
Our history has taught us that when we ignore bigotry, dangerous times lie ahead. In Canada, our political forces did not ignore this incident – they spoke out forcefully against it. We should use this moment of solidarity to find the best way to confront anti-Semitism and other forms of hatred and discrimination in Canada, especially on our campuses.