EDITORIAL: Eschewing Hate and Embracing Harmony

It would seem that as we continue to hover in the eye of the pandemic, everything is magnified – from our anxieties, to our learning; from our health, to our diet; and most notably, from our avowed hatreds and dislikes.

All too often, the expressed hatred takes the form of bigotry, racism, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and more. Prior to the pandemic, we of course saw signs of hate and extremism around us. Given our new fears and concerns, issues of racism remain no longer well-hidden or even camouflaged. Indeed like a rabid, growling dog, it is biting us square on the tuches.

Two incidents this past week in the GTA give us all reason for worry.

The proprietor of a little-known Toronto eatery called Foodbenders has chosen to express herself quite publicly about how she believes the Israeli government has abused and mistreated Palestinians, specifically in the occupied territories.

To be sure, there is much to be concerned with. Their treatment, especially by Israel’s current government, has prompted global condemnation. Surely the owner of a small restaurant in Toronto has the right to her opinions about Israel and its policies.

But in this case, those criticisms moved well beyond the political into hardcore antisemitism and anti-Zionist sentiment, mirroring those on the extremes of the political spectrum who have used the term “Zionist” to mean “Jew,” and have done so simply as an excuse to foment antisemitism. In years past, and to this very day, we have seen white supremacists and their ilk use terms like “Zio-Nazi” to mean “Jews.”

And while she has insisted that she has nothing against Jews, the owner of Foodbenders chose to post “Zionists are not welcome” at her eatery (leaving it unclear how she would discern a Zionist if one walked in).

In other social posts, she raised old anti-Jewish tropes: That Jewish groups control the media and influence the economy. She claimed that “Zionists are Nazis.”

Naturally, this led to harsh but proper reaction from mainstream Jewish organizations some of which are launching complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Toronto police hate crimes officers are also investigating.

Sadly, some of the more extreme anti-Muslim elements within and outside the Jewish community have used this hateful incident to engage in some hate of their own, scrawling anti-Muslim graffiti on the sidewalks and walls in front of the offending restaurant. Once again the Toronto police hate crimes unit is kept busy investigating these offences as well.

But it doesn’t end there. Just a few days ago in Mississauga, Ont., what started as a peaceful pro-Palestinian rally quickly degenerated into an anti-Israel harangue replete with ugly antisemitic epithets including “Jews are our dogs.”

All of this occurs while mainstream Jewish and Muslim groups have been trying to find an avenue to dialogue. Indeed, both the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs and the National Council of Canadian Muslims have been cooperating of late on anti-racist programs, inter-faith dialogue and more. They join groups like JSpace Canada and Salam/Shalom, which have been engaged for years in dialogue and joint programming.

This is the way towards harmony. Canada provides us with a unique platform steeped in its own attempts at reconciliation and multiculturalism. There is still much work to do on these fronts, but we all have the opportunity. Let us not allow a few with hate in their hearts to spoil our efforts to find a path forward.

High-schoolers chant ‘the Jews Are Our Dogs’, Mayor Denounces Rally: B’nai Brith Files Hate Complaint

Mississauga’s mayor has denounced a rally in her city at which Jews were called “dogs.”

In a tweet on July 7, Mayor Bonnie Crombie stated: “I stand with our city’s Jewish community in strongly condemning these hateful and disturbing anti-Semitic comments. Hate has no place in Mississauga. We’re a welcoming city that promotes unity, understanding and acceptance. Those who seek to divide us are not welcome here.”

B’nai Brith Canada has filed a hate crimes complaint with Peel Regional Police after protesters chanted “hateful” antisemitic slogans at the anti-Israel protest in Mississauga on July 4.

Peel Regional Police spokesperson Cst. Bancroft Wright confirmed that a complaint was received from B’nai Brith.

About 100 protesters gathered at Celebration Square in Mississauga last Saturday, ostensibly to condemn Israel’s planned annexation of parts of the West Bank.

A video of the rally shows attendees chanting in Arabic: “Palestine is our country, and the Jews are our dogs!” Later, protesters are heard to promise to “sacrifice our soul and blood for Palestine” and proclaim that “martyrs by the millions march to Jerusalem.”

B’nai Brith said it has independently verified the translation.

The organization said it has discovered that the co-organizers of the rally, and many of its attendees, were high school students. It said it has identified one of the co-organizers but has not named her because she is a minor.

“The display of antisemitism in Canada’s public squares is totally unacceptable,” B’nai Brith CEO Michael Mostyn said in a news release.

“Opposition to Israeli policy can never be used as an excuse to demean Jews as ‘dogs’ or to threaten violence against them.”

Mostyn said B’nai Brith has reached out to the high school attended by one of the rally’s organizers, “and hope to visit at an appropriate time in order to educate students about the dark places to which rhetoric of this sort can lead.”

In response to the Mississauga rally, Barbara Bank of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs stated:

“Enough is enough. It is outrageous that in 2020 people feel comfortable using dehumanizing and exclusionary language targeting the Jewish community. The days of signs stating “No Dogs and No Jews” at establishments in the GTA should be firmly behind us. 

“There is a lot of room for legitimate discussion about the State of Israel and the politics of the Middle East, but our community will not accept the use of Israel as a pretense to call Jews ‘dogs.’”

Bank said it’s time for Ontario lawmakers to finalize the adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism, contained in a bill currently before the legislature.

Click here to see a video of the rally:

https://www.bitchute.com/video/gUsmDWXnt72L/?fbclid=IwAR0MXyennnuC-STRgBHBm1LUDWdD-Df8jVukIOb8ajzZq-JRS7qRfcgxsE8

UPDATED: Anti-Israel Protests in Toronto, Mississauga

Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC) has denounced a series of “hate-filled” anti-Israel protests that took place across Canada over the past week, including one in Mississauga where protesters were filmed chanting “Jews are our dogs.”

UPDATE: Mississauga’s mayor has denounced a rally in her city at which Jews were called “dogs.”

In a tweet on July 7, Mayor Crombie said: “I stand with our city’s Jewish community in strongly condemning these hateful and disturbing anti-Semitic comments. Hate has no place in Mississauga. We’re a welcoming city that promotes unity, understanding and acceptance. Those who seek to divide us are not welcome here.”

B’nai Brith Canada has filed a hate-crimes complaint with Peel Regional Police after protesters chanted “hateful” antisemitic slogans at the anti-Israel protest in Mississauga on July 4.

The protests, which took place in Toronto and Mississauga over last weekend, followed similar demonstrations in other cities and made false claims about Israel and Zionism, promoted the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, and called for “intifada,” or a violent uprising against Israel, the FSWC said in a statement.

In response to the event in Mississauga, where protesters chanted “Palestine is our country and the Jews are our dogs,” FSWC called on Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie to speak out publicly against the hate, and send a clear message that the city will not permit such antisemitism and other forms of hatred.

“It is unbelievable that to this day, in diverse cities like Toronto and Mississauga, we are repeatedly witnessing blatant antisemitism rear its ugly head, even in public places,” said Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of FSWC’s Campaign Against Antisemitism.

StandWithUs Canada used truck ads to counter the protesters’ message in Toronto, said Randi Skurka, a founding board member of the organization.

She said the trucks drove around the vicinity of the Toronto event on July 4 with messages including “Israelis Want Peace,” “Palestinian Leaders: Stop the Hate, Negotiate Peace,” and “Israel Needs a Partner for Peace.”

“Importantly, the ads don’t signal a position on Israel potentially applying sovereignty to or annexing parts of the West Bank,” Skurka said.

The Toronto rally, dubbed “Day of Rage,” was attended by about 200 people and took place at the intersection at Yonge and Bloor streets, with speakers shouting “Viva Intifada” and “From the River to the Sea,” Skurka said.

“StandWithUs Canada is sending a message that we will not be silent or tolerate hate speech that incites violence against Israel and the Jewish people,” Skurka said.