Editorial: Joining Together to Battle Hate

Oct. 6, 2020

Mainstream Jewish and Muslim organizations join human rights groups, anti-hate communities, and peace and labour organizations, all working toward one goal. Impossible?

The joining of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) with the National Council of Canadian Muslims and two dozen other faith-based and ethno-cultural groups might have once seemed a lofty goal, perhaps even unattainable.

And then came a maelstrom: Nazis and white supremacists openly rallying in the United States; murders at mosques and synagogues; right-wing extremist attacks in Canadian cities; reports by experts of hundreds of new hate groups in Canada; and, of course, COVID.

The world changed in the blink of an eye. It became a much more dangerous place, especially if you are Muslim, Jewish, Asian, LGBTQ+, or a person of colour.

Police, of course, investigate crime, but still seem to find it difficult to wrap their heads around hate crime. While anti-hate laws exist, they are rarely invoked, and when they are, investigations can take an incredibly long time. For example, the conviction of those behind Your Ward News, a hateful, antisemitic, misogynistic publication, took five years from the date of the first complaint against it. This was unacceptable for targeted groups.

No amount of group advocacy moved the needle. Indeed, things got worse. Reports began to circulate that the Canadian military harboured numerous recruits who were members of well-known hate groups or had been recently radicalized online. A new political party, the Canadian National Party – racist, deeply antisemitic, and parroting Nazi rhetoric of emptying Canada of Jews – was accorded official party status, allowing it to issue tax receipts for charitable deductions.

Then, just a few weeks ago, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis, a caretaker at a downtown Toronto mosque, was brutally murdered while monitoring those entering the building. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (chaired by CJR publisher Bernie Farber) revealed that the alleged killer has ties to a satanic neo-Nazi organization.

And still no action from any level of government.

Mustafa Farooq, the newly minted executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), decided to do something. Farooq called upon civil society players, through their organizations, to come together and demand better, demand protection, demand change.

As a result, a “Call to Action” was organized by Mustafa through the offices of NCCM. A myriad of human rights groups and faith communities have now signed on to a public letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (found here).

The World Sikh Organization, the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, Amnesty International, the Canadian Labour Congress, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Baha’i community of Canada, and the African Canadian National Council, are just some of the 26 signatories. Individually, some of these groups don’t play well together in the sandbox, but here, all have recognized the danger by speaking in one loud voice.

These Canadians are demanding from their government that the hundreds of white supremacist, alt right, and neo-Nazi groups be disbanded; for better legal tools, including improved use of anti-terrorism laws for domestic hate groups; better enforcement of laws for social media sites to ensure heavy fines against platforms like Facebook, Twitter, TikTok for disseminating hate, and much more. Civil society, now joined in all its facets, has had enough.

Editorial: Hate Must Not Take Hold

Oct. 1, 2020 – This past week, we were treated to the sight of a petulant and bullying president of the United States who threatened his fellow citizens. He refused to disavow neo-Nazism and even asked his white supremacist minions to “stand back and stand by.”

It was a call that was heeded immediately by the preening white nationalist Proud Boys, who, within 40 seconds of Donald Trump’s shout-out, posted with glee on “Telegram,” a social media website frequented by racists, bigots, white supremacists, and violent extremists.

Canadians should resist feeling too smug: A co-founder of the Proud Boys is Canadian Gavin McInnes, who helped found Vice Media and later discovered an outlet at the right-wing Rebel Media.

The Proud Boys, like many other violent white nationalists and white supremacists, have grown significantly in number over the past decade. In 2015, Barbara Perry and Ryan Scrivens, top researchers in the study of hate groups in Canada, estimated there were at least 100 neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups active in Canada.

They also suggested that there were 30,000 Canadians practicing what they termed “sovereign citizen” philosophies which have no regard for Canadian law.

Recently they have updated their research. According to Perry and Scrivens we may now be seeing an increase of over 25 percent in hate group activity and recruitment. In an interview last year with the Toronto Star, Perry noted, “Now that we’ve started to sort of list the groups and name them…we’re getting close to 300 groups.”

In decades past, racists held rallies and meetings that were easily infiltrated by police and security officials. Today, radicalization, recruiting and ideas are most often conducted via social media and dark corners of the internet, to where visitors to more accessible sites are directed.

In late September, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh was accosted by a man threatening to make a citizen’s arrest. It turned out that the man, Brian Kidder, is part of an encampment of tents in Ottawa that has attracted a variety of fringe figures from Canada’s far-right.

It gets worse. Toronto police have laid charges in the murder of a Muslim Canadian who was supervising entry to his mosque for daily services. According to the Canadian Anti-Hate Network (chaired by CJR publisher Bernie Farber), it’s possible the alleged murderer may be aligned with a satanic Nazi cult known as 09A. Police have been urged to get outside expert assistance. To date, we have heard nothing from police.

Hate, violence and murder have now visited us, and police seem unable to take necessary action. Therefore, it’s up to government to hold the keepers of our laws accountable. Police must police. And politicians must ensure that if stronger laws are needed to corral this threat, they must be passed.

Proud Boys, Soldiers of Odin, Northern Guard, 3%ers…whatever they call themselves, they need to be put on notice. Canadians will not stand for their bullying and racism. We must all speak in one voice, loudly and clearly.

Defence Minister Pledges Action on Racists in Military

Sept. 2, 2020 – By STEVE ARNOLD

Canada’s Minister of National Defence is promising to drive white supremacists and racists out of the country’s armed forces.

Harjit Sajjan made the commitment Aug. 26 in a Zoom meeting with leaders of Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center (FSWC).

The Honourable Harjit Sajjan, Minister of National Defence

The meeting followed the unmasking of a Royal Canadian Navy reservist in Calgary with a long history of involvement in white supremacy groups.

In a news release, Los Angeles-based FSWC executive director Rabbi Meyer May said he was impressed by Sajjan’s “clear and unequivocal commitment to bringing about structural changes and reforms in the armed forces to ensure there will be no tolerance for white supremacist and extremist members as well as no room for any forms of hate.”

Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, director of the Canadian FSWC’s Campaign Against Antisemitism, added: “A clear message must be sent to all Canadians, including our diverse communities within and outside the armed forces, that white supremacists will not be tolerated under any circumstances in our military.”

In an e-mailed statement, a spokesperson for Sajjan said, “There is no place for hate in Canada, and membership in organizations that promote hate goes against everything that Canadians value, and what the Canadian Armed Forces stand for.”

Sajjan said he had a “productive” conversation with the FSWC, and wanted to assure Canadians that the Forces treats these matters “with the utmost seriousness.”

May and Kirzner-Roberts proposed creating a body to investigate potential cases of white supremacist activity in the military; requiring allegations to be sent immediately to military police or the RCMP, and to be subject only to administrative/disciplinary action once criminal charges have been ruled out; and ensuring that anyone found guilty of participating in white supremacist activity is released immediately from the military, in addition to facing applicable criminal charges.

The meeting came one month after FSWC sent a letter to Sajjan demanding an investigation into the Royal Canadian Navy’s decision to reinstate a Calgary-based sailor with neo-Nazi ties, and two weeks after meeting with the commander of the Navy.

In the latter meeting Vice-Admiral Art McDonald promised a “command-level” review of the Forces’ decision to readmit the sailor to ensure the Navy handled the matter “appropriately and in accordance with the latest departmental guidance on hateful conduct.”

The Canadian Anti-Hate Network (of which CJR publisher Bernie Farber is chairman) and the FSWC demanded action after Leading Seaman Boris Mihajlovic was revealed to be a member of an online neo-Nazi hate group.

Concern intensified after Mihajlovic was accused of trying to sell military-grade weapons to another hate group. There is no evidence a deal was ever completed and he was later reinstated after claiming he was rehabilitated and no longer held racist views.

In 2019, Kurt Phillips, now a director of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network, was among the first to raise the alarm about the alleged arms deal.

“The big concern here is the Forces and their reaction to this,” Phillips said in an interview. “Our concern now is, what is the Canadian military doing about this?”

Mihajlovic’s racist activities were first revealed by the alnertaive media site Unicorn Riot and by CBC in December. CBC reported his hate group activities included serving as an administrator of the now-defunct Iron March forum, a neo-Nazi website. He was also involved with Blood & Honour for at least four years and its armed branch, Combat 18, a group the Canadian government identified last summer as a terrorist organization.

Mihajlovic told CBC he hasn’t been involved with such groups since Iron March shut down in 2017 and now he realizes he was wrong and rejects racist views.

For Phillips, words like that are a good start, but have to matched with action to show Mihajlovic has truly recanted his former views – such as a sincere apology to the communities he offended and helping law enforcement identify and deal with other groups and extremists.

Separately, Patrik Mathews, a former Forces combat engineer, has been in custody in Maryland since January, along with two other alleged co-conspirators. They face trial on a variety of charges relating to their alleged desire to trigger a race war in the United States.

Mathews vanished from Beausejour, Man., last year following media reports alleging he was a recruiter for a white-supremacist group called The Base.

*See related story today, B’nai Brith Hails Justice for Alleged Neo-Nazi.

We Should Denounce Jewish Bigots Too

Aug. 27, 2020 – By JOE SOLWAY

Normally, I’m pleased to see a fellow Jew succeed in the political arena, even if we don’t hold the same views. But not so in a recent primary in Florida.

That’s because the winner, Laura Loomer, is a self-described “proud Islamophobe.” She’s been banned from Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Uber, Lyft, PayPal, GoFundMe, and Chase Bank, among others, for her bigoted views.

Laura Loomer
Laura Loomer

The rideshare services dumped her after she tweeted that “someone needs to create a non Islamic form of Uber or Lyft because I never want to support another Islamic immigrant driver.”

There’s “no such thing as a moderate Muslim, Loomer has said. “They’re ALL the same.”

Even so, it seems that Republicans in Florida’s 21st Congressional District love her.

That’s the stretch of Florida coast that includes Palm Beach, Delray Beach and Boynton Beach. On Aug. 11, Loomer defeated five others on the primary ballot to become the Republican nominee for Congress in this November’s election.

Loomer’s win came during the same week that Democrats held their convention, much of which focussed on calls for equality and social justice. In contrast, President Donald Trump praised his candidate’s win, tweeting, “Great going Laura. You have a great chance against a Pelosi puppet!” It’s worth noting that Trump himself is registered to vote in the 21st District.

Loomer has called Islam a “cancer on humanity” and its practitioners “savages,” adding that they should be disqualified from running for office. Where have we heard words like these before?

Dehumanizing a people or a race is something we as Jews know about first-hand. And we know what happens when those words turn to action. People are banned, persecuted and murdered.

When 51 Muslims were killed in attacks on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, by a white supremacist, Loomer said she didn’t care, tweeting that she cared more about her free speech than what happened in that attack.

Yes, there are deep differences between some Jews and Muslims over issues in the Middle East, but when it comes to human rights and respect, Jews should be at the forefront of calling out hate, not fanning its flames.

Loomer has said she rejects being called part of the alt-right because of its links to antisemitism. That’s wonderful. But she’ll spout the same dangerous, hateful garbage they do: Inciting persecution and violence in the name of race.

Bigots like Loomer who sought elected office in Canada have been removed as candidates by their parties. But in the U.S., they’re now being embraced – at least by Republicans. Some of these same Republicans also embrace supporters of the Qanon conspiracy theory who believe that Trump is working to save them from a global conspiracy of Liberal, Satan-worshipping pedophiles who are plotting against him.

Why does all this matter?

First, Canada is not a vacuum and what happens in the U.S. has a profound influence on life here. Thankfully, the anti-immigration People’s Party of Canada received little support in the last federal election. However, hate groups are on the rise here. An estimate by Barbara Perry of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism puts the number of hate groups in Canada at more than 300. Loomer herself has a connection to this country. During the summer of 2017, she was the U.S. correspondent for Rebel Media, the social commentary site headed by Ezra Levant.

Second, a recent survey found that more than 167,000 Jews live in Palm Beach County. There’s no breakdown of how many support Loomer. I hope it’s zero. Furthermore, (as of this writing) the Republican Jewish Coalition had yet to comment on Loomer’s primary win.

Loomer’s Democratic opponent in the district will be incumbent Lois Frankel, also Jewish, and a former mayor of Palm Beach, who garnered more than 62 percent of the vote to win in 2016. So far, I’ve yet to see any statements from Frankel about Loomer’s bigotry. Frankel has spoken out about antisemitism and other forms of hate in the past, including Islamophobia, and I hope it becomes an issue in November. (It’s worth noting that from 2011 to 2013, part of the district had been represented by another notorious Islamophobe, Republican Allen West. The district’s boundaries have since been redrawn.)

I believe as Jews, we have an obligation to speak out against the type of inflammatory rhetoric in which Laura Loomer engages, wherever we find it, and whoever it comes from. Especially when it’s from one of our own.


Joe Solway
Joe Solway

Joe Solway is a retired current affairs producer who worked for various Canadian media, including the CBC. He lives in Bowmanville, Ont., where he’s on the board of the Rotary Club.

Editorial: Mark Zuckerberg Doesn’t Care About Holocaust Denial

Aug. 6, 2020 – No less a thinker than Homer Simpson once pronounced: “It’s not that I don’t understand, it’s that I don’t care.” It is difficult not to consider these words when confronted by the actions of Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook.

Facebook is arguably the most important social media platform of our time – maybe the most influential information outlet of all time. It has brought together old friends and lost relatives; it has allowed for the continuation of friendships around the world; it has spawned groups dealing with everything from recipes to physics. But Facebook also has a dark side, which prompts our thoughts today.

In years past, in order for hate groups, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Holocaust deniers to spread their vile messages, they were mostly forced to stand on busy street corners, handing out their abhorrent messages. If two people walked away with a leaflet, it was considered a good day.

In 2020, all that is required for hatred to seep into our communities is a laptop and internet hookup. Consider numbers that would make legacy media hyperventilate: Worldwide, there are over 2.7 billion monthly active users of Facebook, and 1.8 billion people on average log onto the site every day – a 12 percent increase over just a year ago.

Facebook has been confronted often with requests to take more corporate responsibility by guarding against its use, or misuse, by hatemongers. From time to time, some individuals have been deplatformed. Sadly, the numbers are few and the will from Facebook seems weak.

For the Jewish community, the focus is on the numerous Holocaust deniers who use Facebook as their vehicle of choice to spread their poison. Those of a certain age might remember Toronto-based Ernst Zundel, who was once the largest purveyor of Holocaust denial material in the world. He would salivate today at how Facebook could distribute his lies.

It may seem unbelievable, but Facebook has consistently refused to recognize Holocaust denial as a violation of its “community standards.” Indeed, consider the opening statement of the site’s terms of reference for its standards when it comes to hate speech:

“We do not allow hate speech on Facebook because it creates an environment of intimidation and exclusion and in some cases may promote real-world violence.”

According to the Anti-Defamation League, Zuckerberg explained in a 2018 interview: “I don’t believe that our platform should take that [Holocaust denial] down because I think there are things that different people get wrong,” notably adding, “I don’t think that they’re intentionally getting it wrong…”

News flash for Mark Zuckerberg (who was raised in a Jewish home): Holocaust denial is not just getting historical facts “wrong,” it’s intentional all right, and the most contemptible form of Jew-hatred imaginable.

In recent weeks the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany, or Claims Conference, has begun a campaign dubbed #NoDenyingIt!

It’s an online campaign “to ensure the voices of Holocaust survivors are heard by Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg and that is: ‘Holocaust denial posts on Facebook must be removed!’ As one survivor put it, ‘They are calling us liars. We are witnesses,’” the Claims Conference stated.

Holocaust survivors have been sending short videos every day to Zuckerberg demanding he stop this hatred. It’s horrible that in the dusk of their lives, these elderly men and women must ask Facebook to do the right thing. It’s time for Zuckerberg to stop doing a Homer Simpson and to show he understands – and cares.