A dark year for antisemitism in Canada

December 14, 2022

Column

Not to put too fine a point on it, but 2022 can’t end soon enough for Jews given what an awful year it’s been for rising antisemitism both in Canada and globally. A year that began with a hostage-taking at a Texas synagogue by a gunman denouncing Jews for “controlling the world,” and is concluding with a scandal at the University of Toronto’s med school over pervasive antisemitism targeting Jewish students and faculty, detailed in a disturbing new exposé by a U of T professor.

Rarely a day goes by without news of yet another antisemitic incident. Sobering hate-crime statistics showing Jews as the most targeted religious minority only capture part of the reality. We don’t need numbers to know something toxic is spreading. Jews in Canada feel it and see it, me included. It’s palpable and deeply unsettling.

Contemporary antisemitism takes many forms, especially on the far left and far right. Social media is rife with vile, anti-Jewish rhetoric, especially on Twitter. Some cloak their thinly veiled antisemitism behind anti-Zionist narratives comparing Israel to Nazi Germany, even calling for its destruction. Political discourse, including the sly use of dog whistles, often trades on classic Jew-hatred adapted strategically to our troubled times. Extremists seeking support are only too ready to spew baseless conspiracy theories — which have always been at the core of antisemitism — knowing the appeal of simplistic explanations for society’s ills, for which Jews are the usual scapegoat.

From violent attacks to verbal assaults, antisemitism, both in person and online, is not only more widespread but more mainstream than it’s been in decades. Making matters worse is the often-muted response by others outside the Jewish community who are frequently far more outspoken in condemning racism against other minorities. I shudder to think that all of this is becoming the new normal.

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