From the Desk of Avi Benlolo: Countering Antisemitism Must Be at Forefront of National Strategy Against Hate

May 17, 2019


In an unbelievable exposé this week, Britain’s largest Jewish newspaper, Jewish News, published an investigation into Jeremy Corbyn’s “30-year animosity toward Israel.” As the British Equalities and Human Rights Commission is set to launch an inquiry into antisemitism in Corbyn’s Labour Party, the Jewish News documented decades of endless condemnation and biased singling out of Israel by the party leader.

The newspaper’s investigation essentially quantified voting or motion sponsorship patterns in what is called Early Day Motions (EDM), which are submitted for debate in the House of Commons. According to the report, by looking at EDMs – one can have a “clearer indication of his (Corbyn’s) most strongly-held views” Over a 22-year period, the report found Corbyn’s most frequent motions – 64 in total – “are critical of Israel or demonstrate one-sided support for the Palestinians.”

Shockingly and despite the fact at least six MPs resigned from his party over concern about antisemitism, Corbyn continues to gain popularity and strength over Theresa May who is faltering over Brexit. His record, according to this report, shows he has been more critical of the Jewish State than any other country or single issue. Why this ceaseless fixation? The Daily Mail reported this week that terror organization Hamas actually thanked Corbyn for his friendship – thus bringing him further at odds with the British Jewish community, a community that is already reeling from increasing antisemitism in the Labour Party and on the street.

Whereas Nazi Germany targeted the individual Jew, sophisticated antisemitism in modern times targets the Jewish state because it represents the embodiment of the Jewish people. It is the so-called Jew among the nations. Seeing this rise of antisemitism, someone dropped off at our office this week some disturbing Nazi memorabilia to use as a teaching tool – a reminder of the dangers that lurk in the shadows. Among the items was a copy of the Windsor Daily Star from Friday, October 18, 1935 containing another exposé from the time: an article about the plight of Germany’s Jewish community advising that Jews “must leave Germany or be exterminated in mass massacre”!

The Windsor Star article emphatically attempted to express that not only was the west aware of the threat of Nazism, but that it was becoming (it had already become) institutionalized. The article quotes German Minister of Interior, Dr. Wilhelm Frick as saying, “the fight against the Jewish enemies in Germany can no longer be left to the private initiative. It has become the task of the government to defend the German people against the nefarious activities of the Semitic past.”

And while certainly no one is saying that we have arrived to the same place in Britain, the Jewish community and media is clearly alarmed given this past history. This is why we also paid close attention this week to the high-level meetings (including Britain and Canada) held in Paris this week, commonly referred to as the “Christchurch Call to Action to eliminate terrorist and violent extremist content online.”

World leaders came together to form a coordinated action plan to prevent social media and other platforms “from being used as a tool to incite, publish and promote terrorism, violence and hatred.” It took the horrific massacre at Christchurch to activate and draw attention to this problem. But we in the Jewish community have been dealing with hate online and in the media for more than two decades.

Just this week, an Islamist posted a threatening video in front of a Toronto synagogue – tinged with antisemitism and threats to our community’s Walk with Israel. The amount of antisemitic content online has become immeasurable. We receive daily antisemitic comments and threats from Islamists, white supremacist neo-Nazis and radical left-wing activists operating on university campuses and institutions. This week, the Harvard Lampoon ran a picture of Anne Frank in a bathing suit – mocking her and sexualizing her as a child and a victim of the Holocaust.

Because of our experience over 74 years since the Holocaust and the near decimation of our entire population, our community has been fulfilling the three conclusions world leaders drew up in Paris:

1) Inclusivity: We have been working to build inclusive, resilient communities to counter violent radicalization through our tolerance training workshops, Tour for Humanity and multi-faith programs.

2) Law Enforcement: We have been working with law enforcement to stop the production and dissemination of terrorist and extremist content online – as we hold hate crime workshops; educate police through Compassion to Action; and work with authorities to bring attention to hate crime and hate speech.

3) Media: Over the years, our organization has worked with traditional and social media to apply ethical rules and reporting on extremist activities – including bias prevention and bringing down hate sites whenever possible.

Some jurisdictions have moved beyond waiting for action.  Just this week, the City of Toronto voted unanimously for measures to curb hate sponsored rallies on its property, like Al Quds Day.  Organizers of hate rallies now require permits or be charged with trespassing or hate crime. The city may charge for policing, traffic re-routing and clean up. Additionally, city councilors have requested that police consider setting up a task force to secure places of worship.

A national strategy on countering radicalization and violence must include antisemitism at its forefront. When unchecked, it is a pernicious hatred that becomes lethal and violent. It threatens not only the Jewish community, but all communities. The Windsor Star may have warned the world of the impending genocide the Nazis were about to commit – and we commend the paper for doing that – but without real action to counter both institutionalized and street-based antisemitism, our direction as a human race is in jeopardy.

Shabbat Shalom,


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