A 12 year old Jewish student in Melbourne was forced to kiss the feet of a Muslim student. The student was assaulted, bullied, beaten up and sent to hospital in this vicious and unprovoked antisemitic attack. The mother of the Jewish boy recounted the harrowing tale in the Australian Jewish News of school complacency, if not complicity, in her son’s bullying and is accusing the school of looking the other way. Sadly, the Jewish boy’s grandfather was a Holocaust survivor and for the family and community, this attack is no less reminiscent of the early days of Hitler’s rise to power when Jewish students were subject to the same type of abuse.
Writing in protest to the Australian High Commissioner in Canada today, we expressed our shock and dismay and asked her to encourage her Government to take immediate steps to counter this antisemitic scourge in Australia.
But the dire situation is not just in far away Australia.
Just last week, we were in touch with the family of a teenage student from Prince Edward County, near Belleville, who detailed years of antisemitic torment and abuse at her school. She had students placing yellow stars on her clothing that read ‘Jew’, she had swastikas drawn on her desk and belongings, she was pelted with coins while walking down the hallway more times than she could count. The student says when she approached her school principal about these incidents, he rolled his eyes. According to the student, another administrator told her it was “unacceptable” to be discussing her experiences with antisemitism at the school. FSWC has reached out to the school board, the Mayor, and community leaders with our offer to bring the Tour of Humanity to local schools and we very much hope they will take us up on that offer.
As we surpass the one year anniversary of the massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, we witness blatant street attacks on Jews and synagogues in Brooklyn – at the heart of the US Jewish community of all places. Headlines pour onto my desktop feeds on a minute by minute basis: “3 out of every 4 LA county Jews view antisemitism as serious”; In Belgium, “Jewish leaders worry that antisemitism has become Kosher”; “Antisemitic incidents in Argentina more than doubled in 2018”; “Antisemitic flyers distributed in Montana”; “Observing Labour Antisemites in Brighton” and on and on and on.
Here at home we have borne witness to antisemitic scuffles between teenagers; Holocaust denial and Nazi flags raised on farms and hung on people’s windows; an emboldening of the Neo Nazis showcased by videos accusing those around them of being “parasites” or making white power salutes. Worse, we bear witness to some political candidates who have made antisemitic statements and professed their hatred for the only democratic country in the Middle East – Israel.
But what complicity or complacency charges must be laid against institutions that are providing a forum or not acting in the face of antisemitism – as in the case of the Melbourne Jewish student? After all these years and with the indisputable fact that antisemitism is lethal, how is it still permissible to have a radical Islamic event (Al Quds Day) near Queens Park? How can universities still excuse themselves by hanging violence-provoking posters in student centres (York University) and allowing an antisemitic movement (BDS) speakers to frequent the halls of academia (McMaster Anti-Racism Conference). Even our very courts have been sucked into the debate by making a judgement, wrongfullyin our view, against Israeli wines.
And so, should we be surprised when silence about antisemitism leads to violence? When a people are stealthily victimized by the very institutions that are meant to protect them – what comes next in this downward delusional spiral? The situation might be dire – but there are many courageous people among us who stand up for truth and justice. Journalists like Natasha Fatah who today tweeted out the disturbing image of the Jewish boy at the feet of the other student. And today, my friend Halton Chief of Police Steve Tanner advised me the Attorney General gave consent to pressing two hate crime charges – after months of determined police work.
I applaud the stars among us who speak out and refuse to be silent. I also applaud our educators who strive daily to reach as many students, teachers and community leaders as possible about the dangerous consequences of antisemitism, hate and intolerance. Antisemitism is fueled by complicit institutions and their leadership. This led to the gruesome bullying of a 12 year old Jewish boy in Melbourne. Lets not forget that.