Antisemitic Trends in Canada Strengthen Case for Israel’s Existence

A week ago, Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek boycotted an event marking Hannukah, a Jewish religious celebration. The mayor crassly blamed the local Jewish leadership for supposedly being political and divisive, which is in fact what Gondek did in rejecting their invitation. 

Few states have been established with as profound a moral imperative as the State of Israel. Its genesis, partly rooted in the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, serves as a testament to the necessity of a sanctuary for the Jewish people. There, Jews can live free from the threat of extermination and oppression.

The events of October 7, coupled with ongoing global antisemitic trends and rejections such as Gondek’s, underscore the vital role Israel plays in ensuring the safety and survival of Jews worldwide. Put differently, the more Canada fails to make Canadian Jews feel secure, the stronger the argument for the Jewish homeland.

Post-Second World War, the establishment of Israel was a political decision and a moral imperative. The Holocaust, an unprecedented genocide, decimated the Jewish population, erasing centuries of culture and community in Europe.

The creation of Israel in 1948 was largely a response to this horror, a statement such atrocities should never again befall the Jewish people. The state’s founding premise was to provide a homeland and to serve as a haven for Jews of the world to live and thrive.

In a self-ruling, sovereign Jewish State, Jews could no longer be rejected or subject to the laws and power of others, confident and reassured their lives would be protected for generations to come.

Modern threats to Jewish existence have not abated and Israel has had to fight a few wars since its creation to defend itself and the community it sustains.

Groups such as Hezbollah and Hamas, along with certain Iranian clerical elements, today openly espouse the destruction of Israel and, more alarmingly, the extermination of Jewish life in the region. The attacks on October 7 were a stark reminder of these ongoing threats. They were an assault on Israeli sovereignty. The attacks were also attempting to undermine emerging peace efforts between Israel and Saudi Arabia that would make the people of Israel a bit safer. 

Canada, often perceived as a bastion of tolerance, has lately shown worrying signs of antisemitic sentiment. 

There has been a surge of anti-Jewish sentiment expressed by anti-Israel or pro-Hamas demonstrations on city streets in Canada. Children at Jewish schools and daycare centres have been threatened, synagogues have been firebombed, mobs have harrassed Jewish-owned businesses in several cities and on university campuses, Jewish students have been at the receiving end of nasty calls for the extermination of Jews. 

The federal government and elected officials have been largely silent or have felt obliged to appease groups pressuring them to pressure Israel. These pressures have manifested in elected officials’ refusal to celebrate Jewish traditions publicly as they have done for decades, such as the lighting of menorahs during Hanukkah.

The boycott of these ceremonies in cities such as Calgary and Toronto reflects a growing discomfort with Jewish customs. This increasing intolerance, often masquerading as tolerance and inclusion, echoes the ominous atmosphere of the late 1930s and raises serious concerns about the safety of Jewish Canadians.

The surge in pro-Hamas demonstrations, ostensibly in support of Palestinian rights, often crosses into overt antisemitism. Chants and slogans call for the destruction of Israel and sometimes overtly call for a Jewish Genocide — the extermination of Jews.  This is not to suggest that legitimate and peaceful demonstrations against the current war are antisemitic, however.  

Quite unintendedly, the chilling calls for Jewish genocide on university campuses and city streets unwittingly remind one that the moral case for the existence of the State of Israel remains. 

Such behaviours make the moral case even stronger. They reinforce the necessity of Israel’s presence as a haven for Jews to live in peace and security. 

It’s crucial to clarify that the hostility Jewish Canadians face is neither justified by Israel’s situation nor does it imply Jews only belong in Israel, contrary to some harsh opinions.

However, the escalating desertion of Jews in Canada, coupled with Canada’s inability to uphold its reputation as a welcoming avenue for all positive individuals, emphatically underlines the need for Israel as a refuge and defender for the Jewish people.

It’s clear that standing up for Israel isn’t just a matter of politics, but one of moral imperative. For Jewish communities worldwide, Israel is more than just a country, it’s a significant source of hope and a fortress against rising antisemitism.

Looking at scenarios such as that in Calgary city hall, it’s clear to see how intertwined the futures of Israel and global Jewish communities are.

Marco Navarro-Génie is the founding president of the Haultain Research Institute. With Barry Cooper, he is co-author of Canada’s COVID: The Story of a Pandemic Moral Panic (2023). First published in The Western Standard on December 14, 2023.

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