Partisanship undermines the fight against antisemitism

But even in a country as remarkable as Canada, racism continues to exist and the Jewish community is a prime target.

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau visits Auschwitz (photo credit: AUSCHWITZ MEMORIAL TWITTER)
Canadian PM Justin Trudeau visits Auschwitz
A recent Jerusalem Post op-ed, titled “Excusing Jew hatred in Canada,” ironically shifts the blame for antisemitism away from those who perpetrate it.
The author reviews various antisemitic incidents in Canada and suggests that the government of Canada has allowed the country to become “a more dangerous place for Jews.” He even declares: “The Trudeau government’s acquiescence to anti-Jewish incitement has ranged from passive tolerance to outright support.”
The author should know better than to play politics with our community’s safety.
Set aside the fact that the author references incidents that have absolutely nothing to do with the Trudeau government. For example, he slams The Toronto Star’s recent downplaying of antisemitism in a local mosque. I too object to the Star’s portrayal of this shameful incident. But the government of Canada is not to blame for a private newspaper’s editorial decisions.
Set aside the fact that the author criticizes the government for incidents that occurred prior to the Trudeau government’s election. He mentions antisemitic sermons at Montreal’s Al-Andalous Islamic Center that spurred complaints to police from the organized Jewish community. The first of these sermons was given in 2014, during the previous government’s tenure. The author ought to know that blaming Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for antisemitic acts by individuals unconnected to his government is as ludicrous as faulting the previous government, led by prime minister Stephen Harper, for any similar incidents between 2006 and 2015.
The real problem with the author’s piece is that, by shifting the focus away from those who should be blamed – Jew-haters themselves – the column does an immense disservice to the cause of fighting antisemitism and racism in all of its ugly forms. Unfortunately, the author does not advance any ideas on how to improve our fight against antisemitism. Instead, the author’s agenda is clear: it seems he is interested in using examples of hate speech against our community to make a partisan statement against the Trudeau government. A quick Google search reveals that this is the latest in a series of similar articles by the author, with pieces appearing on Fox News, The Federalist and elsewhere.
As someone who has been active in Canadian politics, I believe that we need more open debate and legitimate criticism of government policy. Open debate about how best to tackle intolerance and how best to combat acts of racism is essential in order for progress to be made. But the battle against antisemitism is undermined when viewed solely through partisan-colored glasses. And those who hijack the fight against antisemitism for their own partisan gain should be called out for their disservice to the cause.
Canada is home to the third largest Jewish community in the Diaspora. We are diverse, dynamic and warmly welcomed by our fellow Canadians. But even in a country as remarkable as Canada, racism continues to exist and the Jewish community is a prime target. We must be assertive, pro-active and strategic in holding Jew haters accountable before the law and the court of public opinion. And we must encourage every government to do better – to bolster the tools available to law enforcement to hold perpetrators of hateful acts to account – and to create new tools for teachers and community organizations to prevent intolerance before it turns into hate. Our community continues to advocate for these measures and it is there that we must focus our efforts. For Canadian Jewry, the fight against antisemitism is nothing short of existential – and there is no room for partisan games.
Every government should be engaged and criticized (even harshly, when necessary) to ensure it protects its most vulnerable citizens. Our community can be proud that the current Canadian government, like its predecessor, has both spoken out against antisemitism and taken practical steps to make our community safer.
The government of Canada has doubled funding for security infrastructure upgrades at synagogues, Jewish community centers, day schools and other at-risk facilities. Parliament just passed a bill, sponsored by a Liberal MP, which strengthens Canada’s hate crime laws to better protect Jewish and other minority institutions from hateful vandalism.
The Trudeau government, like its predecessor, recognizes that anti-Zionism is the new antisemitism. The Trudeau Liberals have repeatedly condemned boycott-di- vestment-sanctions (BDS) initiatives and other toxic events on university campuses that target Israel and Zionists for sanction. They have maintained Canada’s record of opposing anti-Israel votes at the UN and they have intervened to halt discriminatory labeling of Israeli goods.
Fair-minded observers would note that the Trudeau government has taken these actions with the support of the Official Opposition. Both of Canada’s largest federal political parties deserve credit for their work, past and present, in fighting antisemitism – which has become a consensus issue on Parliament Hill.
There is much more work to be done. But just as there is no excuse for antisemitism, there is no excuse for gratuitous partisan- ship in the fight against Jew hatred.
The author is principal counsel at Kochman Law, a civil litigation law firm in Toronto. He is a board member of Hillel Ontario and a member of the Young Leaders and Government Outreach committees for the Center for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA).