Anti-Semitism is what many Canadian Jews experienced who faced quotas when applying for professional degrees, or who were barred from joining certain golf clubs. Anti-Semitism is what my ancestors experienced in Eastern Europe with pogroms, frequent assaults and massacres in Jewish communities. Anti-Semitism is the murder of millions of Jews during the Holocaust. How can it be in any way appropriate to use this term to describe individuals who criticize a modern political entity -- the state of Israel -- which systematically violates the rights of Palestinians?
Muslim scholar Afifi Al Akiti has clearly stated that there is no legal precedent in Islam on targeting innocent civilians and that Hamas violated this admirable precedent in 1994 by bombing a public bus in Jerusalem. We cannot forget news items like that of Hassan Askari, a Bangladeshi Sunni Muslim, who risked his own life to aid three Jewish travelers in New York from anti-Semitic assault.
I write at an important moment of remembrance and reminder, of bearing witness, and of action. I write also in the immediate aftermath of anti-Semitic terror and killing in France, and in the midst of ongoing mass atrocities by Boko Haram in Nigeria, ethnic cleansing in Darfur and South Sudan, and killing fields in Syria and elsewhere. And so, at this important historical moment, we should ask ourselves: What have we learned in the last 70 years, and more importantly, what must we do?
It is a black and white matter. Killing journalists because they write, draw or publish something you deem offensive is wrong, and yes, it is wrong even if the thing you deemed offensive is, objectively speaking, offensive. There are no shades of grey here, no colours, no nuances. None of that is relevant. It matters not if the cartoons were vulgar or sexist, or, as many think, not funny.
As a Jew, I feel sorry for Palestinians. Their plight is awful. They're at the mercy of a government who would see them dead if it would further their cause. You can be PRO Palestine without being ANTI Israel. You can be against this war and not be Anti-Semitic. Try to remember that when you ask Israel to lay down their weapons you're asking them to walk right into a gas chamber.
The Metropolitan Opera recently announced it would cancel a planned worldwide cinema broadcast of John Adams' haunting opera, The Death of Klinghoffer. Indeed the whole opera has been criticized -- including by Lisa and Ilsa Klinghoffer, the daughters of Leon and Marilyn Klinghoffer -- as humanizing and even justifying acts of terrorism.
We have become inured to anti-Semitism. It passes the lips and enters the ears without shock. We don't name and shame anti-Jewish hatred. Ryan Bellerose is a Métis. It didn't matter. The man who accosted him thought him a Jew. Knew nothing about him and suggested it was sad he existed. This is anti-Semitism.
National Post columnist Dave Bidini failed his son as a parent when he didn't address his son's questions about Roger Waters' comments comparing Israeli Soldiers to Nazis. Moving beyond the gushing star-struck comments he made about Waters through the lips of his son, Bidini's love of Roger Water's music has blinded him to Roger Waters, the man.
Incorrect is the claim that Stephen Harper defends the freedom and dignity of all people. Israel's occupation of the West Bank is an institutionalized system of oppression that every day denies the freedom and dignity of millions of Palestinians. When Canada votes against Palestinian aspirations at the UN, we come across as vindictive.
You walk into a store and the salesperson is a different colour, a woman wearing a hijab, a young man with piercings and tattoos. You walk into a room and realize that no one looks like you. A sense of anxiety sets in from the fight/flight response to fear. That instinctual response to fear begins because we instinctively fear the unknown -- be it a place, an event, a person.
To this day, I cannot watch footage of the faces of Jewish mothers, fathers, and children consigned to the gas chambers in German concentration camps without, as a Canadian, feeling a great sense of sorrow, loss, and guilt. The government of Canada ignored not only the plight of the Jews, but also the protests of the Canadian people and the pleading of the press. Why was nothing done? Because of political expediency; because the prime minister had a visceral distrust of Jews, and in government circles an open-door policy was very unpopular. But prime ministers are not chosen to seek popularity. They are elected to provide leadership.