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The rising tide of anti-semitism: is gaza an impetus or an excuse?

Berlin: "Jews to the gas!" Paris: "Death to the Jews!" Milan: "Nuremberg trial for Israel!"

Montreal: "The diaspora is scattered around the world where they take economic control, provoke the hatred of local na-tions ... They make Washington, Paris and Ottawa submit."

These are not comments from the history books but examples this summer of an ugly, Hydra-headed phenomenon experiencing a dramatic surge since the most recent Hamas-Israel conflict broke out in June. A new wave of anti-Semitism is sweeping Europe. Its roots would seem to go far beyond--and beneath--the political passions stirred by the latest Gaza-Israel conflict. And it's reaching Canadian shores.

In actions reminiscent of 1930s Germany, comments are complemented by actions. By August, British police had recorded more than 100 anti-Jewish hate crimes since the Gaza conflict began, double the usual number. These included an attack on a rabbi and bricks lobbed through the windows of a Belfast synagogue. In Wuppertal, Germany, Molotov cocktails firebombed a synagogue and an imam in Berlin openly called for the destruction of every last Jew.

Back in May, a U.S. Anti-Defamation League poll of 53,000 people in 102 countries reported that 26 per cent are "deeply infected with anti-Semitic attitudes"--including 24 per cent of Christians and 14 per cent of Canadians.

As the conflict in Gaza dragged on this summer, Toronto pro-Palestinian protesters beat Jewish supporters at a rally. A Montreal woman carrying an Israeli flag was trampled at a pro-Palestinian demonstration; a Jewish man was punched in the face outside a restaurant; a Jewish community building was invaded by anti-Israel protesters. "They accused us of complicity in massacre. They took political discourse to an inappropriate level," says Eta Yudin, director of public affairs and community relations for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Quebec.

If you thought such phenomena died with the destruction of the camps at Auschwitz and Dachau, you may find the resurgence surprising. But for Yudin, these flare-ups are nothing new. "Every time there's a conflict in the Middle East we see these actions," she says. What concerns Yudin about the current spike is the new climate of tolerance in Canada: "There's a feeling that people are free to express classic anti-Semitic views without being called on it. It goes unchallenged."

She referred to a recent Montreal talk radio show in which a hateful email was unapologetically read out on air. In her view, there's a new comfort level with anti-Jewish remarks not seen before.

It's that complacency rather than individual comments that Yudin finds more disturbing. "It's the responsibility of everyone to create a society that fits with our democratic values. This is not just a Jewish problem," she says. She adds that it's one thing to take issue with Israel's Gaza operations and quite another to question its fundamental legitimacy and call for its destruction.

Archdeacon Bruce Myers, the Anglican Church of Canada's co-ordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations, echoes Yudin's call to fight back against anti-Jewish acts and utterances. "Anti-Semitism is an insidious thing, and it needs to be challenged at every turn," he says.

The church, in fact, categorically condemns all expressions of anti-Semitism. "We have consistently denounced acts of discrimination or violence against the Jewish people, and have sought through education and dialogue to demonstrate how anti-Semitism is both a denial of Christianity's kinship with Judaism and a violation of our baptismal vow to respect the dignity of every human being," says Myers.

He notes General Synod's 2013 passage of a motion on peace and justice in Palestine and Israel that specifically included a commitment "to resolutely oppose anti-Semitism."

And in 1992, the church expunged from the Book of Common Prayer a Good Friday collect that was pejorative of Jews. "Our liturgy for that day now asks forgiveness for the church's complicity in its persecution and scapegoating of the Jewish people throughout history," adds Myers.

The church has been distressed to see the conflict between Israel and Hamas result in anti-Semitic acts in other parts of the world, says Myers. "We seek to be vigilant in naming and condemning it [anti-Semitism] when it rears its head here in Canada."

Caption: There was a noticeable spike in anti-Semitic acts, including the desecration of Jewish cemeteries, as the confict in Gaza raged during the summer, according to several Jewish organizations.

"We have consistently denounced acts of discrimination or violence against the Jewish people...

--Archdeacon Bruce Myers

Anglican Church of Canada co-ordinator for ecumenical and interfaith relations

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Title Annotation:WORLD
Author:Swift, Diana
Publication:Anglican Journal
Geographic Code:1CQUE
Date:Oct 1, 2014
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