Regg Cohn: Ignoring antisemitism hasn’t made it go away

Good reminder:

We haven’t heard much about deep-seated antisemitism in Canada since the notorious Jim Keegstra. Infamous and unforgettable, he taught Holocaust denial in Alberta classrooms and testified to it in Alberta courtrooms.

Well that was decades ago, you think. Not in Ontario today, you say?

You’ve likely never heard of Joseph DiMarco, because you probably haven’t seen his story anywhere.

DiMarco is an Ontario teacher fired for preaching Holocaust denial and spouting antisemitism in a Timmins Catholic school. After earning his education certificate at Nipissing University 16 years ago, he taught his students to question the deaths of six million Jews in the Holocaust.

After a hearing last November, based on an agreed statement of facts (DiMarco did not attend or contest the charges), the provincial regulator revoked his licence to teach. In the weeks since, there’s been barely a ripple in the mainstream media — I’d not seen anything on this until someone passed on a recent story in the Canadian Jewish News online.

“When students tried to challenge or question the … assertions about the figure of six million deaths not being accurate, the (teacher) was dismissive, reminding the students how much research he had done,” a discipline committee of the Ontario College of Teachers concluded.

The regulator noted that DiMarco “provided students with learning material about the Holocaust from disreputable and unapproved sources which contradicted the facts.”

He tried to justify his conspiracy theories as merely anti-Israel and anti-Zionist, not antisemitic as such. But he knew what he was doing when he curated his own “Zionism slide show” as a teaching tool.

DiMarco ridiculed a school field trip to a Nazi concentration camp as evidence that the “powers that be” were spreading propaganda. He also taught his students that Israel was the evil force behind the 9/11 attacks that killed thousands in the U.S.

The regulator quoted from DiMarco’s email to the school chaplain explaining that “If some people actually understood who was pulling the strings, and the truth came out — antisemitism will return with a ferocity seldom seen throughout history.”

What’s noteworthy is that his teachings, and his firing, never seemed especially newsworthy. 

We read a great deal in the media about the rise of racism and white supremacy in society today. Yet when we come across someone who denies the genocide that claimed six million Jewish lives in pursuit of Nazi ideals of white supremacy — in the guise of Aryan purity — it barely rates a mention.

Is it because most Jews immigrated and integrated so long ago that they are deemed well entrenched, and hence less deserving of coverage? Does the old media credo to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable” diminish journalistic interest in Jews (or anyone else) who might be comfortably established?

If Jews have agency, is there less urgency?

Behold the risk of complacency: After the terror of a rabbi and Jewish worshippers being taken hostage in a Texas synagogue this month, by a gunman ranting online about the putative power of Jews, the FBI reassured Americans that this was not, actually, an antisemitic act. The media dutifully, uncritically, incredibly, reported that as fact — until, days later, the FBI reassessed and recanted.

And yet according to FBI statistics, 60 per cent of all victims of anti-religious hate crimes in 2019 were targeted because of anti-Jewish bias. About 13 per cent were victims of anti-Muslim bias.

Well that’s just America with its own peculiar blinkers, you think. Not in Canada, you say?

A recent headline proclaimed: “Toronto saw an ‘unprecedented’ spike in hate crime in 2020, including rise in anti-Asian and anti-Black incidents, police say.”

Yet the headline skipped over the reality — noted in the story — that antisemitic attacks were as high as ever, and disproportionately so: “Although Jewish people represent just 3.8 per cent of Toronto’s population, the community saw 30 per cent of reported hate crimes in 2020” — less newsworthy because they’ve always been historically high, and hence old news?

I first wondered about this phenomenon last year after writing a column about the continued Islamophobic attacks on two high-profile Toronto Muslims — Paramount Fine Foods founder Mohamad Fakih, and Walied Soliman, chair of the Norton Rose Fulbright Canada law firm. The unprecedented success of these two in counterattacking in court — effectively silencing and subduing their tormentors — received remarkably little coverage despite the recent proliferation of racism stories.

Antisemitism and Islamophobia are close cousins. Will journalistic indifference to the same old same old antisemitism translate, increasingly, into a similar kind of Islamophobia fatigue if the targets are prominent, or prosperous, or well-protected?

None of this is to diminish the impact of discrimination on other groups or individuals. But auspicious archetypes and hateful stereotypes have a way of blurring our vision and vigilance — Muslims aren’t all well-connected, just as all Jews aren’t well-established — and even if they were, would the hate be any less harmful? 

Intolerance strikes in all shapes and sizes — and all social classes of all societies. I got into journalism to “comfort the afflicted.” But not even the comfortable, of any race or religion, deserve the affliction of discrimination and persecution.

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/political-opinion/2022/01/24/ignoring-antisemitism-hasnt-made-it-go-away.html

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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