Tremblay: Nuit et brouillard sur le passé [those who make Holocaust/Nazi comparisons to COVID restrictions]

Good commentary:

On s’inquiète beaucoup, à juste titre, devant les autodafés et les livres expédiés au nouvel enfer où croupissent les damnés. Mais ces ouvrages ne brûlent-ils pas davantage dans les mémoires ? Qui pousse à lire les trésors du passé tant que ça, au fait ? Faute de nombreux emprunts dans les bibliothèques, plus vite des chefs-d’œuvre se feront pilonner. À force de lever le nez sur la culture générale, taxée d’élitiste, vrai garde-fou pourtant et fanal d’éclaireur dans nos nuits, l’ignorance devient la norme et l’aveuglement, son terme.

Prenez les antivaccins défilant dans la rue avec leurs pancartes qui associent l’imposition du passeport sanitaire au sort des Juifs sous la botte nazie. Ils croient sentir le poids historique de l’étoile jaune sur leur t-shirt ou sur leur veste en s’en bricolant des récentes. Toute une coquetterie ! « Même oppression ; même combat pour les parias d’hier et d’aujourd’hui ! » crient-ils dans les manifs. À tous ceux-là, pour qui l’Holocauste ne fut qu’une répétition générale destinée à paver la voie aux supplices d’une vaccination générale réclamée au nom du bien commun, on dit : faites vos recherches. Voyez ! Lisez !

Le Troisième Reich est assez loin derrière pour verser nuit et brouillard sur les annales de l’humanité en ne laissant à des générations montantes que de vagues clichés de persécutions, récupérés pour mieux s’en draper. Mais les familles des survivants des camps de concentration, toute la communauté juive par extension, ne l’entendent pas de cette oreille et hurlent à l’indécence. On n’était pas là quand les Juifs de tant de pays d’Europe se sont fait imposer l’étoile infamante comme au bétail le sceau du maître. Pas là, quand ils se firent entasser dans des stades, puis des trains bondés, avant de se voir recrachés dans des camps pour être asservis ou brûlés. Mais comment plaider l’innocence ?

Pas là, mais transformés par certains témoignages à l’écran, à l’écrit. Du moins ceux d’entre nous qui s’y sont branchés. Que de nouveaux lecteurs se lèvent ! Car le nazisme aura brisé des illusions humanistes à jamais. Ces fringants SS torturant et tuant en série des foules d’innocents avant de repartir écouter du Wagner et du Brahms étaient des êtres dits sophistiqués ! La barbarie fleurit partout, clame ce terrible épisode et n’a pas fini d’obscurcir nos esprits. L’histoire récente en témoigne sous tous les méridiens. Reste que l’Holocauste, par sa démesure, s’inscrit comme le record du pire à dépasser.

À ceux-là qui font des amalgames entre le vaccin apte à sauver des vies et le processus d’extermination d’un peuple entier, on conseille la plongée en eau profonde dans les œuvres écrites jadis à l’encre rouge.

Bien sûr, les documentaires sur le règne d’Hitler sont présentés à la télé, des films de fiction en témoignent encore, mais les rescapés se font de moins en moins nombreux au fil des décennies. Se mettre à l’écoute de leur voix, c’est toucher du bout du doigt l’impensable et s’incliner devant la mémoire de ceux qui l’affrontèrent.

On n’était pas là, mais l’Italien Primo Levi, survivant d’Auschwitz, nous fait entrer par la petite porte dans le quotidien d’un camp d’extermination à travers son témoignage Si c’est un homme. Sans y avoir été, on saisit en fragments noirs, la peur infinie face aux bourreaux, le manque de solidarité des détenus affamés, même si l’auteur lui-même s’estimait incapable de traduire pareille expérience de déshumanisation ; voire de l’envisager : « Nous ne reviendrons pas, écrivait-il. Personne ne sortira d’ici qui pourrait porter au monde, avec le signe imprimé dans sa chair, la sinistre nouvelle de ce que l’homme, à Auschwitz, a pu faire d’un autre homme. »

Pas là, mais Elie Wiesel y était, lui. Et pénétrer ses souvenirs dans La Nuit, où il décrivait également Birkenau-Auschwitz, ses cheminées, l’odeur de la chair brûlée, le camp de Buna, puis la grande marche finale des morts-vivants entourés de nazis fuyant les troupes alliées, c’est ressentir un peu dans notre chair de quoi se nourrit une déchéance programmée. En effet, Elie Wiesel s’était même détourné de son père mourant qui implorait sa présence, pour s’éviter des coups, et la honte de son attitude ne l’a plus jamais quitté.

Pas là, mais on aura vu en plusieurs volets au cinéma Shoah, de Claude Lanzmann, sans voix hors-champ, sans images d’archives, sans experts commentant la chose ; juste des entrevues de survivants et de leurs bourreaux, qui glaçait le sang. Tout est accessible sur Internet, même ce documentaire de plus de neuf heures par les voix des témoins directs. Après avoir vu ça, qui oserait encore s’y référer pour se comparer ? On n’était pas là, piètre excuse ! La culture de l’ignorance est le principal cimetière des œuvres capables d’éclairer l’humanité.

Source: https://www.ledevoir.com/opinion/chroniques/640200/chronique-nuit-et-brouillard-sur-le-passe?utm_source=infolettre-2021-10-14&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=infolettre-quotidienne

Antisemitic rhetoric continues to be used by some opponents of COVID-19 measures

Unfortunately, not all that surprising:

Belle Jarniewski leaned back from her computer, seething with anger after she finished watching a video on Reddit showing a Winnipeg restaurateur accosting public health enforcement officers.

“I’m still shaking after listening to that rant. That was unbelievable,” she said.

The video shows Shea Ritchie, the owner of Chaise Lounge locations on Corydon Avenue and Provencher Boulevard, speaking with officers giving him tickets on Sept. 24 for allowing diners who choose not to be vaccinated to dine inside his restaurant.

Source: Antisemitic rhetoric continues to be used by some opponents of COVID-19 measures

Cohen: Eighty years after the Babi Yar massacre, we struggle to remember and learn

Good reminder:

Among the most searing scenes in War and Remembrance, Herman Wouk’s epic novel of the Second World War presented as a multi-hour television series in the 1980s, is the massacre at Babi Yar in 1941. It is where the Holocaust began.

Through his highly developed characters, Wouk offers an unsparing depiction of the plight of the Jews in Auschwitz and in Theresienstadt, “the paradise ghetto.” In contrast to the slow, intimate unspooling of that agony, his dramatization of Babi Yar is remote, anonymous and brief.

See thousands of Jews ordered from their homes in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. See them marched to a sprawling ravine on the city’s outskirts. See them present their papers, leave their luggage, remove their clothes. All methodically.

See them walk to the edge of the ravine — naked, terrified, wailing — where they tumble like cordwood before the battery of machine guns. See officers with revolvers wading through the bodies that have been choreographed to fall “like sardines” in the pit; they shoot those still moving. See them work with equanimity and efficiency.

They needed both. After all, you can’t dispatch 33,371 Jews over two days without a plan. The Nazis had one. Blow up important buildings in Kiev and blame it on the Jews, calling them Bolshevik saboteurs, Communists and partisans. Use that as a pretext to eliminate the community of 230,000, mostly women, children and the elderly, the younger men having gone east to join the Soviets.

Post signs telling the Jews to gather with their belongings, bedsheets, winter coats. Years later, those confiscated items were sold in local markets.

All this took place on Sept. 29 and 30, 1941. It was the largest such operation up to then as the Nazis swept across the Soviet Union, which they had invaded in June. It was, as historians says, the Holocaust “by bullets” rather than gas.

There was no ghetto in Kiev like there were in Warsaw and Lodz in Poland and other cities in Ukraine. The mechanized killing that reached its apogee in the Nazi concentration camps came later.

That autumn they would kill Jews, gypsies, political prisoners, the mentally ill, Roma, Communists and Ukrainian nationalists, thought to number 100,000. Two years later, the leaching mass graves so alarmed retreating Germans fleeing the Soviets that they made prisoners dig up and burn the bodies, then killed them.

Eighty years after the massacre, in a climate of swelling anti-Semitism, we struggle to remember. In our unconscious world, where memory is easily manipulated, distorted or denied, who knows or cares?

Five years ago, when my son and I visited Babi Yar, we could barely find it. There were monuments at either end of the nearby subway station, but they were unimpressive. Worse, when we came upon what appeared to be the blood-lands, nothing marked what happened there.

Nothing. A grassy park, picnic grounds, slightly sunken. A couple sat on a blanket. Children roughhoused. Dogs roamed. No one seemed aware of the atrocity. It was nauseating.

In my season searching for the past in monuments, memorials and museums of Europe, this was the most wilful, brazen erasing of memory I’d seen.

What the Nazis tried to hide, the Soviets did, too. In 1961, Russian poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko famously wrote: “No monument stands over Babi Yar/A steep cliff only, like the rudest headstone.”

Only after Ukraine became free was there any attempt to recognize the past. It was easier to forget, especially because some Ukrainians took part in the atrocity, too. History is a minefield, and no more so than when it is a killing field.

That’s changing. Ukraine is now remembering Babi Yar. The story is taught in schools; on the 80th anniversary last week, there were commemorations and programs in Kiev and beyond, attended by prominent politicians.

In the next five years, a museum, memorial and research centre are planned. Finally, Ukrainians want to come to terms with their uncomfortable past.

If the acknowledgement of ignorance is the beginning of wisdom, this is reason for hope.

Source: Cohen: Eighty years after the Babi Yar massacre, we struggle to remember and learn

How COVID has shone a light on the ugly face of Australian antisemitism

Of note, along with the message that antisemitism needs to be considered and addressed in the context of all discrimination, bias and hate:

The increased prominence of antisemitic incidents during the COVID pandemic may leave you wondering: has antisemitism always been part of the Australian social fabric, or are we facing a new, sinister trend?

Members of Melbourne’s Jewish community have been subjected to a surge of antisemitic abuse in recent weeks, following breaches of public health orders by ultra-Orthodox Jewish worshippers.

And Victoria’s proposed law to ban Nazi symbols — a first for any state or territory — further reinforces how antisemitism is becoming an increasingly visible problem in Australia.

Understanding the origins of modern antisemitism requires looking back at Australia’s history. Both antisemitism and right-wing extremism are linked with the rise of nationalism from the colonial era through the 20th century.

Because of this, it’s impossible to address antisemitism without also taking into account Australia’s colonial history marred with white supremacy.

How COVID conspiracies are fuelling antisemitism

We have recently seen federal and state politicians cautioning against rising rates of antisemitism, but one can’t help but wonder if these comments are merely lip service.

After all, what good is it to acknowledge antisemitism without taking meaningful action to prevent it?

Consider the following: in 2004, federal parliament expressed its

“unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism, of violence directed against Jews and Jewish religious and cultural institutions, and all forms of racial and ethnic hatred, persecution and discrimination on ethnic or religious grounds, whenever and wherever it occurs.”

Despite that, antisemitic incidents persist: graffiti on Jewish businesses and kindergartens, threats targeting synagogues, and bullying of Jewish children.

The Executive Council of Australian Jewry releases a yearly report on antisemitism in Australia. In the 2020 report, it found a 10% decrease in reported antisemitic incidents compared to the previous year — likely attributable, in part, to COVID lockdowns.

At the same time, however, there was an increase in serious incidents, such as physical assaults, verbal abuse and intimidation.

These figures should be taken with caution. The report doesn’t distinguish between legitimate critiques of Israel’s occupation of Palestine and antisemitism. It also cites a problematic and contested definition of antisemitism as a guiding concept.

Nonetheless, the increase in serious incidents speaks to a dangerous antisemitic sentiment being fuelled by COVID-19 propaganda, namely, that Jews are “responsible for coronavirus”.

This conspiracy theory, originating in extreme right-wing corners of the internet, has quickly become mainstream, circulating through message boards and social media. Now, antisemitic signs and behaviours are increasingly showing up at anti-lockdown and anti-vax rallies across Australia.

For instance, stickers were placed around Melbourne during “freedom” rallies last month bearing a Star of David, the numbers 911 and a QR code. When scanned, it led to a website that blamed the September 11 terror attacks on Jewish people.

An anti-vax group called White Rose, meanwhile, has plastered Jewish neighbourhoods in Melbourne with stickers bearing swastikas and the words, “No Jab, No Job.” The group has likened mandatory vaccines and lockdowns to the rise of Adolf Hitler in Germany in the 1930s.

And a recent investigation by The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes revealed the extent of neo-Nazi operations in Australia, including connections between COVID disinformation and conspiracies.

A brief history of Australian Jewry

The history of Australian Jewry dates to the start of white colonisation and settlement of this continent. Records in the National Archives show at least eight of the 571 convicts in the First Fleet were Jewish.

While the first waves of free Jewish settlers were largely English speaking, Anglo, and loyal to the “mother country”, subsequent Jewish migration came largely from Germany during the gold rush and as refugees from Tsarist Russia.

After that, the next large wave of Jews migrated from Europe in response to rising fascism.

The Anglo Jewish community, which had largely assimilated by the second world war, was concerned the Jewish community’s standing would be negatively affected by these Eastern European refugees who could be easily marked as “foreign” due to their language, dress and manners.

These concerns were rooted in the historical antisemitism of politicians and trade unions. As historian Malcolm J. Turnbull writes:

“sections of the labour movement promoted stereotypes of Jews as manipulative bankers, usurers and profiteers.”

And describing the experiences of early Jewish settlers, author Rodney Gouttman writes

“negative cultural connotations of the word ‘Jew’ encouraged many Jews to avoid it as a descriptive term for themselves, and ‘Hebrew congregations’ became the preferred name for their faith collectives.”

It might seem contradictory that Jews, some of whom came to Australia as part of a colonial project, experienced hatred grounded in colonial racism. However, this is part-and-parcel of the experience of the ever-foreign Jew, needing to assimilate but always seen as “other”.

Is Australia doing enough?

To address this question, we have to recognise that antisemitism cannot be disentangled from other forms of colonial and racial violence and xenophobia.

When we talk about white supremacy and antisemitism, we must talk about racism in all its forms.

In a 2017 study, one-third of respondents said they had experienced racism in the workplace.

The 2020 Mapping Social Cohesion Report, meanwhile, found 37% of respondents had a negative view towards people of the Muslim faith, compared with 9% who held a negative attitude towards Jews. This report demonstrates the urgent need to address antisemitism alongside other forms of racism

Recently, the Australian Jewish News published an opinion piece calling on the government to appoint an Australian commissioner for antisemitism.

This position would ideally be accompanied by new legislation targeting antisemitism to compensate for what the editorial called the “inadequate” protections under the Racial Discrimination Act.

But this approach segregates the plight of Jews from all other minorities facing daily violence and discrimination. As race critical scholar Alana Lentin says,

“the elevation of antisemitism as the racism above all racisms […] constrains solidarity between Jews and other racialised people, thwarting a fuller understanding of race as a colonial mechanism and a technology of power for the maintenance of white supremacy.”

So, in order to address antisemitism, we must do two things: understand the Jewish presence in Australia in relation to the country’s brutal colonial history, and understand antisemitism alongside other forms of racial violence.

In these urgent times, we must take a united approach to respond to rising rates of white supremacy and racial violence. Without serious efforts to address the problem of racism as a whole, gestures such as banning the swastika are unlikely to have much material impact.

Source: How COVID has shone a light on the ugly face of Australian antisemitism

European Anti-Semitism Reappears with Virulent Versions for the Covid Era

Of note:

As the coronavirus spread through Europe last year, cartoons and posts began going up on French social media that might as well have come straight from the 14th century. In one series, Agnes Buzyn, who is Jewish and was France’s health minister until February 2020, was depicted with grotesquely distorted features dropping poison into wells.

This trope of Jews poisoning wells to kill Christians has made the rounds in most European epidemics since the Middle Ages, but was particularly rife during the Black Death, when it led to pogroms and massacres of Jews throughout the continent. The vile meme is just one example of a shocking, if sadly unsurprising, surge in anti-Semitism that correlates with the pandemic. That’s the disturbing conclusion of a new report by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue, a think tank, for the European Commission.

The authors mined French and German posts on Twitter, Facebook and Telegram between January 2020 — that is, just before Covid-19 first surged in Europe — and March 2021. They looked for content that’s anti-Semitic according to a definition by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. They found not just petri dishes of hatred but entire cesspools.

In both countries, anti-Semitic tropes and memes soared during the pandemic (see chart). In France, where Twitter was the preferred medium for this bigotry — at least until the social network tweaked its policies — the number of anti-Semitic posts increased seven-fold; in Germany, where Telegram appears to be the platform of choice, it went up 13-fold. The likes, shares and retweets counted in the millions, the views in the billions.

As Covid Spreads, So Does Anti-Semitism

In Germany and France, posts with anti-Jewish content have been increasing during the pandemic

While the delivery vehicles may seem whizzbang modern, the narratives are depressingly hoary. The well-poisoning theme is ancient. But it’s now morphing into storylines that try to recast SARS-CoV-2 as a “zionist bioweapon” — by fabricating Jewish links to laboratories in China, for instance.

A German channel on Telegram with more than 34,000 followers doctored videos as alleged “proof” that the virus was bio-engineered to hurt only gentiles. “Corona is not for the Jews!” the channel’s owner wrote. “Only for the goyim! That’s what they call us!” On another channel, users claimed that “Virology was invented by the Eternal Jew” — a reference to a Nazi propaganda film.

A contradictory meme is somehow circulating in parallel. It says that that SARS-CoV-2 either doesn’t exist at all or exists but is harmless, and is instead a figment invented by Jews and the gentiles they have corrupted — such as Bill Gates or the Clintons — in their quest to control entire populations and establish a “New World Order.”

This so-called NWO genre of anti-Semitism also taps into an ancient narrative, one that was most notoriously exploited by the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” This entirely fictional text, produced over a century ago in Russia and translated into many languages, pretended to document how Jews were making secret plans to rule the world by manipulating the media, finance and government.

In some of anti-Semitism’s current strains, vaccination is the alleged tool chosen by the conspiracy — Albert Bourla, the Jewish chief executive of Pfizer, features prominently in these libels. Some posters claim that the vaccines are meant to kill or sterilize gentiles. To get around obvious logical hurdles such as Israel’s pioneering role in mass inoculation, other users fantasize that the Israeli shots are only placebos.

On and on it goes, in never-ending loops of paranoia and delusion. As it always has in Europe, and elsewhere. The researchers had to restrict themselves to just a small sample of countries and social networks. But from that, we can extrapolate how much of this garbage is out there.

The study’s authors felt compelled, as one does, to offer thoughts on regulatory or legal tweaks to mitigate the problem. And the social networks, for their part, should certainly think harder about how to drain their cesspools of bigotry while still hosting legitimate free speech. But the sad truth is that even as human technology keeps bounding ahead, human nature and culture lag woefully behind, often literally in the Middle Ages. If only there were a vaccine against stupidity and hatred.

Source: European Anti-Semitism Reappears with Virulent Versions for the Covid Era

Manchester gallery accused of antisemitism over exhibition on environmental effects of Israel-Palestine conflict

Less antisemitic than against certain Israeli government policies and practices IMO:

An exhibition at the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester that addresses violence used by Israeli forces against Palestinians has been accused of antisemitism by a UK-based legal organisation that advocates for Israeli causes.

Devised by the Turner Prize-nominated artist research group Forensic Architecture, Cloud Studies (until 17 October) examines how power structures shape the air we breathe, surveying instances across the globe—including Israeli military action in Palestine and the West Bank—to show the toxic environmental effects of chemical warfare such as tear gas and bomb clouds.

An introductory text to a film in the exhibition begins: “Forensic Architecture stands with Palestine” and continues to outline experiences of “ethnic cleansing” of Palestinian neighbourhoods by “Israeli police and settlers”. It continues stating that the Palestinian liberation struggle “is inseparable from other global struggles against racism, white supremacy antisemitism, and settler colonial violence”.

In response, Daniel Berke, the director of UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI), a Manchester-based legal charity supporting Israel, has written to the vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, to which the Whitworth belongs, claiming that the exhibition’s language seems “designed to provoke racial discord”.

Of chief concern, Berke writes, is the impact of the show on Jewish people in Manchester, citing reports of a marked upswing in cases of antisemitism in the UK following a period of increased violence in Gaza in May.

Installation view of Cloud Studies at Whitworth Gallery, ManchesterImage: Courtesy of Forensic Architecture and Whitworth Art Gallery, University of Manchester

Due to the fact that the Whitworth is connected to a public university, the letter states, the institution is legally bound by the Public Sector Equality Duty, a set of guidelines created under the 2010 Equality Act. The UKLFI claims that the exhibition infringes upon some of the act’s mandates, including the “elimination of discrimination, harassment and victimisation”, and the consideration to “foster good relations between different communities”.

UKLFI further cites an email written by the artist Daniel Mort, also seen by The Art Newspaper, that criticises the Whitworth’s “one-sided” curatorial stance, saying: “The exhibition text is presented as fact without any context and is full of inaccuracies and omissions—not least in the absence of any mention of Hamas who escalated both the unrest within Israel and the Gaza hostilities.”

Mort also challenges the “dangerous conflation of Israeli policy and action with colonialism and white supremacism. “This kind of simplistic view, when presented on a gallery wall in a semi-educational guise, is all too often accepted without question by visitors who may have little in-depth knowledge of a given situation. As such it is extremely divisive,” he says.

However, the Israeli-born director of Forensic Architecture Eyal Weizman defended the exhibition. Speaking to the Jewish Chronicle he said: “We did not report on the rockets, nor did we report on the reason that the rockets were fired, in the dispossession of Palestinian families in Jerusalem and the tear gassing of al Aqsa Mosque”, he said.

Weizman also pushes back against claims that the show would lead to an increase in antisemitism in Manchester, adding: “I disagree with those that say so: like anti-Palestinian racism, we oppose and condemn antisemitism, and wrote it in our statement.”

The letter from UKLFI adds that Weizman is “banned from the US on security grounds”, and “opposed the internationally recognised definition of antisemitism”.

In a statement shared with The Art Newspaper, a spokeswoman for Forensic Architecture says: “As evident in our 10 years of work—in both the form and content of our investigations into settler colonial violence around the world—we work with communities to oppose all forms of anti-Palestinian racism, fascism, white supremacy, and anti-Semitism.”

A spokesperson for the Whitworth tells The Art Newspaper that the gallery “takes the concerns expressed very seriously and is in discussions with relevant community groups and exploring as a priority steps that may be taken to address the concerns which have been raised regarding aspects of the exhibition.”

“We do understand that this particular work is challenging and can be difficult and that it may cause strong reactions from those who disagree with its content. Any suggestion that this is in some way discriminatory is a real cause for concern for the Whitworth Gallery which holds dearly its commitment to a zero tolerance of all forms of racism.”

This incident marks the latest run-in between UKLFI and the Whitworth. Last month, the gallery was forced to remove a statement posted on its website following an intervention from UKLFI. UKLFI claimed that the statement, made in solidarity with Palestine, was “divisive” and “likely to cause fractions” at a vulnerable time for the Jewish community.

Source: Manchester gallery accused of antisemitism over exhibition on environmental effects of Israel-Palestine conflict

Antisemitism and Islamophobia summits: Side-by-side commitment comparisons

For reference, the side-by-side comparison, showing a common approach.

I don’t understand why opposition leaders were not provided speaking opportunities, the Harper government did so when it hosted the Inter-parliamentary Coalition for Combating Anti-Semitism (ICCA) in 2009:

Ottawa is holding separate summits on anti-Semitism and Islamophobia. Should it have tackled them together?

Yes, they should have given some of the commonalities and the need for all Canadians, whatever their origins, religions or other characteristic have to work on reducing bias, discrimination and prejudice together.

Otherwise, more for show and signalling than the longer-term work required:

As two anti-hate summits grappling with a rising tide of hatred against Canada’s Jewish and Muslim communities get underway, could both groups forge a stronger path forward if they were to convene as one?

That’s a question being posed by Bernie Farber, the chair of the Canadian Anti-Hate Network and former CEO of the Canadian Jewish Congress, who will be attending both events.

“These are two groups, two faith communities, that have travelled parallel roads but have rarely intersected. And they are two communities that face the same form of hateful, violent targeting,” Farber told the Star.

“Wouldn’t it have made maybe a little bit more sense, in my view, to have had a summit … that would focus on both anti-Semitism and Islamophobia instead of having two separate ones, which has a tendency to not bring us together but to keep us apart?”

On Wednesday, the federal government will host a virtual summit on anti-Semitism, bringing together municipal and provincial political leaders to hear how the Jewish community would like to see hate, discrimination and harassment stamped out on a national scale. Former justice minister Irwin Cotler, now Canada’s special envoy for preserving Holocaust remembrance and combating anti-Semitism, will take part in the event.

Just one day later, the same task will befall members of Canada’s Muslim community, many of whom are still reeling from a targeted attack in June that killed four members of a Muslim family in London, Ont., as they were out for an evening walk. MPs unanimously voted in favour of a motion to hold a national summit on Islamophobia in the aftermath of the violent incident. 

But as political tensions over the conflict in the Middle East began to boil over earlier this year — leading to clashes and police intervention at several rallies between pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators across the country — so did hateful acts targeting Jews and Muslims.

“Once you’ve targeted people here in Canada for something that may have happened in the Middle East … it is either Islamophobia or anti-Semitism,” Farber said.

The tensions also trickled down to two leading Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada.

In May, the Centre of Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) sent an email to members of the federal government laying out the groundwork for an emergency summit to combat “a shocking wave of anti-Semitism” in Canada.

In one paragraph of the email, which was viewed by the Star, the organization called on Ottawa to “engage directly — and privately” with the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), to “challenge them to recalibrate their rhetoric and activities in a way that ensures the safety of the public square for all.”

NCCM, which released its list of priority policy recommendations on Monday ahead of Thursday’s summit, would not comment on the email.

The remarks referred to NCCM’s call to the federal government to “denounce in no uncertain terms Israel’s deliberate attack on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” a compound in Jerusalem’s Old City that is part of a site revered in both Islam and Judaism. 

In a statement to the Star, CIJA CEO Shimon Koffler Fogler said such language has been used to “foment anger” and violence against Jews in the past.

“We have communicated these concerns — in particular, the need for all civil society groups to engage with the issues in a constructive and respectful manner — directly to the NCCM as well as our government,” the statement read.

Farber, who has worked closely with Jewish and Muslim groups in Canada, told the Star he has worked “for years” to bring the groups together to jointly tackle hate.

“We can’t battle hatred from different outposts. There is strength in numbers. And I would say eventually, wouldn’t it be nice if we could actually bring all these targeted groups together under one umbrella, to share ideas, to share strategies?”

Mustafa Farooq, CEO of NCCM, said he would be happy to “work towards a broader summit” in Canada for all groups facing an upswing in hate.

“The reality is, we are facing a unique time where it’s all on the rise,” he said. 

But first, Farooq is focused on harms plaguing his own community.

“We are committed to working with all communities to solve Islamophobia and all forms of hate, but we do need to address the specific problems facing the Muslim community,” he said.

In an interview with the Star last Friday, Diversity and Inclusion Minister Bardish Chagger said it’s still clear there is “a lot more work to do” to eradicate hate in this country.

Chagger acknowledged that there is a “sense of urgency” in addressing these issues at the upcoming summits, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic exposed even more inequities in Canadian society.

“It is important that the government listen and hear the ideas and suggestions and try to put them into actionable items,” she said. 

Source: https://www.thestar.com/politics/federal/2021/07/19/ottawa-is-holding-separate-summits-on-anti-semitism-and-islamophobia-should-it-have-tackled-them-together.html

Poland, Israel in diplomatic spat over Poland’s property law

Ongoing Polish government denial:

Poland and Israel have summoned each other’s diplomats in a growing dispute over Poland’s planned changes to property restitution rules that Israel and Jewish organizations say would prevent Jewish claims for compensation or property seized during the Holocaust and communist times.

On Monday, Israeli charge d ’affaires ​Tal Ben-Ari Yaalon met with Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Pawel Jablonski, who insisted the new regulations do not bar any property claims, which should be made through courts. Poland also says it mustn’t be made responsible for property seizures by Nazi Germany during its World War II occupation of Poland.

“These regulations are not directed against anyone,” Jablonski said, adding that there is a lot of misunderstanding of their aim as they give the law a steady framework.

Jablonski later said Ben-Ari Yaalon repeated the embassy’s statement from last week, which called the new regulations “immoral” and said they “will have a serious impact” on bilateral relations.

Poland’s ambassador to Israel, Marek Magierowski, was at the Israeli Foreign Ministry on Sunday, explaining the new regulations made to align with a 2015 ruling by the top constitutional court.

Poland’s parliament is processing the changes to prevent ownership and other administrative decisions from being declared void after 30 years. It says this is a response to fraud and irregularities that have emerged in the restitution process. The changes still require approval from the Senate and the president.

The World Jewish Restitution Organization said it was “deeply disappointed” by Poland’s response to the concerns.

“The house or shop or factory in a town in Poland affected by this legislation was not taken by Germany, it was taken by Poland. It sits today in Poland and its use has benefited Poland for over 70 years. It is time to recognize this fact and for Poland to do justice for those who suffered so much,” said the group’s chief, Gideon Taylor.

Last week, the U.S. State Department weighed in, with spokesperson Ned Price tweeting that the changes were a “step in the wrong direction” and urged Poland “not to move this legislation forward.”

Before World War II, Poland was home to Europe’s largest Jewish community of some 3.5 million people. Most were killed in the Holocaust under Nazi Germany’s occupation and their property was confiscated. Poland’s post-war communist authorities seized those properties, along with the property of non-Jewish owners in Warsaw and other cities. The end of communism in 1989 opened the door to restitution claims, most of which would be coming from Poles.

The still unresolved matter has been a constant source of bitterness and political tension between Poland and Israel.

In 2001, a draft law foreseeing compensation for seized private property was approved in parliament but vetoed by President Aleksander Kwasniewski. He claimed it violated social equality principles and would hurt Poland’s economic development, implying that compensation claims would result in large payouts. He also said individual claims should be made through the courts.

Poland is the only European country that has not offered any compensation for private property seized by the state in its recent history. Only the remaining communal Jewish property, like some synagogues, prayer houses and cemeteries, mostly in disrepair, have been returned where possible or compensated for.

Source: Poland, Israel in diplomatic spat over Poland’s property law

British Jews’ fear and defiance amid record monthly anti-Semitism reports

Of note:

A monthly record number of reports of anti-Semitic incidents were recorded following the 11-day conflict between Israel and the Palestinians in May, a charity says. So how does it feel to be Jewish in the UK?

Rabbi Nicky Liss had been preparing to give a midnight talk at a north London synagogue last month, when he began to feel nervous.

A rabbi of 13 years, he was used to giving speeches. This one, to mark the start of the Jewish festival of Shavuot on 16 May, should not, on the face of it, have been any different.

But that afternoon, events built to what he describes as a “crescendo”.

He’d learned that his good friend and fellow rabbi, Rafi Goodwin, had been attacked outside his synagogue in Chigwell, in Essex – allegedly struck over the head with a brick.

Two men have denied causing grievous bodily harm, robbery and religiously aggravated criminal damage and are due to appear at Chelmsford Crown Court for trial in November.

In a separate incident that afternoon, a man was filmed apparently using a megaphone to shout anti-Semitic abuse from a convoy of cars with Palestinian flags that travelled through St John’s Wood in north-west London – an area that is home to a Jewish community. Four men were arrested and remain on bail until mid-July.

Over the next few hours, worried phone calls and messages buzzed through Mr Liss’s community. Some feared the situation in north London could become “very threatening” by the evening.

Orthodox Jews do not use cars on religious holidays or the Sabbath, so Mr Liss had planned to walk the 25 minutes from his home on-site at Highgate synagogue to the synagogue in Hampstead Garden Suburb.

But the day’s events left Mr Liss with an agonising dilemma over whether he should go ahead with his talk – and what, as chair of United Synagogue’s rabbinical council, he should advise concerned colleagues to do.

Advice was sought from the Community Security Trust (CST), a Jewish charity that provides security support and monitors reports of anti-Semitic incidents.

Mr Liss says the advice was to go ahead with the events – but with increased vigilance and precautions, including local patrols being stepped up.

“This is the first time I’ve felt physically threatened,” he tells the BBC.

“I can’t believe that in 2021, I was thinking, was it safe for me to go on the street and walk to another synagogue to give a talk. It was incredibly worrying.”

A record number of anti-Semitic incidents have been recorded in the UK since the start of last month’s violence between Israel and the Palestinians, the CST says.

From 8 May to 7 June, 460 incidents were reported to the charity – the highest monthly total since records began in 1984 – with 316 happening offline and 144 online.

The previous record was 317 in July 2014 – coinciding with the last major eruption of violence between Israel and the Palestinians as part of a decades-long conflict.

In the month before 8 May, 119 anti-Semitic incidents were reported to the CST.

On 17 May, Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told the House of Commons that there had been a “deeply disturbing” upsurge in anti-Semitism in recent years, particularly on social media.

Police forces in London, Greater Manchester and Hertfordshire did not have readily available data on the number of anti-Semitic incidents reported to them in May.

Last month, Greater Manchester Police’s Det Ch Insp Paul Coburn said that “following recent tensions in the Middle East”, officers had seen a “rise in hate crime directed towards members of specific communities” – which he told the BBC has since “stabilised” since the force launched a dedicated response, Operation Wildflower.

Dave Rich, CST’s head of policy, says 416 of the 460 incidents “used language or some other evidence” related to Israel. He adds that generally, most incidents involve verbal abuse, with a “relatively small” number involving violence.

“Every time Israel is at war… 2014, 2009, 2006 being the main ones, we’ve seen record totals each year, each time, [that are] always higher than the last,” he tells the BBC.

Mr Rich says the current trends that have “stood out” are the car convoys that have driven through areas where Jewish people live – as well as the “disproportionate impact” on school pupils, teachers, and university students – with 30% of all reports recorded linked to the educational sector.


The conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is not the only global event to spark a backlash against minority groups in the UK.

Whether it is the targeting of East Asian and South East Asian people at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic; or Islamophobic attacks following terrorist incidents, major news events have real-life consequences for ordinary people.

Tell Mama UK, which monitors anti-Muslim hate incidents, says it received a “rise in reports both online and offline” after last month’s violence between Israel and the Palestinians.

From 8 May to 31 May, it says it recorded 131 incidents – up from 59 in April. Of the 131, Tell Mama says 93 were directly linked to the conflict.

Iman Atta, the organisation’s director, says the majority of cases involved “abusive behaviour” – with some including threatening behaviour, and others mentioning assault.

“Although the political conflict in the region can stir up a lot of emotions, there is absolutely no room for anti-Muslim or anti-Semitic rhetoric,” she says.

“We fear that such behaviour threatens to harm social cohesions between Muslim and Jewish communities here in the UK.”

From 8 May to 15 June, around 50 anti-Semitic incidents were reported that were related to university campuses, according to the Union of Jewish Students.

Rebecca Lyons, vice-president of the UCL Jewish Society, says “threats of death and physical violence” have been sent to the social media accounts of the Jewish and Israel societies.

In one private message, an Instagram user told the student-run Jewish society: “See you on campus. We’ll be waiting to say hello to you, Arab style.”

Rebecca, 21, says initially she feared the online threats and comments “might be actualised,” adding that the abuse had left her feeling a “loss of identity” as a British Jew.

“I was born and raised in London, I worked hard to achieve highly in a British academic curriculum and yet I’ve been made startlingly aware of how clearly unwelcome I am in my own university space.”

She says the “memory of how intense and bloodthirsty” those weeks were was “embedded” in her mind – and has added to her uncertainty over her future in London.

Despite the abuse, Rebecca adds that “we as a Jewish student community remain very much Jewish and proud… and no amount of harassment will deter that”.

Jonny Eintracht, a 26-year-old PhD student from London, says there are always going to be pockets of anti-Semitism – and the best way to tackle them is by staying true to your own values.

“As long as I can behave in a way that… if people looked at me, or my friends and family, and think ‘my experience of observant Jews, or Jews is general, is different to what I thought,’ or ‘that’s someone that I would like to emulate one day’ – I think that’s the best way to combat anti-Semitism.

“It’s a kind of responsibility that I feel. We stay proud, and we stay true to what we believe in and we continue to contribute to the world however we can.”

Jonny, who wears a kippah, the head covering traditionally worn by male Jews, says since moving to London from Australia three years ago he has never felt unsafe or that he needs to change his behaviour – even after facing recent verbal anti-Semitic abuse in the street.

He says when events have become more volatile, he has felt a “large sense of unity” as Jewish people around the world come together – adding that he’s also had support from people who aren’t Jewish.

“I’ve had non-Jewish colleagues ask me if I’m OK or if I want to talk about the situation… I think when you’re able to sit down and talk about it in a calm way, and out of concern for one another, then that’s the first step to having any sort of constructive way forward.

“It gives me hope for the future.”

Jenny Tamari, a mother-of-three from north-west London, says she is reconsidering her family’s future in the UK, as she feels it has become “open season on the British Jews”.

The former marketing consultant says she has “been feeling anti-Semitism for a while” in Britain, but with every “flare-up” of tensions in the Middle East, “people always see how far they can go… to let out their hatred for the Jews”.

After watching the widely-circulated video of the car convoy that travelled through north London, Jenny thought of her six-year-old daughter.

“At the time, I heard cars beeping and I didn’t actually know what was happening. But then I saw the video and went to my kitchen away from my kids and just cried.”

Jenny, 40, admits recent events have left her increasingly scared for her family’s safety.

She says she even took off her son’s kippah as they walked to a friend’s house for a recent Sabbath lunch.

“I told my son he had to take his kippah off. And he said, ‘why Mummy, I don’t want to’, and I got really frustrated and said, ‘you can’t wear it in the streets’. I got really scared and he felt that, as a four-and-a-half-year-old child, and just said ‘It’s OK Mummy, I’ll take it off’.

“I just feel so disappointed in myself, so sad for him, so sad for my grandfather who came from Vienna and escaped the Holocaust, so that he could be actively, outwardly Jewish in Britain – the country that took him in.”

Jenny has recently started a podcast called Jewish in the City, which despite being “born out of” anti-Semitism, is designed to “uplift, inspire and encourage” Jews; and to highlight their “positive contributions” to communities.


In Essex, Lindsay Shure, the chair of the Chigwell and Hainault synagogue, is “determined that something good” will follow the attack on their own Rabbi Goodwin.

Lindsay, 70, says the Jewish community and the residents of Chigwell’s Limes Farm estate – where the synagogue sits – had never had “terribly much to do with each other”, but the support from non-Jewish people has been “incredible”.

He says people have left flowers and cards outside the synagogue and others have left kind messages on social media, including one which said: “Your community is our community”.

For him, the outpouring of support “emphasises that it’s the people on the extremes who show the hatred… generally, people are very supportive and treat each person on their merits”.

He says he is meeting the local residents’ committee soon to discuss how they and the Jewish community can work together on future social projects. They are hoping to do some work in a care home later this year.

“If we get closer, we get a better understanding of people as human beings… I hope this will lay the foundations for something even more important and longer-lasting.”

Source: British Jews’ fear and defiance amid record monthly anti-Semitism reports