Anti-Semitic incidents hit record high in 2014: B’nai Brith

A bus shelter in that was vandalized in July 2014 in Thornhill, Ont.

B’nai Brith Canada has been tracking incidents of anti-Semitism for more than 30 years and according to its Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, released earlier this week, 2014 was a record year.

B’nai Brith reported 1,627 incidents in 2014, a 28 per cent increase over 2013.

“This is consistent with data gathered by other human rights organizations around the world, such as the Anti-Defamation League, [which] reported a 21 per cent increase over the previous year,” B’nai Brith said in a statement.

Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith, attributed the jump in numbers to a reaction to last summer’s Israel-Hamas conflict. “A landscape emerged which has help legitimize anti-Semitism, via anti-Zionism, as a legitimate form of political protest,” he said.

“Criticism of Israeli policies soon became a condemnation of the Jewish People as a whole, reigniting interest in misguided boycott movements. In many  cases around the globe, attempts were made to justify anti-Semitic attacks as support for anti-Israel ideology, despite the fact that Jewish people, and not the Israeli government, were the target.”

According to the audit, 238 incidents of vandalism were reported to B’nai Brith in 2014, along with 1,370 incidents of harassment and 19 instances of violence.

The jump in incidents was consistent with findings reported by the Toronto Police Services’ Hate/Bias Crime Statistical Report, released in March.

Toronto police reported that hate crimes went up by 11 per cent in 2014 over 2013, and that Jews were the single most targeted group, followed by blacks and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community. Jews were the victims of 44 incidents out of a total of 146, or 30 per cent.

Meanwhile, only days before B’nai Brith released its Audit, Statistics Canada published its Police-reported hate crime in Canada report for 2013.

Citing date collected by police forces across the country that serve 86 per cent of the population, StatsCan noted that hate crimes in Canada dropped by 17 per cent in 2013, compared to 2012. However, among those categorized as victims of religiously motivated hate crimes, Jews were the single most targeted group, with 181 crimes.

Altogether, police in 2013 reported 1,167 criminal hate incidents across the country, down by 247 from the year before. Blacks, Jews and people identified by their sexual orientation were the most frequently targeted victim groups.

In addition to covering different years, the discrepancy in the B’nai Brith and police findings has in past years been attributed to different standards. 

Police report incidents that rise to the level of criminality. Events recorded by B’nai Brith often fall short of that. 

In one incident in B’nai Brith’s audit, which took place in Montreal, a woman writing school entrance exams was refused accommodation for a test that fell on Yom Kippur.

More serious – though much more rare – were incidents of violence reported by B’nai Brith: in June, an arson attack took place in Montreal, and in July, “multiple assaults [took] place at pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel rallies [in Winnipeg and Calgary]. In some cases, victims are hospitalized.”

B’nai Brith categorized incidents as either mischief, involving property, violence or harassment.

“Harassment is the most prevalent  form of anti-Semitism, manifesting in a multitude of ways, from the posting of online images to the shouting of threats and slurs in the streets,” the audit stated.

According to StatsCan, 84 per cent of the incidents affecting Jews from 2010 to 2013 were non-violent.

“Three-quarters of hate crimes targeting Jewish populations were mischief: seven per cent were mischief motivated by hate in relation to religious property, and 68 per cent were other mischief motivated by hate,” StatsCan found.

“Violent offences accounted for 16 per cent of hate crimes targeting Jewish populations over this four-year period. The most common violent offence was uttering threats, accounting for 37 per cent of violent incidents (six per cent of all Jewish hate crimes). Assaults (of all types) comprised 20 per cent of violent Jewish hate crimes, or 3 per cent of all Jewish hate crimes.”

StatsCan reported, however, that 67 per cent of incidents involving people’s sexual orientation were assaults and 83 per cent of the victims were males.

Among hate crimes related to race or ethnicity, black populations were the most frequently targeted (22 per cent of all hate crimes) in 2013. For religion-motivated hate crimes, those targeting Jewish populations were the most common (16 per cent of all types).

Altogether, 181 hate-motivated crimes targeted Jews, a rate of 54.9 incidents for every 100,000 Jews in Canada, or 0.0549 per cent.

Len Rudner, director of community relations and outreach for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), said the StatsCan report “is a good news, bad news kind of thing.

“The bad news is that we have hate crimes, with more than 1,100 incidents in 2013. The good news is that the number the year before was more.”

“The 181 incidents involving Jews is the lowest we have seen since 2008, when the number was 165. That’s good news,” he added. “On the other hand, we have to recognize that Jews, who represent one per cent of the population, are targeted at a rate beyond its proportion of the population.”

Rudner urged people who have been victims of hate to contact police.

“That will improve the likelihood that the individuals who engage in this activity will be apprehended and face the consequences of their actions,” he said.