Remember Igor Sadikov? He was the student politician at McGill University who told his peers to “punch a Zionist today.”
How about Sayyed al-Ghitawi? He’s the spiritual leader at the al-Andalous Islamic Centre in Montreal who told congregants to “destroy the accursed Jews” and “kill them one by one.”
Then there’s the April 2017 incident in a middle school in Hamilton, Ont., in which a student told her classmate that she “should be gassed like the Jews.” That came a month after a student at a Toronto middle school pulled a knife on a Jewish student and attempted to rob him.
All in all, 2017 was a banner year for anti-Semitism. Altogether, there were a record 1,752 incidents of anti-Semitism in Canada, a slight increase over the 1,728 recorded in 2016, according to the Annual Audit of Antisemitic Incidents 2017, which was put out by B’nai Brith Canada.
In its own right, 2016 marked the highest number of incidents reported by B’nai Brith since it began keeping records of anti-Semitic incidents 36 years ago.
“Incidents of vandalism more than doubled, going from 158 to 327, while incidents of violence rose from 11 to 16,” the audit states. “Of the 16 acts of anti-Semitic violence reported in 2017, almost half occurred in public school.”
At the same time, the number of incidents of harassment dropped year over year to 1,409, from 1,559.
The audit was released about a week after the Toronto Police Service and Peel Regional Police published their own reports on hate crimes in 2017.
In Toronto, Jews were the single most targeted victim group, experiencing 53 of the 186 hate crimes (29 per cent) recorded in the city.
Meanwhile, in Peel Region, which is west of Toronto, Jews were victimized on 36 occasions. Only Muslims, with 57 incidents, and blacks, with 39, experienced more hate crimes. Altogether, Peel police reported 158 hate crime occurrences.
B’nai Brith acknowledged that its numbers are higher than those reported by police, since many instances it reports don’t rise to the level of criminal offences.
Looking at potential causes for the up-tick in anti-Semitic incidents, B’nai Brith suggested that “2017 was a tumultuous year in which Jews were increasingly targeted worldwide.
The aftershocks of Charlottesville were felt here in Canada.
– B’nai Brith Canada
“In August, white supremacists and neo-Nazis held a rally in Charlottesville, Va., that was unprecedented in both its size and brutality.
“The aftershocks of Charlottesville were felt here in Canada, as the Jewish community endured a massive wave of vandalism featuring swastikas and other pro-Nazi imagery.
“In December, the U.S. government announced that it would move its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem. This straightforward diplomatic decision – which had no obvious Canadian connection – prompted furious rallies in Canadian cities, many of which featured anti-Semitic rhetoric. One even degenerated into the assault of a Jewish teenager and the public burning of an Israeli flag. There was also a notable spike in online anti-Jewish hate speech across Canada.”
B’nai Brith criticized publicly-funded bodies, like libraries, for allowing their spaces to be used by anti-Semitic agitators and it noted that “the infamous Al-Quds Day march was allowed to proceed in downtown Toronto without a permit, even as organizers blasted music about stabbing, burning and running over Jews.”
The audit criticized law enforcement for failing to launch prosecutions when the perpetrator was known.
In one example, B’nai Brith noted that police have not laid charges against an Arabic-language paper in Peel Region that “for years disseminated virulently anti-Semitic propaganda.”
In another, it said that “Quebec prosecutors decided in September not to charge a Montreal imam who was twice caught red-handed telling his flock that ‘the accursed Jews’ must be destroyed – despite the existence of Canadian laws designed specifically to punish such blood-curdling incitement.”
“The failure to prosecute or impose just sentences on those who engage in illegal anti-Semitism has created a culture of impunity, which may encourage further, and more serious acts of hatred against Canadians,” the audit states.
“Anti-Semitism has grown as a serious concern for Canadian Jews, affecting them at school, in the workplace and even in their own places of worship,” said Michael Mostyn, CEO of B’nai Brith Canada. “This problem will not solve itself. We need a concerted national effort to ensure that anti-Semitic outbreaks do not become a fact of life for Jews in this country, as in other developed countries, such as France and Sweden.”