Don’t dilute anti-Semitism, Canadian minister tells forum

Minister Tim Uppal at the fifth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism in Israel.

Canada’s minister of state for multiculturalism believes grouping anti-Semitism with other forms of racism and hate crime waters it down. 

“Anti-Semitism itself is the oldest form of hatred. It has resulted in the Holocaust… the killings of millions of people,” Tim Uppal said. 

“I consider myself a very visible minority,” said Uppal, who is Sikh and wears a turban. “To me, racism is real, it’s something we do have to address, but I think on anti-Semitism, the level of misinformation, the level of hatred – it goes much deeper than just the average racism.”

Uppal was in Israel for the fifth Global Forum for Combating Antisemitism, May 12 to 14.

“There’s always discussion of ‘let’s broaden it,’ but I think that dilutes it,” Uppal told The CJN

At the forum’s opening event, “the representative from the United Nations, whenever he said ‘anti-Semitism,’ he said we [also] have to deal with… Islamophobia, and racism of all kinds. He kept doing it. That’s… part of the problem with the UN. They’re diluting themselves so much they’re not going to end up solving anything.

“Anti-Semitism is unique,” Uppal said. “On the Internet, in a day… there are 100,000 expressions of hatred. Of those, 80 per cent are anti-Semitic. This is a unique problem that requires unique solutions.”

It is a growing problem everywhere, including back at home. “We are seeing a rise in incidents of anti-Semitism around the world, but disturbingly enough, we’re seeing this in Canada as well.”

Not all anti-Semitic incidents are reported, he believes. “When someone gets hurt, you’d hope they’d go to the police, but I’m sure there are other times – whether it’s vandalism that they’ve been able to clean up themselves, or verbal exchanges – that don’t get reported.”

Uppal, who has championed Jewish causes since he was elected in 2008, said that when he was growing up in Alberta, “Jews weren’t even on the radar… It’s very  possible I had Jewish friends, but as a kid, I never knew it.”

In 2010, given the opportunity to introduce a private member’s bill, Uppal noted that Canada was the only Allied nation without a national Holocaust memorial.  The National Holocaust Memorial Act passed unanimously, and the memorial will begin construction in Ottawa this year.

“I’ve been the victim of racism, but [with other types of racism], you do not see the same level of building up of a scenario which is absolutely, completely false. They showed an article today [at the forum] where Jews will kill puppies for the blood… to put into matzah.

“It’s unbelievable. This building up of misinformation to create anti-Semitism… is quite deliberate and thought-out… You don’t see that in any other types of racism.”

Uppal said this is also true of the BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] movement against Israel. “I had the opportunity to sit down with the CEO of Sodastream… Here’s a company, the largest non-government employer of Palestinians, but because of the BDS movement, they have essentially had to lay them off and pull out.”

On a previous trip to Israel, in June 2014, Uppal ascended the Temple Mount just months after Prime Minister Stephen Harper declined to do so, citing security reasons. “I really felt the significance of what a holy place this is,” he said at the time, calling Muslim restrictions on Jewish prayer there “unjustifiable.”

Hosted by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the three-day forum also hosted filmmaker Edward James Olmos at an event titled “We are One: Humanity Must Stand United Against Antisemitism.” Sen. Linda Frum also attended the forum.

Forum events focused on online anti-Semitism, with representatives from Google, Facebook and other private companies meeting with government leaders and academics to discuss policy. Dealing with anti-Semitism as a separate category is a key step that many are reluctant to take. 

But “governments that get it can be more successful,” Uppal said.