B’nai Brith audit and the new anti-Semitism

A closer look at what was included in B’nai Brith's audit of anti-Semitism in Canada


Another year, another B’nai Brith audit of anti-Semitic incidents.

With an all-party parliamentary committee holding cross-country hearings into the “new anti-Semitism,” so called, B’nai Brith’s findings are (pregnant pause here) interesting, as well as timely.

In total, 1,264 incidents were reported in 2009, an 11.4 per cent increase over the 1,135 incidents counted across the country in 2008.

B’nai Brith’s report notes that the highest number of incidents, 209 in January 2009, coincided with the Israeli invasion of Gaza. Of course, the report doesn’t call it an invasion. War is the word B’nai Brith uses to describe the Israeli army incursion into Gaza. But I digress.

B’nai Brith attributes the spike in incidents around Gaza to “strident anti-Israeli campaigning on Canadian campuses, which artificially maintained an atmosphere of hostility and aggression that often led to anti-Semitic outbursts.” Those crazy college kids.

B’nai Brith also commissioned a poll this year to coincide with the release of its report. That poll suggests, according to B’nai Brith, “a Jewish community deeply concerned about the rising influence of radical Islamism, an ideology that paints Jews as the enemy.”

Back when I was a greenhorn, one of my first assignments was covering the release of B’nai Brith’s audit of anti-Semitic incidents. Back then, the organization’s League for Human Rights had a decidedly different perspective on what constitutes anti-Semitism. 9/11 and some guy named bin Laden weren’t part of the equation back then.

That’s all changed. So has B’nai Brith. These days, the League takes a decidedly more pro-Israeli government policy view of the world. It’s chiefly through that glass that the group sees incidents of anti-Semitism, or alleged incidents of anti-Semitism, as the case may be.

Is calling for a boycott of Israel anti-Semitic? Well, yes. Anything that can be construed as undermining the very existence of Israel is considered anti-Semitic.

This notion extents to the use of admittedly charged words like apartheid to describe the suffering happening in the Israeli Occupied Territories. The new anti-Semitism?

There’s still plenty of the “old anti-Semitism,” if I can call it that, to go around, complete with skinheads, swastikas and fire bombings.

Crazy thing: some of it is being inflamed however tacitly, by some of Israel’s staunchest supporters. Chief among them: the immigration minister himself, Jason Kenney, and good buddy Ezra Levant, flagbearer of the Western Standard.

Meet the Aryan Guard, your not-so-friendly, neighbourhood white supremacists who’ve been active in Calgary since 2006.

Unlike other groups in the “movement,” the Guard does not exist completely online, where it’s safer – as long as you’re careful not to contravene anti-hate laws – and easier to reach more people.

These skins are not afraid to show their true colours, taking to the streets at annual “white pride” rallies, tossing Molotov cocktails through the windows of anti-racists (no good communists?), planting a pipe bomb or two on the doorstep of wayward former members.

What makes them think they can get away with it?

The answer to that question probably has a little something to do with the political culture out west. That’s not a dis. Just a fact. Talk of human rights tribunals being nothing more than “kangaroo courts” to stifle “free speech” is all the rage these days in B.C. and Alberta.

Enter Levant. The former Reformer and Canadian Alliance disciple has been flogging that canard pretty hard ever since the Standard, his news and views mag (now online only) republished the infamous Muhammad cartoons in 2006. Talk about stirring an anti-Jewish backlash.

The ramblings of the immigration minister Jason Kenney himself have provided cover for white supremacists. Has there been an immigration minister who has been so anti-immigration? Not exactly an advocate of the melting pot, to say nothing of the government’s neglect of Canadian detainees in foreign countries who happen to have brown skin.

Kenney’s called the claims of refugees to this country “bogus.” And once flipped, “I plead guilty, I’m a racist.” That was last October when the minister was cornered by protestors from No One Is Illegal at McGill. The group was pressing the case of a Mexican woman who was denied refugee status twice and then found dead in Mexico. His reaction speaks to a frightening mindset.

Is it any wonder then that groups like the Aryan Guard feel some measure of protection from the authorities, despite their blatantly racist views?

Whether it’s the new anti-Semitism or the old, the enemy is within, as well as without.[rssbreak]

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