Antisemitism is not a new problem – sadly, Jews have faced discrimination and persecution for thousands of years. One thing that is remarkable about the history of antisemitism is the way this form of hate transforms itself and adapts as societies change and evolve. Today’s challenge is how to address and effectively combat contemporary antisemitism and anti-Jewish sentiment in our world as it expresses itself now.

The first step to becoming an ally in the fight against antisemitism involves education. It’s important to understand what Jew hatred is, how to recognize its various forms, and its impact on the Jewish community and beyond.

Who Are the Jewish People?

Jews of color study

What does it mean to be Jewish? Have you ever thought about who the Jews are?

Jews are an ethno-religious group with ancestral roots in Israel. Relatively speaking, Jews today are extremely few in number. In total, there are only about 15 million Jews in a world population of more than 7.5 billion people – just 0.2% of the global population.

Historically, there have been large and vibrant Jewish communities in such diverse places as China, India, Iraq, Egypt, Ethiopia and Afghanistan but sadly, very few Jews remain in these countries today, in large part due to antisemitism.

Today, nearly half of the world’s Jewish population lives in Israel, with large communities in countries like the United States, France and Canada. Canada is home to approximately 400,000 Jews.

What Is Antisemitism and the Meaning of It Under Canadian Law?

The most commonly accepted definition of antisemitism is the one adopted by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) in 2016, which states:“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”· According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, the “working definition was developed as a non-legal tool to facilitate more accurate and uniform monitoring of antisemitism across the countries that have adopted it, and to educate officials and the broader public about the diverse forms of antisemitism.”

Formally adopted by Canada in June 2019, the IHRA working definition of antisemitism has been officially endorsed by 37 countries and hundreds of provinces, municipalities, and other diverse organizations.“Jewish communities across Canada are threatened and targeted in their neighborhoods, in the streets, on campuses, and in their communities. We have seen torched synagogues, memorials defaced, institutions vandalized, and cemeteries desecrated. Historically, and still today, Jewish people remain one of the most targeted minorities with respect to hate crimes—globally and in Canada. This is further provoked by the incendiary antisemitic hate we see on social media platforms, which incentivize offline violence.” —Irwin Cotler, Canada’s Special Envoy on Preserving Holocaust Remembrance and Combatting Antisemitism

Types/Forms of Antisemitism

According to the IHRA definition of antisemitism, contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere include, but are not limited to:
  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government, or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (such as gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of Nazi Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens in their respective countries of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, such as by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavour.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of Israel a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (such as claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the State of Israel.

Important Terms and Definitions

Hate Crime: “Hate incidents that are also criminal offences committed against a person or property and motivated, in whole or in part, by bias or prejudice based on real or perceived race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, gender, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or any other similar factor.” – Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) Definition.

Illegal Hate Speech: Illegal hate speech has been codified in section 318 and 319 of the Criminal Code of Canada.

  • Under section 318 (1), the Code states: “Every person who advocates or promotes genocide is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.”
    Under section 319 (2.1), the Code states: “Everyone who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust…is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.”
  • Under section 319 (2.1), the Code states: “Everyone who, by communicating statements, other than in private conversation, wilfully promotes antisemitism by condoning, denying or downplaying the Holocaust…is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.”

Hate Incident: “Expressions of bias, prejudice and bigotry carried out by individuals, groups, organizations and states, directed against stigmatized and marginalized groups in communities, and intended to affirm and secure existing structures of domination and subordination.” – Ontario Human Rights Commission

Discrimination: Discrimination is an action or a decision that treats a person or group badly or unfairly for reasons such as their race, age, or disability. Antisemitic Discrimination: is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.

Prejudice: Feelings, opinions, or attitudes, especially of a hostile nature, regarding an ethnic, racial, social, or religious group, or an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic.

How to Be an Ally

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