We won’t let the haters make Zionism a dirty word

May 13, 2024


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In his latest column in the Toronto Star, "We won’t let the haters make Zionism a dirty word," FSWC President and CEO Michael Levitt delves into the demonization of Zionism by anti-Israel protesters and the thin veil of anti-Zionism they use to perpetrate hate against Jews.

To the surprise of almost no one in Canada’s Jewish community, or in police hate crime units, newly released figures show that antisemitism rose dramatically in 2023. According to B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audit of antisemitic incidents, published last week, there were 5,791 documented acts of violence, harassment and vandalism targeting Jews last year. That is more than double the total in 2022.

As if surging antisemitism wasn’t bad enough, adding insult to injury, some non-Jews arrogantly tell Jews what antisemitism is and isn’t. They also earnestly insist their fierce so-called “anti-Zionism” has nothing to do with antisemitism and accuse Jews of trying to shut down criticism of Israel by labelling it antisemitic.

As most people know, we Jews have long sought to control the planet. As part of our master-plan for world domination, we have supposedly weaponized antisemitism to stifle negative comments about Israel. It’s so simple. To muzzle critics of the Jewish state, we just denounce them as antisemitic. This would be almost comical if the motives of those behind such preposterous allegations weren’t so sinister.

Of course, anyone familiar with Jews knows we are fervent proponents of constructive criticism and robust debate. It’s part of our DNA. That includes when it comes to Israel. One need only read Israeli newspapers, follow the proceedings in the Knesset, or listen to family dinner table arguments to see just how sharply critical Israeli Jews can be about their country.

That’s one of the many positive attributes of the only democracy in the Middle East. Given that since its inception Israel has been the object of unbridled criticism — much of it hypocritical, sanctimonious and baseless — Israelis hardly fear disapproval.

Obviously, none of this is to suggest Israel should be beyond reproach and not subject to the same kind of scrutiny applied to other countries. It’s a different matter entirely when people hold Israel to uniquely harsh standards, call for its destruction and demonize its population of Zionists, AKA Jews.

Lately, what we’ve seen on signage and heard at protest encampments erected illegally at Canadian universities has echoed hate-fuelled rhetoric used at anti-Israel rallies since Oct. 7, especially in the vile abuse of the words Zionist and Zionism. Such weaponization of language aimed at Jews has long figured in the arsenal of antisemites.

This is no mere academic matter of semantics. Jews have seen repeatedly in history that what begins with hateful words often ends in hateful actions of the worst kind.

Knowing that to say “Jews” in their slogans would make their antisemitism more flagrant, activists instead use “Zionist” to make their poison seemingly more palatable to the wider public. Prominent in their repertoire are such mantras as “Zionists not welcome here,” “Zios go home,” “Zionist exclusion zone” and “Death to Zionists.” What do they mean, or shouldn’t I ask? Death to those who believe in the existence of a Jewish state, which is the essence of Zionism?

The thin veil of anti-Zionism shouldn’t give protesters impunity to perpetrate hate and spew venom at Canadian Jews. This tactic should be no more acceptable than using the word “Jew” because the large majority of Canadian Jews are Zionists, who want a safe and secure Jewish state of Israel. Such unity contrasts sharply with a tiny but vocal minority of Jews who identify as anti-Zionists and receive disproportionate media attention.

For his part, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau now seems to recognize the danger of anti-Israel activists making Zionism a toxic term and singling out Jews as less worthy of nationhood and self-determination than other peoples.

“In a country like Canada, it should be and it must be safe to declare oneself a Zionist, Jewish or not,” he said at a Holocaust Remembrance Day commemoration in Ottawa last week. “Zionism is not a dirty word or something anyone should be targeted for agreeing with. It is the belief at its simplest that Jewish people, like all peoples, have the right to determine their own future.”

Like most Canadian Jews, I am a proud and unapologetic Zionist, who’s tired of protesters calling for our death.

Read in Toronto Star