A headline in the Toronto Star in a recent article by Rosie Dimanno, screams, “A shocking spike in hate crimes.” The article quotes Toronto Police Chief Myron Demkiw saying that the recent trend in hate crimes is “the likes of which we have never seen before”. We are indeed, seeing more and more of this, not just in Toronto, but across Canada and indeed, in many other parts of the world.
Antisemitism is not only on the rise, it is flourishing. Jewish businesses are being boycotted and blocked. Others are being vandalized. So-called Pro-Palestinian demonstrations are calling for the eradication of Jewish people in the Middle East. Jewish people here, in this country of Canada, are frightened and concerned for their safety.
There are those who argue that the pro-Palestinian demonstrations are all about people gathering to support the rights and freedoms of Palestinians. It would of course be good and appropriate if that were true but sadly, in the vast majority of cases, it is not.
These pro-Palestinian demonstrations are angry. They bear antisemitism signs and slogans, they shout “Slaughter the Zionists” and they call for an intifada. Simply waving a Palestinian flag is not a crime. But these other actions are. They are by any definition hate rallies.
In her Toronto Star article, Rosie Dimanno writes about Jaime Kirzner-Roberts, vice president of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs who said this to the Toronto Police Board. “We’ve seen repeated calls for Intifada………….. Every Jewish person knows what intifada means. It means buses exploding, it means suicide bombings detonating inside a school, inside a daycare centre, inside a university café, on a busy street.”
I cannot help but wonder if these demonstrations and acts of vandalism (both pro-Israel and pro-Palestine) are more a byproduct of the age of populism we now live in, where almost anything goes, than about the Israel/Hamas war.
The Oxford Dictionary defines populism as a political approach that strives to appeal to ordinary people who feel that their concerns are disregarded by established elite groups. I would add to that that populism, in the name of freedom, provides permission and legitimacy for people to speak and act out on issues that were previously taboo.
Certainly, the Israel/Hamas war is horrific in nature, but it is also a tinderbox. In addition to what is happening on the ground, it is igniting flames around the world encouraging antisemitism and in some cases Islamophobia.
It does make me wonder if one consequence of the populist movement has been to allow decades of suppressed frustration, anger and hate to come to the surface to the point that many would lash out at anything.
Is it easier now to promote antisemitism or Islamophobia than it previously has been? At a time when the truth doesn’t matter as much as it once did, when “alternate facts” are condoned, when it’s okay to tear down statues, change street names and rewrite history, are we okay to jump on ethnic cleansing as well?
I just saw a clip from a news program this morning where former New Jersey Governor and now presidential candidate Chris Christie, blamed Donald Trump for the rise of antisemitism and Islamophobia. He said, “When you show intolerance toward everyone, which he (Trump) does, you give permission as a leader, for others to have their intolerance come out.” Is Christie right?
Maybe it is because I am an old fart, but I have come to believe that change in the world, especially in our part of the world, is coming too fast. There seems to be so much hate and intolerance out there, so little respect for perspectives other than our own, and a mean streak in what we do and say to others. How can anything productive in our public life and discourse come out of that?
One of the latest indications of populism going off the rails, in my view, is a recent declaration by the Canadian Human Rights Commission that Christmas is discriminatory. They say, “Jesus is an obvious example of religion rooted in colonization.” My God, is nothing sacred anymore? One individual online observed, “I’m Jewish, not Christian and I think this is worse than stupid, political correctness run amok.”
As for colonization, it’s time to get over that one too. Canada has been around now for well over a century. Everyone who came here back then is dead. Everyone who was born here is, by any definition, native.
Prominent Canadian pollster Angus Reid recently noted, “I’ve received an e-mail from a nice person at a major university. This is how it was signed after her name, (She/Her/Settler)—The woman in question was born in Canada. Is this where we are headed?” Good Question.
It is high time, in my view, that we stop dividing ourselves based on ethnicities or traditions or anything else for that matter, to the point that we become discriminatory and foster hate and unrest with its ultimate tragic consequence. If that is, even in part, what populism is about, it needs to be stopped.
There is no place for hate here. Period. We have a rule of law that says just that.
It is time to enforce it.
Hugh Mackenzie has held elected office as a trustee on the Muskoka Board of Education, a Huntsville councillor, a District councillor, and mayor of Huntsville. He has also served as chairman of the District of Muskoka and as chief of staff to former premier of Ontario, Frank Miller.
Hugh has also served on a number of provincial, federal and local boards, including chair of the Ontario Health Disciplines Board, vice-chair of the Ontario Family Health Network, vice-chair of the Ontario Election Finance Commission, and board member of Roy Thomson Hall, the National Theatre School of Canada, and the Anglican Church of Canada. Locally, he has served as president of the Huntsville Rotary Club, chair of Huntsville District Memorial Hospital, chair of the Huntsville Hospital Foundation, president of Huntsville Festival of the Arts, and board member of Community Living Huntsville.
In business, Hugh Mackenzie has a background in radio and newspaper publishing. He was also a founding partner and CEO of Enterprise Canada, a national public affairs and strategic communications firm established in 1986.
Currently, Hugh is president of C3 Digital Media Inc., the parent company of Doppler Online, and he enjoys writing commentary for Huntsville Doppler.
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