Jewish students say they don’t feel safe from antisemitism on campus

Click to play video: '‘Normalization of hate’: B’nai Brith Canada reports dramatic rise in antisemitism'
‘Normalization of hate’: B’nai Brith Canada reports dramatic rise in antisemitism
Incidents of antisemitism in Canada more than doubled in 2023 compared to 2022, according to a new report from B'nai Brith Canada. Mackenzie Gray reports on the hate crimes Canadians are dealing with, and how Jewish leaders are warning of a national crisis – May 6, 2024

Jewish students from major Canadian universities appeared on Parliament Hill Wednesday to raise the alarm about a rise in antisemitism on their campuses amid the Israel-Hamas conflict.

They spoke with several Liberal MPs including Anthony Housefather, who helped initiate a parliamentary committee study about antisemitism on campuses scheduled to begin Thursday.

Housefather cited concerns from Jewish students and faculty who say they are experiencing more antisemitic behaviour since Oct. 7.

Hamas launched an attack on Israel that day, killing 1,200 people in Israel. The retaliatory siege, bombardments and ground attacks in the Gaza Strip have left more than 30,000 Palestinians dead, health officials in the region said.

Students and pro-Palestinian activists have recently set up encampments at some Canadian universities — including McGill University, the University of Toronto, University of Ottawa and University of British Columbia — to protest Israel’s campaign against Hamas.

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Administrators and Jewish leaders have raised concerns about antisemitic chants and slogans being featured at the protests and said hate will not be tolerated.

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Claire Frankel, a student at McGill, says she has heard slogans that “dehumanize Jews,” but believes many students are demonstrating “for the right reasons” and want to see a lasting peace.

“Chants heard throughout this past school year and at the encampment at McGill include, ‘All Zionists are racist,’ ‘All Zionists are terrorists,’ ‘There’s only one solution, intifada revolution’ and ‘Leave Palestine alone and go back to Europe,'” she said.

On a recent walk to class Frankel said she saw a sign that read, “No Zionists are welcome.”

Click to play video: 'Pro-Palestinian protests intensify on U.S. university campuses'
Pro-Palestinian protests intensify on U.S. university campuses

In Arabic, intifada is a word with meanings that include shaking off oppression. In English, it is most commonly associated with two periods of particular intensity in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians, which included a series of attacks by Palestinian terrorist groups on public venues inside Israel.

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Other students who spoke on Wednesday, including some Jewish campus leaders, said they know of students who have stopped attending classes or wearing symbols that signify their Jewish identity.

Yos Tarshish directs the Queen’s University chapter of a national Jewish organization, and says while much of the conversation around the rise in antisemitism is focused on how universities should respond, he questions the role of bystanders.

“Where are average, individual, daily, regular, run-of-the mill Canadians in this?” he said.

“Where are you when you hear somebody calling all Jewish students terrorists, or (saying) any Jewish student who believes that their ancestral right to self-determine in their homeland is racist — where is the Canadian turning around and saying, ‘How dare you … how dare you say that to anybody?'”

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