14 January 2024

"Hate is as old as man and doubtless as durable."

It is with great regret that I’m writing a follow-up article to last month’s Peace and Order, where I looked at the hate laws in Canada and stated: “This dramatic rise in hate motivated crime is testing our laws, our police response, legal system and things may have to change to meet the challenge.

Well, things have certainly changed over the last month but in a most unwelcome way. We have increasing attacks on Jewish Canadian schools, businesses and homes, so much so that it’s making international news. 

To this international audience, our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, said, “We’re seeing right now a rise in antisemitism that is terrifying.” 

On the same news video, Rabbi Saul Emanuel adds, “It has become accepted that you can go after any Jewish target” 

Why has it become acceptable to some people to go after Jewish Canadians? If you watch the video it is clear that the business set on fire has “Free Palestine” written on their window. There is no doubt that a segment of the protesters are using the tragedy of mounting deaths in Palestine to mount attacks against Jewish Canadians. 

That said, many reasonable non-antisemitic Canadians are also decrying the deaths of innocents in Palestine. It’s a complicated situation but what is a clear, uncontested fact is that some of these protesters are using the situation to engage in antisemitic hate crimes. Rather than argue this point, a picture is worth a thousand words and here is one of targeted arson at a Jewish-owned deli in Toronto.  The owner is a Jewish Canadian and no one who is sensible can argue firebombing his business will change anything in Palestine. It is pure antisemitic hate. 

On social media, a photo of a poster put up in a Jewish neighbourhood depicts the scale of the problem and where it can lead, so let’s break it down. 

The poster graphic looks old-school, like something you would find in a history book on the rise of antisemitism before WWII. The words harken to something more modern and warrant an analysis. 

“Imagine being so vile, sneaky and disgusting that laws have to be created to keep normal people from hating or condemning you.”

Certainly the cliche trope of the ‘vile, sneaky and disgusting’ Jew is old and a way that bigots have long justified their bigotry by suggesting it is the victim not the aggressor that is responsible. It is as absurd as robbing a store at gunpoint and claiming the store deserved to be robbed. 

The part referencing “the laws created to keep people from hating or condemning you” refers to hate laws in Canada, referenced in my previous article. They are laws that keep all Canadians safe. They also keep our democracy safe because a democracy is, by definition, a society where all can vote and participate - any attempt to sideline groups from full rights and safety is, by its nature, antidemocratic. We know that historically and in the present day, authoritarian governments attack certain groups, sideline them or murder them, on their way into power and continue to do so in power to underline that only a select few get to make decisions about that country. Targeting any group is a blatant attack on the democratic rights of all Canadians. 

Canadian hate laws, born from a 1965 Special Committee on Hate Propaganda chaired by Judge Maxwell Cohen, have been expanded to recently include online hate speech. Hate laws were created to protect all Canadians, including Jewish Canadians.

In words that are as applicable today as they were then, Cohen said, "On the one hand, there was a new emphasis on individual freedom. On the other side, there was a growing recognition that these very liberties could be dangerously abused.”

“The preface to the 1965 report warns, "Hate is as old as man and doubtless as durable." It also contains a warning that could as easily refer to the current spread of anti-Asian slurs through social media as to the anti-Semitic pamphlets and slogans that emerged in Cohen's day.

Ours is "a world aware of the perils of falsehood disguised as fact and of conspirators eroding the community's integrity through pretending that conspiracies from elsewhere now justify verbal assaults," Cohen wrote. He called them "the non-facts and the non-truths of prejudice and slander.” 

By attacking Jewish Canadians and the laws of Canada, this poster highlights the dangers we face as a nation. 

Someone with a better mind than I will have to sift through many of these issues. How do we ensure the right to protest - a crucial democratic right - while protecting Canadians who are targeted by some of the protesters? It’s complicated. What is not complicated is this: Jewish Canadians are protected by the same laws that protect us all and there is no justification for any attacks on them. None.  


  1. Amen. Apparently the Israeli-Hamas war in Gaza has given the anti-Semites around the world the all clear to erupt into hate and violence, which (sadly) tells me that it was always there, simmering underneath the surface.

    1. I think you're correct. It's shocking how much there is in the world right now.

  2. Mary, I am constantly and sadly amazed at how stupid people can become, having their emotions so easily enflamed while reason goes out the door.

    1. You nailed it - it's almost like their emotions are charged and ready to go.

  3. Thanks for writing this, Mary. It has become clear that many many Canadians are using this situation to feel that they can finally openly express their hatred of Jews as being anti-Israel.

    1. Attacking Jewish Canadians can never be justified by Israel's actions. Never.

  4. That poster is about the most hideous attacks I've seen in a long time. Like you say, it resembles precursor propaganda leading up to WW-II.

    I've noted a number of Israelis have complained about treatment of Palestinians. They blame Netanyahu's oppressive and aggravating actions. If Netanyahu hadn't been in power, the attack on Israel still might have occurred, but the odds would have been less.

    Here in the US, waterfowl hunters have to buy duck stamps as part of their permit to shoot ducks and geese. Hunters often say they are the protectors protecters of waterfowl. In recent years when America's far right claimed they were the best supporters of Israel, I kept thinking of our duck hunters.

    1. It is, Leigh. Shocking, no?
      Duck hunters - exactly.
      Also - I can now sign my name but not add a profile pic to my comments. Maybe you can text me to help - being my go to tech man.

  5. Mary, thank you again for tackling this subject. Your last two lines are powerful. I am not Jewish, but even I keep thinking - with fear - about those lines uttered by those university professors. That 'it depends on the context'. Those lines haunt me. There is no context in which this behaviour is justified.


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