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Canadian antisemitism statistics should be taken with a pinch of salt

A swastika scrawled in the snow by a teenager should not be counted as a hate crime

    If anyone ever needed convincing that reported antisemitism is not always what it seems, recall the Israeli Jewish teen who was arrested for making bomb threats to more than 1,000 Jewish institutions across the US. 

    Whatever the boy’s motives, there is plenty of real antisemitism out there. Hate crimes against Jews are going up globally – especially in Europe.

    Here in Montreal, extremist imams can be seen on YouTube calling for the death of Jews at mosques, and chants of “death to the Jews” can be heard in Arabic at anti-Israel rallies.

    The issue is also pretty cut and dried when synagogues are defaced with large swastikas, Jewish school libraries are burned down (as happened in Montreal in 2004), or small pipe bombs go off at Jewish institutions, such as happened in Montreal in 2007.

    But what makes the issue murkier is whether real antisemitism is always involved, and a recent police report released report in Toronto bears that out.

    According to the city’s Hate Crimes Unit, for the 12th consecutive year – 12th! - Jews were the main victims in almost 30 per cent of hate-motivated crimes against minority groups, significantly ahead of black, Muslim, and the LGBTQ communities.

    To me, this makes no real sense. Why should Jews be more targeted than other minorities, and for so many years in a row?

    I got no help in answering this question from the unit itself. As a matter of policy, I was told, it does not publicly disclose who reports a “hate crimes” incident, other than to acknowledge that it might come from any individual or organisation.

    That latter part resonated with me since it’s kind of an open secret that certain Jewish organisations have a vested interest in creating the public impression that antisemitism in Canada is perpetually “on the rise.”

    So anything, in a way, can be seen and reported as a “hate crime”: from a swastika finger-painted in the snow by a stupid teenage kid to an idiot making a bigoted comment at a supermarket.

    And if they are designated as “hate crimes,” those numbers can really add up! For the Jews, 12 years in a row, it appears.

    It’s not irrelevant, in that context, to recall that in 2010, Canadian journalist Jonathan Kay criticised one Jewish org, B’nai Brith Canada, for its “absurd contention” that antisemitism is a growing problem in Canada.

    In other words, “hate crimes” stats are pretty broad, open-to-interpretation – and dubious. The numbers should be taken with a big pinch of salt.

    Of course there are serious antisemitic incidents in Canada. Of course there are. But the call as to what is truly a hate crime seems too often open to interpretation and involves too many vested community interests to get a truly accurate picture of the reality on the ground.

     

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