Anti-Semitic incidents in Canada are on the rise, according to B’nai Brith Canada.
In its newly released Audit of Anti-Semitic Incidents, the group reported 459 such incidents across Canada in 2002, an increase of more than 60 percent over 2001.
It was the highest number ever tallied in the audit’s 20-year history.
Of that total, 282 incidents were classified as harassment, 148 as vandalism and 29 as violence.
The latest audit marks the first time that B’nai Brith considered it necessary to keep track of violence in a separate category.
Rochelle Wilner, B’nai Brith’s national president, called the latest statistics “alarming” — particularly those that seem to indicate a new level of violence.
“Twenty-nine cases of physical assault are 29 cases too many,” Wilner said. “We want to know why the anti-racist community in Canada remains so silent about anti-Semitism.”
Experts suggest that the incidents reported to B’nai Brith’s “anti-hate hotline” may be just the tip of the iceberg and that the actual number may be 10 times higher.
As the audit points out, the number of reported incidents rose sharply in April 2002, when Israel launched a massive anti-terror operation in the West Bank.
At that time, there were also a series of persistent media charges — later refuted by the United Nations — that Israeli soldiers had committed a massacre in the Jenin refugee camp.
Although the massacre charge was eventually fully discredited, its widespread dissemination “led to a climate that proved a fertile ground for anti-Semitic outbursts,” the audit said.
Canada’s Jewish community numbers roughly 350,000, or just more than 1 percent of the nation’s total population of about 31 million.
Almost half of Canada’s Jewish population lives in the Greater Toronto area, which last year had a total of 217 anti- Semitic incidents — 87 percent more than the 116 reported in 2001.
There were 87 incidents reported in Montreal and 43 in Ottawa.
The audit provided a month-by-month list of examples of reported incidents, beginning with an episode in Montreal in which “two jeeps with Arab-speaking youths armed with bats surrounded a car filled with Jewish youngsters who were threatened with assault.”
In other incidents, anti-Semitic fliers were distributed in Regina, Saskatchewan; a synagogue was firebombed in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan; a rabbi received death threats in Calgary, Alberta; and a pipe bomb was thrown at the only synagogue in Quebec City.
The most tragic incident reported in the audit is the stabbing death of 49-year-old David Rosenzweig outside a Toronto kosher pizzeria last July.
Although the police have so far reserved judgment in the case, B’nai Brith officials classified the murder as a hate-motivated crime, noting that Rosenzweig was easily recognizable as an Orthodox Jew and that his now-jailed assailant uttered anti-Jewish epithets before the murder.
The audit also discussed the controversy that Canadian Indian leader David Ahenakew sparked last December by publicly airing his Nazi-leaning sympathies and his hatred of Jews.
The B’nai Brith report noted positively that other Indian leaders and even Prime Minister Jean Chretien unequivocally denounced Ahenakew’s comments.
In a section called “On Campus,” the audit recalled last September’s riot at Montreal’s Concordia University that forced former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to cancel a lecture.
A few scuffles and physical threats also occurred in 2002 at Toronto’s York University, the audit noted.
Other campus examples included a discussion of Jewish “complicity” in the Sept. 11 attacks in a lecture hall at the University of Alberta in Calgary, and the various Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic materials found on the Web sites of university-sanctioned clubs such as Concordia’s Student Association for Muslim Awareness.
Campus Palestinian advocacy clubs may pay “lip service” to condemning anti-Semitic behavior, but in practice such behavior “is ignored or tacitly sanctioned,” the audit noted.
The audit also pointed out that much of the anti-Semitic rhetoric that sounded across Canada in 2002 emanated not from the traditional extreme right wing but from “the intellectual left and the anarchist/anti-globalization/anti-U.S. milieu.”
B’nai Brith’s national executive vice president, Frank Dimant, expressed alarm at the substantial rise in anti-Semitic incidents reflected in the audit, whose release of which received wide attention across Canada.
“The first important step is to understand the reality and not to sink into a denial mode,” Dimant said.
“The Jewish community must call on its friends to ensure that anti-Semitic remarks and actions are simply not tolerated in any segment of Canadian society, be it in Parliament, the media, academia or on the streets.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.