Canada has been rocked by a significant increase in antisemitic incidents during the conflict between Hamas and Israel.
Recent demonstrations in support of different sides in the conflict have been tarnished by several antisemitic incidents. On the weekend of 15th May in Montreal, police had to intervene using tear gas after a rally in support of Israel was interrupted by counter-protesters. Rocks were thrown at pro-Israel demonstrators and several antisemitic slurs were said to have been used. Antisemitic signs featuring Nazi imagery were also spotted among the counter-protesters.
In the wake of the incident, Jewish residents of Montreal have been subjected to antisemitic harassment online and death threats.
A law student has revealed some of the shocking antisemitic messages which she has received online. “I hope you will die after being raped by your own kind…Zionist terrorist b**ch,” read one.
“I will love to kill you for no reason…you or your child,” another says.
In response to a photo uploaded to her Instagram, a user replied: “Hell for you is what awaits.”
Another message simply reads “salope”, meaning “slut,” while other messages joked about Adolf Hitler.
In Côte St. Luc, a suburb of Montreal with a sizeable Jewish population, two men aged nineteen and twenty were arrested for allegedly threatening the Jewish community. They were believed to have filmed themselves on Snapchat before and during their arrest. The video reportedly shows one of the men saying: “We’re going to Côte-Saint-Luc where all the Jews are…f**k Israel, bunch of Jews!”
The Mayor of Côte St. Luc, Mitchell Brownstein, denounced the antisemitism and encouraged other Canadian municipal leaders to do the same. Mayor Brownstein said: “All the leadership on both sides needs to, whatever your political opinions are, agree with the values of Canada, and the values of Quebec and denounce intimidation, prejudice, antisemitic remarks. There are people in my community that are concerned…I feel terrible when I hear people say that they’re afraid to outwardly show that they’re Jewish.”
Synagogues in the Montreal area now have added security, while police have increased their presence in areas with Jewish communities as a “preventative” measure.
Montreal’s Mayor, Valérie Plante, condemned the antisemitism, stating: “Montreal has the well-deserved reputation of being a city with different communities who live together in peace and security. Demonstrating is a right, but intolerance, violence and antisemitism have no place with us. Montreal is a city of peace.”
That same weekend, shocking scenes emerged out of a Toronto demonstration against Israel where two arrests were made. Several antisemitic incidents took place, including reports of sexual harassment and assault leading to hospitalisation.
An Israeli attendee claimed that “it got really terrifying” after he was chased by people brandishing sticks and rocks. Other reports state that glasses and stones were thrown at Jewish people by a mob yelling “Allahu Akbar.”
Two women driving in a car displaying an Israeli flag came under attack when their car was surrounded and jumped on. At one point demonstrators attempted to break the windscreen using flag poles. Their Israeli flag was taken and burned by demonstrators. One of the women said: “It was the scariest thing I’ve ever endured in my life.”
At the same demonstration, a Jewish girl who got caught up in the raucous mob was molested. A Twitter user who had reportedly spoken to the girl said that the victim recounted: “I yelled at them and one of them kicked me while another grabbed my breasts and made kissy noises. Then he ran off.”
There have been further incidents in Toronto. In Vaughan, police are reportedly investigating four cases of antisemitic banners over the past two weeks in various parts of Dufferin Street and Steeles Avenue area, while a Jewish customer was denied service at a U-Haul independent dealer.
The Mayor of Toronto, John Tory said: “Hate, antisemitism and violence have no place in our city.”
In Milton, a suburb of Toronto, hundreds reportedly participated in a rally where the antisemitic “Khaybar Khaybar, ya yahud, Jaish Muhammad, sa yahud” chant was heard. Translated in English as “Jews, remember the battle of Khaybar, the army of Muhammad is returning”, the chant is a classic Arabic battle cry referencing the massacre and expulsion of the Jews of the town of Khaybar in northwestern Arabia, now Saudi Arabia, in the year 628 CE.
The same antisemitic chant was also heard at a rally in Calgary.
However, recent antisemitism in Canada has not been limited to the protests, for example in Edmonton, where police are investigating after Jewish homes were targeted with antisemitic rhetoric and intimidation. According to the Jewish Federation of Edmonton, a car was “driving through the neighbourhood ‘seeking Jews,’ confronting people and making threats.”
According to one witness, as he was walking down his parents’ driveway at around 21:00, a car drove past from which several young men yelled “Free Palestine!” The car reportedly then looped back around and they asked: “Are there any Jews here? Any Jews live here? Where do the Jews live?”
Edmonton’s Police Chief Dale McFee said: “The Edmonton Police Service denounces any and all acts of hate; incidents such as these have no place in our city, and we do not tolerate acts of intimidation or violence. We understand these acts create feelings of fear within our communities, and as an organisation, we are committed to keeping people safe, and fostering a sense of safety for all Edmontonians.”
The antisemitic incidents were also condemned by Samer Elbekai, the President of the Canada Palestine Cultural Association. “Anytime there is comments like this, we oppose these things,” said Mr Elbekai. “You shouldn’t be judged based on your race, belief, religion. We don’t encourage anybody to go out and do this, we don’t support it…if there’s any rallies in the near future, we hope that people will protest in peace and respect the laws and respect each other across the city of Edmonton and across the country.”
Canadian Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, offered his support to Canada’s Jews. In a tweet, he wrote: “I am deeply disturbed by recent reports of antisemitic acts in Montreal and across the country. This intimidation and violence is absolutely unacceptable – and it must stop immediately. There is no place for hate of any kind in Canada.”