The Antisemitism of the Canadian Left
UnWoke Essay: Exploring the Left's Treatment of Jews
Zachary R.J. Strong is a scholar, educator, and author dancing happily at the intersection of science, religion, history, and media ecology. He is a non-Jewish follower of Orthodox Judaism known as a Ben Noach (Son of Noah) and is the author of “Pieces of the Puzzle”, an introduction to the Jewish faith for non-Jews.
Although the Canadian political left prides itself on its commitment to diversity and its “solidarity” with groups they view as historically oppressed, recent developments in the political and cultural climate of this country reveal that such sentiments do not extend to the Jewish people. This unfortunate curiosity is something that rarely receives an in-depth treatment, partially because of the complexities surrounding Jewish life and Jewish issues that can prove to be rather inaccessible to non-Jews.
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However, when examined comprehensively, the issues facing Canadian Jews reveal that the political left is not just willfully blind to the ongoing struggle of the Jewish people, but also that they are active contributors to antisemitism. Not only is this the case for ground-level activists, as we shall see, this is also true for the media, the federal government, and Prime Minister Trudeau himself.
In this article, we shall examine what it means to be a Jew, the primary factors that seem to drive antisemitism, some of the issues that Jews have recently faced in Canada, and how these challenges are exacerbated by a political left that shames itself by blatantly ignoring these struggles in favor of their ideology and their quest for political supremacy.
Within the Jewish community, it is said that “A Jew is a Jew is a Jew”, and this is true. But what is a Jew?
We shall begin with the very basics. In the year 1307 BCE – some sources say 1313 BCE – a nation of about three million people claims to have escaped from slavery in Egypt, and further claims to have encountered the Creator of the universe at the foot of a mountain shortly thereafter. By their telling, they entered into a covenant with the Creator, who tasked them with being witnesses to the existence of said Creator as well as His interest in humanity’s affairs. This nation of people were the first Jews, and today there are about fifteen million of their descendants walking the Earth.
The nation’s collective memory of this event, known as a “national revelation”, is unique among all the religious claims of the world and has been passed from parent to child in an unbroken chain of transmission from 1307 BCE to today. This effectively makes every living religious Jew a witness on behalf of the Creator, an extremely weighty task that has cost them dearly over the centuries.
As part of their “national revelation”, Jews entered into a covenant with the Creator, which includes six hundred and thirteen commandments that strictly govern all aspects of their lives. These commandments were recorded precisely, letter for letter, stroke for stroke, in the Torah, which comprise the first five books of the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Even a quick perusal of the Torah will reveal that these commandments are exceedingly stringent and include everything from women’s menstrual cycles to daily prayers, dietary restrictions, and a calendar of holidays such as Yom Kippur and Shabbat.
Because these commandments are part of a covenant with the Creator of the universe, religious Jews believe that they are immutable and unbreakable. This is extremely significant, as the Torah requires religious Jews to be visibly different despite the problems that it may create for them. Aside from having to wear religiously significant articles of Jewish clothing, such as kippot and tzitzit, religious Jews are forbidden from operating technology on Shabbat, which means they must walk to synagogues. This particular restriction is the reason that there are Jewish neighbourhoods in cities and has made Jews easy targets for antisemites both historically and in the present day.
Today, there are three branches of the Jewish religion – Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform – each with unique perspectives on how these commandments should be implemented. While the complex disagreements between these branches are not germane to our discussion, it must be said that the Orthodox Jews in Canada – of whom there are about 150,000 – follow these commandments exactly as they were written in the Torah.
Two Jewish youth wearing Kippot and tallit with tzitzit (tassels).
Although Jewish history before Christianity includes many examples of persecution and violence, given the realities of ancient history this can largely be chalked up to power struggles between growing nations. However, following the instantiation of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Jews were cast as bad actors who had killed Jesus, believed by Christians to be the saviour of humanity. For hundreds of years following the Christianization of Rome, up until the Holocaust, Jews were persecuted and murdered for primarily this reason.
In modern times, one of the primary driving forces behind antisemitism seems to be is a suspicion and disdain for a nation of people that is, for lack of a better word, different. Religious Jews dress differently; they eat differently; they have confusing religious practices; they are a close-knit – even insular – community. All of these things cause them to be “othered” by non-Jews, who see them as either suspicious, peculiar, or exotic. To make matters worse, many of the practices of religious Jews are seen as outdated or even barbaric by non-Jews, such as their Torah-based commandment to circumcise all male children. Indeed, the “bris” and the unique methodology used by rabbis when performing it is a common talking point among antisemites.
Holocaust survivor Nathan Weinberg at the bris of his 49th grandchild.
Another driving force behind antisemitism is the success of the Jewish people despite the crushing oppression they have endured throughout history. Although poor Jews do exist, historically Jews have been some of the most successful members of every society they have ever been in, which helped fuel the Holocaust and continues to inspire hatred towards Jews today in the form of conspiracy theories about Jewish control of major world institutions such as the media, the banking systems, and so on.
Finally, there is the issue of the state of Israel. Although Jews claim that this land was promised to them by the Creator, and despite the fact they became indigenous to the region over three thousand years ago, ever since the Roman destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE the Jewish people were forced to disperse across the world. This is known to Jews as the fourth exile, after which other Near Eastern people settled there. The creation of the Jewish state in 1948 resulted in a redistribution of the populations of the region, known to Palestinian activists as the Nakba, and issues abound to this day – most notably in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank. The continued assertion by many Jews that Israel belongs to them is a sore point not only in the Middle East, but also among leftist activists who sympathize with the Palestinians. There is also the issue of Zionism, which is a hotly-debated topic both inside and outside Jewish communities – it is worth noting that many religious Jews are rather dissatisfied with the state of Israel as currently imagined, a sentiment shared by many Palestinian activists and non-Jews.
The Inconvenient Jew
All of this, taken together, makes the existence of Jews highly problematic for the average leftist. On one hand, millions of Jews were exterminated during the Holocaust not one hundred years ago, in addition to the seventeen centuries of Christian religious persecution before then and the very real manifestations of antisemitism they still face. On the other hand, there are ongoing geopolitical disputes over the Jewish homeland, and Jews are generally quite successful economically in ways that groups like the First Nations aren’t. Additionally, some of the commandments in the Torah are often seen as barbaric, outdated, or hateful in much the same way that Christian beliefs are today.
For example, Leviticus 23:19 describes male homosexuality as an “abomination” punishable by the death penalty. Genesis 1:27 says that humans were created “male and female”, and although there are special categories for intersex people and people with indeterminable genitalia in other parts of Jewish law, the concept of transgenderism as currently espoused by leftist activists is utterly rejected by (Orthodox) Judaism, as it is held that both men and women play unique and important roles in the world and are fully capable of connecting with the Creator regardless of how they happened to be born.
Perhaps most relevant to leftists, the ongoing efforts of Israel to defend itself against Palestinian terror attacks make it easy for that nation to be characterized as an oppressor or colonizer, a characterization that implicitly extends to every Jew who believes that their people have a Creator-given right to that land – or even to self-defense.
Antisemitism in Canada
The paradoxical juxtaposition of hatred and success that Jews suffer and enjoy, respectively, leaves leftists – especially Canadian leftists – in a difficult position. A recent StatsCan report found that Jews endure one of the highest rates of police-reported hate crimes in the country, second only to Blacks. Indeed, despite the endless hand-wringing over Islamophobia in the media, in 2020, antisemitic hate crimes outnumbered Islamophobic hate crimes by a factor of four. Yet, these issues get a fraction of the media attention, and the average Canadian leftist is much more likely to speak up against Islamophobia than they are to condemn antisemitism. This can even be seen in the federal government, which focuses on Islamophobia as a special issue.
Furthermore, many Canadian leftists openly take the side of Palestinians over Israelis, and neglect both the long history of Jewish presence in that area of the Near East and the complexities of the issue. Several leftist think tanks openly brand Israel as a colonial project, and Jewish students on university campus have been forced to respond to the “Boycott Divest Sanction” movement for years.
University of Toronto students protesting in support of Palestine.
Perhaps the most recent example of the Canadian left’s failure to stand with the Jewish people is evidenced by the recent scandal involving Laith Marouf, a virulent antisemite who was given $130,000 by the Liberal government to promote “anti-racist” ideas within the Canadian broadcasting industry, and over $500,000 dollars for diversity-related initiatives preceding this scandal. Aside from having a wealth of antisemitic posts on social media, Marouf was expelled from Concordia University in 2001 for, among other reasons, anti-Israel graffiti on a local building.
The fact that the left-oriented Canadian media has been largely silent on this issue is rather striking, as is a general lack of accountability on behalf of the federal government. Neither Ahmed Hussen, the Liberal minister ultimately responsible for overseeing the funding despite knowing about Marouf’s antisemitic proclivities, or Canadian Heritage Minister Pablo Rodriguez, have resigned over the issue, nor has the matter been investigated to the satisfaction of the Canadian Jewry.
The Marouf scandal is perhaps the most telling example of the lack of commitment possessed by Canadian leftists regarding the issue of antisemitism. The question of how a known antisemite could have been provided with federal funding – in the name of “anti-racism”, no less – remains unanswered, and will likely never be answered given the lack of media attention from the leftist media outlets currently being bailed out by the Trudeau government. For their part, the rank-and-file leftists in Canada seem to see this as a non-issue, as they haven’t decried the Marouf funding decision at all.
Appropriation of the Jewish Struggle
Aside from overt acts of antisemitism and the deafening silence of Canadian leftists in response, perhaps the most odious and troubling trend on the Canadian left is the appropriation of the 3445-year Jewish struggle, which is believed to have begun in 1423 BCE with their enslavement by the ancient Egyptians and continues to this day. The casual use of the word “Nazi” to describe a political opponent is deeply disrespectful of this dark and painful aspect of Jewish history, which is something that the “diverse” and “tolerant” left fails to grasp.
This appropriation of the Jewish struggle is even evidenced by the behaviour of our current Prime Minister, who used the presence of a single Nazi flag at the trucker rally as an excuse to condemn every single protestor as “standing with those who wave swastikas”. Incredibly, this accusation was made in the House of Commons in response to a question by Jewish MP Melissa Lantsman, and implied that Lantsman herself was supportive of neo-Nazis.
The fact that Prime Minister Trudeau, a blackface-wearing and journalist-groping virtue signaler had the gall to link a Jewish MP to Nazis shows how deep this rot goes. The mindset of the average Canadian leftist, and especially of our Prime Minister, is that of a paranoid child, whose low-resolution view of the world causes them to use words that they do not understand the significance of in order to lash out at their opponents. Trudeau’s behavior in this regard, and of Canadian leftists more generally, is a disgrace to the values of this country and an embarrassment to their stated ideal of respect for diversity.
Aside from his disgusting remarks to a Jewish Member of Parliament, over the course of the pandemic Trudeau has made it clear that unvaccinated people are misogynists, racists, and extremists, not to be trusted or reasoned with. Problematically for Trudeau, and for the Canadian leftists who have readily adopted this mindset, Orthodox Jews are one of the demographics of people who have generally rejected the vaccine due to its effects on women’s menstrual cycles – the tracking of which is considered a foundation of Jewish law as described in Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”). The idea that Orthodox Jews would be lumped in with extremists and neo-Nazis for following a key part of their covenant shows how breathtakingly ignorant leftists are of the Jewish faith, and further demonstrates that their claims of “diversity” and “inclusion” are but an eminence front for a totalizing ideology.
Another example of such behavior is in the treatment of Ezra Levant, the head of Rebel News, which is commonly held among Canadian leftists to be a “far-right” or “alt-right” journalistic outfit and lumped in the same category of people as neo-Nazis and white supremacists. Ezra Levant is Jewish, and is therefore neither of these things, but sweeping statements are made about Rebel News all the same. Indeed, Canadian leftists are now making legal moves in order to shut down Ezra Levant, perhaps the most inconvenient Jew in Canada at the moment. Recently, similar accusations have been made about Jewish journalist and commentator Ben Shapiro by our very own CBC, which claims his content is regularly found in "extremist communities".
It is said that for every two Jews having a conversation, there are three opinions, and this would be something that readers would be wise to remember. Some Jews, and even some rabbis, support Palestinian causes, while others staunchly support Israel. Some Jews are LGBTQ (notably The Honourable Melissa Lantsman), not all Jews wear tzitzit, not all Jews think the current iteration of the state of Israel is what the Creator intended, and so on.
However, religious or not, almost every Jew is proudly and openly Jewish, despite the anti-Semitism that exists in Canada and the history of hardships they have experienced. Every Jew contributes, in their own way, to the perpetuation of their people, their culture, and their memory of the national revelation, and they are active contributors to the fabric of the country simply by virtue of being – and remaining – Jewish. If diversity is Canada’s strength, as is so often repeated by leftists, it is extremely puzzling that they have remained blind to Jewish life – and Jewish struggles – while embracing every other demographic under the sun.
Perhaps the political left can begin to live up to its own values regarding the Jews, but given their behavior, it seems that they are totally committed to their version of “diversity and inclusion” which pointedly excludes Jews, especially prominent ones, from consideration. Given the complexity of Jewish life and Jewish issues, it is likely that it simply takes too much work for the average leftist to understand Jews well enough to appreciate them, let alone take a position on challenges they might face. This is nothing new to the Jews, although it would be highly preferable if this changed sometime soon.
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