I don’t know about you but I’m a little worried about the upcoming elections for a variety of reasons and I am sure many feel the same. The 2015 federal election fell on my birthday. This year I held my breath in anticipation as I learned the new date for this upcoming federal election cycle which falls on October 21st…well for now that is. Opening my inbox yesterday I received an email from B’nai Birth Canada urging its recipients to email the Chief Electoral Officer, Stéphane Perreault, to move the election date from October 21st to October 28th because of a Jewish religious holiday that would prevent [at least] Orthodox Jews from voting. A Charter-based case was made that guarantees citizens the right to vote “to be qualified for membership” in the Commons and other legislatures. These basic rights have, by the usual process of interpretive creativity, long since been inflated by the Courts into a general right to participate in elections and the accompanying campaigns.” quoted in an Globe and Mail article. Now this is an interesting dilemma. I’m curious to learn how this will all turn out because it reminds me about a topic I wrote about the 2011 federal election entitled, Church and State vs Religion and Politics.
I didn’t feel the need to weigh in on Quebec’s controversial secularism Bill C21 regarding religious symbols, perhaps because I’ve already lightly touched upon the topic in A tale of Two Stories; the whole conversation to me felt a bit of a rehash of the hot topics discussed in 2015’s Federal Election. There’s nothing new, except in that they actually passed the legislation. Yet today’s dilemma, to grant a change in electoral date to accommodate a religious group, a group that has an antagonistic relationship with the very group that Quebec is wishing to control their outerwear – and to further accommodate this religious group over all the other cultures/religion in a multicultural country. Quite honestly, I was surprised that this even became an issue, in our religion we don’t vote “Be no part of this world just as I am no part of this world.” (John 17:16) But that scripture came form the second part of the Bible that Jews don’t observe however, I thought it would at least be an unspoken rule within their faith. Another question should be; how far are we willing to go to accommodate a religious group? The Globe and Mail does bring up an interesting point in that “It seems bizarre to imagine that Canadian election law would have to defer to Orthodox Jewish practice, and not much less bizarre to imagine that every general election might involve a rationally irresolvable contest between the claims of 17 different faiths.” Caselaw only points to scenarios such as Figueroa vs Canada, where ‘the state was actively impeding the exercise of democratic rights; they are not situations in which someone’s own doctrine created difficulties for them.’
What I find so interesting about this topic is the fact that the Charter is being used as a text of authority that will act as a guide in the Judge’s decision-making. The Charter?! Our Charter? of Rights and Freedoms? I guess so, I mean, what else could they use – not the Living Tree Doctrine – it’s not a constitutional issue. But, you mean that same document that alludes to the fact that we are a “Christian” nation that references ‘God’ in its preamble? That same God reference that Svend Robinson asked to have removed and got disciplined by Alexis McDonough for doing so? As a politician (because that’s what politicians are supposed to do) Svend was only acting on behalf of his constituents, Humanist Canada, who wrote the letter asking that the God reference in the Charter’s preamble be removed. Svend supported the request because he knew the request was also about Equality. That’s why he fought against its inclusion when they originally penned the document. By leaving it in he knew it could be used against the LGBT community and be discriminated against given Christian’s overall attitude towards the community; and thereby endangering Section 15 of that very same document about “Equality“?
Because of this letter by the Humanist Canada, Svend took a disciplinary hit by Alexis McDonough and other members in parliament – he got benched! I completely understand. I got dinged for writing Church and State Religion and Politics, I cringed to think what might happen after this entry is read. Honestly, I haven’t a clue why the God reference is in there myself, like as if God really cares whether or not we put his name in a Charter but it has enabled Christian fundamentalist to charge the fact that we are a Christian nation and some of their forceful speech sounds like reverse discrimination against not only LGBT but of people from other faiths. Because the God reference was left unchecked and left unaddressed that’s why religious extremists and the Quebec’s religious symbols debates were able to maintain center stage straight into legislation of Bill C21.
Had they left the God reference out perhaps we, Canadians, would have had an opportunity to define what is meant by Equality and after a thoughtful dialogue, that definition ideally would have been embedded in our national consciousness [and perhaps national pride for being so cutting edge and proactive] perhaps we would never have questioned the right to gay marriages. Well not to the extent of taking it to the Supreme Court of Canada for a ruling – perhaps it would have been a topic for rigorous debate, at best. It also would have been good opportunity to further define what the law meant, in the most misunderstood and most under-used section of the Charter called the ‘forgotten human right’ –Conscience vs Religion. Mary Ann Waldron, Law Professor at University of Victoria and author of Free to Believe: Rethinking Freedom of Conscience and Religion in Canada calls it the “forgotten” or “feared” human right. And we haven’t even begun to touch its possibilities – that clause should not be used just for gay rights; what about Shari Law? We have families living here in Canada, as Canadian citizens, – and yes while they are free to practice whatever religion they want, are we willing to accept religious extremism in so far that they would endanger their own family member, even killing them because a family member is uninterested in following their tribal faith? That would fall under the category of murder wouldn’t you say? Nor should individuals have to put up with identity politics and accusations of being gay because you stopped following your tribal religion, yet to receive state lawful protection from families wish them harm; Why is state/law uninterested or reluctant to handle these claims to provide protection from those seeking freedom from religion? Do they have to pretend they are gay to just to get state/lawful protection? No. Because it falls under conscience vs religion – that’s how you argue it in a court of law with ‘equality’, if needed. Nor should they have to withstand gross invasion of privacy and character assassinations because of criticisms and accusation of being called a “harlot” because one left their religion. Leaving a religion doesn’t mean you are abandoning your “morality”. You don’t need religion to be a “moral” person. And besides, that’s sexual assault, at least an extremely high form of gender discrimination. You’re not allowed to use sexual history in sexual assault cases – but they do so anyways outside the court of law and in the courts of opinion – which actually should go to the court of “my your own business”!
People who insist on such religious inferences are often slow to realize that they are discriminating against non-believers in a manner just as objectionable as if they were to ask a member of a visible minority to march at the back of the professional. This is a serious hurdle to separating official state ceremonies from the influences of religion. One of the most difficult balancing acts in democratic societies involves simultaneously upholding freedom of religion and freedom from religion. Freedom of religion is entrenched in international law, and in the charters of many countries – including Canada. In an increasingly multicultural society, how can we best protect this freedom of religion, while recognizing that some people also need freedom from religion?
Brian Lee Crowley, managing director of the MacDonald-Laurier Institute and author of the book, Fearful Symmetry: The Fall and Rise of Canada’s Founding Values, said the increased visibility of the religious right in politics is partly a reaction to a period of aggressive secularism in Western politics. He said it’s a trend that’s likely to continue.
“We’re entering an era in which faith, in the largest sense, is becoming a powerful political force,” said Mr. Crowley. “People of faith in Canada are getting more involved in politics, not just Christians, I think Jews are doing it, the Muslim community is doing it, in the Sikh community, you’ll find the various temples are powerful community rallying points. We’re entering an era in which faith is going to be a much more powerful force within politics.” ~ Brian Lee Crowley
I would think that’s what religious individuals would want – to live in a society where they could enjoy a certain level of religious neutrality that enables them to practice their faith, isn’t that what secularism offers? If not, then I stand to be corrected. Faith, I don’t have a problem with, religion is where we need to be mindful of within the field of politics, where’s the line and how best to draw it? And that’s what was at stake for Quebec’s Secularism Bill and the rest of Canada might want to take notice – both sides of the story – because the the same issues might come to a province near you – and I pray that it does not become too much of a federal issue. We have a lot of ethical and moral laws to review regarding new technology; how to use it and the right way to use it and religious beliefs no doubt will have a play in those conversations.
Yet, today thanks to, then Prime Minister Paul Martin, the Supreme Court of Canada and the Living Tree Doctrine, equality and gay marriage is now old news but this little conundrum refreshes an old debate. Do we really want to move an election date to accommodate a Jewish holiday? Especially when individuals can go to the polls and cast an early vote? Please don’t let me be misunderstood. I have the utmost respect for Judaism, so I am curious to see if there is any fallout and what that might be from this religious-political move. Which brings me to my next question and the real topic of this blog entry. What’s the beef that everyone’s got with Jewish people? Why so much hate against this particular religious group?
To answer this question I will refer to a book I read a few months back that provided loads of insights dissecting the answer to this thought-provoking question. It’s a seminal study entitled, Why the Jews? by Dennis Prager and Joseph Telushkin. The book is an attempt to uncover and understand the roots of antisemitism—from the ancient world to the Holocaust to the current crisis in the Middle East and offers new insights and unparalleled perspectives on some of the most recent, pressing developments in the contemporary world.” The opening pages sets the tone; “…The very word Jew continues to arouse passions as does no other religious, national, or political name. Why have Jews been the object of the most enduring and universal hatred in history? Why did Hitler consider murdering Jews more important than winning World War II? Why has the United Nations devoted more time to tiny Israel than to any other nation on earth?
Direct quote from the book: “What began as a seemingly anti-Jewish, or even just an anti-Israeli problem – Islamic terror – has spread to almost every region of the world, including Islamic societies themselves. However many people read the first edition of “Why the Jews?”, we could only wish that far more had read it. They would have understood that those Muslims and Arabs who want Israel destroyed and who send young people to blow themselves up in order to murder as many Jews as possible are humanity’s problem as much as they are the Jews’ problem. For to understand antisemitism is to understand the role of a tiny people as the lightning rod for evil in every culture in which they have lived.”
Co-author Dennis Prager continues, “Explaining this almost astonishing eruption of international antisemitism is one reason for the new edition of this book. The other is the threat that this Jew-hatred, emanating in our time from the Muslim and Arab worlds, and supported by many on the political Left throughout the world, poses to civilization….If free men and women do not fully understand antisemitism, they, too, will suffer terribly from the Jew-haters. As the events of September 11, 2001, made clear, they already are.”
Universality, depth and permanence
“From the Jewish perspective, the world can be divided into three countries; those that hate the Jews and want them dead, those that ignore this hatred and aid the haters, and America.
Group 1: Are from mostly Muslim and Arab societies. Jews have been forced out of nearly every Arab country. A new dangerous source of antisemitism comes from the approximately 30 million Muslims living in Europe. An unknowable, but clearly large number are radical and antisemitic and have attacked Jews and synagogues throughout Europe.
Group 2: All the rest of the world, excluding the United States. They either support or do very little to stop the annihilation of its Jews – has been Europe. Why? Because they either fear retaliation from the large Muslim population within its borders, they are dependent on Arab oil, it’s antipathy to America, which supports Israel, many European nations provide vital moral and diplomatic support to those Arabs and Muslims who wish to destroy Israel.
Group 3: The Americans. Jews live in unprecedented equality and security in the United States. America is Israel’s defender. America does not merely tolerate Jews and Judaism, it honors them. United States is the only country that has long defined itself as Judeo-Christian. Canada defines itself as Christian – period. There are Christian countries, secular countries and Muslim countries, but America is the only Judeo-Christian country,” therefore, I would assume the US would have absolutely no problem in moving an election date to accommodate the Jewish community.
Universality – Hatred of the Jew has been humanity’s greatest hatred. While hatred of other groups has always existed, no hatred has been as universal, as deep, or as permanent as antisemitism. They have been hated by; pagans, religious and secular societies, facists have accused them as being Communists and Communists have branded them as capitalists. Depth – of antisemitism is evidenced by the frequency with which hostility against Jews has gone far beyond discrimination and erupted into sustained violence. In most societies in which Jews have lived, they have at some time been subjected to beatings, torture, and murder solely because they were Jews. Antisemitic passions have run so deep that only the actual annihilation of the Jewish people could solve what came to be called by anti-Semites the “Jewish Problem”. Permanence (as well as depth) – of antisemitism is attested to by the obsessive attention given to the “Jewish Problem” by antisemites throughout history. At one time or another nearly every major country that has had a large Jewish population has regarded this group, although they represented a small percentage of overall population, as an enemy. Jews have been perceived as so dangerous that even after their expulsion or destruction, hatred and fear of them remain.
Why such hatred and fear of a people who basically keep to themselves [at least the Orthodox Jews], anywhere they go they are a minority among those who hated and feared them? Many answers have been given by scholars including; economic factors, the need for scapegoats, ethnic hatred, xenophobia, resentment of Jewish affluence and professional success, and religious bigotry. “But ultimately these answers do not explain antisemitism;” They say, ” they only explain what factors have exacerbated it and caused it to erupt in a given circumstance. “In fact, we have encountered virtually no study of this phenomenon that even attempts to offer a universal explanation of Jew-hatred. Nearly every study of antisemitism consists almost solely of historical narrative, thus seeming to indicate that no universal reason for antisemitism exists. There are many factors but none of them can explain its genesis – why antisemitism at all? Ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans, medieval and many modern Christians and Muslims, and Nazis and Communists have perhaps only one thing in common: they have all, at some point, counted the Jews as their enemy, often their greatest enemy. Why?”
Why the Jews?
The answer is in four words: God, Torah, Israel and Choseness.
I encourage you to get a copy and read this fascinating book for an in depth explanation. These are the four categories or components in which describes the hatred against the Jews/Judaism. One would have to read the bible God because it is Judaism that introduced the concept of the “one” Go; because of the Jewish laws as taught through the Torah; Israel as in the Jewish people-hood; and their belief that that they are God’s chosen ones. Jews’ allegiance to any of these components has been a major source of antisemitism because it not only rendered the Jew an outsider, but more important, it has often been regarded by non-Jews as challenging the validity of their god(s), law(s), national allegiance, and/or national worth. By affirming what they considered to be the one and only God of all humankind, thereby implying illegitimacy to everyone else’s gods, the Jews entered history – and have often been since – at war with other people’s most cherished beliefs. The antisemities also hated the Jews because the Jews lived by their own all-encompassing set of laws. And because the Jews also asserted their own national identity, Jews intensified antisemitic passions among those who viewed this identity as threatening their own nationalism.
“Judaism held from the earliest of times that Jews were chosen by God to achieve this mission of bringing the world to God and His moral law (i.e. ethical monotheism). This doctrine of the Jews’ divine election has been a major cause of antisemitism. Jews were given the mission, their raison d’etre of Judaism, has been to change the world for the better – “to repair the world under the rule of God”. This attempt to change the world, to challenge the gods, religious or secular, of the societies around them, and to make moral demands upon others (even when not done expressly in the name of Judaism) has constantly been a source of tension.”
“As a result of the Jews’ commitment to Judaism, they have led higher-quality lives than their non-Jewish neighbors in almost every society where they have lived. For example, Jews have nearly always been better educated; Jewish family life has usually been more stable; Jews aided one another more than their non-Jewish neighbors aided each other; and Jewish men have been less likely to become drunk, beat their wives, or abandon their children. As a result of these factors, the quality of life of the average Jew, no matter how poor, was higher than that of a comparable non-Jew in the same society. This higher quality of life among Jews, which, as we shall show, directly results from Judaism, has, as one would expect, provoked profound envy and hostility among many non-Jews.”
“Since Judaism is the root cause of antisemitism, Jews, unlike victims of racial or ethnic prejudice, could in almost every instance of antisemitism, except Nazism, escape persecution. For thousands of years and until today, Jews who abandoned their Jewish identity and assumed the majority’s religious and national identity were no longer persecuted. For these reasons, Jews have always regarded antisemitism as a response, however immoral, to Judaism.”
Racism is primarily a “supremacy” crime. Actually all forms of discrimination can be defined as a “supremacy” crime. Those who persecute others based on their cultural and ethnicity are basically saying; “Who do you think you are?” And “We’re better than you.” For the Jews, ‘exclusivity’ is a primary concern that made others hate them. Living apart from the rest to almost seclusion. An “us vs them” binary way of living, which makes people wonder what’s wrong with them and how come they care considered to be on the outside. Exclusion raises one’s status and denotes “supremacy” over others. For example, the rich and powerful have their exclusive social clubs, secret societies and social pacts. Golf used to be a sport of exclusivity where the high cost in membership fees and strict dress code was enacted to keep the “common folk” out. Pedigree, meaning coming from ‘old money’ is preferred and would get you in the door quite quickly if you fit the bill. The “get rich quick” people often (new money)didn’t have the refinement passed down from generations possessed by people who came from ‘old money.’ Becoming a member one would have to prove they have not only the bank account but also be in fine standing and repute in ‘high society’ and blend in well as a socialite. At one point, golf was so exclusive, it was only available for men to claim membership to play.
This form of “exclusivity” singled out the Jews and then for them to point out the ways in which other’s were living in error, their dietary regime suggested that others were unclean (dirty eating) if they commonly ate an animal that was a ‘chewer of the cud’ (hoofed animals). The Jews have 613 laws this have to abide by they were created to keep them healthy living among foreign regimes they had to maintain this form of exclusivity as a way of self preservation for a people that had no home. Because of this exclusivity they enjoyed a higher quality of life which became the envy and respect from others. Their belief about “choseness”; that they were chosen by God and named as ‘His’ people that are given a mission to show the rest of the world how to live in accordance with Divine moral law, made others feel inferior or that their Gods were inferior and didn’t think the Jews had the right to claim so.
The Story of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
For example, please turn your attention with me to the Biblical account of the prophet Elijah who challenged the pagan’s god Baal. The story is set during King Ahab reign who was married to Jezebel a Phoenicians princess , priestess of Baal worship and a shrewd business woman. It was also a time when the Israelites felt it was difficult living exclusively by Yahweh’s laws and began to use marriages to form alliances with other nations. King Ahab and Jezebel loved each other, therefore Ahab became easily influenced by Jezebel’s beliefs and often relied on her business acumen. Elijah was trying to urge Israel to go back to their roots of worshiping Yahweh exclusively, therefore to prove Yahweh is the ‘one and only’, he asked King Ahab to gather every one together for a showdown of the Gods.
The Story of Elijah and the Prophets of Baal
1 Kings 18:20-40
“Then Elijah said to them, “I am the only one of the Lord’s prophets left, but Baal has four hundred and fifty prophets. 23 Get two bulls for us. Let Baal’s prophets choose one for themselves, and let them cut it into pieces and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. I will prepare the other bull and put it on the wood but not set fire to it. 24 Then you call on the name of your god, and I will call on the name of the Lord. The god who answers by fire—he is God.”
Then all the people said, “What you say is good.”
25 Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, “Choose one of the bulls and prepare it first, since there are so many of you. Call on the name of your god, but do not light the fire.” 26 So they took the bull given them and prepared it. Then they called on the name of Baal from morning till noon. “Baal, answer us!” they shouted. But there was no response; no one answered. And they danced around the altar they had made.
27 At noon Elijah began to taunt them. “Shout louder!” he said. “Surely he is a god! Perhaps he is deep in thought, or busy, or traveling. Maybe he is sleeping and must be awakened.” 28 So they shouted louder and slashed themselves with swords and spears, as was their custom, until their blood flowed. 29 Midday passed, and they continued their frantic prophesying until the time for the evening sacrifice. But there was no response, no one answered, no one paid attention.
30 Then Elijah said to all the people, “Come here to me.” They came to him, and he repaired the altar of the Lord, which had been torn down.31 Elijah took twelve stones, one for each of the tribes descended from Jacob, to whom the word of the Lord had come, saying, “Your name shall be Israel.” 32 With the stones he built an altar in the name of the Lord, and he dug a trench around it large enough to hold two seahs of seed.33 He arranged the wood, cut the bull into pieces and laid it on the wood. Then he said to them, “Fill four large jars with water and pour it on the offering and on the wood.”
34 “Do it again,” he said, and they did it again. “Do it a third time,” he ordered, and they did it the third time. 35 The water ran down around the altar and even filled the trench. 36 At the time of sacrifice, the prophet Elijah stepped forward and prayed: “Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Israel, let it be known today that you are God in Israel and that I am your servant and have done all these things at your command. 37 Answer me, Lord, answer me, so these people will know that you, Lord, are God, and that you are turning their hearts back again.”
38 Then the fire of the Lord fell and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the stones and the soil, and also licked up the water in the trench. 39 When all the people saw this, they fell prostrate and cried, “The Lord—he is God! The Lord—he is God!” 40 Then Elijah commanded them, “Seize the prophets of Baal. Don’t let anyone get away!” They seized them, and Elijah had them brought down to the Kishon Valley and slaughtered them there. ~ end of excerpt.
So, how do you think other people would have felt when they heard what happened to the worshippers of Baal? No doubt some followed the Isaelites yet there are others who would not. After hearing the story I would suspect not only is supremacy a strong theme in how they felt but also “equality” and “ideology” would be secondary issues to consider. Some people aren’t looking for a religious practice or perhaps they’re happy with whatever their religious/spiritual practice they’ve have and not be preached at or coerced into something they are not ready or willing to take on. Perhaps people want to live in peace and don’t want to be made to feel that they are a lesser people because of their choice of life style and beliefs differs from another. Is this what it means to live in a land of religious neutrality? (I don’t know I’m asking) “This attempt to change the world, to challenge the gods, religious or secular, of the societies around them, and to make moral demands upon others (even when not done expressly in the name of Judaism)” the authors say, “has constantly been a source of tension.” The Christians know about this they do the same, Muslims also know about “exclusivity” and both being off-shoots from Judaism, and have been persecuted because of it too. They learned it from the Jews; and when their philosophies for one reason or another were rejected by Jews they became even more persecuted because of it, and that’s why we have three major ‘Abrahamic’ religions. I’m not sure if/when this became a practice but Jews today are not in the habit of preaching their faith, trying to convert unbelievers as they once did. With all the loss and persecution through time, I respectfully wonder if its a case of “enough is enough”.
Yet, we are all guilty, at one time or another, of this crime of [perceived] “supremacy”. Why do you think Quebec’s Secularism Bill C21 is contentious for so many? Do we have a right to tell other cultures and beliefs how to express their faith in their clothing? How far do we want push ‘religious neutrality‘ on others? And that’s why we opened this discussion today about accommodating a religious holiday by moving our date for the elections. Do we consider Canada to be a Christian country or a secular country? Its scenarios such as what we are presented that help us to define who we are as a nation that [supposedly] welcomes multiculturalism and a variety of ethnicity. The Meech Lake Accord not only brought about a struggle for Quebec to be recognized as a ‘distinct society’, it also struggled with constitutional equality among ethno-cultural groups and self-government for aboriginal communities. Perhaps if they were successful in ratifying the Meech Lake we wouldn’t be having this conversation today.
“Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me!” Oh yeah? How about? Nigger, how about squaw? How about chinks? How about Cunts? How about bitch? How about [I can’t think of a Jewish derogatory slang word – but they exist]… Yes they do! Words do matter! They can hurt, they hurt like hell and they can kill – like killing a person’s spirit and when their spirit is gone might as well let the body go too – you’re just a zombie. Supremacy crimes in all of its forms begins with the words we speak. When you hear hate speech, it’s a sure way to identify when and how things are about to get violent.
Hate speech is based on fear, fear of losing something. “Hate speech happens in the context of unequal social and power relations which
are not easily identifiable. To be able to identify exclusionary practices that reproduce unequal power relations certain concepts may be useful: privilege, intersectionality and normativity. Hate speech can be understood as a manifestation of unequal social and power relations and as a mechanism for reproducing them. Inequality is reproduced in subtle ways, for example, by mechanisms that give different access to opportunities and resources to different groups, creating privileges for some and resulting in marginalization for others. ” For example China, employs the social credit system to monitor their citizens and removes certain privileges if they are deemed “untrustworthy”, in doing so they run the risk of furthering or worsening the inequalities that already exist within the country or create a new level of class.
“Hate Speech is commonly defined as verbal expressions, which are discriminatory towards people or groups due to characteristics such as ethnicity, origin and cultural background, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation or disability. However, hate speech also includes non-verbal expressions such as those contained in images, videos or any communicative form of online and offline activity, as included in the Council of Europe’s definition, and evidenced in rulings of the European Court of Human Rights.” ~ Council of Europe
In Canada, willfully promoting hatred violates Section 2 of the Charter and is punishable by up to two years in prison, under Section 319(1)(2) of the Criminal Code as it conflicts with the principle of racial equality. For some, it is difficult to distinguish what is our individual right to freedom of expression vs the collective rights to protect those who practice a religion, belonging to a certain ethnic group, or gender etc. but we’ll save that discussion for another day.
Prayer for Protection (Psalms 140:1-14)
Hate speech targeting asylum seekers fuels tensions and prejudices nearly everywhere. For example, provocative online comments against refugees have increased practically all across Europe. Comments such as “refugees should drown” or “more asylum seekers’ homes will burn” could be found, sometimes making newspaper headlines. In fact, according to the We Can! Taking action Against Hate Speech through Counter and Alternative Narratives manual by the Council of Europe, “German police reported 906 attacks against asylum-seeker homes in 2015, ranging from burning to physical assaults, confirming the suspected continuum between online hate speech and hate crimes.”
“Hate speech constitutes a violation of human rights and it is regulated by law in most countries based on international human rights law instruments. For example, most states in the world (168) are party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which states that “any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence shall be prohibited by law and of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) which prohibits all incitement of racism (177 states).” ~ We Can!, Council of Europe
“The refusal by some states to live up to their international human rights and humanitarian commitments, such as the right to seek asylum, the inhuman conditions faced by asylum seekers and refugees and the lack of solidarity among countries of the same economic and political union, have contributed to a sense of moral confusion. This further fuels and legitimises aggressive nationalist and xenophobic movements, which nourish themselves on hate speech. The ambiguity of some mainstream parties and politicians also adds further to the ethical and political confusion, as exemplified by fines and sanctions against people providing aid to refugees or the preference for refugees of specific ethnic or religious background, contravening national and international laws.”
“For Jews one of the most painful aspect of being in the Camp was the sensation of being totally abandoned.” A Survivor, 1980
For Jews, hatred emanating from the Muslim and Arab worlds and supported by the political Left throughout the world, as such, this is the most frightening time for Jews since the Holocaust. “The rocks have been lifted all over Europe, and the snakes of Jew-hatred are slithering free” notes the authors of “Why Jews?” “This is the world in which this edition of this book is being [re]written:”
- In Belgium, thugs beat up the chief rabbi, kicking him in the face and calling him “a dirty Jew”. two synagogues in Brussels were fire-bombed; a third, in Charleroi, was sprayed with automatic weapons fire.
- In Germany …thousands of new-Nazis held a rally, marching near a synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath. Graffiti appeared on a synagogue in the western town of Herford: “Six million were not enough.”
- In Ukraine, skinheads attacked Jewish worshippers and smashed the windows of Kiev’s main synagogue. Ukrainian police denied that the attack was anti-Jewish.
- In Holland, an anti-Israel demonstrations featured swastikas, photos of Hitler, and chants of “Sieg Heil” and “Jews into the sea.” In Slovakia, the Jewish cemetery of Kosice was invaded and 135 tombstones destroyed.
- In Canada, data released by Statistics Canada has revealed that Canadian Jews were the most targeted group for hate crimes in 2018, a trend continuing from the previous two years.
“The “refugee crisis” can also be analysed through the perspective of unequal power relations, normativity and privilege. Refugees as targets of hate speech are in a weak situation in relation to European populations and governments. For example, they often do not speak the languages of the countries where they request asylum and are traumatized by their experiences of war. On the other hand, it is difficult for those Europeans opposing the entry of refugees to realize their own privileges. Those who are privileged do not feel that they are; on the contrary, they feel they are entitled to those benefits and advantages. Acknowledging one’s privileges means acknowledging the unequal “starting positions” in relation to others, for example, living in a safe and resourceful country in comparison to a conflict-devastated one. It means acknowledging the unfair and unequal relationship to those with no such advantages.”
DEFINITION: Hate speech, as defined by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, covers “all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify racial hatred, xenophobia, anti-Semitism or other forms of hatred based on intolerance, including: intolerance expressed by aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism, discrimination and hostility against minorities, migrants and people of immigrant origin”. ~ (Committee of Ministers Recommendation CM/Rec (1997) 20)
Hate Speech in Universities
“Those who are in a dominant position, with access to symbolic and institutional power, are able to define social norms and sanction those who deviate from them. This has been the case when attacks against refugees denote racism and Islamophobia. There is an underlying idea in hate speech comments: there is one group, “us”, with perceived privileges and rights that are of superior interest, and there is another group, “them”, perceived as a threat to existing privileges and security.” [No Hate Speech Campaign]
The argument of free speech cannot be heard louder than in the halls and classrooms of academia, where an ongoing debate still rages on about “academic speech” and “freedom of expression”. The university is a place to foster free thought, a place where students should feel free to explore ideas and forms of expression without being hindered as one normally would outside the halls of academia. But in universities a debate is also raging to find a balance; how much is too much, how far are faculty, scholars and students willing to accept harsher forms of speech in the name of “academic freedom”?
Universities are now agreeing that in expressing one’s opinions one should also consider the feelings of other “members of the university family”. What gets an individual in trouble for forms of speech is a lack in “civility” insofar that others still feel psychically and physically safe and respected. There have been many instances of non-renewal of contracts, refusals of employment and forced resignations of scholars who were critical of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians. Joan Wallach Scott, author of Knowledge, Power, and Academic Freedom, quotes Nicholas Dirks, chancellor at UC Berkeley, setting the terms by which future punishment might be imposed:
“We can only exercise our right to free speech insofar as we feel safe and respected in doing so, and this in turn requires that people treat each other with civility. Simply put, courteousness and respect in words and deeds are basic preconditions to any meaningful exchange of ideas. In this sense, free speech and civility are two sides of a single coin – the coin of open, democratic society.”
Now the world “civil” or “civility” does present a challenge in that it takes us back to definitions of civilizations of Western states where primitives were routinely referred to a “barbarians” and “savages”, these terms were also applied to the lower class of colonial societies. Civility meaning “dirty” people, bringing cleanliness, acting in a respectable and non-violent manner or having a certain level of decorum. Therefore, “”incivility” connotates: obsessive, fanatical, vulgar, effeminate, unrestrained, the “disruptive Jew id”” writes Scott, “to the responsible Christian superego.” Civility then becomes a synonym for orthodoxy; “incivility” designates unorthodox ideas or behaviors.
However in academic circles “civility” and “incivility” are words used to describe an individual’s failure to take into account the feelings of those who may be hurt or made uncomfortable by one’s remarks, comments, ideas or political opinions. Dirk explains “that free speech and civility are two sides of the same coin and that academia is a public space, it’s noisy, contentious, and emotionally fraught. A call for civility in these environments is a demand not express anger, it would suggest that there is nothing wrong with this world to be angry about.” Democratic public sphere must rest “on the recognition that speech on matters of public concern is often emotional and that it employs a variety of idioms and styles. Hence American [and Canadian] law protects not only polite discourse but also vulgarity, not only sweet rationality, but also impassioned denunciation”.
AMCHA’s, which means “your people” in Hebrew is an organization founded in 2011 in California that aims to “protect Jewish students”. One of its founders in the University of California noted that the university’s system is seeded by “foreign students” who come from “relentlessly anti-Semitic Arab cultures” and have ties to terrorists organizations.” While that may [or may not] be true we must be mindful that “incivility refers to the disgusting or intemperate or disrespectful behavior of individuals as it impacts other individuals. It is about affect, says Scott “not ideas.”
This holds true whether we are in the academic halls or not.
Elie Wiesel – Nobel Laureate and Holocaust Survivor
It’s only right to conclude our discussion with a bit of inspiration from Nobel Prize winner, Elie Wiesel. Wiesel’s work describes his personal experiences at Auschwitz, as well as the process by which people were brought there, families were separated, and all those unable to work that were sent to the gas chambers and crematoria. Wiesel understood very well the power of words and used his words to make us never forget the horrors that he and his people (and many others) endured during WWII. Born September 30, 1928 – July 2, 2016 Wiesel was a Romanian-born American writer, professor, political activist, Nobel Laureate, and Holocaust survivor. He authored 57 books, written mostly in French and English, including Night, a work based on his experiences as a Jewish prisoner in the Auschwitz and Buchenwald concentration camps.
Wiesel was interned at the age of 15 with his father and were separated from his mother and sister only to learn that they had both been murdered in Auschwitz. By this time Wiesel was separated from his father both working at separate labor camp as long as they were deemed able bodied, after which they were to be killed in the gas chambers. After they were taken to Buchenwald, his father died before the camp was liberated. For ten years after the war Wiesel refused to talk our write about his experience during the Holocaust. He began to reconsider his position after meeting French author François Mauriac, the 1952 Nobel Laureate in Literature who eventually became Wiesel’s close friend. Mauriac saw torment and a deep pain in the eyes of Wiesel comparing his story of survival to “”Lazarus rising from the dead”.
Wiesel lived through the larger story of human bigotry and the triumph of ideology over conscience. He also witnessed his people’s dehumanization to annihilation. In Night, Wiesel recalled the shame he felt when he heard his father being beaten and was unable to help. He lived through Nazis extermination strategy of mobile killings and systematic deportation from all parts of Europe under Nazis occupation or influence to extermination camps on Polish soil. The physical deterioration of Jewish life was the direct consequence of Nazi polities of ghettoization, forced labor and starvation which seemed entirely irrelevant. Elie wrote:
“Reduced to a mere number, the man in the concentration camp at the same time lost his identity and his individual destiny. He came to realize that his presence in the camp was due solely to the fact that he was part of a forgotten and condemned collectivity.“
“The Russian Jews didn’t live in such expectations in the Soviet Union, for the Nazi demonology, the Jew had been the principle architect of the Bloshevik Revolution and was the symbol of everything ‘unclean’ that Germany was pitted against in her righteous war of self defense and purification. Therefore all moral restraints were caste aside particularly when state ideology demanded it, war sanctioned it, and especially when one’s career advancement depended on it.” [The Nazi Holocaust, Ronnie S. Landu, 2016]
Many neighboring countries were passive accomplices to Nazis brutality which enabled the destruction of European Jewry. It was aided and abetted by the inaction and indifference of members of various groups – people of Nazis dominated Europe, the various churches, neutral countries, the International Red Cross and even those nations fighting against the Nazis. Jewish communities in the US and Palestine have also been criticized for not being vigilant enough in defense of their European brethren. Wiesel lived through the ignorance, blindness of others and isolation of his people, yes, Wiesel saw it all.
“We had a champion who carried our pain, our guilt, and our responsibility on his shoulders for generations.”~ George Clooney
“In the meantime, just one generation after nearly seven out of ten Jews in Europe were murdered, the remnant of Jews in the New Jersey – sized Jewish state is threatened with annihilation” says Prager and Telushkin Even the bulk of Jewry that was not alive in 1938 feels now as if that year of appeasement of evil is being replayed. As in 1938, the world now seems to be divided between those nations that were about to murder Jews and those that would let it happen.”
Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986, at which time he was called a “messenger to mankind”, stating that through his struggle to come to terms with “his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler‘s death camps”, as well as his “practical work in the cause of peace”, Wiesel had delivered a message “of peace, atonement, and human dignity” to humanity. He was a founding board member of the New York Human Rights Foundation and remained active throughout his life.
The federal elections are coming, my dear friends. Yes, soon, it’ll be election time. Therefore, let it be a time for us Canadian citizens to raise our voice.
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”