Stop antisemitism by Adam Fagen CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Stop antisemitism by Adam Fagen CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


States of Disbelief: Too Many Don’t Believe Rise of Antisemitism as the Jewish Community Can’t Believe What It is Seeing

The Globe and Mail published my op-ed yesterday on antisemitism and what I think are two states of disbelief: the disbelief among far too many in Canada that rising antisemitism is real, alongside the disbelief by many within the Jewish community that antisemitism has returned in a manner unseen since the Holocaust. An open access version follows:

Leo Frank, a U.S. factory superintendent, was convicted of murder in 1913 and subsequently lynched in a case widely viewed as a miscarriage of justice motivated by antisemitism. His case sparked the creation of the Anti-Defamation League, which was founded to combat antisemitism, bigotry and discrimination. Despite more than a century of leadership on the issue, last month an overwhelming majority of Wikipedia editors concluded that the ADL is no longer a reliable source on antisemitism. Attempts to paint Jews and Jewish institutions as untrustworthy and not to be believed date back millenniums, and the re-emergence of this pattern is one of the most frightening elements of the rising tide of antisemitism.

The disbelief is seemingly everywhere: evidence of Jewish women sexually assaulted during the Oct. 7 massacres is repeatedly doubted, while shootings at schools and vandalism at synagogues and Jewish community centres have been dismissed by some as false flags. Indeed, virtually anyone actively calling out antisemitism on social media is by now accustomed to the obscene flurry of replies that at best question the veracity of the reports and at worst traffic in Nazi-style propaganda.

Police data on the shocking rise of hate crimes should have ended any debate about the gravity of the current situation. Jews account for less than 4 per cent of Toronto’s population, but since the start of the year, Toronto police report that 45 per cent of reported hate crimes involved antisemitism. Yet here too many profess disbelief, questioning the data by arguing that antisemitism is over-reported or implausibly claiming that there is no overlap between anti-Zionism and antisemitism.

Recent studies have found that 91 per cent of Canadian Jews believe Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish state, a core tenet of Zionism (only 3 per cent disagreed, confirming that the view is a tiny outlier within the community). As Prime Minister Justin Trudeau commented earlier this year, “in a country like Canada, it should be and it must be safe to declare oneself a Zionist. Jewish or not, Zionism is not a dirty word or something anyone should be targeted for agreeing with. It is the belief, at its simplest, that Jewish people, like all peoples, have the right to determine their own future.”

Perhaps the most discouraging source of disbelief comes from our university campuses, where university presidents have acknowledged an antisemitism problem and where encampments are described as peaceful despite reports of harassment, denial of entry to public spaces and chants and signage describing all Zionists as terrorists or racists. Indeed, even the recent court injunction against the University of Toronto encampment found there was insufficient evidence to conclude there was antisemitism despite also stating there was no doubt that some of the speech on the exterior of the encampment rose to the level of hate speech, including slogans such as “death to the Jews” and “we need another Holocaust.”

Not only is this discrimination ignored and the concerns disbelieved, but many explicitly now campaign against the government’s own accepted definition of antisemitism, as developed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). There is room for debate about the scope of the IHRA definition, but it requires an exceptionally narrow view of antisemitism to conclude that it plays no role when academics compare Israeli policy to the Nazis, hold Jews collectively responsible for the actions of the Israeli government, apply a double standard to Israel or deny Jewish people the right to self-determination.

At the very heart of principles of diversity, equity and inclusion is the commitment that everyone is entitled to be treated equally without being subject to discrimination. It is invariably left to the individual groups to determine what constitutes discriminatory conduct or speech, since each is best placed to understand the context that may lead to harms. Except, it would seem, for one group. For the Jewish community, their concerns are often met with disbelief.

This has effectively created two states of disbelief: the disbelief among far too many in Canada that rising antisemitism is real, alongside the disbelief by many within the Jewish community that antisemitism has returned in a manner unseen since the Holocaust. The Jewish community has for months called on our political, academic and community leaders to take a stand against antisemitism. It is now apparent that these actions alone are not enough. We must also ask Canadians to simply believe us.


  1. Lorie Waisberg says:

    very perceptive & well written piece. thanks.


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  4. I am, myself, appalled and sickened by the wave of antisemitism that has swept from university campuses. I am further appalled by the attempts to deny this wave by too many. I saw signs years ago when holocaust denial began to pop up here and there – or to put an individual face on this, a local young man doing some plumbing work at my house who asked me if Jews really did control everything behind the scenes. I convinced him they did not, but wondered where he was learning this nonsense. We are descending into an age of stupidity and ignorance.

  5. Thanks for adding emphasis to my point.

  6. The blurring of antisemitism with antizionism is weakening our ability to combat antisemitism but Israel’s supporters keep doubling down on insulting and smearing those that see the two as different.

    And the shocking death toll in Gaza keeps rising as reported in the Lancet, yet Israel’s supporters maintain they are the real victims.

  7. Hamas controls the Palestinians and Hamas is not shy about its goals of killing all Jews in Israel and inciting Muslims everywhere in the world to kill all Jews they come across. Perhaps Hamas should stop using civilians as shields? And of course, Iran is behind all of this.

  8. Where is your evidence of this?

    • “ Hamas is not shy about its goals of killing all Jews in Israel and inciting Muslims everywhere in the world to kill all Jews they come across”

      Ed you are an islamophobic bigot seeking to dehumanize the Palestinians.

  9. To be plainer, evidence not insults. I wonder about Iran and its current leadership and their support for Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis, but that hardly makes me anti-Islamic. But, I suspect I am attempting to engage in discussion with someone who has no interest in discussion. I long ago stopped debating with those who have no interest in evidence based discussion – except in this horrifying rise in antisemitism.

    • Ed you think all Palestinians are Jew hating monsters. You are a sad islamophobic bigot.

      Hamas is a resistance movement with some unpleasant ideology; their goal is liberating Palestine.

  10. Silly of me to react to an internet troll! Sigh.

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