The Oppression Olympics

Attention fellow Canadian Jews:

When was the last time you were woken in the middle of the night by police?

When was the last time you heard about the War on Terror – and that it referred to you and other Canadian Jews?

When was the last time you were asked if anyone was hanging around the synagogue too long, or “praying excessively”?

When was the last time a CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service) agent came to see you at your workplace?

When did you learn that CSIS was surveilling you and fellow worshippers at your synagogue?

When was the last time you heard about a Jew who was threatened with being denied citizenship or refugee status, unless the person agreed to spy on other Jews?

When was the last time you heard of any Jew who has been denied access to a lawyer during a police interrogation in Canada?

If you answered “never” to these questions, you are correct. The above depredations are not suffered by Canadian Jews.

But you may want to know that there is a religious group that has encountered all these frightening scenarios, and many times over. That group is Canadian Muslims.

Abood and Zeina Abdulhadi, brother and sister, attend a memorial at the spot where a Muslim family of five was deliberately hit by a driver in London, Ont. June 7, 2021. Photo credit: The Canadian Press/Brett Gundlock

Anti-Muslim Surveillance: a new report

The discrimination and surveillance of Muslims by the Canadian security apparatus is revealed in a new report Anti-Muslim Surveillance: Canadian Muslims’ Experiences with CSIS. The research by two Canadian academics was recently published here. It reveals that Muslim Canadians’ lived experiences since 9-11 demonstrate that CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Services) has employed surveillance methods such as racial profiling, policing of mosques and targeting of entire Muslim communities. The report’s authors, University of Ottawa criminologist Baljiit Nagra and University of Toronto sociologist Paula Maurutto interviewed 95 Muslim community leaders, including Imams (prayer leader in a mosque) in five Canadian cities.

The reign of terror against Muslims by Canada’s spy network in Ottawa, Montreal, Calgary, Toronto and Vancouver is spine-chilling. I am referring to CSIS, Canada’s élite spy service which, like most western spy agencies in the wake of 9-11, deliberately links Islam with terrorism.

Photo published in accompanying op-ed by Amira Elghawaby, Toronto Star, July 27, 2021

Indeed the report argues that ongoing Islamophobia (boosted by police, some institutions and the media) removes Muslims from the moral realm of the human community and provides the ideological justification for removing (or at least playing havoc with) Muslims’ civil liberties. The report notes that Muslims are often seen as too “barbaric” to be governed through fair democratic procedures – so, as political philospher Hannah Arendt noted in 1948, some people “lack the right to have rights”.

Are Canadian Jews the most targeted in hate crimes?

Wait a minute! Aren’t the institutional Jewish organizations like CIJA, B’nai Brith and Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre telling us that Canadian Jews are “the religious group most targeted by hate crimes?”

Well, that depends a lot on how you collect your data. The two main sources for the primacy of antisemitism are B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audit of antisemitic incidents and an August 2022 Statistics Canada report on hate crimes.

B’nai Brith’s audit has been largely discredited by Sheryl Nestel in her monograph The Use And Misuse Of
Antisemitism Statistics In Canada
. B’nai Brith is not transparent about its methodology nor does it provide the raw data used. The reports receive minimal vetting. Most incidents are online. Apparently, a single tweet equals a single incident so that multiple tweets of the same incident each count. To believe B’nai Brith, antisemitic incidents in Canada proportionally outnumber those compiled for the US by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), its US sister organization, by a factor of 17 to one!

This assertion is even more absurd, given the fact that the ADL, in a different study, describes Canada as second only to Sweden as the LEAST antisemitic country in the world.

A main reason for the discrepancy is that B’nai Brith employs the controversial definition provided by the IHRA, the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (the IHRA which counts much criticism of Israel as antisemitic) while the ADL “is careful to not conflate general criticism of Israel or anti-Israel activism with antisemitism.”

“I think that either Jews are over-reporting every possible incident because they’re told that it’s the right thing to do or other minorities are under-reporting them…”

from the podcast Bonjour Chai, on the Canadian Jewish News site. Listen here.

As for the Stats Canada report on hate crimes, it depends crucially on reporting. The document itself cautions that “According to recent data from the 2020 General Social Survey on Social Identity, Black and Indigenous people and people belonging to other ethno-cultural groups were less likely than non-Indigenous, non-visible minority people to have confidence in the police. A lack of confidence or trust in the police or other social institutions could make reporting crime and victimization less likely for certain populations.”

Indeed, in a podcast from the Canadian Jewish News “Are Jews really the most-targeted group for hate crimes—or do we just call the cops more?” the host suggests: “ I think that either Jews are over-reporting every possible incident because they’re told that it’s the right thing to do or other minorities are under-reporting them for a variety of reasons or some combination of the two.” His guest, a retired Toronto police officer specializing in hate crimes, agrees.

Muslims, according to the Stats Canada report, are the second most targeted religious group. The lack of rights is shockingly presented, case after case, in Trevor Aaronson’s 2013 book, The Terror Factory: Inside the FBI’s Manufactured War on Terror. Aaronson, a leading American investigative journalist, shows how the FBI created informants and fabricated evidence of terror “crimes” in order for the FBI to “solve” them. The book uncovers many cases of paid snitches, illegal arrests, years’ long false imprisonment and even torture of law-abiding Muslim-Americans in the decade following 2001.

As Masha Gessen, a Russian-American writer and academic wrote about Muslims in the US after 9-11: “once they have lost their position in the political community, they can never be certain of regaining it.” https:/

According to the report Anti-Muslim Surveillance, Muslims in Canada also “lack the right to have rights”. After 9-11, the US-led War on Terror spread Islamophobia which has been used to deny Muslims jobs, safe communities, a relatively peaceful life in this country, and the right to be left alone by CSIS. We need only look at the case of Canadian citizen Maher Arar who was falsely imprisoned and tortured for a year at a CIA controlled black site on non-existent “evidence” from the RCMP that Arar was a terrorist.

The case of the Secret Trial Five also comes to mind. Five Muslim Canadian men including a high school teacher in Scarborough, Ont, and a pizza delivery man in Ottawa, spent from two to seven years in prison, compounded by years under house arrest. They were all jailed on Canadian Security Certificates without ever being charged with a crime. Most were freed after years and years, but pizza delivery man Mohamed Harkat, jailed since 2003, is still living under house arrest in Ottawa with severe restrictions –though no charges have ever been laid against him.

“CSIS agents are always calling Imams. But very rarely will you see CSIS agents calling church ministers or Jewish Rabbis. I spoke to one Jewish Rabbi and he has received one call from CSIS agents in the last 10 years. And whereas I as an Imam have received excessive calls from CSIS agents in just one year.”

Toronto interviewee from report Anti-Muslim Surveillance: Canadian Muslims’ Experiences with CSIS), page 8.

Unveiling the Chilly Climate report

Sheryl Nestel and Rowan Gaudet’s report Unveiling the Chilly Climate: The Suppression of Speech in Canada here questions the tropes about antisemitism in light of the prevalence of harassment and suppression of speech about Palestine. Nestel and Gaudet gathered testimonials from 77 university faculty members, students and representatives of organizations in Ontario, Manitoba, BC, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Québec and Alberta. The researchers found that when it came to support for Palestine or issues involving Palestine there was political intervention in hiring (see the Valentina Azarova case here), attempts to prevent access to events and venues, attempted and actual cancellation of public meetings on Palestine and the targeting and doxing of more than one hundred Canadian academics who spoke in support of Palestinian human rights. Usually these people were also critical of Israel. It is the criticism of Israel than many Jewish Canadians will not abide. That criticism often includes support for BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions), and the ongoing fight against the adoption of the IHRA (the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance).

Read the report, it’s free to download and read here

Unveiling the Chilly Climate is essential reading for those interested in issues such as Islamophobia in Canada, the policing of speech about Palestine on campuses, and racism against Palestinians and Arabs.

Can Jewish Canadians see the oppression of others… the need to help racialized Canadians in the struggle for their rights and NOT put Israel first?

The issue for my Jewish Canadian friends is this: Can you see the oppression of others, can you acknowledge that many people – especially the racialized – need you as an ally to help them struggle for their rights? Are you willing to fight discrimination and Islamophobia in Canada and not put Israel first?

Featured Image at the top: from a 2013 article in Maclean’s magazine, photo by David Cooper/ Toronto Star/ Getstock. Where is this? I think the woman is sitting on a sculpture of a cow by Regina artist Joe Fafard, at Toronto’s TD Centre.

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