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BernieBy BERNIE BELLAN

The outpouring of reactions to the Pittsburgh synagogue shootings on October 27 led me to wonder just how prevalent anti-Semitic attitudes are in both the United States and Canada.

A survey of available research would tend to show that roughly 15% of both Americans and Canadians hold views that could be termed anti-Semitic. In an article published in the Canadian Jewish News this past August, writer Ron Csillag reported on a survey of Canadians conducted by the Simon Wiesenthal Centre this past summer.
Csillag wrote: “The study  revealed that almost one in six Canadians hold views that could be anti-Semitic. Fifteen per cent of respondents said Jews have too much influence in business, international financial markets and global media; 18 per cent believe Jews have too much power in global affairs; and 13 per cent said they have too much influence on the Canadian government.”
The percentage of Americans that harbours anti-Semitic views is much the same. In a story published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in April 2017 it was reported that, in a poll conducted by the Anti-Defamation League that year, “Fourteen percent of Americans expressed anti-Semitic attitudes”.


What was more disturbing about the Anti-Defamation League’s finding though was that “The number of Americans expressing anti-Semitic views rose by 40% since 2015”.
In an article published in the National Post in 2014, however, it was reported that Canadians were much more likely to exhibit anti-Semitic attitudes than Americans at that time. The article noted that a “survey by the U.S.-based Anti-Defamation League (ADL) found 14% of Canadians harbour anti-Jewish attitudes, compared with only 9% of Americans.”
Thus, there has been a fairly significant increase in the number of Americans holding anti-Semitic attitudes over the past four years, while the level of anti-Semitism in Canada has held steady.


So, what can explain the increase in anti-Semitism in the United States? According to an article on the Time Magazine website by Daniel Benjamin, who was the Coordinator for Counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department, one need look no further than two obvious factors: “The creation of an extremist community online” and “the advent of Donald Trump”.
It would be hard to argue that the internet has not bred a particularly dangerous form of extremism, whether it is of the right-wing variety as exemplified by the Pittsburgh shooter, Robert Bowers, who has a pathological hatred of Jews and was able to share his views with other like-minded wingnuts on such social apps as “Gab”,  or the religious extremism form as exemplified by ISIS.
But, when it comes to the forces of hate unleashed by Trump – well, that’s where you will find bitter disagreement as to how much Trump himself is responsible for having unleashed the forces of hate. While there were other right wing movements that had gained ascendancy before the election of Donald Trump, such as Viktor Orban in Hungary,  how else can you explain the rise in anti-Semitism in the United States – which had little to do with the rise in anti-Semitism in Europe?
As Benjamin notes in his article, some of Trump’s language, especially when he attacks “globalists”, has been eerily similar to the language used to accuse Jews of being behind an “international banking” conspiracy in earlier times (and which is still an accusation hurled at Jews).


The manner in which Trump and his followers have gone after George Soros is reminiscent of the way in which the Rothschilds were accused of controlling international finance. And, in the closing ad of his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump vilified Soros, along with Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, and Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen – as Benjamin described them: “a trinity of Jewish capital”.
Following the mid-term elections in the U.S. on November 6 it became apparent that Jews voted in droves for Democratic candidates: 76% of the Jewish vote went to the Democratic Party. The popularity that Trump enjoys. however, among a certain segment of the Jewish population for having done two things: move the American embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, and withdraw America from the Iran nuclear deal framework (also restore sanctions on Iran), will still insure that the Orthodox segment of American Jewry will maintain their support for Trump notwithstanding anything else he may say or do.  
Are Jews safer in Canada than in the United States? We do have strong gun laws, which should offer us some higher degree of safety. What is undisputable though is that the internet has allowed individuals who harbour not just anti-Semitic but racist attitudes of any kind to seek out and co-mingle with fellow conspiracists online. Yet, even though there was the shooting of six Muslims at a Quebec City mosque in 2017, the kind of mass shootings that have become so commonplace in the U.S. are still far less likely to happen in Canada because of our much more restrictive gun laws.


Still, we shouldn’t be complacent. It is now somewhat more reassuring, by the way, to see that the much improved security system at the entrance to the Asper Campus has finally been activated.  But, we live in an age of heightened anxiety; just look at what’s been happening in Winnipeg with random attacks happening on the street and especially on buses with ever greater frequency.

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