Unit 6 Living Together in Today's World

Chapter 1 Contemporary Antisemitism


Contemporary Antisemitism

Girl who faced antisemitism in high school


It is tempting to believe that the dark days of the Holocaust have been consigned to history. True, the Holocaust is over, and for that we are all grateful. But, have the causes of the Holocaust, antisemitism and the hatred of Jews, really been eradicated?

The truth is that there has been and currently continues to be an alarming rise of antisemitic incidents and attacks on Jewish people and their culture worldwide. While the most alarming increase has been in Europe, we in North America, and especially Canada, are not immune.

Antisemitism has different guises:

  • It may be political, as in Hungary, where a far-right political party is gaining power. Typically, this form of antisemitism blames Jews for all that is wrong in their country, even though the Jewish population may be very small there.
  • It may find expression in the media. This is usually, but not always, more subtle. It may find expression in caricatures such as editorial cartoons, biased reportage and commentary, or manipulation of language. It often resides in letters to the editor, where there are references to a “powerful Jewish lobby” and suggestions that Jews control the banks, the media and government itself.
  • It may take the form of Holocaust denial. In some cases, the Holocaust may be dismissed as unimportant, irrelevant or distorted. A high profile case in Canada involved a German immigrant, Ernst Zundel, who published pamphlets asking Did Six Million Really Die? Clearly he was denying the Holocaust had ever taken place.
  • It still exists in the form of historical blood-libels where Jews are accused of murdering non-Jews for nefarious purposes associated with religious practice. In times past, this would rear its head around Passover when Jews were thought to murder Christian children and use their blood in the making of matzoh (the unleavened bread eaten at Passover).
  • It exists in the persistence of the Protocols of Zion. Published in Russia in 1903, this antisemitic trope accuses Jews of plotting to take over the world. Long been exposed as a forgery and a hoax, it is still popular in some quarters, especially in the Middle East.
  • It may find expression in violence perpetrated against Jews. In France, one of the worst cases occurred in 2006, when Ilan Halimi, a young Jewish man, was taken hostage, and subsequently tortured and killed when the ransom demanded was too high to be paid. In another case, in 2012, a Rabbi and three children were shot and killed as they walked to school in Toulouse, France. In the recent unrest in the Ukraine, a Rabbi and synagogue in Kiev were attacked.
  • It may be presented culturally , such as within the performances of Dieudonne M’bala M’bala, a French comedian, or in sport where recently some European athletes have raised their arms in the quenelle, a reverse Nazi salute. 

More worrisome, since Jews form such a small minority, governments are reluctant to act on this new rise in antisemitism, seeing it as “an inevitable part of life.” 

In the Netherlands, former Dutch defence minister and professor at Leiden University, Frits Bolkestein has said: “Jews have to realize that there is no future for them in the Netherlands and that they best advise their children to leave for the United States or Israel.”

One might conclude that the obvious answer to this is education about antisemitism and the Holocaust.  Yet, in France, thousands of schools surveyed by the Ministry of Education revealed that history teachers were not allowed to teach the Holocaust due to backlash from parents, and the threat of possible violence. Some groups within the Muslim community have been trying to cancel Holocaust Remembrance Day.

While Canada has one of the best records for fighting antisemitism, we cannot be complacent. Some sobering facts:

  • William “Bible Bill” Aberhart, premier of Alberta from 1935 to 1943, subscribed to the Jewish conspiracy theories of The Protocols of Zion. The Social Credit party which he headed, was the only political party in North America to officially endorse antisemitism.
  • In the 1980s, high school teacher James Keegstra in Alberta, taught students that Jews were evil and the Holocaust was a hoax. Keegstra referred to Jews as “gutter rats.” In New Brunswick, teacher Malcolm Ross kept his beliefs out of the classroom but publicized them through letters to the editor. This went on for years until complaints from parents and widespread media coverage forced local Boards of Education to remove those racist educators from the classroom.
  • In Montreal, a Jewish school was firebombed in 2004.
  • Winnipeg is home to a blogger who maintains there is a “Jewish Satanic clique that dominates the world.”
  • In 2011, a teenager approached a 15-year-old girl, pulled out a lighter and started flicking it near her head, saying, “Let’s burn the Jew.” A portion of the girl’s hair caught fire. The judge ruled that the boy was “a bully and a jerk” but that the incident was not antisemitic.
  • All synagogues, Jewish schools and cultural centres employ security guards. Anyone wishing to enter must go through a security check first.
  • According to B'nai Brith Canada, in 2017 there were 1,752 reported antisemitic incidents across Canada, an increase of 27% since 2015: vandalism (322), violent attacks (11) and the rest, social media posts or harassment.

FAST is a non-political organization founded by non-Jews. All content is based on fact, not opinion. The key goal is to help teach critical inquiry through authentic examination of facts. This has proven to lead to a better understanding of world history, current events, minority rights and the importance of standing up against all intolerance and prejudice. The lessons of contemporary antisemitism can be applied more broadly to all relationships with people of any ethnic, religious, or gender group and will assist us with living happily together in today's world.

Professor Irwin Cotler

Former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada - Interview on new Antisemitism

Action 1


  • Working with a partner, make a list of the different expressions of antisemitism and rank them in order of passive to active. Which of these forms is the most dangerous and why? Discuss how antisemitism might become the so-called "canary in the coal mine" for all other hatred.
  • A well-known Dutch writer, Leon de Winter, says: “What is happening in the Netherlands and Europe is a prelude of terrible things to come. The great story of the love Jews have for Europe has come to an end.  In this sense, the Nazis have been successful. The presence of the Jews in Europe will end.” How have Jews contributed to the richness of life in Europe? Choose a country and research their contributions in various fields: literature, the arts, medicine, the sciences, academics. What other areas can you think of? How many of these contributions came from or involved Jews? Create a PowerPoint presentation of your findings.
  • Why are people hesitant to speak up when they encounter an expression of antisemitism? What advice can you give to them?
  • How has the Internet, especially social media platforms such as YouTube and Facebook been instrumental in the spread of antisemitic propaganda? How might these same platforms be used to combat antisemitism? Make a list of suggestions. 
  • Working with a small group of your classmates, do some research using the Internet and/or library resources. Create a timeline of antisemitic occurrences both in Europe and North America. Make your timeline impactful. Post it in the classroom. Analyze the various occurrences included to indicate the nature of the incident (e.g. violence).
  • In the case of the girl whose hair was set on fire in Winnipeg, you can research the judge’s ruling. Why might he have decided this was not antisemitism? Do you agree with the ruling? Why or why not? The boy was ordered to write a letter of apology to the girl and to do a number of hours of community service. Was this an appropriate ruling? Why or why not? The girl’s lawyer argued that her “world had been turned upside down.” What might this mean? What suggestions do you have for both the girl and the boy in this case to enable them to move forward with their lives in a more positive manner? Share your thoughts with your classmates.
  • A common argument presented is that the people who express antisemitic sentiments are entitled to do so under the rubric of “freedom of speech.” As a class, research the defintion of "hate speech". Then, conduct a formal debate in the classroom: Is “hate speech” an expression of “free speech”? Should there be “reasonable limits” placed on “free speech” to protect others? 
  • Over a period of time designated by your teacher, examine various media, especially newspapers, for expressions of antisemitism or bias against Jews: consider caricatures such as in editorial cartoons, letters to the editor, language, and opinion. Keep a file of your clippings and other findings. Share them with your classmates and explain your thinking. Identify 10-15 of your most striking examples and use them to create a found poem. Present your poem to the class. Rewrite or redraw some of your examples to present a more fair, accurate and unbiased representation.

Action 2


Lessons from the Holocaust.

Irwin Cotler was the Member of Parliament for Mount Royal (Montreal) and the Liberal Party of Canada’s Critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice from 1999 to 2015. He is also an Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice & Attorney General of Canada, and an international human rights lawyer. He is founding chairman of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights.

He writes: "We will speak up and act against racism, against hate, against antisemitism, against mass atrocity, against injustice, and against the crime of crimes whose name we should shudder to mention: genocide." Read the full article and discuss as a class how you might speak up and act against hate.

Lessons from the Holocaust

Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor, author and Nobel Laureate, famously said:

"We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented."
"The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference."
"There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest."

Discuss as a class how being a bystander helps enable the perpetrator(s).

Action 3


Watch this video
The Mutating Virus: Understanding Antisemitism

Keynote address by Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks at the European Parliament, September 27, 2016

Transcript to speech

The New Antisemitism – anti-Israel (after 1948)

“The most worrying discovery of this inquiry is that anti-Jewish sentiment is entering the mainstream, appearing in everyday conversations of people who consider themselves neither racist nor prejudiced.”

Labour MP Denis MacShane, Chair of the 2006 U.K. All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Anti-Semitism, as quoted by The Guardian

Antisemitism has not disappeared; it merely changes form. We have seen how it originated as a form of religious intolerance. With the Enlightenment in Europe, it found expression as racial intolerance. (See chapter: Judaism and Antisemitism through the Ages.) Nowadays, the so-called New Antisemitism uses criticism of Israel, often described as the “Jewish state” as a blunt hammer used to beat Israelis and Jews. Double standards are applied by requiring of Israel standards not expected or demanded of other nations. As former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney once said, “Israel is the collective Jew.”

Cartoons have to express ideas in an easy-to-understand way. Therefore, they are often accessible even to people who cannot read because they are visual and rely on symbols. Cartoons are also an efficient way to transmit hate and prejudices, including antisemitism. Antisemitism in cartoons has been investigated, among others, by the Belgian political scientist Jöel Kotek in his book Cartoons and Extremism. Political cartoons often have a more immediate impact in reinforcing negative stereotypes about Jews than a lengthy essay.

The largest output of antisemitic cartoons nowadays comes from the Arab and Muslim world. However, one also finds a significant number of antisemitic cartoons in many countries. In Europe, for instance, over the past decade such imagery has been particularly strong in countries such as Norway and Greece. Examples of antisemitic symbols in cartoons: The “magen david” or Jewish star is both a religious symbol and a national symbol of Israel, which can be construed as antisemitic. Antisemitic cartoons often portray Israelis and Jews with hooked noses and wearing both skullcaps and earlocks, the symbols of orthodox Jewry.

Iranian Cartoon depicting Jews as murderers of Gaza victims enlarge image
Iranian Cartoon depicting Jews as murderers of Gaza victims

Source: Pinterest

If you want to find criticism of Israel, look at any Israeli newspaper. For every two Jews, there are three opinions. Jews in Israel and around the world are very divided about the current Israeli government and the West Bank.

The new Antisemitism holds that:

  • Israel has no right to exist; Jews have no true connection to that geographic region
  • the guilt from the Holocaust is the only reason Israel was created
  • Israeli treatment of non-Jews is racist and genocidal
  • Israel has little interest in dialogue; there is not discussion; there can only be demonstrations and violence
  • Jews have divided loyalties and cannot be trusted to act in the best interests of the country in which they reside.
Cartoons of the 9/11 Conspiracy theory that the Jews were involved enlarge image
Cartoons of the 9/11 Conspiracy theory that the Jews were involved

Source: Al-Watan; Al-Yawm

“Syria has documented proof of the Zionist regime’s involvement in the September 11 terror attacks on the United States ...[That] 4,000 Jews employed at the World Trade Center did not show up for work before the attack clearly attests to Zionist involvement in these attacks.”

- The Syrian ambassador to Iran,Turki Muhammad Saqr, at a conference held at the Iranian Foreign Ministry on October 24, 2001

The facts are very different. According to the New York Times, approximately 15% of people working in the World Trade Centre were Jewish, but facts don’t matter when antisemitism is the objective.

“It is not antisemitic to criticize the policies of the state of Israel, but the line is crossed when Israel or its leaders are demonized or vilified, for example, by the use of Nazi symbols and racist caricatures.”

- Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, April 28, 2004, OSCE Conference on Antisemitism, Berlin, Germany

This 2005 edition of the Elders of Zion blames the Jews for 9/11 and predicts the destruction of Israel – authorized by the Syrian Ministry of Education enlarge image
This 2005 edition of the Elders of Zion blames the Jews for 9/11 and predicts the destruction of Israel – authorized by the Syrian Ministry of Education

Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Cartoons in the Middle East enlarge image
Cartoons in the Middle East

Source: newantisemitism.com

In Syria in 2003, a show entitled Al-Shattat, or Diaspora, was produced and shown on Hizballah’s Al Manar television station. In Al-Shattat, actors graphically depict a Christian child being ritually murdered for his blood by Jews who discuss using the blood to make matzoh.

Cartoon of Ahmadinejad, former President of Iran, 2005 and 2013 enlarge image
Cartoon of Ahmadinejad, former President of Iran, 2005 and 2013

Source: Creators Syndicate 2013 and vitalperspective.com

Former President of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s words:

“First of all, this figure [six million Jews killed during the Holocaust] is greatly exaggerated.... The Zionist lobby and the Jewish Agency use this issue as a club with which they beat and extort the West.”

- Iranian columnist for Tehran Times Dr. Hasan Hanizadeh, interview with Iranian Jaam-e Jam 2 TV, December 20, 2005

A copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is prominently displayed by a book vendor at Istanbul’s main train station, March 18, 2005. According to The Guardian, in March 2005 the book was a
best seller in Turkey, reportedly selling over 100,000 copies in 2 months. enlarge image
A copy of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf is prominently displayed by a book vendor at Istanbul’s main train station, March 18, 2005. According to The Guardian, in March 2005 the book was a best seller in Turkey, reportedly selling over 100,000 copies in 2 months.

Source: Tolaris


Between 2001 and September 2006, UN General Assembly’s plenary and main committees adopted over 120 human rights-related resolutions focused on Israel. During that same period, only ten resolutions were adopted by these same bodies regarding the situations in North Korea, Burma, and Sudan. Israel is always singled out and not held to the same standards.

At the September 2001 World Conference Against Racism (WCAR) held in Durban, South Africa was, according to South Africa’s Deputy Foreign Minister hijacked and used by some with an anti-Israel agenda to turn it into an antisemitic event.

2006 Muslim Teachings

According to a Somalia-born former Dutch Member of Parliament, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, antisemitism and Holocaust denial were a part of their education by teachers and family.

“Growing up as a child in Saudi Arabia, I remember my teachers, my mom and our neighbors telling us practically on a daily basis that Jews were evil, the sworn enemies of Muslims whose only goal was to destroy Islam. We were never informed about the Holocaust.
Later in Kenya, as a teenager, when Saudi and other Gulf philanthropy reached us in Africa, I remember that the building of mosques and donations to hospitals and the poor went hand in hand with the cursing of Jews. Jews were said to be responsible for the deaths of babies, epidemics like AIDS, for the cause of wars. They were greedy and would do absolutely anything to kill us Muslims. And if we ever wanted to know peace and stability we would have to destroy them before they would wipe us out. For those of us who were not in a position to take arms against the Jews it was enough for us to cup our hands, raise our eyes heavenward and pray to Allah to destroy them.”

“Confronting Holocaust Denial,” International Herald Tribune, December 15, 2006

Children’s television program in the West Bank and Gaza, 2007 enlarge image
Children’s television program in the West Bank and Gaza, 2007

Source: Bacon Jihad

In the West Bank and Gaza, in early 2007, Hamas produced a children’s television program featuring Farfour, a Mickey Mouse look-alike that encouraged violent attacks, including suicide bombings, against Israel and preached Islamic domination over Jews and others. The show’s final episode, “Tomorrow’s Pioneers,” which aired on Al-Aqsa television on June 29, 2007, featured Jewish agents beating the Mickey Mouse character to death.

Burned-out building, attack in Mumbai, 2008 enlarge image
Burned-out building, attack in Mumbai, 2008

Source: Crownheights.info

Attack in Mumbai, 2008

In November 2008, 10 Pakistani members of Lashkar-e-Taiba, an Islamic militant organization, carried out a series of twelve coordinated shooting and bombing attacks lasting four days across Mumbai. The Jewish Community Centre Nariman House that was attacked had a school, a synagogue, offered drug prevention services and a hostel. The building was attacked and six of its occupants, including Rabbi Holtzberg and his wife, who was five months pregnant, were killed. Their two-year-old son Moshe survived the attack after being rescued by his Indian nanny.

Supermarket attacked in Paris, January 9, 2015 enlarge image
Supermarket attacked in Paris, January 9, 2015

Source: Time

Kosher supermarket attack in Paris, 2015

On January 9, 2015, shoppers at a kosher supermarket in Paris were taken hostage by Amedy Coulilbay who then killed four people, all Jews. He pledged allegiance to ISIL (ISIS) saying it was revenge for Syria and Western actions in Mali, Iraq and Afghanistan. A Muslim shop assistant, Lassana Bathily was hailed as a hero for hiding 15 people in a cold storage container during the crisis as well as assisting police after he escaped. Thanks to a key provided by Bathily, police were able to storm the store and killed the gunman.

Seven thousand Jews had already left France in 2014 due to a sharp rise in antisemitic incidents throughout the country, such as in 2006, the murder of Ilan Halimi and in 2012, the attack on a Jewish school in Toulouse. In 2014 alone, 851 incidents were recorded. Most Jews having been leaving for Israel but many also to Quebec, about 4,000 a year since 2004.
Jews in France Ponder Whether to Stay or to Leave

Action 4


Antisemitism on the rise

Research the statistics of Jews fleeing France in the past 5 years? Why are they fleeing and where are they going? Do you think governments around the world should do more to protect and defend their Jewish citizens? Do you believe that hate toward Jews leads to hate toward other minority groups and to general xenophobia?

Research the Nazi German occupation of Denmark in the Second World War and learn how the Holocaust failed there. Then compare it to the current antisemitism and racism occurring in that country.

May 2, 2018

Remarks by the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas about the causes of 20th century antisemitism in Europe were sharply criticized as antisemitic. They drew widespread condemnations from Israel and around the world. In rambling remarks that were part of a long speech to the Palestinian Authority parliament, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said it was the Jews’ “social function,” including money lending that caused animosity toward them in Europe. He also portrayed the creation of Israel as a European colonial project, saying “history tells us there is no basis for the Jewish homeland.”

The comments drew criticism that Abbas perpetuated antisemitic stereotypes and ignored the deep Jewish historical connections to the Holy Land. Yad Vashem, the World Holocaust Remembrance Center said in a statement that Abbas’ speech was “replete with antisemitic tropes and distortions of historical facts” and accused the Palestinian president of “blatantly falsifying history to the point of accusing the Jewish victims as being responsible for their own murder. Abbas has since retracted his statements.

Holocaust Denial

The most notorious of Holocaust deniers in Canada was Ernst Zundel who was extradited to Germany in 2005. In 2007 he was convicted by a German court and sentenced to 5 years for denying the Holocaust. He died in August 2017. Prior to his extradition, Zundel lived in Toronto for about 40 years during which time he often argued in court for the freedom to express his antisemitic views in books, pamphlets and online. He questioned whether 6 million Jews had actually died in the Holocaust and was also connected to white supremacist and neo-Nazi groups. He protested outside his home with the sign, “Holocaust is a lie. There was no Jewish Holocaust!” A Holocaust survivor from Poland, Gerda Frieberg lost 172 family members in the Holocaust. She asked, “Can anyone imagine the pain he inflicted on survivors after losing their entire families?” A Federal Court judge ruled that Zundel was a threat to national security and when deported to his country of birth, he was immediately arrested and held without bail. Holocaust denial can be prosecuted as a hate crime in Canada.

In January 2018, Monika Schaefer, from Jasper, Alberta (Canadian-born and of German descent) was arrested in Germany for Holocaust denial. In Germany, Holocaust denial is a criminal offence and sentencing can be up to five years in prison. In July 2016, Schaefer became infamous for a YouTube video in which she described the Holocaust as “the biggest and most pernicious and persistent lie in all of history.” She also claimed that six million Jews did not die at the hands of Nazi Germany and refers to the Holocaust as “the six-million lie.” Another disturbing fact is that she was a candidate for the Green Party in the Alberta riding of Yellowhead in 2006, 2008 and 2011 federal elections and campaigned with Elizabeth May. After the video controversy, she was subsequently ousted from the party. Both Alberta and Canadian human rights commissions filed hate speech complaints against her.

In Canada, there has been Holocaust denial in many Arab language publications such as community publications distributed in grocery stores and coffee shops, a new and frightening trend. A newspaper in the Windsor, Ontario area encourages terrorism against Israelis, calling it a “sacred duty of jihad.” In London, Ontario another Arabic newspaper printed an article claiming, “Nazi slaughter of Jews was justified.”

Your Ward News, a Toronto-area publication, is currently known for printing hate content attacking Jews, Muslims, women and other minority groups.
The editor has now been charged with hate crimes and labelled racist, homophobic, and sexist. Issues of the paper have glorified Hitler and shown Jews as dogs, used the n-word and other racial slurs. Despite facing legal action, the editors are determined to continue circulating.

Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, future king of Britain, visited Israel for the first time in June 2018. After touring Yad Vashem, the museum in Jerusalem that memorializes the murder of European Jews in the Holocaust, he wrote this:

It is almost impossible to comprehend this appalling event in history. Every name, photograph and memory recorded here is a tragic reminder of the unimaginable human cost of the Holocaust and the immense loss suffered by the Jewish people … we must not forget the Holocaust – the murder of 6 million men, women and children, simply because they were Jewish.”

Action 5


Holocaust Denial

We live in a time of fake news where facts are questioned and false information is easily shared. Why would someone deny the Holocaust when there is so much survivors’ testimony in addition to physical evidence it happened? Germany does not deny the Holocaust so how can someone in other countries be believed when they deny it? Divide the class into groups of 3 to 5 students and choose one or more of the following questions to research and discuss:

a) Why would someone deny the Holocaust when there is so much survivors’ testimony in addition to physical evidence that it happened?

b) Compare and contrast Canada's and Germany's laws against Holocaust denial. Why do you think Germany takes Holocaust denial so seriously?

c) What are the repercussions of spreading such a lie about the Holocaust?


Xenophobia – the fear or dislike of foreigners or people who are different from oneself. The term comes from the Greek words xénos meaning stranger and phóbos meaning fear.

Action 6


Preventing xenophobia

Canada is a new and still-growing country with a population comprised of immigrants. Most big cities and towns are very diverse and there a few places that are completely homogenous.

Has Canada been successful in integrating newcomers? If you worked for our government, how would you make sure that xenophobia doesn’t take place in our country? Write a letter to your constituents who voted for you, how you plan to integrate newcomers and prevent xenophobia in Canada.

Other chapters on Living Together in Today's World: