What do you do when hate shows up in your neighbourhood?
In some cases, knowing how to react is pretty straightforward. When Heather Reisman’s bookstore in Toronto is attacked and vandalized because its owner is a Jew? You call the police. So, too, when Yeshiva Gedoloa, a Jewish school in Montreal’s Côte-des-Neiges neighborhood, is shot up – not once, but twice? You call the police.
When a member Ontario’s legislature – and a city councillor in Victoria, and a rape crisis centre at the University of Alberta – deny the acts of sexual violence that indisputably happened on October 7? When unions and universities applaud acts of genocide and hate? You petition those places and institutions to take remedial action.
But hate, and anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, can express themselves in subtler, less-obvious ways, can’t they? Hate does not always end up on the front pages of newspapers, especially in dangerous and dark times like these.
And that’s been happening a lot, in Canada, since, October 7. Hate has been like a snake, slipping into unexpected places, manifesting itself in surprising ways. Unseen, until it is often too late.
So, all of us have had friends and family saying truly awful things since Israel commenced its (necessary, unavoidable) war against the monsters who constitute Hamas.
For myself, I have had a friend of thirty-plus years say that a column I wrote – one in which I quoted someone calling for peace for Israelis and Palestinians alike, and in which I said Hamas were inhuman – was “dehumanizing.” Another one, a prominent former Conservative candidate, opined that Jewish community centres were legitimate targets of hate graffiti. What does one do with that?
And, from my Jewish readers, I have heard how people they considered close friends have favourited anti-Semitic memes online, or even said aloud anti-Semitic things. I have heard such stories too many times to count.
And, then, there are the many, many who remain silent in the face of horrors. Like Canada’s hapless Global Affairs Minister, for instance, who took 62 days to condemn the rape and sexual violence endured by Jewish women on and after October 7. Sixty-two days.
So what does one do when hate shows up in your backyard? What then? What does one about those you know, and who should know better?
Take Prince Edward County’s Royal Hotel, for example. Because I live most of the time in the County, as it is called, I have been there a few times. It’s an old hotel in Picton, Ont. that has been painstakingly restored by Greg Sorbara – the former Ontario Finance Minister, the current York University chancellor – and others. They did a good job.
This week, another local business, Bloomfield Beauty Co. – a spa that offers facials and “cosmetic injectable services” – announced that it was joining the “global strike in support of Palestine.” They were doing so, they said in a post on Instagram, because of “the most horrific crimes against humanity.” And that “it is weighing on us.”
People have been urged to stay home and not go to work or school during the global strike. The strike was called by Palestinian National and Islamic Forces, which came into being during the second Intifada (uprising), and was the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization and Marwan Barghouti, a convicted murderer and terrorist.
I heard from people who live in Prince Edward County – Jew and non-Jew – who were appalled that a business they had patronized was accusing the Jewish state of “crimes against humanity” and “genocide.” Quote unquote.
Someone at the Royal Hotel saw their Instagram post, too – and indicated support. “The Royal Hotel Picton” – it applauded the words about genocide and crimes against humanity. “Wow” was all I could muster.
So, I wrote to Bloomfield Beauty Co. and asked them “what is your response to Jewish residents who have been upset by your post?” I also asked them if they had also “commented on the need to release the hostages, and condemn the acts of violence against women on October 7?”
They didn’t respond. I asked the Royal Hotel the same thing: would “the hotel (or the Sorbara family) also condemn the documented acts of violence on October 7 against Israeli men, women and children?”
Late in the day, an executive at the hotel replied: “[We are] shocked to find out that such a post was “liked” by our account. This in no way reflects the values or opinions of the hotel, me or my family. We have removed the “like” and are dealing with this internally.”
Hate is always bad. When it is accompanied by violence, of course, it is even worse. We in the media write and broadcast about it.
But paler shades of hate – racism, anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, homophobia, misogyny, take your pick – don’t always attract attention of the media.
But when subtler hate slithers into your backyard, or when it comes out the mouths of those you know? That’s almost as bad.
Sometimes, it’s way worse.