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Yolanda Papini Pollack

Yolanda's parents in Israel

Yolanda's parents in Israel

Yolanda Papini-Pollock: After witnessing the explosion of anti-Israel animosity during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, I no longer feel as safe or accepted in my adopted home, and I wonder how long I will be able to continue to live here safely

Yolanda Papini-Pollock, July 11, 2021

As an Israeli Jew, and proud Canadian for over 30 years, I have been grateful to call Canada my home. I chose Canada as my new home because of its multiculturalism—a principle that Israel values as well. I wanted to raise my children in a tolerant environment where they would enjoy equal opportunity and become an integral part of the multicultural fabric of this nation.

In my homeland of Israel, I was raised in a multicultural neighborhood of newcomers, most of whom were refugees who had fled persecution and genocide after WWII. My neighbours had found safe haven in their indigenous homeland at a time when most other countries, including Canada, had abandoned them.

My father, a descendant of Jews who fled during the Spanish Inquisition, survived the Holocaust in Italy and was only 12 years old when he arrived in Israel with his 2 brothers. My mother came from Libya, a country that was under fascist Italian occupation during the war, a country that continued to persecute Jews after the war. She was amongst the 800 000 Jewish refugees who fled Arab Countries because they were Jews. My parents were grateful to be rescued by the fledgling State of Israel.  They had returned home; this is what they and their ancestors prayed for almost 2000 years since the Romans expelled Jews from the region in 70 CE. Like the indigenous people of Canada, Jews are indigenous to the land of Israel and have had a continuous presence there for over 3000 years. Therefore, the UN Partition plan in 1947 legally allocated a small portion of their ancestor homeland to the Jews.Jews gladly accepted the UN partition plan. However, local Arabs and surrounding Arab countries rejected the plan and launched a war of annihilation against the newly formed Jewish State. Israel survival led to one war after another due to the Arab leader’s intent of “throwing the Jews into the sea”.

As an Israeli I lived through several wars and terrorist attacks by surrounding Arab countries attempting to destroy the Jewish state. Against all odds, Israel won these wars and continued to seek peace by offering to return land, even uprooting Israelis from their homes  in exchange for peace ( Egypt 1979 and Gaza 2005).

The attempts to negotiate a Palestinian state were consistently rejected by Palestinian authorities (in 2000 at Camp David, 2001at Taba, 2008 after the Annapolis Conference, and in 2019). These negotiations often led to more violence and terror, orchestrated by Palestinian leadership. Former Israeli politician and diplomat Abba Eban summarized the obstacle to peace well when he stated the Palestinians “never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity [for peace]” after the Geneva peace conference in 1973. Eban’s words are still relevant today.

The Jewish state continues to do everything possible to protect all of its citizens (Jews, Muslims, Christians and other minorities). Israel spent billions on infrastructure meant to insulate citizens from acts of terror and missile attacks, including the Iron Dome, the mandatory bomb shelters in most homes and apartments, schools, banks and other businesses, and the underground wall surrounding Gaza to protect Israelis from terror tunnels built by Hamas.

Fast forward to 2021, I have noticed a disturbing trend of antisemitic criticism of Israel in Canada- specifically criticism that displays double standards. Demonization, and delegitimization of Israel—has become acceptable and now flourishes. Anti-Zionist/anti-Israel sentiment is a flimsy mask for antisemitism and has successfully inserted itself into public discourse due to the promotion of an anti-Israel narrative in the mainstream media, social media and in Canadian universities.  This change became clear to me during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict. Antisemites declared ‘open season’ on Jews in Canada. Pro-Palestinian demonstrators called on their followers to harm Jews and their children. Jews were attacked on the streets of many Canadian cities, including in my own city,Winnipeg, which was reminiscent to me of my parents’ traumatic legacy. Thousands of people stood in solidarity with an antisemitic terror organization—the Iranian-controlled Hamas—whose charter calls for the murder of all Jews (Article 7 of the Hamas Charter).

Like most Israelis and Canadians, I regret the loss of innocent human lives on both sides of the conflict but the fact that media reports minimized and barely mentioned the 4000+ rockets launched into Israel by Hamas was more than disturbing. Furthermore, the media neglected to mention that some of the Gazans were killed by their own rockets that misfired and fell back into Gaza, that some had been used as human shields, and that the Israeli Defence Force had done everything in its power to prevent loss of life which is challenging at best (sending warning prior to striking military targets).

Both, the citizens of Israel and the people of Gaza are victims of Hamas’ double war crime of firing on Israeli civilians from civilian areas in Gaza for political propaganda purposes.

Since the beginning of the latest conflict young Jews are bombarded with anti-Israel/antisemitic messages in universities and online. They feel segregated and marginalized, unable to express their opinions because of fear for their safety and because they understand that if they want to succeed in Canada, they need to hide their identity. Chaim Katz, a PhD student at the University of Toronto stated: “It’s not a safe space to be in as it’s become socially acceptable to hate Jews. It’s almost socially encouraged on social media.”

Ya’ara Saks, an Israeli-Canadian Member of Parliament stated “Antisemitism is now at awful levels, but hyperbole isn’t useful. This isn’t at all like the 1930s, but we have to be clear-eyed and vigilant.” It may be that it is not the 1930s, but Jews in Canada are the country’s most targeted group for hate crimes which have increased 400%. We are heading in the direction of normalizing antisemitism by dehumanizing the lives of Jews.

I never thought that I too would have to think of my safety and my children’s safety as a Jew and as a Zionist in Canada, but I must be realistic and think about the future. As the daughter of Jewish parents who both had to flee their home countries due to antisemitism, it reminds me of why we as Jews need our indigenous homeland and why Israel is so important for the safety of Jewish people around the world. 

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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

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