The Nizkor Project: Remembering the Holocaust (Shoah)

Perspectives on Racism:
Anti-Semitism in Canada
Realities, Remedies & Implications for Anti-Racism
Dr. Karen Mock


Is anti-Semitism racism? Yes and no. Attacks against Jews come from two distinct sources, religious and racial. Therefore, the word 'racism' is not wholly applicable; but neither is the term 'religious intolerance' sufficient. [This concept is elaborated in Lorne Shipman and Karen Mock, 'It's Time to Stop Playing with Words and Fight Racism,' Canadian Jewish News, February 1992] Clearly, neither the attacks nor the basis on which they are made are acceptable. Though it is true that people of colour are more often subjected to racist attacks and systemic discrimination than are Jews (regardless of their colour or their visibility by virtue of dress), it is also true that, because of its religious dimension, the hatred directed against Jews differs from that directed against visible minorities. But racism is racism, and, as has been pointed out, racism has been, and continues to be, a clear component of anti-Semitism. Coming up with a satisfactorily precise term for discrimination against Jews may be difficult, but the accepted term is anti-Semitism That it is a consequence of racist hatemongering is not in question.

And racism is rarely limited to one group. It usually doesn't come in the singular. Someone who is anti-Black is also likely to be anti-Jewish. If a school system marginalizes children of colour, it is not likely to have an inclusive curriculum that values children of all religions. When we have both individual and systemic discrimination to fight, quibbling over terminology is divisive and destructive. It's time to stop arguing about the wording and to get down to ending racism, anti-Semitism, and all forms of discrimination once and for all. Policies and practices designed to eliminate racism must also be applied to eliminating anti-Semitism and to raising awareness of its continuing existence - in order to eradicate it.

We can look back to our own past and to world history to see how far we've come, but let us recognize that we still have a way to go. Legislation and enforcement have taken us a long way, and will continue to be essential in the battle against racism and anti-Semitism Because of our laws and codes, the restrictive signs on our beaches are gone. But legislation is never enough. Community action and education will reduce prejudice and promote understanding and unity. I believe that we will overcome hatred and bigotry only when the vision that to be Canadian is to be part of a uniquely multicultural society is universally shared.

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