Proper allies are needed to fight anti-Semitism

Exploring how allyship can be useful without perpetuating ignorance.

Alissa believes in true allies

In 2019, there were 2,207 anti-Semitic incidents in Canada reported in an annual audit conducted by the League for Human Rights. That’s an average of six incidents per day.

Somehow, many non-Jewish people still believe anti-Semitism began and ended in 1945 with the Holocaust, a Nazi-driven genocide which murdered six million Jews. However, the scope of anti-Semitism extends well beyond this historical tragedy.

Many years ago, Jewish people were blamed and murdered for the Bubonic Plague. They’ve been accused of ‘Blood Libel’ by using the blood of Christian children to make matzah—a cracker eaten on the Jewish holiday known as Passover. Even today, there are anti-Semitic conspiracies blaming Jewish people for the coronavirus.

As a Jewish person with Latina roots from Chile, I am no stranger to anti-Semitism.

I grew up in the multicultural city of Toronto surrounded by Jewish and Chilean people. My public high school was predominantly Jewish too. It wasn’t until I came to Queen’s that I truly had an opportunity to meet non-Jewish people—and began to feel like a novelty. Some told me I was the first Jew they’ve ever met, and some made me out to be ‘exotic’.

Fortunately, while I did feel lonely and isolated at times, I’ve made many friends here at Queen’s who represent a variety of races, cultures, and religions. I’ll always be grateful for the few who stood up for me during the anti-Semitic experiences I went through at Queen’s.

While not all who are oppressed wish to educate, there is value in teaching. Those willing to relive their traumatizing experiences have the power to debunk misinformation. Helping non-Jewish people recognize anti-Semitism gives them a chance to become allies.

However, true allies must be allies in all situations. Being an ally only on occasion is not an excuse or free pass to engage in anti-Semitic behaviour in other situations. In fact, it cuts deeper when anti-Semitism comes from those who claim to be friends and allies.

It can be hard to differentiate because anti-Semitism today takes many forms. There is the outspoken variety that tries to discredit the Holocaust as being fake or exaggerated through the propagation of conspiracy theories. Families who teach their children this anti-Semitic rhetoric ultimately produce children who believe it.

Some corners of the media are quick to perpetuate anti-Semitic stereotypes and scapegoat Jewish people for worldwide issues. Their anti-Semitism is often hidden behind ‘political opinions’ regarding international concerns such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The desire and right for all people to live in peace and harmony is a beautiful vision, yet as it stands, Jewish people in the diaspora are frequently blamed for the subjective actions of certain Israeli politicians in the conflict. Weaponizing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as a vessel to hate Jewish people is just as bad as outspoken anti-Semitism.

This sort of anti-Semitism is as harmful as blaming all Palestinians for the actions of certain politicians who may ‘represent’ them in this conflict. Both sides have the right to live and must ultimately compromise to find peace, but questioning Jewish existence is anti-Semitic.

Being an ally when it is convenient or obvious is not enough. Ignoring the consequences of the words spoken around us is unacceptable. When facing anti-Semitism, we must demand an apology and help each other learn. We all have a responsibility to hold each other accountable.

The anti-Semitism of today must be addressed well before it is published in history books.


Alissa Schwartz is a fourth-year Arts & Science student. 

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