How did we get here? The insidious nature of antisemitism

I was unable to write for the last month while acting as an affiant for University of Toronto, in their successful attempt to have the encampment legally removed. As of last night they are gone from my lovely campus but their hatred, which was whitewashed by the judge, Markus Koehnen, in his decision has not disappeared at all.

I spent the month reading many things, including the MacDonald report, investigating the heinous hate filled letter written by TMU law students. Justice Michael MacDonald arrived at the conclusion that it was not at all antisemitic. He seemed utterly ignorant of the climate Jews face today because as his sources of information, to understand the context, he relied heavily upon the CBC and the UN. Some of the “Jewish” voices he chose to interview were the fringe anti-Zionist Jewish Faculty Network and Jewish Voices for Peace. How did we get to the point that a respected retired jurist repeats antisemitic libels and lets a hateful group of students bully and intimidate staff, professors, and Jewish students without any repercussions?

When I look for references to support my arguments I find that my usual, prior to October 7, most trusted sources are now largely tainted. Instead of believing The New York Times, CBC or The Globe when it comes to reporting on Israel, I am more likely to read The Wall Street Journal, The Free Press or National Post for North American viewpoints. But mostly I now turn to Israeli newspapers (Times of Israel, Ha’aretz and Jerusalem Post) or for this essay, American government sources.

The last straw, or really just the latest one, was Toronto District School Board’s vote to accept training in Anti-Palestinian Racism. APR vilifies Israel and all those who support her. Celebrating Yom Ha’Atzmaut (Israel’s Independence Day) rather than mourning the Nakba will be seen as racism worthy of suspension. If this really finds purchase in our public schools an entire generation will soon be bathed in Jew hatred from the youngest age.

Like most things that go tragically wrong, it’s not just one mistake. It’s an entire series of catastrophes that come together to reach a climax. I have included the biggest influences but by no means all of them.

It is a net of disinformation that is woven together by multiple sources, laundered by highly respected authorities such as the Ivy League universities and the UN to create an impenetrable fabric of lies that looks legitimate and becomes the accepted narrative of educated people, vilifying Israel and Jews. The sources of that hatred I will discuss are The Muslim Brotherhood, universities, social media, traditional media, United Nations, humanitarian aid NGOs, leftist governments, Russia and Iran and imposing our own history. I will publish it in two parts.

1. The Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas

The Muslim Brotherhood, its backers in Qatar and earlier in Saudi Arabia, as well as their military arm, Hamas, played the long game, instilling hatred in an entire generation through education. The Muslim Brotherhood was founded in Egypt in 1928 as an Islamist organization to spread sharia law throughout Arab countries. They have been active in North America since the 1960s, first arriving as immigrants/refugees to study at universities. Hamas, its terrorist army, was officially founded in 1987. Hamas’s tentacles in the United States soon became more organized with fundraising and money laundering capabilities. Hamas chose to focus on education and the dissemination of propaganda to increase their base. The Holy Land Foundation (HLF) was the largest Islamic charity in the United States, run by Palestinian Americans as a front to raise money for the Muslim Brotherhood and its army. They purported to raise money for humanitarian programs to improve the lives of the disadvantaged, but in reality more than 95% of funds raised went to support Hamas and pay families of suicide bombers in the West Bank.

In 2001, the United States designated HLF a terrorist organization. They were brought to trial to seize their multimillion dollar assets. The Holy Land Foundation had been under FBI surveillance since 1994. During the trial, it was revealed that the FBI had seized a treasure trove of internal documents of Hamas operatives in the United States. There were multiple propaganda and fundraising fronts and getting rid of them has proven to be a game of whack-a-mole, where the staff and volunteers of each group are closely related by kinship and move from one organization to the next. The Palestine Committee was created by The Muslim Brotherhood as a Hamas support network in USA. In 1992, an internal memo of the Palestine Committee stated that “Arab and Islamic nations (must) liberate its land from the abomination and the defilement of the children of the Jews”. To that end, they were to focus on publicizing “the savagery of the Jews.” Musa Abu Marzook, the head of the Palestine Committee in the United States, admitted at his deportation hearing in 1995 to being the head of the Hamas political wing in the United States. Islamic Association for Palestine and the Holy Land Foundation were the main front facing branches of the Palestine Committee. IAP was the brainchild of Khaled Meshal, now the head of Hamas political bureau.

After Yasser Arafat and Yitzchak Rabin signed the 1993 Oslo peace accords, Hamas was infuriated and organized a three day meeting in Philadelphia. Recognizing that most Americans would not get behind the foundational documents of Hamas that borrowed heavily from Nazi ideology, they stated, we must speak about “democracy and freedom of expression” “concepts dear to most Americans”. “Make people view the Palestinian authority as the oppressor” and, “make clear you support resistance”. Hamas in the United States made clear that within the Muslim community in Arabic, they would support Jihad in Palestine and that the peace accords would only harm Palestinians. They were particularly active spreading this message to youth in weekend schools. Omar Ahmed, president of the IAP, stressed the need to “influence members of Congress“, “infiltrate media outlets, universities, and research centers“.

Niha Awad, director of IAP’s public relations arm in the United States, appeared on CNN after the meeting in Philadelphia. He was warned never to discuss supporting violence, but instead advance a point of view in words that are palatable to the American public. At the Philadelphia meeting, they highlighted the importance of writing op-eds in prominent American newspapers. They discussed the need to dissimulate. Shukri Abu Bakr, one of the five convicted at the HLF trial, stated “deceive, camouflage, pretend that you’re leaving while you’re walking that way.“ They agreed that they must appear to be moderates. The Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) was founded a few months later, with Omar Ahmed as its chairman emeritus and Niha Awad as its executive Director. For more than 25 years these groups have been active, infiltrating universities, public schools, Islamic schools, weekend madrasas and the media. Today Samidoun, the entirely legal (in Canada) advocacy and charitable arm of designated terrorist group, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) and Students for Justice in Palestine are taking over the propaganda role on campus.

2. Universities

Universities were infiltrated with graduate students and then professors. Saudi Arabia eventually changed its course, after its embarrassment over 9/11 and multiple suicide bombing attacks within their midst. But in the 20th century, they funded many university chairs promoting Islamism and the Palestinian narrative. Qatar has spent tens of billions doing so. In the Senate hearings, where congresswoman, Elise Stefanik questioned Dr. Claudine Gay, it was revealed that Qatar had given $1.8 billion to Harvard University the previous year. This Palestinian narrative being promulgated at Ivy League universities is the erroneous view that Israel is a white settler colonial nation oppressing Brown Palestinians. Israel is described as an apartheid state, completely in contradiction to the fact that 20% of the Israeli population is comprised of Muslim Arabs with equal rights. There is nothing wrong with recognizing the displacement of Palestinians in 1948 but ignoring that it was the result of a war started by all neighboring Arab countries and blaming Israeli “theft” is the mainstay of this propaganda. They claim exceptionalism, when displacement is part and parcel of most wars, including expulsion of ethnic Germans from most of Eastern Europe, Hindus from Pakistan, Muslims from India, and Jews from almost all of the Middle East in those same years. Some universities may have reached the point of accepting this lie as truth without the tremendous funding from the Arab nations, but it would have not taken hold, in the way it has, infecting a whole generation with Jew hatred.

Columbia is the epicentre of that hatred because Edward Said, the Jerusalem born American intellectual, taught there for 40 years. His focus on postcolonial theory influenced an entire generation to believe that all the ills of the world are the result of colonialism, that every dispute in the world can be viewed through the lens of victim and oppressor. Although Said initially sat on the Palestinian National Council he resigned in 1993 after the Oslo accords, when they supported a two state solution. He was in favor of one state with the right of return of all Palestinians, effectively destroying Israel as a Jewish state.

The global left’s extreme negative views of Israel were seen as acceptable at elite universities for years before October 7. They wholly incorporated postcolonial theory. Anti-Israel activism on campus became normalized starting with Israel Apartheid Week and BDS (boycott, divest, sanction). Both were rolled out in Toronto before infecting the rest of North America. BDS was founded in 2005 and worked tirelessly to dismantle Israel by demonizing and delegitimizing the country. They have used the settler colonial, apartheid and genocide libels for all of their 19 years, long before October 7. BDS has succeeded in making these lies commonplace on campus, within left-wing NGOs and humanitarian organizations. Jews are seen as the oppressors, capitalists and too powerful in finance. Strong opposition to the Jewish state is a socially acceptable way to express antisemitic attitudes. Denial of the rapes of October 7 and seeing Jews as untrustworthy is similar to Holocaust denial.

One need not look too far back to remember the many times that student activism turned out to be on the wrong side of history; revolutionary Iran, US students against joining the allies in WWII, Nazi students of Weimar Germany, the Red Guards of the 1960s supporting Chairman Mao. They were all activists protesting an established order and fervently believed that they were morally right.

DEI bureaucracies and some departments within the university have made antisemitism systemic. In most universities the primary suspects are Gender Studies, Middle Eastern Studies and unfortunately Education departments.

3. Social Media

Social media is affected at both poles, by the growth of far left ideology, as well as the alt right movement. Antisemitism has always lived in conspiracy theories, which thrive on social media. China, which owns TikTok, uses algorithms that amplify Jew hatred. Their history of antisemitism is complicated. Although almost no Jews are left in China the descendants of the Kaifeng Jews have been repressed, like all religious minorities in China. China was also the first country to recognize the PLO. But these elements are secondary to the main use of antisemitism in China today. They use it to sow discontent and destabilize the west. Antisemitism has long been used successfully to undermine democracy.

Twitter has its own history of vile conspiracy theories, but as X, under Elon Musk they have multiplied with little effort made to control Jew hatred.

The Islamic Republic of Iran is engaged in a covert war against Jews in a multi-pronged fight. First, it funds multiple proxy armies (Hamas, Hezbollah, Iraqi rebels, Houthis) attempting to destroy Israel. Secondly, its government releases huge amounts of antisemitic conspiracy theories and lies on social media, mostly variations of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Iranian bots are used to reply to postings and amplify them.

Right wing antisemitic Replacement Theory was normalized in 2022 by Tucker Carlson. Violent right wing antisemitism has been resurgent in Europe. There is a couple millennia of history of Christian religious antisemitism. A report looking at antisemitism among students in 2020 is already outdated, stating that the greater risk to Jews was coming from the right wing. Both extremist wings are dangerous.

Extremism is where Jew hatred thrives and social media, with its goal to keep people scrolling as long as possible, by enraging them is serving to radicalize a generation on both poles of the political divide.

4. Traditional Media

This is the most insidious of all forms of antisemitism because these sources are so respected and to criticize them makes me look suspect. However, it has become very clear since October 7 that major news media such as The Globe and Mail, the New York Times, Associated Press and Reuters, are all using Hamas propaganda as the truth coming from the Gazan side. There is no free press in Gaza. One need not look very far for evidence. Hamas propagandists have admitted that all articles are either written and distributed by their office, The Gaza Media office, or at least vetted by Hamas before release. They have no problem lying.

Some of the doctors from Al Shifa hospital, repeatedly interviewed by Western press, were shown to be Hamas operatives. Mohammad Abu Salmiya, the hospital’s director, was released over the weekend from Israeli detention due to lack of detention space but not because he was not complicit with Hamas. A Gazan photojournalist was holding in his home with his physician father, three of the four hostages rescued on June 8, 2024. Hamas is continuing to claim 247 dead and hundreds of injured in that successful rescue operation. That is repeated without question in all major sources of western media and of course by the United Nations. In the same press release, they claim 18 IDF soldiers killed, although we know that only one tragically died. And yet, the 247 number is repeated.

Although war was declared on Israel on October 7 in the most sadistic and brutal fashion by an outlawed terrorist army who attacked civilians in their homes and at a music festival, you would never know it reading our most respected newspapers. In a study of the New York Times since October 7 by Gilboa and Sagan at Bar Ilan University, the overwhelming majority of articles were critical of Israel but not Hamas. Of 276 top news headlines about Israel or Gaza, the articles written were critical of Israel 60% of the time, critical of Hamas 3% and critical of Iran 5% of the time. Of top headlines, a mere 1.5% of articles covered the threat Israel faces in the north from Hezbollah, despite the fact that thousands of rockets continue to rain down on Israeli civilians and almost 100,000 are still displaced from their homes. Not a single article mentioned Hamas’s theft and disruption of humanitarian aid. It is dumbfounding that Hamas started this war and continues to abuse hostages, direct rockets at civilians, use human shields and makes every effort to create a famine, yet Israel is blamed. The numbers are even more skewed if you delete the data obtained in the first month.

Matti Freedman has been warning about this bias since 2014. He was head of the Associated Press Jerusalem desk for six years, where nothing was published that did not portray the Palestinians as impoverished, oppressed people. He initially thought that only the Jerusalem desk was infected by bias, but realized that the narrative had conquered almost all western liberal media. Some are worse than others and the CBC under the direction of Brodie Fenlon is particularly skewed. Mike Fegelman of deserves enormous respect for his indefatigable countering of this bias.

Less insidious is the more overt propaganda of Al Jazeera, the mouthpiece of the Muslim Brotherhood funded by Qatar. Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Egypt have long blocked their publications and broadcasts since they incite Islamist terrorism. Israel has only recently blocked their news during this war. It was the main source of news for Israeli Arabs.

Stay tuned for part two.

About the Author
Dr. Cynthia Lazar graduated from University of Toronto medical school in 1985 pursuing internal medicine and an HIV primary care practice. She later pursued psychiatry and had a 30 year career in her second field. She is the founder of Paul Penna Downtown Jewish Day School. The daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she is interested in fighting antisemitism in North America.
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