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  • Writer's pictureAvi Abraham Benlolo

TheFridayReport: Are Educated People More Antisemitic?

This week, a young Orthodox Jewish couple was attacked in Manhattan's Battery Park by a knife wielding man. He managed to slash them all but thankfully, all family members survived.

This attack comes just weeks after a similar attack took place in Toronto - when an antisemitic assailant walked into a local bakery accosting the shoppers. He attacked one of the shoppers and a serious fight ensued.

What is causing patterns of antisemitic behaviour? In America, the ADL reports that antisemitism has increased. It says that some 63% of Jewish respondents to a survey say they have been impacted by antisemitism in the last year. This is contrary to a Statistics Canada survey that says that hate crime against the Jewish community is down 20%.

But hate crime is notoriously hard to measure. With the onset of hate crime fatigue and possibly the notion that much goes unreported, are surveys and studies really able to convey the full measure of its impact? How is online hate crime measured? How is the impact of antisemitism on students on university campuses compiled? It's simply not.

In Canada this week, hundreds of Jewish university students signed a petition asking their universities to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism - following in step its adoption by many universities in the UK and some 40 countries around the world. They are tired of antisemitism on their campus.

Their petition however may fall on deaf ears. Sadly, nearly 200 Canadian Jewish faculty members signed their own petition to protest the IHRA definition. They believe it constrains free speech and does not allow sufficient room to critique the State of Israel. It's little wonder why antisemitism has thrived on our university campuses over the last two decades.

In my column in today's National Post, I wrote about a new study that reveals that we have probably put too much faith in education as a means of combating antisemitism. As someone who has spent their entire life educating against antisemitism, and creating programs that promote tolerance, the results of this study are disappointing. Yet they possibly explain why antisemitism has flourished on our campuses.

The three reputable authors of the study "discovered that more-highly educated people in the United States tend to have greater antipathy toward Jews than less educated people do". They said that people with advanced degrees "were 15 per cent more unfavourable toward Jewish than non Jewish examples". Could this be why many academics have resisted the IHRA definition?

It's a hard theory to digest. And we should not overgeneralize. But over the years, it's been disappointing to see universities become bastions of anti-Israel and antisemitic behaviour. It also means that there might be facets to education that we need to improve on - or completely change the paradigm we have been pushing.

In other words, combating antisemitism may not simply be about feeding people with information about the Holocaust as a consequence of antisemitism. It's a far more complex endeavour. Either way, violent antisemitism is increasing all over the planet. We need to urgently address this situation, before it spirals further out of control.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach, Avi

Avi Abraham Benlolo has been described as the nation's most prominent and noted expert in Holocaust studies, in countering Antisemitism and promoting human rights. He has dedicated nearly three decades in executive capacities in the Jewish community and as a leading voice in Canada. His academic research, graduate degree, Ph.D. coursework and nearly three decades of professional work has focused on these arenas in addition to peace and security in the Middle East. He has published hundreds of articles in these areas. In recognition of his national and international leadership in this area, he has received numerous awards including an Honorary Doctorate from a prestigious Israeli university for his work in Holocaust studies and combating antisemitism; an Order of Vaughan for his distinguished contribution to anti-racism, equity and diversity; the Queens Diamond Jubilee Award for his contributions to Canada and a race relations award for best practice, based on distinguished service in promoting human rights.

As a supporter of Israel, he is proud to have established "The Avi Benlolo Scholarship Fund in National Security" at Haifa University.

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