By Marvin Ross

The Playhouse Cinema in Hamilton Ontario is the latest organization to punish Jews because of Pro-Hamas demonstrations against the war in the Middle East and it is discriminatory and despicable. The Hamilton Jewish Federation had arranged to hold its Jewish Film Festival in April at the Playhouse back in December according to the cinema. On March 19, the cinema cancelled the event via e-mail to its subscribers. Their reason:

“After receiving numerous security and safety related emails, phone calls, and social media messages, the Playhouse Cinema reached a difficult decision to postpone the Hamilton Jewish Federation’s venue rental. On Saturday, March 16, our decision to postpone this venue rental was reached amid security and safety concerns at this particularly sensitive time.

I grew up at a time when discrimination was common in this country. Jewish doctors could not get accreditation at hospitals which is why the Mt Sinai exists. There were quotas on how many Jews and other minorities could get accepted into certain university faculties, resorts discriminated, and, in Hamilton, Jews could not buy a house in the Westdale district of that city.

I’ve been proud that we advanced beyond that bigotry and have become a mostly multi-cultural open and accepting society. Until now. Imagine trying to go to your place of worship as is happening in Vaughan and finding it surrounded by screaming demonstrators (many masked) shouting Intifada and “From the River to the Sea” and blocking entrances. Then, according to reports, following worshippers home while the police look on and do nothing.

At least Mayor Del Duca of Vaughan is bringing in legislation to prevent gatherings at religious sites in his town.

The decision by the Playhouse is just the latest in a string of discriminatory actions against Jewish citizens. Aurel Braun, a University of Toronto professor of politics and international relations said that this is “an act against the Jewish community”. Hamiltonian, Victoria Mancinelli writing in the Toronto Sun, said the cancellation of a Jewish Film Festival is a cancellation of the Jewish people. She added that it is “a targeted campaign of harassment and intimidation met with irresponsible silence by our elected representatives and other equity groups.”

Meanwhile, most of the voluntary staff at a small literary magazine, Guernica, quit because the editor published an essay by an Israeli translator. The essay was pulled from the magazine but is still archived if anyone wishes to read it.

The Jewish American rapper, Matisyahu, had two shows cancelled for fear of protests and a walkout by theatre staff. Two Jewish Canadian artists, the Likht Ensemble, lost gigs because of October 7 and two Jewish festivals that normally get government grants were refused this year. In Victoria, the Belfry Theatre cancelled a production of a play called the Runner for safety reasons. The play deals with an Israeli emergency responder who makes a snap decision to give medical treatment to an Arab girl instead of a member of the Israel Defense Forces.  That play was also cancelled in Vancouver when the Push Festival consulted with a Palestinian artist in London.

Palestinians have fared no better. The Forward, a New York City Jewish newspaper founded in Yiddish in 1897, put forth a long list of cultural events that have been cancelled around the world involving both Jewish and Palestinian artists. The paper cited PEN America, a nonprofit promoting free expression, stating that “the voices of writers and others should not be stilled or silenced.” 

We cannot let this war, started by Hamas with the murder and rape of innocent victims, lead to a resurgence of a highly discriminating state that Canada was in the not too distant past. Sadly, our elected officials in Ottawa made a total spectacle of themselves debating a meaningless motion by the NDP calling for a total ceasefire and a recognition of a Palestinian State. The NDP ignored that what most call for is a negotiated two state solution that guarantees Israel’s existence. Hamas and the other Islamists want to see the destruction of Israel and the death of all Jews (per the Hamas charter). Some of the NDP went so far as to wear keffiyeh, a scarf popularized as a symbol of armed Palestinian resistance. This is in violation of House of Commons rules against wearing symbols in what is supposed to be a neutral space. They should have been but were not sanctioned.

Heather Mackenzie, who introduced the motion, quoted the Palestinian poet Refaat Alareer who was killed in the Israeli bombing saying  ‘If I must die, you must live to tell my story.’ She ignored his twitter reply about a report of a baby being found baked to death in an oven on October 7 of “with or without baking powder”. One commentary on the debate referred to it as a circus and pointed out that the mover of the motion actually claimed that “Hamas is a terrorist organization and it is not the government of Gaza”. It is a terror group and it is the government of Gaza. She got 50% of it right at least.

Sadly, in war, innocent people die. It is regrettable but unavoidable although we have no way of knowing what the real death rate is. How many of the dead are Hamas fighters is ignored. Still, many quote what Hamas claims as gospel. According to Abraham Wyner, a Professor of Statistics at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, “The numbers are not real”. His explanation is detailed and I recommend that people read his analysis.

As columnist Warren Kinsella wrote, during World War Two, we did not take the casualty figures put out by the German Doctors’ League, so why should we accept the figures put out by a health agency run by a terrorist organization.

We need to protect our public gatherings from the violence of demonstrators and we need our political leaders and the public to oppose racism wherever it occurs, and against all groups. If we continue to ignore it, we will be back to the intolerant society that we once were. We will be back to the “None is Too Many” position of accepting refugees fleeing Hitler and the St Paddy’s Day Parade will be cancelled again. It was banned for 100 years in Toronto because of fighting between Catholics and Protestants in a city run by the Loyal Orange Order.


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