Monday, December 28, 2009

Our Quebecois Problem

Toronto, February 2007. A recent poll by Sun Media (Jan 2007) indicates that anti-Jewish feeling in Quebec is again on the rise. Thirty-six percent of Quebeckers have a bad opinion of Jews. That’s double the rate elsewhere in Canada.

In part this is no surprise - polls always show anti-Jewish feeling as higher in Quebec. But not this high, not for a long time.

As it happens, anti-Israel feeling is always much higher in Quebec, as well. To give one example: this past July at the outset of the Hezbollah War, a poll for CanWest News Service found that across the county two-thirds of Canadians supported Israel - except in Quebec where 62% condemned Israel’s response to the attack by Hezbollah.

Quebeckers who instantly disapprove of Israeli action aren’t all Israel haters. But many are. Their loathing for Israel is unstained by any tincture of rationality. They see Israel as having been conceived in sin, as evil in its very nature, criminal in its every action and deserving of any outrage committed against it.

People who put their faith in coincidence will see no relationship between the high incidence of anti-Jewish and of anti-Israel sentiment in Quebec. The rest of us, though, can point at a pair of surveys by the Association for Canadian studies.

In early July the ACS polled Canadians on their attitudes toward religious groups. The ACS found that Canadians held Christians and Jews in equally high regard, with 79% having a positive view of Jews and 81% having a positive view of Christians. Outside Quebec, only 6% had a negative view of Jews. In Quebec, the number was three times as high, at 18%.

In late August, the ACS conducted a second survey, asking identical questions, but this time only of Quebeckers. It turned out that in one month, anti-Jewish feeling in Quebec had jumped by a third - to 24%.

Why? Because in between the two surveys the Hezbollah War was fought.

Obviously many Quebeckers can’t distinguish between their hatred for Israel and animosity toward Jews. Frankly, I can’t tell the difference either.

We should of course keep in mind that nearly two-thirds of Quebeckers have no problem with Jews, and that Quebec isn’t the only source of bigotry - especially bigotry against Israel.

For example, although Hezbollah is a terror organization that preaches genocide against Jews, 90% of the delegates to the New Democratic Party policy convention this past September voted for a resolution that castigated Israel for the war initiated by Hezbollah and declared Hezbollah a legitimate political organization deserving a seat in any peace negotiations alongside the legal government of Lebanon.

Few NDP delegates come from Quebec.

Education is the usual antidote to prejudice, and indeed the ACS study found that Quebeckers with only primary education were the ones most likely to have a negative view of Jews. The Quebeckers most likely to spurn antisemitism, though, had only high school education, while university educated Quebeckers were more likely to view Jews negatively.

In 2001, Dr. Conrad Winn of COMPAS found an even odder result in a survey he conducted for B’nai Brith Canada. Rather than asking how Canadians felt about Jews as religious group as in the ACS study or about Jews as an ethnic group as in the Sun Media poll, Winn asked whether Jews have too much power - a question that’s been used to gauge levels of racism for fifty years and one with political overtones.

Winn found that in Quebec 26% of respondents perceived Jews as having too much power. Elsewhere in Canada only 10% shared this perception. This skewed response wasn’t a surprise. However, the distribution of antisemitic sentiment within Quebec was.

Winn found that among Francophones with high school education or less, the rate of anti-Jewish feeling had plummeted from 40% as measured in a 1986 survey to 21% in Winn’s 2001 survey. But among Quebeckers with higher education, levels of antisemitism had risen. Better educated Quebecers were now more likely to be prejudiced, with the level of anti-Jewish feeling now at 29% for college graduates and 30% for those with university degrees.

It appears Quebec’s old xenophobic antisemitism may be literally dying off. The new antisemitism, though, which expresses itself as hatred of Israel is a fashionable form of bigotry. It looks like the cure for this prejudice might be to keep kids out of university - especially in Quebec.


I'm just getting around to posting it on my own blog now, but a slightly shorter version of this article appeared in the February 8, 2007, Jewish Tribune, a community paper published weekly by B'nai Brith Canada. The article also appeared on the anti-racist blog, Engage. For a collection of my articles on Engage, see here.

No comments:

Post a Comment