The judge’s ruling that it was not anti-Semitic for the fifteen-year-old to declare, “Let’s burn the Jew” as he set fire to his classmate’s hair is a disturbing case that reveals the talons of anti-Semitism in both the courtroom and the school system, and represents an open tolerance for again hating “the Jew.”
Anti-semitism sank to a new low in Canada after a Winnipeg judge ruled that grabbing a Jewish classmate, flicking a lighter to her hair and saying, “Let’s burn the Jew,” was not anti-Semitic. The incident took place between two fifteen-year-old classmates, where the defendant pleaded guilty to assault with a weapon. The lawyer for the defendant implied that it was the girl’s fault that her hair caught fire — because she pulled away. Then Manitoba Provincial Court Judge Robert Finlayson agreed with the defense that the action was one of teen impulsiveness.
The victim not only stated that the incident “changed her world upside down,” but that she needed therapy to deal with her fears and felt that she was blamed by some people in the school for making too much out of the incident.
Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center in Canada expressed horror at Finlayson’s ruling. In a press release, CEO Avi Benlolo stated that he could not imagine “the same decision would have been rendered had the perpetrator targeted any other minority group in a similar way.”
One need only imagine the far-reaching outcry had the word “Jew” been substituted for “gay”, “black” or “Muslim,” and rightly so; yet “let’s burn the Jew” was dismissed as virtually child’s play. Benlolo also noted a broader implication: “To ignore the racial overtones — the perpetrator’s direct reference to the Holocaust and the burning of six million Jews in the concentration camps — is almost incomprehensible.” The court’s ruling conjures up the lest-we-forget-idiom in memory of the Holocaust era, where tolerance for the intolerable, bystander “blindness,” media bias, propaganda and unreasonable targeting of the Jews were endemic.
A B’nai Brith statement points out: “The finding is disappointing in the sense that it muddies the waters of hate crime legislation while giving a most unfortunate license to those that hate and bully — particularly in the school system.” Now B’nai Brith Canada is calling on the Attorney General to review its guidelines in imposing enhanced sentences in hate-motivated crime cases.
This case is not an isolated occurrence when it comes to collective attitudes about anti-Semitism past and present. Historically, many members of the German public were bystanders and did nothing to condemn the Nazi racial policies against the Jews, fellow patriotic citizens who made sweeping contributions to the cultural, economic and social building of Germany. Just prior to the Holocaust, as Jews faced mounting persecution and humiliation, Nazis began introducing anti-Jewish decrees which lead to the elimination of the rights of Jewish citizens. Public indifference went beyond the borders of Germany and Europe. Today we hear little about the “Holocaust in American Life”. American …read more