Ontario government: “Anti-Semitism grows through normalization of anti-Semitic rhetoric”

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Roman Baber. Photo: YouTube OntarioLegislature – screenshot

Roman Baber is the PC Member of Ontario Provincial Parliament for York Centre.

Here is Roman Baber’s statement in parliament on Yom ha-Shoah (May 1, 2019):

I’m humbled to bring Yom ha-Shoah remarks on behalf of the government. In the Hebrew language, “Yom” means “day” and the word “Shoah” means “Holocaust.”

Tomorrow, the state of Israel will commemorate the Holocaust. It is marked every year on the Hebrew calendar a week before the Hebrew date which marks the birth of the state of Israel. That is no coincidence, Mr. Speaker.

Anti-Semitism isn’t new. Prejudice and incitement to violence against the Jewish people can be traced to almost 2,400 years ago. Through ancient history, the Dark Ages, the Renaissance, and modern history, this force of evil was responsible for violence, prosecutions, pogroms, expulsions, and even murder. Groundless and senseless prejudice passed through generations, manifesting itself through discrimination at best and atrocities at worst.

But no single act of evil, even against the horrific background of World War II, compares to the extent and brutality of the Holocaust. Beginning in 1941 and culminating in “The Final Solution to the Jewish Question,” which was the official name for the Nazi plan for the extermination of the Jews, this was a deliberate and systematic plan to eradicate all Jews from Nazi-occupied Europe and beyond. From what began as death squads to well-engineered gas chambers, burning ovens and fire pits, innocent men, women, children, the old, the sick and the disabled were exterminated en masse. And why? For no other reason than being Jewish.

According to Professor Peter Hayes, a leading scholar on the Holocaust, approximately 5.9 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust, including a million children. In total, the world’s Jewish population dropped from 17 million before the Holocaust to 11 million after the Holocaust. Today, there are approximately 14 million Jews in the world.

Speaker, my family on all sides suffered immensely from the Holocaust. My mother’s grandparents, my great-grandparents, Rosalia and Yosif Tsukerman, were Ukrainian Jews. They were executed in the courtyard of their Odessa family home in October 1941.

For so many Jews, including myself, the Holocaust is not just a vague historical concept. Instead, it is an emotional reality that often shapes our thinking and our being. It shapes our fears and hopes and appreciation of safety and acceptance—safety and acceptance that I am blessed to feel in this House from all of my colleagues.

Regretfully, the origins and sentiments behind the Holocaust continue to this day. Since the formation of this Parliament just nine months ago, and as recently as last weekend, we’ve witnessed persistent attacks on the Jewish community all around the world, including Canada. Global anti-Semitism is on the move again—nothing new. It is a dangerous and horrifying reality that we cannot ignore. Anti-Semitism grows through gradual normalization of anti-Semitic libel and rhetoric.

But it is not confined to Twitter and graffiti. It grows through apathy. It grows through a chill in governments. The only way to defeat this evil is to remain resolute in the face of this evil.

We can honour the Holocaust—we should honour the Holocaust—by honouring the living everywhere. Teach and remember the Holocaust. Speak against anti-Semitism. Condemn it and fight it. Do not accept it, do not allow it, and do not allow history to repeat itself. Never again—not just for the Jewish people, Mr. Speaker, but for everyone. And it’s only through concrete action that we can ensure that when we say, “Never again,” we really mean never again.