Every child has fears that appear silly to adults. Mine was the telephone.
For years, and even during my adolescence, I would be anxiously startled every time it rang. Finally, after years of exposure and some therapy, the irrational fear dissipated.
A couple of years later, I became a prominent member of the Zionist community, known as an advocate and activist for the State of Israel. One night, I returned from an advocacy event and was in the midst of my homework when, at about 11 p.m., I received an unknown call. Befuddled as to who would call me, I picked up and was lambasted by a man with an American accent shrieking at me unintelligibly. Initially, I felt perplexed and fearful, but I swallowed, composed myself and asked the man to repeat himself. “You can’t be trusted, you m—f—g Jew.”
I hung up the phone, petrified, and called my parents and friends in tears. I could not fathom that somebody would hate me so much that he would harass me late at night. Zionism? Judaism? On one hand, it made me apprehensive about continuing my activism. On the other hand, it made me stronger in my resolve. I decided to file a police report against this heinous act of antisemitism.
The next day, when I went in to the police station, I was told this did not constitute harassment and was implicitly told that it was not a hate crime. They essentially told me that they dealt with real problems and this was not one of them. The advice I was given was not to show my harasser that I was distraught.
My unease later turned to infuriation. Was antisemitism not considered prejudice? Was this not a hate crime? Would this be treated differently if I were another minority? In Canada, Jews are the most common victims of hate crimes. And yet nothing is done. There are campaigns to end prejudice and discrimination, which I wholeheartedly support, but when will there be one to end antisemitism?
The same unknown caller called me again and this time I received sexually explicit remarks. My fear of the telephone resurfaced but it was no longer irrational. I was called several times more, but screened these. I feared being admonished for wasting time if I returned to the police.
One night, expecting a call from a friend, I picked up an unknown call. It was my antisemitic harasser. He proceeded to tell me he was going to “stop the Jews.” What was this tyrant going to do to “stop the Jews?” Was that a call for another Jewish genocide? I recognized that this could no longer be ignored. This time when I went to the police station they finally took me seriously and a hate crimes unit is currently investigating.
I recognize that if I were another minority this would probably make national news. But when I confided in some friends about the calls, I was told that “Jews are privileged, they cannot face true discrimination… I mean look how rich you are. You’re just being a whiny JAP,” and, “Of course you are being targeted, what do you expect, being so public with your views?”
One can see a significant double standard if you juxtapose treatment of antisemitism with other hate crimes. Therefore, I am standing up and fighting back against antisemitism and I urge all of you to join me.
Aedan O’Connor is in her third year at Ryerson University, studying pre-medicine. She is VP-Programming of Students Supporting Israel at Ryerson and the Social Justice Chair on the Hillel-Ryerson Board.