Fareed Khan
Fareed Khan
Fareed Khan is the founder of the anti-racist activism group Canadians United Against Hate/Canadiens Unis Contre la Haine. He is also the Director of Advocacy and Media Relations and the co-founder of the Rohingya Human Rights Network. In the letter shared below, Khan describes his experience of being called a “Jew hater” for discussing the need for justice for Palestinians and his disagreement with the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s definition of antisemitism.

Read his letter below:

I was called a “Jew hater”

By Fareed Khan

I was called a “Jew hater”, an accusation that can have catastrophic professional and personal repercussions in today’s political climate where speaking in support of Palestinians is a heinous act to Zionists and supporters of Israel.

Why was this accusation leveled at me?

Because I shared a post from the Canadian advocacy group Independent Jewish Voices on Twitter and Facebook which talked about justice for Palestinians and opposed the decision by Vancouver City Council to consider adopting the extremely flawed and dangerous International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) definition of anti-Semitism, which labels criticism of the Israeli government (among other things) as anti-Semitic.  To demonstrate how flawed it is the man who authored the definition has opposed and been publicly critical of those who are trying get various governments and the United Nations to adopt the definition as official policy.

Usually such accusations don’t bother me, because as we have learned since the start of the social media era there are far too many trolls on social media platforms.  I have been called names before and even received death threats because of my public advocacy, and I expect that I will have to deal with the same in the future.

But for some reason the jerk that leveled this accusation got to me.

As the founder of the anti-hate activist group Canadians United Against Hate I speak out and fight hate targeting all minority communities, including the Jewish community, whether the hate occurs in Canada or outside this country. I have publicly supported the fight against anti-Semitism and have spoken about hate targeting Jews in my own public and media statements, and numerous social media posts.

Hate against Jews has been around for centuries and was a key factor in the Nazi’s efforts to wipe out Jews in Europe.  It has been present in Europe since before The Crusades, continues to exist today, and it is present in Canada and in the US.  We should all remember that it was under the government of William Lyon Mackenzie-King that one of his senior officials said that “none is too many” when asked about Canada accepting Jewish refugees from Europe just before the start of WW2.  And we should not forget the tragedy of the passenger liner MS St. Louis, which departed from Nazi Germany loaded with Jewish refugees and was refused landing in the US, Canada and Cuba.

In recent years there have been attacks against Jews in Western democracies, vandalism targeting Jewish places of worship, and a massacre in the US at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh on October 27, 2018.  Hate targeting Jews is an issue that can’t be ignored because it is happening right now.  But supporting justice for Palestinians and criticizing Israel’s Apartheid government and its brutality against the Palestinians whose lives it controls is not a form of anti-Jewish hate, despite efforts by Canadian organizations like B’nai B’rith, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, which act as unofficial agents of the Israeli government to convince people otherwise.

I personally understand what virulent hatred is.  In my own family history my parents and their families suffered hate-fuelled tragedy when members of their families were targeted and murdered for being Muslim as they were trying to flee sectarian violence when India was partitioned by the British in 1947.  My mother lost two older brothers and several other members of her extended family, while my fathers’ family lost uncles, cousins and aunts at the hands of extremist Hindu mobs.  In total more than two dozen family members were murdered on both sides of my family for being Muslim.  It’s not a history that they talked about openly.

In addition, my late wife was the daughter of a Holocaust survivor, and the year after we got married we took a trip to Europe and visited the places in Germany where her father and his family were held in concentration camps and where more than 40 members of his extended family were killed or died of starvation at the hands of the Nazis.  There are memorials and museums at those locations, and to be there and see the exhibits and read the memorial plaques is to witness the ultimate evil of people who hated Jews simply because they existed.  When I saw the plaque and memorial statues in a small town north-west of Munich which commemorated the 20 Jewish prisoners that were executed by the Nazis in reprisal because my father-in-law managed to escape and evade them it instilled in me deep sadness, anger and sense of love for my wife that I will never forget.

Were it not for my father-in-law’s courage to attempt an escape from the Nazis he never would have gone on to have a daughter, I would never have met her, and I would never have been blessed to have her beauty in my life.  My father-in-law went on to make a life for himself in Canada but those 20 prisoners who were murdered because he escaped had their lives taken by people who didn’t even see them as human.

My own family history as well as my personal experiences with hate and racism since the first year I landed in Canada as a small child, along with my family’s experiences with violent racism in this country, are why I am so passionate about fighting hate and injustice.  It’s also why I will not back down when organizations or individuals who act as agents of Israel’s brutal Apartheid regime target me and try and assassinate my character with false accusations of “anti-Semitism”.  But it doesn’t mean that these false allegations don’t affect me.

I know what real anti-Semitism is.  I know what real racism is.  And I know what hate targeting vulnerable minority communities is, because my family and my late wife’s family experienced it.  Consequently, speaking out in support of justice for Palestinians, who had their land stolen from them, who were ethnically cleansed, who were victims of crimes against humanity and war crimes, and have endured a brutal and violent occupation for more than half a century at the hands of Israel’s racist Apartheid government, with the complicity and support of Canada and its allies, is not anti-Semitism, it is not racism against Jews, and it is certainly not hate against the Jewish community.

We all must understand that there are hundreds of thousands of Canadians, including Jews, who are speaking out to challenge Canada’s racist anti-Palestinian foreign policy.  We do so because we have seen historically what happens when people remain silent in the face of injustice, brutality, violence targeting ethnic, religious and racialized minority communities, and the evil inherent in the ideologies that justify such hate.  We put ourselves at some risk doing this but we do it because it needs to be done if we want a just society and a just world.  Otherwise if we remain silent we diminish our humanity and we diminish our hope for the better world we all desire.

Anti-Semitism is real and it is a cancer like Islamophobia, racism, homophobia, transphobia and all other forms of hate.  It needs to be opposed wherever it appears.  But so does the obvious anti-Palestinian racism that seems to be normalized in Canada within the political class, mainstream media, and internationally, enabled by Canada and other western governments (based on their actions and lack thereof), which don’t see Palestinians as human beings, and don’t really care about the human rights of one of the most persecuted minority communities in the world.

This attitude is a far cry from the way that Canada and other western nations are responding to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, where Russia is committing the same types of crimes and human rights atrocities against Ukrainians as Israel has been committing against Palestinians since it was created.  The only difference between the two situations is that Ukrainians are white and Christian while Palestinians are brown and largely Muslim.

Canadians often hear our political leaders say that Canada is a “rule of law” nation and that it supports the “international legal order”.  But such statements couldn’t be further from the truth.  Canada goes all in to support the international legal order only when it is politically expedient, as in the case of supporting Ukraine in its fight against Russia.  But there are other conflicts where human rights atrocities are being committed, where international laws are being broken, where the UN Charter, UN Security Council resolutions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Genocide Convention are being violated, as in the case of Palestinians in Israel and occupied Palestine, where the Canadian government does little or nothing.

Anti-Semitism is a reality in Canada and it must be fought wherever it occurs.  But to throw out the label of “anti-Semitic” at anyone who criticizes the Israeli government or supports the demands of the Palestinian people for justice and their fundamental human rights is to diminish and weaken it to the point that it is no different than the story of the boy who cried wolf.  We all know how that story ended, and I hope that those who blindly defend Israel will realize their folly and come to understand that just as Jews were persecuted and oppressed in the past the same is being done to Palestinians by a people who should know better given the centuries of oppression they experienced at the hands of those who viewed Jews the same way that Israeli leaders, their supporters and allies currently view Palestinians.

The silence that met the persecution and oppression of Jews in the past was abhorrent and wrong on so many levels.  To stand silent in the face of the injustice, oppression and brutality that Palestinians have endured for decades is to repeat the gross mistakes that were made when Jews were being targeted just for existing.  If we are to be true to the spark of humanity that exists within all of us then it is our duty to speak out against injustice and oppression targeting Palestinians, or any other minority community that is a target of persecution and human rights atrocities.  It’s the right thing to do.  It’s the humane thing to do.

Fareed Khan is the founder of the anti-racism activist group Canadians United Against Hate.  He is also the Director of Advocacy and Media Relations, and the co-founder of the Rohingya Human Rights Network.  He has a professional background in strategic communications, advocacy, public policy development and media relations spanning three decades.  He is passionate about issues which impact human rights and civil liberties, combat racism, and support broader issues of social justice. 

© 2023 Fareed Khan.  All rights reserved.  Used with permission.

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By Fareed Khan


Additional articles on Muslims who helped Jews in Europe:

  • Second World War record of Muslims is worth marking

https://www.thenational.ae/second-world-war-record-of-muslims-is-worth-marking-1.462418  [thenational.ae]

  • The ‘Iranian Schindler’ who saved Jews from the Nazis

http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-16190541  [bbc.com]

  • The Forgotten Stories of Muslims Who Saved Jewish People During the Holocaust

http://time.com/4651298/holocaust-memorial-day-muslims-jews/  [time.com]

  • Saviours in a strange world

http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/style/article40955.ece  [thesundaytimes.co.uk]

  • Muslims who saved Jews from Holocaust commemorated in I Am Your Protector campaign

http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/muslims-who-saved-jews-from-holocaust-commemorated-in-i-am-your-protector-campiagn-a6851356.html  [independent.co.uk]

  • Muslims Who Fought Against the ‘Real’ Fascists & Nazis

http://theamericanmuslim.org/tam.php/features/articles/muslims_who_fought_against_the_real_fascists/  [theamericanmuslim.org]