Students in Montreal have employed the Nazi gesture at numerous times during the last few weeks, calling local police forces the “SS” and mocking them as fascists because of their alleged brutality, the Montreal Gazette has reported.
Swastikas have also been printed on pamphlets distributed at the protests, making the comparison more vivid and disillusioning Jewish groups to an even greater extent.
B’nai Brith Canada—though understanding that the prevalence of Nazi paraphernalia was solely intended to evoke the aggression of the police— has reprimanded student protestors for their usage of the powerful symbols.
Last Tuesday, the organization released a statement berating the protests, timing its critique to coincide with what would have been the 83rd birthday of famed Holocaust victim Anne Frank.
B’nai Brith said that the Swastikas and Nazi salutes undermine those who perished in the Holocaust, those who survived under Nazi brutality, and others who fought with the radical party during World War II.
“We condemn, in the strongest of terms, this inexcusable display of hate by Quebec student protesters that has outraged the Jewish community and demonstrated just how low the level of public debate has fallen on the streets of Montreal,” CEO Frank Dimant said in the statement, according to the Gazette.
“The actions of these protesters, whether for the purposes of deriding Montreal police or drawing attention to their cause, defile the memory of the Holocaust and remind us just how quickly anti-Semitism and the manifestations of hate can venture their way into our public discourse.”
And, due to the rapid movement of information in the Internet realm nowadays, pictures of students saluting has surfaced repeatedly in social media in recent days, and—in the absence of any context—these pictures have appeared superficially as outright displays of anti-Semitism, horrifying Jews and non-Jews alike.
David Ouellette, spokesman for the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, confirmed that the latest protests and revival of Nazi mannerisms is not a reflection of anti-Semitic growth, but the deployment of something emotional to portray the frustration of Canadian youth.
“These are clearly not support for Nazism or intended as anti-Semitic displays,” he said, the Gazette reported. “It’s much more a function of the ignorance about history and the over-heated rhetoric that has plagued the current crisis in Quebec.”
Audrey Licop of The Montreal Holocaust Memorial Centre said it was more than clear that the Canadian crisis bore little historical equivalency to the Holocaust.
“The gesture is shocking because we are historians and we know that we’re not in the same historical or political context,” the Gazette quoted her as having said. “But the problem is that it’s a profound lack of respect to the victims of Nazism and the genocide of Jews during World War Two.”
The student protests are a response to the rising post-secondary tuition fees the Canadian government plans to impose during the next couple of years.
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