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CAEF Letter to Toronto Mayor Chow re: her absence from the Israel flag raising ceremony at City Hall on May 14, 2024

May 14, 2024

Mayor Olivia Chow

City of Toronto

Dear Mayor Chow;

I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation (CAEF). We are deeply dismayed and, frankly, shocked at your decision to not attend the Israel flag raising ceremony at City Hall that was held today to commemorate the re-establishment of the Jewish homeland in Israel. Yom Ha’atzmaut is Israel’s Independence Day, and this is Israel’s 76th birthday.

As stated in the Jewish Heritage Month Act, 2012, “May is a significant month for the Jewish Canadian community. Israeli Independence Day (Yom ha-Atzmaut) and Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom ha-Shoah) frequently occur in May, as do various Jewish artistic and cultural events.

Israel is currently facing an existential crisis on its southern border with Hamas attacks ongoing, and in the north with Hezbollah firing artillery and rockets daily. The Iran sponsored “ring of fire” around Israel is unwavering. It is also unnerving, and terrifying for every Israeli and non-Israeli resident, including the 2 million non-Jewish citizens.

Given this, your attendance at this year’s celebration of Israel’ s Independence Day flag raising was all the more essential. To have decided to not attend ignores the vital importance of the State of Israel to the Jewish community of Toronto, and indicates loudly and clearly your bias and lack of concern for Israel’s security, the lives of Israelis, and the well-being of the Jewish community in this city.

What’s more, your decision reflects a failure of moral leadership. You say that you are the mayor for all the communities of Toronto. But your failure to attend is an insult to the Jewish community of Toronto, to its long and important contributions to Toronto, and to the many other communities of this great city, the majority of which stand with Israel.

Calling it “divisive” to support the independence celebration of the only Jewish state on the globe, being the ancient homeland of the Jewish people, is despicable. It is playing to those who actually promote divisiveness and protest the very existence of the Jewish state and who call for its eradication and genocide of the Jews.

In fact, your non-attendance has added to the disunity of this city because you have given credibility to the violent anti-Israel and hate protests that have contributed to the rise of antisemitism in this city.

In 2023, there were 43 country related flag raisings. We are confident that you did not label any other “divisive”.

Our best recollection is that you have not criticized the Hamas flag displayed on the medical faculty building at the U of T, or the “Palestinian” flag on our streets and on our campuses as being divisive.

You have been largely silent or passed the responsibility to other levels of government. You have seemingly ignored the daily threats and intimidation of Jews on Toronto university campuses. You have contributed to the feelings of vulnerability and insecurity of the Jewish community.

The message your decision today sends is that the Jewish community is not valued or respected.

There are few words to fully describe your decision—appalling, deeply painful, and divisive come to mind.

Finally, given the record breaking rise in antisemitic incidents in this city, you should have shown empathy, solidarity and understanding to the Jewish community by your simple attendance. To make the decision to not attend, overwhelmingly shows your indifference.

What does this portend for the future of a vibrant Jewish community in Toronto?

Yours truly,

Charles Cooke, Government Relations Representative, CAEF

cc. Councillor James Pasternak

Councillor Mike Colle

Councillor Dianne Saxe

Councillor Nunziata

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