Hamilton Jews ‘on high alert,’ Muslims face Islamophobia amid Israel-Hamas war


Published October 18, 2023 at 1:45 pm

Jewish Federations of North America Israel rallies pro-Israel Israel-Hamas war Middle East
People gather around the United States to show support for Israel following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks on Israeli civilians. COURTESY OF JEWISH FEDERATIONS OF NORTH AMERICA

A central organization for Hamilton’s Jewish community says it and police remain on “high alert” about possible security threats amid the escalating war between Israel and the Islamist and militant group Hamas.

Hamas, designated a terrorist group in Canada and some countries, launched surprise attacks on civilians in southern Israel on Oct. 7 that provoked Israel to retaliate with airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, where Hamas governs more than two million Palestinians. Israel is preparing for a ground invasion and has urged civilians to evacuate to the south. An airstrike or rocket whose source is disputed reportedly killed at least 500 people in a Gaza City hospital on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

The non-profit Hamilton Jewish Federation’s executives, Jason Waxman, the president, and Gustavo Rymberg, the chief executive, sent an update in an email. In the letter, they said they met yesterday (Oct. 17) with the chief of police and members of the Hamilton Police Services Hate Crime Unit.

“The Chief of Police and all at HPS remain on high alert and have ensured our community’s safety is paramount,” they wrote.

The group didn’t immediately answer inthehammer.com‘s questions today on whether it or others in the Jewish community received specific threats or were targeted with hate crimes as a result of the current outbreak of war.

It was unclear if the Palestinian and Muslim communities in Hamilton also have similar safety issues.

Inthehammer.com contacted various Muslim and Palestinian groups in Hamilton for comments and didn’t immediately hear back from them.

However, Authman Quick, director of communications for the Ottawa-based National Council of Canadian Muslims, told reporters today that incidents of Islamophobia reported to his group have increased by 1,000 per cent in the last 10 days. He said hijab-wearing Muslim women bear the brunt of the rhetoric that was fostering hate against the community in Canada.

“There has been a major spike in #Islamophobia and anti-Palestinian racism since events unfolded overseas,” the independent, non-partisan and non-profit Muslim advocacy group recently posted on social media.

Meanwhile, the Jewish federation said it paid police to patrol certain Jewish institutions around Hamilton. It said these sites “are listed as top priority for emergency calls and will be immediately recognized by all police dispatchers.”

For the Jewish community, the group said it is implementing security policies and protocols according to police recommendations. For instance, it said Jewish residents in Hamilton should “remain vigilant and call the police if you suspect any imminent danger.”

The federation said a joint letter from the Hamilton Police Services and the Hamilton Jewish Federation will be coming today (Oct. 18).

The outbreak of war between Israel and Hamas aggravated tensions among Jewish and Muslim communities worldwide. According to reports, more than 3,400 Palestinians and more than 1,400 people in Israel were killed as a result of the conflict. Israel said Hamas took at least 199 Israelis as hostages.

Some Hamilton politicians weighed in on the conflict, with one MPP receiving backlash for her remarks that some said were anti-Semitic.

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