Biden, Trudeau face Gaza pressure
Tensions in both Canada and the United States are rising as a result of Israel’s war against Hamas, with both Jews and Muslims reporting a rise in hate crimes. Montreal has seen a worrying uptick in antisemitic vandalism and violence, from the firebombing of a synagogue to a Jewish day school being shot up, and Toronto has seen a 132% rise in hate-related calls since the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel.
In the United States, Amnesty International has documented hate crimes against both Jews and Muslims, including the murder of a Palestinian child in Illinois. This past week, two Jewish students were reportedly assaulted at Ohio State University, and tensions are so high that some American Jews are arming themselves and forming local emergency squads for self-defense. In Washington, on Tuesday, tens of thousands marched to show support for Israel and condemn antisemitism. Several Canadian politicians were among the marchers.
Earlier this month, Justin Trudeau’s government announced $5 million for private security for threatened communities, but Montreal’s Jewish community says that is not enough. In Washington, Joe Biden’s government has announced a plan to better track and respond to antisemitic incidents on campuses.
Meanwhile, both supporters of Israel and opponents of the Jewish state’s military campaign in Gaza are putting intense pressure on Biden and Trudeau to speak out for their side. Politically speaking, the issue is likely to be a drag on both leaders.
Polling shows nearly half of Democrats disapprove of Biden’s handling of the issue. Arab Americans, who are watching events with horror, are deeply disappointed, threatening Biden’s prospects in swing states like Michigan. Polling shows that Canadians are divided along partisan lines, with Conservatives more likely to support Israel and Liberals and New Democrats more likely to be sympathetic to the Palestinians. A quarter of Canadians say Trudeau has been too pro-Israel, and the PM has found himself engaged in a delicate dance.
On Tuesday, for example, Trudeau spoke against Israel’s assault on Gaza, earning himself a sharp online rebuke from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu. Later that evening, Trudeau was cornered in a public venue by pro-Palestinian protesters.
We'll be watching to see how Israel's war impacts votes for both leaders in their next general elections.