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Hate symbol drawn on United Jewish Appeal sign in Thornhill

Sept. 2, 2014
By Jeremy Grimaldi

There has been another act of racist vandalism in Thornhill, the first since tit-for-tat graffiti brought the intense emotions surrounding scenes in Gaza to York Region a month ago.

This time, a swastika was drawn in black ink on a United Jewish Appeal sign in Thornhill, near Bathurst and Centre streets.

It's the first such symbol seen in the heavily populated Jewish community since the conflict in the Middle East began to wind down two weeks ago.

At the end of July, Thornhill saw two incidents, initially on the Jaffari Village, which includes a mosque, at 9000 Bathurst St., and then anti-semitic graffiti on a bus shelter near Clarke Avenue and Bathurst.

After discovering the swastika Wednesday, Howard English, senior vice-president of The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, said finding the graffiti can be "seeringly painful" for Jewish people and those who lost family members in the Holocaust.

"To those who understand that the swastika means genocide that killed six million..this is not an innocuous symbol. It's the symbol of the hatred of the Nazi regime," he said.

Anyone committing these acts needs to understand disagreeing with the actions of the state of Israel is different to posting hateful graffiti in public places, he added.

"Clearly, the act of expressing opposition to the actions of the state of Israel is legitimate - we may not agree, but it's legitimate," he said. "But to say that because of the actions of Israel that all Jews should be punished or killed is an act of pure anti-semitism and unbridled hatred."

Residents also expressed outrage that a conflict so many miles away was sowing hatred in Canada.

Adam Isbitsky, a former resident of Thornhill who has moved to Richmond Hill, said he travels the world and has lived in countries including Israel and Germany, but he is angered most of all as a Canadian.

"This is the last place in the world that this kind of stuff should be happening," he said. "What bugs me most is it's feeding the fire in a country that is open to anyone and everyone. I travel the world and I am proud to be from Canada, where everyone gets along, so to see this thing is very upsetting."

Rather than posting signs of hate, he would expect Canadians to work towards peace, he added.

"Inciting hatred is terrible," he said. "I don't think anyone knowns the truth of what's going on over there and they should keep their opinions to themselves unless they are trying to make peace."

Shabbir Jaffer, a spokesperson for the Jaffari Community Centre, told in July that he condemns all forms of hatred.

York police and the force's hate crime unit also condemn racist graffiti.

"These kinds of crimes not only hurt the community that has been targeted, but they hurt us all," it stated on the force's Facebook page. "We take great pride in being one of Canada’s safest and most inclusive communities and we remain vigilant in our fight against prejudice, discrimination and hate in our community."