Two urban legends about the yellow star are commonly told. In one, French Vichy officials during World War II gave Moroccan authorities yellow stars for the Jews of Morocco to wear. King Mohammad V asked for a dozen more, explaining that he wanted them so that he and his family could wear them.
In another, the Nazi German occupying forces in Denmark issued a decree that all Danish Jews must wear a yellow armband with the star of David. King Christian in response answered that he would wear the first star of David and expected every other Dane to do the same.
Both leaders did support their Jewish communities, but not necessarily in the way the stories depict. The first story is contested. The second story is false. But both are constantly retold because they state a fundamental truth, the importance of leadership in combating prejudice.
If only global leaders in World War II everywhere had protected their Jewish citizens like the stories portray the kings of Denmark and Morocco doing, the Holocaust would not have happened. Many would like to think, knowing what we know now, that state leaders would act today the way these stories portray the Kings of Denmark and Morocco as acting.
Yet would they? Where is that heroism here and now? Who in reality acts in that way?
TODAY THE JEWISH star is blue, not yellow. Israel has become the Jew amongst nations, demonized, delegitimized, scorned. Yesterday, the world took aim at Jews as individuals. Today, the world takes aim at Jews as a people.
Terrorists target Israel merely because it exists, and Israel defends itself. The defense is decontextualized and made to seem like arbitrary cruelty. Israeli self-defence becomes an excuse for unending indictments, spurred by anti-Zionists with an avowed agenda of destruction of the State of Israel. These indictments criminalize the Jewish state and the Jewish people as presumed supporters of this criminal Jewish state.
Hate crime statistics in one country after another show Jews to be the number one victims by far. Antisemitic hate crime fests under the title "Israel anti-apartheid week" are springing up on university campuses globally. Graffiti equating the Jewish star with the Nazi swastika are everywhere. Iran at one and the same time threatens Israel with genocide and develops a nuclear capacity to realize the threat. In the international arena, resolution after resolution, session after session, conference after conference, focuses on the Jewish state alone.
In the face of this obsession, who today stands with the Jewish people? Who amongst the leaders of today is prepared to wear the Jewish star? At the UN Human Rights Council, there is one state which votes consistently against the anti-Zionists - Canada. To take an example, the Human Rights Council in January 2009, at one of its many special sessions directed against Israel, passed a typical Israel bashing resolution, this time about Gaza. The vote was 33 in favour, 13 abstentions, and only one opposed. That one was Canada.
The World Conference against Racism held in Durban South Africa in September 2001 in a concluding document which was supposed to be about racism instead criticised one country alone, Israel. The Durban review conference, scheduled for April this year in Geneva, bears all the hallmarks of repeating that travesty. There are only two states besides Israel which have pulled out of the Review conference to avoid participating in and legitimizing that echo of Durban 2001, Canada and the United States. Canada left first, in February 2008, even before Israel did. The United States just announced it was pulling out a few days ago.
THIS CANADIAN record has drawn the attention of the world's anti-Zionist states. When the Canadian human rights record came up for consideration at a Human Rights Council working group in February under the Universal Periodic Review, Algeria, Syria and Iran tore into Canada for its refusal to kowtow to the anti-Zionist agenda.
The Canadian behaviour is exemplary, the heroism of today when heroism is needed. But it is not sufficient. It is as isolated as was the leadership of Denmark and Morocco during World War II which the yellow star stories reflect, if not report.
As a result, in the lifetime of survivors of the Holocaust, the Jewish people again drift towards grave danger, as friendless as before. To stop the drift, more than just Canada must wear the blue star, must stand with Israel, must vote against anti-Zionism in the international arena.
And the danger is not just in the international arena. Here in Canada, the anti-Israel forces are gathering, on campuses, in the union movement, and on the street. Now is the time for friends of the Jewish State and of freedom and democracy to come forward and let their voice be heard.
The writer is a lawyer in Winnipeg and senior legal counsel to B'nai Brith Canada.