Give Yourself a Slap Upside the Head Canada

UPDATED Below

In these days of action for democracy in Egypt, Canada once again finds itself on the wrong side of humanity’s hope for freedom, thanks to His Harperness’ failure to condemn the brutal totalitarian regime of Hosni Mubarak. In that context, I hope everyone watches this:

UPDATE:

And just to clarify that the bone I’m picking is with the state of Israel and not all of Israel’s people, watch this too:

Beware DiManno, Intellect At Work

I usually don’t read Rosie DiManno’s column because I find her so unenlightening.  This morning, though, I was drawn in by her headline:  “Agency’s anti-Israel role is obvious”.  She purports to be writing about KAIROS and Jason Kenney and Israel and Jews and racism and investing and boycotting and … oh never mind, trying to follow her thought trains is an exercise in frustration.  Do it if you must.  If you’re disinclined to read the whole thing and merely want an example, try this:

… in 2005 KAIROS was among the co-sponsors that hosted a controversial Sabeel conference in Toronto on “Morally Responsible Investment” (MRI), which is another way of saying disinvestment, which is another way of saying targeted boycott.

Um, right.  Apart from the political nuances that readers might expect DiManno to understand, she doesn’t even know how to use a dictionary.  Mere semantics she says.  Heh.

I am going to take a look at DiManno’s understanding of Jews, anti-Semitism and Israel though.  Or should I say misunderstanding.  It’s instructive and also representative of the tautology being enforced these days by the CJC, B’nai Brith and Jason Kenney et al. so unfortunately, it’s important.  Check this out:

It is rather presumptuous for a non-Jew to define anti-Semitism. That’s not something a Gentile can feel in the bones, especially in its nuanced rather than overt form.Stating the parameters of anti-Semitism – for many that means making a contorted distinction between Jews and the Jewish state of Israel – is akin to whites telling blacks what constitutes racial bigotry. There’s an inherent condescension.

This is pure ignorant claptrap but it’s important claptrap because so many people subscribe to it these days.

Let’s take a look at the notion that anti-Semitism is a “feeling” that can only be experienced and defined by a Jew.  This can’t be true.  While there is no doubt that the effects of anti-Semitism are felt close to the bone by Jews and that they are therefore often in a position to identify it quickly and clearly, this does not mean that such feelings are inevitably accurate.  For one thing, there’s nothing like a few centuries of anti-Semitism to make one paranoid and there’s no disrespect in saying so.  One of the pernicious effects of bigotry, perhaps systemic bigotry in particular, is that it often renders the motivations of others invisible, protected by the complexities of everyday modern life and modern institutions.  Most people practising bigotry can point to viable reasons for their behaviour outside of bigotry itself, especially the smarter bigots.  Systems are notoriously tricky that way.  It’s possible to make mistakes in such environments.  It’s certainly possible to make mistakes about the meaning of “feelings”.

On the other hand, I would never challenge how a Jew felt.  If some Jewish people feel criticism of Israel is a result of anti-Semitism, s/he has a perfect right to feel so and in fact, such feelings do make sense in historical context.  But “anti-Semitism”, like “racism” and “sexism” are also political terms and as such the democratic polity is necessarily involved in their definitions for the purposes of law and public policy.  How could it be otherwise?  That such definitions and determinations ought to be made taking due cognizance of the feelings of Jews, racialized people and women – and equally, their thinking about them – only makes sense.  But feelings are not, cannot, be definitive.  And thinking must include more than Jews.  If it didn’t, we couldn’t have courts, laws and publicly defined policies.  Thinking on the issues cannot come from the affected groups alone or there could never be communal acceptance of laws and policies meant to combat them.

And Rosie, that’s the opposite of condescension.

As for “contorted distinctions between the Jews and the Jewish state of Israel” – no matter how contorted it may feel to some Jews [and to DiManno] to make them, there are distinctions and we ignore them to our peril because, of course, it means that criticism of the state of Israel is criticism of “the Jews”.  But then, that’s the result that people like DiManno want.

It’s important to note that it’s not the result that all Jews want.  There are plenty of Jews, Israeli and otherwise, who are critical of Israel’s failure to address the “question” of the Palestinians with something other than aggression.

UPDATE:  Speaking of Jews who are critical of Israel – and Canada – check out Independent Jewish Voices

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV) condemns Immigration Minister Kenny’s politicized move to defund social-justice church-group Kairos, which received government funding for 35 years. Kenny said this occurred because, in 2007, Kairos offered a grant to Sabeel, a Palestinian NGO that doesn’t mirror Conservative policy.”This is the new McCarthyism. If you don’t tow the government line, you get your funding cut. From this week’s conference in Israel to the Canadian Parliamentary Committee to ‘Combat Anti-Semitism’, Kenny strives to stifle all criticism of Israel, falsely labelling it anti-Semitic,” says IJV spokesperson Sid Shniad.

Yes there’s more.

UPDATE:  Gerald Caplan weighs in –

… how is it tolerable for a government minister to baldly accuse an organization of being anti-Semitic without a single shred of evidence, which is of course non-existent. And don’t tell me that’s not what Kenney deliberately implied.

Much more.

Stephen Harper – Best PM Evah?

From blogger Jesse Paikin at billboard judaism:

Last week, the Orthodox Union and NCSY created an award, the “Outstanding Award of Merit,” and bestowed it upon Stephen Harper. As reported in the Canadian Jewish News article covering the event, Harper received the award due to him being “a role model for all Canadians.” Well he is the Prime Minister, isn’t being a role model to Canada kind of his job? Shouldn’t getting to be the PM be his reward? According to Rabbi Glenn Black, the CEO of NCSY, and a gentleman I once conducted a personal interview with on the state of Canadian Judaism, Stephen Harper is worthy of this recently invented award

“because of his consistent support of the Jewish community… There has never [before] been a prime minister… who has been steadfast in their support of righteousness and freedom… Israel is a lone democracy in a sea of hatred… [Harper] understands his role is to stand up against the power of evil.”

Well there you have it, folks. According to the largest Jewish movement in Canada, the barometer for how “Outstanding” and “Merit”orious a Prime Minister you are is how much you support Israel.

Jesse ask what many people, Jew and non-Jew, are asking:

Even if one political party could claim greater support of Israel and the Jews, should they?

And should the organized Jewish community jump into bed with a domestic political party solely on the grounds of a single yet nuanced and complex foreign affairs issue?

More on what Jesse thinks about these questions.

Confounded Opposition

For four years, the government has successfully deep-sixed its critics and confounded the opposition. Low-key nuclear regulator Linda Keen was fired (and the isotope crisis remains unresolved.) Inquisitive parliamentary budget officer, Kevin Page, is being starved of funds. The government refused to co-operate with the Military Police Complaints Commission looking into the detainee issue and is not reappointing its chairman, Peter Tinsley. It has taken Elections Canada to court, withheld an RCMP study on the gun registry until after a crucial vote, and ignored a vote ordering it to release documents relating to Colvin’s testimony.

More from Susan Riley at The Ottawa Citizen and from Lawrence Martin at The Star here

UPDATE:  Don’t forget Dawg

And so a four-year assault on Canadian democracy continues on many fronts, from subverting responsible government to the targeting of ordinary citizens and now to the suppression of charitable human rights groups.

About that “suppression of charitable human rights groups”?  He’s talking about KAIROS.  See this and this [pdf] and this.

UPDATE II:  Haroon Siddiqi weighs in –

Stephen Harper is centralizing power in the PMO on an unprecedented scale; defying Parliament (by refusing to comply with a Commons vote demanding the files on Afghan prisoner abuse); derailing public inquiries (by a parliamentary committee and the Military Police Complaints Commission); muzzling/firing civil servants; demonizing critics; and dragging the military into the line of partisan political fire.

Of course, there’s more.

So, lots of people have noticed.  Now what?

LOL Your Stilted Agenda

[VI - Best post yet from friend of this blog mattt]

[UPDATE V- One more link]

[UPDATE IV - MORE LINKS]

[UPDATIE III]

[WOW UPDATE AGAIN: IT'S TEH GAY PANIC AT CJC AND THE TORONTO STAR]

[UPDATED BELOW]

On July 1st, Antonia Zerbisias wrote a piece for The Star noting four things for which she thought Canadians ought to be grateful.  Here’s one of them:

Freedom of Expression: Excuse me but since when did the interests of Zionist lobby groups determine who or what Canadians can see and hear?

In recent months, to list just three examples, there have been concerted campaigns against the staging of Caryl Churchill’s controversial Seven Jewish Children: A Play for Gaza and an academic conference at York University where the so-called “one-state solution” was to be discussed. We also saw British MP George Galloway be denied entry to the country for a speaking tour, just because he brought aid to bombed-out Gaza.

Now comes word that the only way the respected Al-Jazeera English news service, currently applying for TV distribution in Canada, can win the support of these same Jewish groups is to have them become consultants.

Journalistically speaking, that is hardly kosher.

So then Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress wrote this letter which was published in The Star:

Antonia Zerbisias betrays her own rather stilted agenda by targeting “Zionists” (as though being a Zionist is a bad thing) as unworthy of constitutional protections.

According to Zerbisias, Zionists (that seems to be anyone who supports Israel and is concerned about anti-Semitism) should neither be seen nor heard. How dare we speak out here in Canada on issues that concern our community!

In Zerbisias’ society, only those with whom she agrees ought to be given a platform.

Thank goodness we live in Canada.

So then hysperia wrote this:

Dear Mr. Farber:

I’m writing to comment on your letter to the Editor of the Toronto Star with respect to a column written by Antonia Zerbisias on July 1st.

I respect the fact that Jewish people have the right to speak publicly about their views on the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The dialogue between those who support the means that Israel currently uses to secure” peace” in the Middle East and those who don’t is becoming increasingly polarized, though, and sometimes I despair that we often end up arguing about what we’re “allowed” to say rather than the issues themselves. Perhaps this is just part of the journey, but still I would have thought that encouraging understanding between those who hold differing views would have been a goal that all of us could agree upon – so that in our dialogue with one another we are at least talking about the goals we want to reach instead of merely pouring out propaganda about why we think those with whom we disagree have no right to express an opinion. Often, accusations of anti-Semitism are just that. You didn’t quite accuse Ms Zerbesias of anti-Semitism but I thought you implied it.

After reading your letter I’m not sure on what grounds you found fault with Ms Zerbisias’ article. She wrote nothing that was untrue. In recent months there have been attempts to censor Caryl Churchill’s play, George Galloway was denied entry to Canada because of his political activities with respect to Gaza and there is still pressure to suppress a conference at York University in which a “one-state” solution to the Israel/Palestine conflict will be discussed.  I’ve followed each of these issues and I’ve certainly noted that some members of the Canadian Jewish community who are admitted “Zionists” have exerted pressure to suppress both art speech and political speech and, in one case, have expressed pride and happiness when they were successful (re: George Galloway).

Moreover, I still can’t find any evidence in Ms Zerbisias’ article that suggests she wants to deny “Zionists” their constitutional right to free speech. I thought she was protesting the desire of some in the Jewish community to suppress the speech of those who disagree with the Zionist agenda, such as it is.  Is that a “stilted agenda”?  If so, the discussion would be improved if we all had one.

I believe we have to stand up for journalists who aren’t afraid to take on powerful people like Bernie Farber when they think there are critically important issues at stake, like the ability to critisize Israeli policy without fear of repression or accusations of “anti-Semitism” and the rights of others, such as Caryl Churchill, George Galloway and those participating in the conference at York U. to express themselves in a society where free speech is supposedly not only protected but welcomed.  You GO Antonia!  Make sure you see Antonia’s follow-up to her Star column at her blog, Broadsides.

UPDATE:

My letter to Mr. Farber was published at The Star, here.  Here’s Mr. Farber’s response, for what it’s worth – and that’s not much.  He simply repeats his charges against Ms Zerbisias in an even more nasty and truth-bending fashion:

Ms. _

Thank you for your letter.
 
In fact Ms. Zerbisias made a number of claims that are “untrue” the most egregious of which is that “Zionists” determine public policy. The government and those who apply the law determine public policy. “Zionists” who live in Canada have as much right as anyone else to speak out on issues of concern to them. However to suggest that a small cabal of “Zionists” somehow control the country is ugly and untoward.
 
Secondly, many of us found “Seven Jewish Children” offensive many others did not. One Jewish organization called for the city of Toronto to ban it from publically funded theatres others did not but still voiced their concerns. That’s what makes our democracy great, the right to speak out. In the case of “Seven Jewish Children”  Ms. Zerbisias’ “Zionists” determined nothing. The play went on as scheduled in Toronto and has been viewed in many other places across Canada.
 
Ms. Zerbisias creates a straw man with her gratuitous use of the term “Zionist” paints those who support the Jewish state of Israel as having powers they simply do not and thus stirs the pot of ethnic tension.
 
I hope this has been helpful.
 
Best
BMF
 
Bernie M. Farber
Chief Executive Officer
Canadian Jewish Congress
4600 Bathurst St.
Toronto Ont. M2R 3V2
416-635-2883 ext. 5186 PLEASE NOTE NEW EXTENSION
bfarber@on.cjc.ca

Well no BMF, not helpful at all.

For more nasty truth-bending, check out further comments on Zerbisias’ original article at Broadsides.  In fact, the word “truth” really shouldn’t be used in this context at all.  The “many of us” who found Caryl Churchill’s play “offensive” (without having seen it, mind you) pressed Mayor David Miller to stop the show.  That’s not merely expressing dislike when you have the power of a large part of the Jewish community behind you.

UPDATE II:

Well fans, check all this out:

First, there’s a WHOLE column by teh Star‘s public editor, Kathy English, about Antonia Zerbisias’ “gay” blog post.  Now who came up with THAT headline?  Here it is.

THEN, teh Star‘s moderators held up all comments but one, ALL DAY.  What’s up with that, as Kim Elliot of rabble finally gets to ask in comments.  Comments are now … closed.

Good comment on this nonsense at from rabble’s Andrew Brett, here.  (I ripped his headline!)

And from Dr. Dawg, although the trolls have come out in comments.

In one way, it’s about a tempest in a teapot, as Dawg says.  That is, if it’s really about whether Antonia Zerbisias called Bernie Farber “gay”.  On the other hand, it’s not, because it’s about trying to intimidate a journalist (believe me, it won’t work!) and access to media – that is, Bernie Farber’s got it and I don’t.  Someone “read” that comment, made by me at Dawg’s, to mean:  “The Jews control the press”.  Not.  What.  I.  Said.  Not.  What.  I.  Mean.

Have fun!

More on the blogs – this is first class coverage:

YayaCanada – Queer goings on

Stageleft – Political Correctness Rule #172

Creekside – Gay freakout at The Star

We Move to Canada – Support Antonia Zerbisias

POGGE? – Toronto Star publisher and public editor channel Joe McCarthy

A Creative Revolution: Supporting Mz Z

Even Mark Steyn is on Zerbisias’ side!

UPDATE V:

The Galloping Beaver – TorStar Public Editor fails to take Round-to-Round Disperson into Account

UPDATE VI:

bastardlogic- Antonia Zerbisias: Under their Wheels

Give Goodyear a Bad Time

 Open Anthropology headline “Extreme Canada: Ruling Party Interferes with Social Science Funding”:

There is nothing that is intentionally “alarmist” about this headline, as much as some Canadians would want to reassure themselves that only with reference to a corrupt and dictatorial African state would such a headline have any relevance. However, the fact remains, and it is documented and abundantly public, that the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, has intervened in a political action. designed to impede academic freedom for daring to question the supremacy of Israel. Goodyear is a member of the ruling Conservative Party that won power, as a minority government, thanks to 22% of registered voters who cast their ballots for this increasingly extreme right wing party. Not in many decades has Canada seen such an extremist party in power, rendering Canada the last refuge of the Neo-Con agenda, and hopefully its final burial ground.

Not only has the ruling party,

but now Minister Goodyear also directly intervened to try to stop funding awarded for a conference, purely on political grounds, and at the behest of the Zionist lobby, and in a clear violation of academic freedom. This is the situation we are dealing with now. These actions and statements have been in public and are documented for anyone whose ideological blinkers are not so firmly nailed into their skulls that they cannot see any of this.

And to some extent, it is we academics, and the wider citizenry, that are to blame. As detailed and discussed in greater depth in my series of essays on SSHRC funding, the Federal Government has no constitutional right to be funding education, which is the domain of the Provinces. In setting up something like SSHRC, the Federal Government violates provincial jurisdiction, and overly centralizes research funding, thereby reducing any room for autonomy in local decision-making. If instead of mumbling and grumbling in private, as the majority of us do — now check how many articles or blog posts are “out there” by Canadian academics critical of SSHRC — we should be organizing. Funding for research should be managed by those who know what to do with it, and that means that any funds that the Federal Government has been accumulating from the Provinces, and directing into research funding, should instead be returned to the Provinces, whose universities should be the primary if not sole arbiters about how to distribute and manage research funds. It makes sense — which means it will likely never see the light of day. In the meantime, we continue to allow ourselves to be held hostage to funding that is aligned with state power that is itself aligned with a ruling party.

Let us look now at the latest episode from Extreme Canada, concerning political intervention designed to stop SSHRC Funding for Conference at York University, “Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace,” beginning with those who complained about the conference, and responses from many academics in protest:

See the rest here, including letters of protest and then send your own if you want this country to be freed from the right wing dictators who have taken over the country in the guise of a minority government.  And btw, if the Honourable Opposition was doing its job, this couldn’t happen.

“Inconvenient Truths” & Zionism

From Inconvenient Truths About ‘Real Existing’ Zionism by Jacques Hersh at Monthly Review:

Coping with the Jewish question in general and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in particular has been and still is a dilemma for progressive opinion in the West. While it is acknowledged that Arab politics and political culture were affected by the intrusion of a Jewish state in the area and its alliance with the United States, the same consideration was not given to the transformation of Jewish political culture, both in Israel and in the Diaspora, as a result of the creation of the Zionist state and its patron-client relationship to the United States. Pro-Israel Jews of all political stripes have been duped by the ideological discourse of Zionism, which has hailed the existence of the Jewish state as the guarantor of the security of Jews everywhere.

Having captured the “commanding heights” of morality by usurping the mantle of the victimhood of European Jewry, the Zionist state, in a seldom-seen example of chutzpah, transformed the Holocaust experience into political capital. In this context it is interesting to note that the Holocaust did not become a universal point of reference in the Western worldview until after the decade of the 1960s. The reason for the time lag is related to the convergence of strategic and ideological currents in the postwar period. After the defeat of Nazi Germany, the antifascist coalition gave way to the Cold War between East and West. The German question played a central role in the establishment of the Western alliance system under the leadership of the United States. Under these conditions there was little interest on the part of the U.S. foreign policy establishment and indeed the U.S. government to alienate Germany by dwelling on the Nazi responsibility for the extermination of European Jews. In addition, looking closely at the Holocaust would have revealed the profiteering of U.S. industrialists in the arming of Hitler’s war machine. As far as the American Jewish elite is concerned, it acquiesced to the public silence on this monstrous crime and accepted the U.S. policy of rearming a barely de-Nazified Germany. Motivated perhaps by the concern of not reactivating American anti-Semitism and putting their improved situation in jeopardy, U.S. Jewry followed an opportunistic strategy.33

In the case of Israel, the Shoah question reflected the complex relationship of Zionist ideology toward non-Israeli Jews. The extermination of European Jews legitimized the cause of Zionism, to the extent that the Holocaust confirmed that Jews could not survive and prosper in the Diaspora and that integration and assimilation in these nations was an illusion. At the same time, there was a widespread feeling among Israelis following the Second World War that European Jews had themselves to blame for their fate, because they had not resorted to armed resistance. In contrast, Israelis saw themselves as rejecting the past and creating a new kind of Jew, capable of defending his or her people and the Jewish state.34 As the focus on the Holocaust evolved, it came to be seen as related to the transformation of the struggle for a secure Israel into one of an expanding and conquering state. The Shoah-paradigm became useful in reminding public opinion of the justification for the creation of the Jewish state and for the deflecting of criticism of Israeli policies, especially in the occupied territories of Palestine.

The Holocaust discourse, however, was more important in the Diaspora than in Israel itself and it introduced an element of confusion within the ranks of progressive politics. The sixties had been a decade of youth activism in the West that had included some leading Jewish participants. Many active anti-imperialist Jews in the Diaspora were caught off-balance by the realization that Israel, as the embodiment of the victimhood of the Jewish people, could be capable of victimizing another people and of following a pro-U.S. imperialism foreign policy. In Churchill’s terminology, the “bad Jews” (internationalist and anti-imperialist) had to be turned into the “good Jews” (pro-Zionist and well established in the West). Some of them became figureheads of neoconservatism!

The desperation with which the Holocaust paradigm is projected by modern Zionism and Western (especially U.S.) political establishments is not kosher. The attempt to pre-empt criticism of Israeli and U.S. policy and strategy in the Middle East will hardly be feasible in the longer run. Besides the dissidence toward the dominating ideology in Israel, the success of Zionism in the establishment of a modern Jewish capitalist state contains the seeds of its own societal “post-Zionism.” From an initial projection of pioneering social-nationalism, Israeli society in recent years seems to be affected by an identity and material crisis accentuated by the implementation of neoliberalism. From having been originally one of the most egalitarian Western societies, Israeli society has since the 1980s become one of the most unequal. The poverty rate in Israel is one of the highest of advanced capitalist countries with approximately 22 percent of the population living below the poverty line.35 The socio-economic prospects are bleak for a sizable number of Israelis and this seeping crisis translates into a crisis of identity for the Israeli-born generation who does not relate to Jewishness. “It is ideologically indifferent, secular, petit bourgeois in lifestyle and outlook, apathetic to world Jewry, and concerned with self-fulfillment only.”36

The Israeli dissident politician, Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Knesset, fears that the Zionist experiment will lead to a tragedy for the Jewish state. Without having become anti-Zionist, he nevertheless feels that the original principles of Zionism and the values of the declaration of independence have been betrayed and that Israel has been transformed into a colonial state led by a corrupt clique of outlaws. In an interview with the Israeli newspaper Yediot Aharonot in 2003, he foresees a bleak future for the entire project of Zionism: “The end of Zionism is at our door…it is possible that a Jewish state will survive, but it will be another kind of state, ugly because of being foreign to our values.”37