[VI – Best post yet from friend of this blog mattt]
[UPDATE V- One more link]
[UPDATE IV – MORE LINKS]
[WOW UPDATE AGAIN: IT’S TEH GAY PANIC AT CJC AND THE TORONTO STAR]
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.
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:
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.
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
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.
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.
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
A Creative Revolution: Supporting Mz Z
Even Mark Steyn is on Zerbisias’ side!
The Galloping Beaver – TorStar Public Editor fails to take Round-to-Round Disperson into Account
bastardlogic- Antonia Zerbisias: Under their Wheels