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.

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