Robert Fisk - Middle East Correspondent of The Independent (UK)

Robert Fisk - Middle East Correspondent of The Independent (UK)

Robert Fisk spoke at the University of Ottawa on Saturday, Feb. 21. During his talk he made specific mention of the horrible state of Canadian media in covering the Middle East and specifically the Israel – Palestine conflict. Chronicling the Globe and Mail and National Post he wondered how such embarrassing editorials are passed on as journalism. I’m sure this latest gem from the National Post would have been included in his discussion if it had come out earlier.

National Post – February 23, 2009

George Burger: Anti-Semitism and its enablers

Anti-Semitism is a belief. It happens to be the repugnant belief, that Jews are inferior, deserving of hatred. Repugnant beliefs these days typically gain little currency, little purchase because of the general aversion that we civilized folks have for beliefs which discriminate. Like a germ a repugnant belief can only replicate, expand, grow, poison the body, if it has the right environment, is nourished, or is not halted by external forces like medicine, swiftly applied. A germ needs neglect to flourish; to neglect it is to enable its growth. It is critical to deconstruct the interplay between anti-semitism and its enablers, because a failure to do so will let it grow to unmanageable proportions, and poison us all again.

In the immediate context, without going beyond Canada’s borders, there are literal correlatives to the words “anit-semitism or anti-semite” and “enablers”. Here are some examples.

1. Syd Ryan is an anti-Semite. There is no point any longer in attributing benign motives to the positions he has taken. The rigid double standard he imposes on Israel, the passion he brings to his cause, to the exclusion of many other far more violent and egregiously one-sided conflicts, and his willful ignorance of the history of the conflict between Israel and its neighbours, not to mention the immediate circumstances of the targeting of the university in Gaza that so offended him (it was also a rocket manufacturing base, whose professors were dedicated to building more deadly missiles) defines him as an anti-Semite.

The CUPE Executive, and the rank and file that have voted for him, are his enablers. CUPE has provided him with a platform, with financial support, and with virtual free-reign to express his views. In doing so, CUPE legitimizes anti-semitic beliefs through its unwillingness to show its revulsion at Syd Ryan’s behaviour., with the result that many people both inside CUPE and outside, who are just plain folks, who have not spent their lives thinking about what has been done to Jews over the centuries, who may not have ever thought one way or another about Jews, now have reason to believe that maybe, just maybe, there is something wrong with Jews.

2. Supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah are anti-Semites. One need only witness a demonstration, whether at York University, or on Bloor Street outside the Israeli consulate, and hear the imprecations of the demonstrators aimed at Jews, whether it is to kill them all, or wish that they had all been thrown into the ovens, to be convinced that their hatred extends well beyond the borders of Israel.

Their enablers are many. Most recently they include the administration of York University. Last week, those anti-semitic demonstrators disrupted a press conference organized by a group of students which sought to present the results of a petition to recall student government. The reason behind the petition was not to recall them for their own anti-semitic behaviour. It could have been. York student government has created a politically charged atmosphere on campus between Jewish students and supporters of Hamas and Hezbollah that has led to phone calls at the home of a Jewish student threatening to kill and rape his family. That would have been reason enough. No, this petition simply had to do with a disagreement over the proper role of student government in the face of a teachers’ strike that closed the school for three months.(The student government supported the TAs, instead of advocating the students’ rights to finish their years and graduate).

Instead of getting all the campus police available to break up the demonstration, by any legal means necessary, the administration buckled, and made the student group slink out of their meeting room as if they were the offending party, as if the demonstrators’ right to terrorize them was more legitimate than their right to stay in a room at York University and hold a peaceful press conference. In doing so, again, without showing the University’s revulsion for the demonstrators’ behaviour, the administration added yet another subtle layer of legitimacy to the underlying premise of anti-semitism.

These “enabling” moments are only the most recent. One can mention the enabling effect of prominent politicians like Denis Coderre and Gilles Duceppe, marching with Hezbollah supporters in Montreal; or the enabling effect of politicians like David Miller, who fail to speak out against the virulent crowds on Bloor Street that were inexplicably issued permits, without restriction, to foment hatred of Israel and Jews, while openly supporting terrorist organizations designated as such by our federal government; or the enabling effect of the University of Toronto, year after year hosting the perniciously named Israel Apartheid Week, lending legitimacy to a comparison which does not stand up to the most cursory analysis; or the enabling effect of news organizations which endorse casualty statistics provided to them by Hamas, without each time pointing out that those statistics come from Hamas, for which deceit in such matters is a key element of their battle strategy; or the enabling effect of people who do not take to the streets and march in the thousands(we Jews are not blameless here) whenever a Jewish school is firebombed in Montreal, or a synagogue is set ablaze in Ste. Agathe. Each such failure contributes to the dehumanization of Israelis, and more and more these days , to Jews everywhere.

Edmund Burke warned, many years before the rise of Hitler, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” In most cases the enablers are good men and women, or organizations peopled by good men and women. As such they should unrelentingly be reminded that a lack of will to confront, a failure to apply critical thinking, a willingness to flow with the zeit-geist, as George Jonas so brilliantly wrote about several days ago, may again lead us to a time when there is no place for good men and women at all.

Interestingly enough, Fisk spoke about the numerous times he has been labeled an anti-Semite. Thankfully the libel laws in the UK stipulate that the accuser(s) must be able to prove it in court and Fisk was able to easily shake off such nonsense with legal challenges. The most interesting part of Burger’s McCarthyist diatribe is his clever use of the word ‘enabler.’ The last time I heard ‘enabler’ used in that fashion was one of this kook’s delusional denouncements.

Is the the claim of anti-Semitism an ideological weapon used to disarm legitimate criticism of Israel or is everyone in the Palestine Solidarity movement a virulent anti-Semite as Mr. Burger implies? The icing on the cake is his reference to Burke’s lovely quote. If a good man is incensed by the discussion of an academic boycott how could he be silent about the slaughter of innocent civilians including over 400 children? I think the ‘good men and women’ we need are like this…