Earlier versions of this article appeared in the 28 May 2008 Jewish Tribune (http://tinyurl.com/c2tlyy), a community paper published weekly by B'nai Brith Canada, and on the Engage website (http://tinyurl.com/anbvnw).
Cranks and bigots are always looking for a soapbox. We saw this in Quebec when the provincial government put on a travelling sideshow called the Bouchard-Taylor Commission.
The commission explored the question of reasonable accommodation of minority groups. It also gave a platform to a parade of angry people who stepped up to the microphones to complain about Jews, Muslims and immigrants.
But the bigot brigade doesn’t have to wait for the sort of once in a lifetime opportunity provided by the B-T Commission. News media such as the CBC provide a public forum for antisemitism every day.
Check it out. Go to CBC.ca and have a look at the comments section following articles related to Jews or Israel.
When Stephen Harper laid a wreath at Aushwitz, a reader calling himself baltzera objected. “I got a bad feeling about this one,” he wrote. “Getting a little too close to Americans and Jews, aren’t we folks? … I’m stuck here watching my Canada deteriorate and become another vassal of Zionist and American imperialists.”
Later baltzera added: “I’m thinking of vacation next year and have to watch my spending. Which is cheaper? A day pass to Disney’s theme park or Dachau.”
Another reader calling himself cbczifit accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing of Palestine” and added, “Zionists control the U.S. foreign policy.”
Similarly, a reader, going by the name Patrice, accused Israel of “genocide” and continually compared Israel to the Nazis – which seems to be a favourite form of Jew-baiting these days.
Another CBC.ca article reported on B’nai Brith’s annual audit of antisemitic incidents in Canada. A few readers expressed dismay at how often Jews are harassed and shock about the firebombing of a Jewish community centre. Most of the comments, though, were directed against Jews.
A fellow identifying himself as archboca defended harassment of Canadian Jews as “a reaction to what is going on in the middle east,” where he explained, the real Semites are the Arabs and the Israel is the anti-Semite.
Archboca also condemned the B’nai Brith because it “is very active in hunting down former German soldiers close to the Nazi government.”
While archboca’s support for war criminals suggests he speaks from some point on the neo-Nazi right, his sentiments were echoed from the anti-Jewish left.
This “so-called antisemitism,” wrote a fellow calling himself Bobalink, is nothing but an attempt to recast “Israel and Jews as ‘victims’ rather than perpetrators of human rights violations.”
Jews aren’t really even Semites, wrote Bobalink, yet they misuse this term for “silencing public criticism of the state of Israel’s policies.” And, he said, “their influence is so pervasive that most western media and journalists will practice a form of ‘self-censorship’ … rather than print … criticism of Israeli history.”
EastVanMan summed up a few of the main anti-Jewish smears: “This report is rubbish… You lot best tidy your own house before you come and disapprove of how people perceive these people. I am not fond of Jewish and often Zionist control of media… Your despised for all the right reasons here and globally.”
Well, I’m relieved to be “despised for all the right reasons.” It’s not mere prejudice – antisemitism doesn’t even exist! Rather “my lot” is despised because we control the media and commit human rights violations. Personally, I can’t recall doing either but perhaps manipulation and cruelty come so naturally to my lot that I do it in my sleep.
I could go on. This is only a sample of the nasty comments posted in response to the articles about Harper’s visit to Aushwitz and about BB’s audit of antisemitic incidents. CBC readers posted many more such slurs – as they do in response to every article related to Jews.
And mind you, these are moderated discussions. I can only imagine the comments the CBC moderator blocked or removed after someone complained.
Antisemitic comments at the CBC and the Guardian and at the websites of other media do matter. First, the Judeaphobes encourage each other and swap propaganda.
In one comment, Patrice recommends people read Israel Shahak, a notorious antisemite. As Paul Bogadanor notes, Shahak’s “articles and translations carry titles such as The Jewish Hatred Towards Christianity, The Jewish Laundry of Drug Money, The Jews Who Run the USA” (http://tinyurl.com/as3tvt).
Another poster explains that Israel actually treats Palestinians worse than the Nazis treated Jews because, you see, the Nazis killed Jews quickly.
Can people truly believe such things? Probably not. But they repeat them and so the lies spread.
Second, on media websites, the anti-Jewish fringe meets the centre; on these soapboxes the bigots are no longer raving just to themselves.
Third, words lead to action. In November, while the B-T Commission was holding public hearings, antisemitic incidents spiked. Likely the trigger was that parade of bigots stepping up to the microphones to complain about Jews.
Of course, most of the rants on the media sites don’t target Jews directly. Rather, they demonize Israel, written by people who, I expect, would hand out sweets if Israel were erased from the pages of history.
We’re not antisemitic, these people claim: we don’t foam at the mouth when we think of Jews – only when we think of Israel. And if half the world’s Jews happen to live in Israel? Well, too bad for them, eh?
Brian Henry is a Toronto writer and editor, and a refugee from Canada’s social democratic party, the NDP.
P.S. The B’nai Brith’s audit of antisemitic incidents in Canada in 2007 is available here: http://www.bnaibrith.ca/publications/audit2007/audit2007.html
Information from the BB’s annual audits is incorporated into an analysis of antisemitism worldwide compiled by the Stephen Roth Institute in Tel Aviv. Their 2007 report is available here: http://www.tau.ac.il/Anti-Semitism/asw2007/gen-analysis-07.pdf
Photo: Gate to the SS compound at Dachau