Monday, January 17, 2011

Israel and the Lizard Men of Mars

I recently came across a new on-line newspaper – The Canadian, a truly weird rag that mixes UFO enthusiasm with far left politics and tips on improving your sex life.

The paper includes stories such as “Was the Star of Bethlehem a UFO?” and “Star Trek Linked to New World Order,” and a piece from the Iranian regime’s Press TV complaining that U.S. soldiers aren’t nice to Taliban fighters.

Plus – and this caught my attention – an article by Murray Dobbin, one of Canada’s more important far left ideologues.

Dobbin is a research fellow and board member of the left wing think tank, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, and he writes a biweekly column for The Tyee and for Rabble – a far left website published by Kim Elliot, spouse of New Democratic Party deputy leader Libby Davies.

Davies herself is a leader of the NDP’s anti-Israel faction, which includes about 90% of NDP activists.

In his article in The Canadian (originally published as one of his regular columns for Rabble and The Tyee), Dobbin expresses his outrage over the conference on combating antisemitism held in Ottawa in November.

At the conference, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a great speech pledging to combat antisemitism and to support Israel. In an impressive show of unity, Canada’s governor general, the speakers of both the Senate and the House of Commons, and Michael Ignatieff, leader of the official opposition, all attended as well.

Dobbin calls this “repugnant.”

Worst of all, from Dobbin’s perspective, Thomas Mulcair, an MP from Dobbin’s own New Democratic Party, was at the conference. Within the NDP, Mulcair is a leading light in the sanity faction, which understands that Israel is a normal country, a liberal democracy like Canada that's doing its best in the face of 60 years of unrelenting Arab hostility and terrorism.

Naturally, Dobbin despises Mulcair. But what really pisses him off is that Mulcair didn’t go to the conference on his own. Says Dobbin: “Jack Layton [leader of the New Democrats] actually sent Mulcair to the event to represent the NDP.”

Dobbin says this conference to combat antisemitism left him left him “feeling physically ill.”

However, Dobbin will tell you he’s not an antisemite. He opposes the Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism because, he claims, they want to make it illegal to criticize Israel.

In fact, the parliamentarians in the antisemitism coalition have never said any such thing. You can read exactly what they've called for here. Only Dobbin and a small coterie of like-minded paranoids have detected any threat to our free speech.

Everyone else – from the Queen’s representative in Canada to the leader of the NDP – is as blind to the danger as they are to the peril posed by the lizard men of Mars.

Dobbin also claims the parliamentary coalition wants to define “criticism of Israel” as antisemitism. Nonsense. In Israel itself, the opposition parties criticize Israel’s policies every day. It’s their job. And I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with good Zionists that begin with someone saying, “What the hell is Israel's government up to?”

But such criticisms are about particular actions or policies. In the language of the far left, “criticism of Israel” is code for something like “criticism of Israel’s existence,” and the parliamentary coalition does think such “criticism” is often antisemitic.

For example, when the president of Iran promises to “wipe Israel off the map,” rational people see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s promise to murder the six million Jews of Israel as antisemitism, not merely as “criticism of Israel.”

Such “criticism” also takes milder forms. Dobbin, for example, calls Israel an apartheid state.

This charge only shows that Dobbin can’t be taken seriously. Israeli Arabs have full equality before the law, vote in elections, govern the country as members of Israel’s parliament, and interpret Israel’s laws as judges – all the way up to Israel’s Supreme Court. Moreover, the idea that in Israel there could be drinking fountains for Jews only – as there were for whites only in South Africa – would be laughable if it weren’t obscene.

Everyone knows this charge of Israeli apartheid is mere slander. But this slander provides a rationale for wiping Israel off the map.

Other “criticisms of Israel” simply update antisemitic lies. For example, when a pseudo-journalist accuses Israel of murdering Palestinians to harvest their organs, rational people don’t see this as “criticism of Israel.”

They recognize the accusation as a new version of the ancient blood libel in which Jews were accused of harvesting Christian children for ritual purposes.

Similarly, Dobbin claims that because they endorsed the antisemitism conference in Ottawa the “individuals holding the most prestigious offices in our national government” showed that they’re “effectively, agents of a foreign power.”

Rational people have a hard time picturing the Governor General and the leaders of the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP as Israeli agents. It makes more sense to see Dobbin’s paranoid vision as an updated version of the antisemitic myth of Jews secretly controlling the world.

It’s a pity The Canadian has allied itself with the far left. Traditionally, UFO enthusiasts have been mostly harmless. They’ve taken a real step down in the world by associating with the likes of Murray Dobbin.

But who knows? Maybe the UFO people will have a mellowing influence, and next we’ll see Dobbin penning a more thoughtful piece, perhaps about the lizard men of Mars.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Who's Silencing Whom?

Professor David Noble of York University died recently. I wrote a piece for the Engage website about Noble back in 2006 concerning a pamphlet he distributed accusing members of York U's fundraising foundation of being an evil influence because of their connections to various Jewish community organizations - in effect damning them solely because they were Jewish...

Toronto. Dec 6, 2006. I won’t say anything about History Professor David Noble of York University in Toronto; I can’t afford to. However, the Toronto Star (22 Nov 2006) reports that Noble "is suing York University's fundraising foundation and several Jewish organizations for defamation, claiming they suggested he is anti-Semitic".

Noble’s suit is for $25 million. This is in addition to his original "union grievance seeking an apology and $10 million in damages for defamation".

It began in 2004 when Noble distributed a flyer titled, "The York University Foundation: The tail that wags the dog".

According to the Star, "members of Hillel of Greater Toronto sent a fax to the university expressing concern that the flyer suggested 'Jews control York University' … [And] The university later issued a news release condemning what [York University President] Marsden called 'this highly offensive material, which singles out certain members of the York community on the basis of their ethnicity and political views.'"

According to the Star, Noble says that he only "criticized York figures for their political views on Israel, not their ethnicity or religion".

Specifically, Noble claims in his flyer that the York University's fund-raising foundation "is biased by the presence and influence of staunch pro-Israel lobbyists, activists, and fundraising agencies".

Among others, Noble names:
MARSHALL A. COHEN, chair of Board of Governors, YU [York University], former Molson [Brewery] CEO, former director, MSHF [Mount Sinai Hospital Federation], Cassels Brock law firm

JUDITH COHEN, chair of YU Fiftieth Anniversary Committee, wife of Marshall.

Does Professor Noble consider Molson’s Brewery a political affiliation? Or was it Marshall’s fund-raising for Mount Sinai Hospital that prompted Noble to add the Cohens to his pro-Israel list? Who knows.

Professor Noble outs additional members of the York University Foundation as being affiliated with other Jewish organizations, such as the United Jewish Appeal – or if not connected to the UJA themselves, for having a brother who is. For example:

H. BARRY GALES, director, MSHF [Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation]; Midland Group, business partner and brother (?) of Leslie Gales, chair of the board, UJA.

The UJA spends most of its money on Jewish education and other local community services, but it does put a fraction of its budget toward pro-Israel lobbying and sends a whack of money to Israel for university scholarships, development of the Negev, settlement of recent immigrants, etc.

So perhaps we should indeed suspect anyone involved with the UJA of supporting Israel’s existence. Indeed, some of these people could be Likudniks – no one knows what their politics are!

Here's my question: Should people with such political views be allowed to raise money for a university? For that matter, should they be allowed to raise money for hospitals? Or to donate money?

This is a serious issue, because it's not just Jewish hospitals. Peter Munk recently gave $37 million to Toronto General. The Kimel brothers donated $15 million to the Baycrest Geriatric Care Centre. Leslie Dan gave $13 million to the University of Toronto's school of pharmacy. Seymour Schulich donated $27 million to York University's school of business and $20 million to McGill's faculty of music. And the list goes on.

I haven’t conducted the sort of research Professor Noble has, so I don't know if these philanthropists have also donated to Mount Sinai or to the UJA or if maybe their brother did. But these philanthropists are Jewish, and on that basis, I believe we should suspect them of supporting Israel's existence.

So what's to be done?

Professor Noble appears to believe ... [Disclaimer: I'm not asserting this as fact, only as my understanding. Readers should look up Noble's actual words] ... but, as I was saying, Noble seems to think that people who countenance Israel shouldn't be part of York University's fundraising foundation.

Noble writes: "The York University Foundation (YUF), which was established in 2002, is the tail that wags the dog that is York University". And: "The recent decisions by the YU President and Board of Governors to discipline pro-Palestinian activists ... and otherwise to clamp down on campus protests, appear to reflect the strongly pro-Israel orientation of the YUF".

I think it's safe to say that not everyone agrees with Noble. Some people doubt that the fund-raising foundation tells the university what to do about student politics, and Noble doesn't seem to offer any evidence for his suggestions. Nor does Noble explain if members of the foundation who haven't been fund-raisers for a Jewish hospital go along with this supposed pro-Israel influence. But, who knows, the lobbyists may have covered up these details.

After all the lobbyists squash all contrary voices, don't they?

According to the Star, Noble is "claiming they [York University Foundation, Hillel, et al] suggested he is anti-Semitic to try to gag [his] criticism of their activities".

Noble also goes on about the pro-Israel influence on student elections (an Israel-hating clique got voted out of power) and the pro-Israel influence on the building of a football stadium on campus (I’m not joking). However, although I'm sure Professor Noble would never dream of trying to gag his critics, I can't afford to go into all of that, lest I say something he finds objectionable.