Monday, February 23, 2009

That a-word

Yes, "anti-Semitism"—again. But that silencing weapon in the capable hands of the new McCarthyists is firing paintballs these days, not bullets.

This weekend I was accused of it by a professor at UNB because I had been critical of Peter Kent's unseemly intervention in the matter of the recent attack on a Caracas synagogue. Then commenter Jay Currie accused commenter "psa" of it--read the thread for yourself and weep. (Don't feel badly, "psa": Currie has called me an anti-Semite too.) Now CUPE-Ontario is in the news again for passing a resolution in support of institutional boycotts and divestment campaigns against the state of Israel. And Warren Kinsella is all over that one:

With this move, they have embraced bigotry and anti-Semitism. That is so obvious, it isn't even worth debating, now.

As some of you have observed, however, I'm not into small talk about bigotry. I prefer action. I think we need to show CUPE there are consequences for this one.

First, actively seek to decertify the union, as it has arguably violated its own charter and organized labour charters to which it is a signatory. Second, petition for the termination of collective agreements entered into between CUPE and post-secondary institutions, on the grounds that publicly-funded institutions are not permitted to have contractual relations with entities which actively discriminate. Finally, bring human rights code complaints against them, in as many jurisdictions as possible, because that is the best and most logical forum to confront an outrage like this one.

The resolution reads:

CUPE Ontario will:

1. With Palestine solidarity and human rights organizations, develop an education campaign about the apartheid nature of the Israeli state and the political and economic support of Canada for these practices.

2. Support the international campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions until Israel meets its obligation to recognize the Palestinian people's inalienable right to self-determination and fully complies with the precepts of international law including the right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN resolution 194.

3. Call on CUPE National to commit to research into Canadian involvement in the occupation and call on the CLC to join us in lobbying against the apartheid-like practices of the Israeli state and call for the immediate dismantling of the wall.

· The Israeli Apartheid Wall has been condemned and determined illegal under international law.
· Over 170 Palestinian political parties, unions and other organization including the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions issued a call in July 2005 for a global campaign of boycotts and divestment against Israel similar to those imposed against South African Apartheid.
· CUPE BC has firmly and vocally condemned the occupation of Palestine and have initiated an education campaign about the apartheid-like practices of the Israeli state.

This resolution, as it turns out, has gained support from people who might be somewhat surprised to learn that they are bigots and anti-Semites.

There has been, of course, inflamed rhetoric on both sides when the Middle East is the subject of discussion: there have been too many statements made in anger. But again, there is little even-handedness in the criticism that follows. Over-the-top references to Israel's actions in Gaza as a "holocaust," for example, have been denounced as "anti-Semitic." But, of course, it's only "anti-Semitic" if we do it. An Israeli Deputy* Minister of Defence can threaten a "bigger holocaust" in Gaza, and the Usual Suspects fall all over themselves trying to parse his words. (What part of "shoah" do they fail to understand?)

I don't want to delve once more into the evolution of the term. I really can't add much to what I have written here and here. The device has proven, in the recent past, to be very effective in stifling debate and putting critics of Israel on the defensive. But at this point its overuse has rendered it nearly meaningless--it's devolved, in fact, into little more than a synonym for "poopy-head."

Meanwhile there are real anti-Semites around, who need that label hung around their necks like an anchor. Such as the person who has recorded this sort of thing:

Lest your mind automatically reject the words of Hitler out of some political
reflexive habit, remember that he witnessed the decline and fall of another multi-cultural state, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so he knows what he's taking [sic] about...


Here it is, the book you've been waiting for [Holocaust-denier Michael A. Hoffman II's "The Great Holocaust Trial" --DD] that summarizes the entire career of the most persecuted book publisher in the world, from his childhood to his latest activism, German-Canadian revisionist Ernst Zundel.

But the author in question is, alas, untouchable.


The resolution quoted above is Resolution 50, no less controversial at the time, but passed in May, 2006. The resolution just adopted is described as an "adjunct" to Resolution 50. While I have not located the exact text, it focuses upon collaborative research on weaponry. As reported:

CUPE university workers will be urged to examine the education and research ties of their own institutions with ones in Israel. If members learn their universities collaborate with Israeli universities engaged in weapons research, they are encouraged — but not forced — to mount a boycott campaign.

Ryan said CUPE will also investigate whether its pension plans are investing in companies developing weapons in Israel which could be used against the Palestinians.

Resolution 50 contains no anti-Semitic language, although one can see why it gave rise to some heated debate by partisans on all sides of the debate on the Middle East. The present resolution, however, seems even further removed from anything that could reasonably be called "anti-Semitism."
*Reader shlemazl notes that the official in question was not the Minister of Defence, but the Deputy Minister.

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