Monday, January 11, 2010

Olympic shark jumping

The National Post's Jonathan Kay has had enough.

On January 4, B'nai Brith issued a press release that was so over the top that Kay had to confirm by telephone that it wasn't a send-up. In it, BB's League for Human Rights compared the lamentable exclusion of women ski jumpers from the Vancouver Olympics to the Berlin Olympics of 1936, in which Jewish persecution was ignored by the International Olympic Committee.

As one who is critical of shoddy, sloppy moral equivalences (e.g., Gaza = the Warsaw Ghetto), I couldn't begin to defend this, even though I believe that there is a bona fide case of discrimination here, while Kay doesn't. But what is most interesting about Kay's article is that this latest BB salient appears to be what labour relations folks call the "culminating incident." Kay excoriates the organization:

Every year, B'nai Brith puts out an "audit" of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada. And every year, the document is reported on by the mass media, which uncritically parrots the group's absurd contention that anti-Semitism is a growing epidemic in this tolerant country. Reporters politely overlook the fact that B'nai Brith's definition of "incident" is dumbed down: Any web posting, stray comment, or scrap of graffitti fits the bill. This allows B'nai Brith to reel off thousands of examples.

Most readers don't stop to scrutinize how trivial these examples are: They just look at the impressive-seeming bar graphs, which purport to show a Jewish community in a constant state of terror. The result: Older Jews with dark historical memories become terrified, and the donations to B'nai Brith come rolling in.

And he ends by describing anti-Semitism in Canada as--wait for it--a "very minor problem."

Recall that Kay has, at least up to now, been an assiduous witchfinder in this regard. He has uncovered so-called "anti-Semitism" (meaning criticism of Israel) everywhere: on campuses, in the arts community, in organized labour, and even among his journalistic colleagues. But a still small voice has apparently been trying to reason with him, and, thanks to B'nai Brith, it has been heard at last.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism chunders on with its full-bore inquiry into the "minor problem." Despite CPCCA's careful selection of witnesses, a couple of university officials have managed to put some sense on the record.

Fred Lowy, former president of Concordia:

By and large, Canadian campuses are safe and are not hotbeds of antisemitism of any kind.

Patrick Monahan, Provost of York University, added this cautionary note:

The difficulty is that there is a narrative (of antisemitism) that gets picked up by others who never set foot on the campus here, but purport to be experts on the atmosphere on our campuses. It is unfair to the students, because it sows fear, it sows division. It fans flames of more conflict. We hope that your report and work of your committee will not in any way contribute further to that.

Unsatisfied, CPCCA is now hoping to hear from more university presidents--and, next month, from the police. Despite Kay's apparent defection, the witchhunting continues apace.


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