This essay examines two waves of neo-McCarthyist attacks on free speech and academic freedom: the 1990s campaign against “political correctness,” and (in greater detail) contemporary attempts to silence human rights activists who call for the application of international law in support of Palestinian resistance to Israeli occupation and oppression. Resistance here takes the primary form of analytical understanding of the motives involved, of the parallel rhetorical inversions deployed in both cases, and of the political and legal tactics being used in the current attempt to reconfigure human rights solidarity as a form of “new antisemitism” (and hence as hate speech). Since the author has been closely involved in resisting both forms of neo-McCarthyism, the essay draws repeatedly on his own past interventions.Read More
This letter was first published as “Prof. Michael Keefer's Letter to U. Of Windsor President: Illegitimate pressure on the University of Windsor Student Union over BDS,” Independent Jewish Voices Canada (12 March 2014), http://ijvcanada.org/2014/prof-michael-keefers-letter-to-u-of-windsor-president/; and as “Keefer: Letter to UW President calling on him to support Academic Freedom,” Seriouslyfreespeech.ca (14 March 2014), http://seriouslyfreespeech.ca/2014/03/keefer-letter-to-uw-president-calling-on-him-to-support-academic-freedom/.
Dr. Alan Wildeman
President & Vice-Chancellor
University of Windsor
12 March 2014
Dear Dr. Wildeman,
I am writing to tell you how dismayed I am by your attempt to have the student union on your campus suppress the results of a student referendum in which a substantial majority voted to support the international campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions that seeks, through peaceful means, to induce the state of Israel to comply with international law and end its oppression of the Palestinians.
I believe that the position you have taken violates the principle of academic freedom—which I regard as being not just a privilege to which tenured academics lay claim, but a foundational principle of the university, and something to be protected for all members of the university community. Of course, a commitment to academic freedom implies at the same time a commitment to civil, humane, and rational discourse, whose goal might be described, in the simplest terms, as one of determining truths (to the best of our abilities) and disseminating them.
I believe that faculty and administrators have a joint responsibility to ensure that discourse within our universities lives up to these standards—and a responsibility, as well, to act in defense of members of the university community who are subjected, from within the university or outside it, to discourse that violates those standards and that commitment to truth—by, for example, having recourse to smears, defamation, and ad hominem attacks of the sort that have been heaped upon the organizers and supporters of this referendum.
I would ask you to consider whether you are living up to this responsibility. The international struggle in support of the rights of Palestinians is one of the great moral issues of our time. It is not an edifying spectacle when a university president obstructs students who are engaging, civilly, humanely, and rationally in that struggle.
I do not ask you to take my word as to the moral import of this struggle. Take instead the word of one of Israel's most distinguished sociologists, Eva Illouz, a full professor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, the recipient of major academic awards in the United States, France, and Germany, and also concurrently the President of Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, her country's national art academy.
Professor Illouz proposed in a long essay published in the newspaper Haaretz on February 7, 2014 that the 19th-century anti-slavery debate in the United States provides a useful analogue to help us understand the present-day debate over the morality of Israel's treatment of the Palestinians, which (as other scholars have also observed) has divided Jews both in Israel and internationally. In that essay, to which she gave the resonant title “47 years a slave,” Professor Illouz argues that Palestinians under Israeli occupation are living in what amounts to “conditions of slavery.”
Note, please, that Illouz's essay, together with the work of other distinguished Jewish public intellectuals, including Judith Butler, Ilan Pappe, Avi Shlaim, Jacqueline Rose, Norman Finkelstein, Naomi Klein, Shulamit Aloni, and Yakov Rabkin, refutes any claim that profound and systematic critiques of Israeli policies and structures of governance can be dismissed as antisemitic.
You accept at face value the statements of some members of your academic community that they feel “threatened” by the outcome of the student referendum, and you appear to regard this as a reason to invalidate it. I would propose that except in cases where the people in question have been subjected to clear deviations from proper standards of civility and humaneness (which would include racist language of any kind), such claims to victim status should be rejected—gently, but firmly—as attempts to infantilize universities, which are or should be places for adult discourse.
It is easy to understand how shocked and saddened a student can be who has grown up thinking of Israel as a great good place, and then discovers that there may be compelling reasons to think otherwise. But the intellectual and moral growth of university students often includes moments of painful cognitive dissonance and dislocation. One should treat such students sympathetically, while at the same time remembering that however arduous it may be for them to deal with competing ethical commitments—which may include well-substantiated claims that some of their prior commitments cannot measure up to generally accepted standards of justice and decency—these students are not in any sense victims of those who invite them to consider unfamiliar evidence and arguments; they are maturing adults.
The real victims are the Palestinians subjected by the state of Israel—with the Canadian state's full complicity—to what Eva Illouz calls “conditions of slavery.” These are the people to whom the BDS movement brings support and solidarity, and whose oppression it seeks by peaceful means to end.
I invite you to move beyond an uncritical acceptance of the slanders of opponents of the BDS movement, to read the statements of its Palestinian proponents, and to learn why it has gathered the support of so many leading Jewish scholars and public intellectuals. You will also learn to respect the courage, integrity, and decency of the supporters of this movement within your own academic community.
Yours sincerely and respectfully,
Professor Emeritus, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph
This letter, sent on 17 July 2014, was widely circulated at the time, but has not previously been published.
The Hon. Thomas Mulcair,
Leader of the Opposition,
Leader of the New Democratic Party,
Paul Dewar, MP,
Foreign Affairs Critic,
New Democratic Party,
Dear Mr. Mulcair and Mr. Dewar,
I am writing to express my dismay over the utter inadequacy of the New Democratic Party's July 14 statement on the subject of Israel's ongoing attack on Gaza.
This statement gives a grotesquely false impression of the responsibility for the present violence. You cannot be unaware that in recent months the Israeli government rejected even the feeble and disingenuous peace proposals advanced by the US Secretary of State; that Mr. Netanyahu responded with aggressive provocations to the ensuing announcement of Palestinian unity; and that he withheld the fact that the three kidnapped Israeli youths had been almost immediately killed both from the public and from their families—and did so in order to be able to carry out, under false pretences, a savage program of repression under the guise of a supposed search for the youths. You must also be aware that the appalling murder of these three young Israelis was both preceded and followed by no less appalling murders of Palestinian youths and children, carried out both by settlers and by the Israeli military.
The launching of home-made Hamas rockets from Gaza into Israel should indeed be condemned, as should any attack on civilians. But the launching of those rockets was preceded—as you know or ought to know—by Israeli attacks on Gaza carried out under the pretext (for which no evidence has been provided by the Israeli government) that the Hamas authorities in Gaza were responsible for the murders of the three settler youths in the West Bank.
Your statement provides no whisper of historical context, and no indication that the present massacre—in which the death toll currently stands at more than 200 Palestinians to one Israeli—stems from Israel's illegal occupation of Gaza and the West Bank; its ongoing illegal programs of settlement, colonization, theft of land and resources; and its brutal treatment of the population held under occupation—in conditions that Professor Eva Illouz of the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who is one of Israel's most distinguished sociologists, has forcefully argued amount to conditions of slavery. Would it not have been relevant to mention, at the very least, that since 2006 Israel, with the Harper government's full-throated support, has subjected the population of Gaza to a barbarous and illegal blockade?
Your statement does not so much as hint at the illegality under international law of Israel's airstrikes against the population of Gaza. (On this subject, please read the report of Human Rights Watch, Israel/Palestine: Unlawful Israeli Airstrikes Kill Civilians [July 15, 2014], which makes it clear that war crimes are being committed.) Nor do you seem aware that, as on other occasions (most notably the 'Cast Lead' assault on Gaza in December 2008-January 2009), the Israeli military has deliberately targeted Gaza's already desperately inadequate water supply and sewage treatment facilities.
Since one foreseeable consequence of this targeting is going to be an increased mortality among pregnant women, infants and young children in Gaza, it is arguably genocidal in its implications. I refer you to Article 2 of the UN Convention on Genocide, in which the imposition of measures “calculated to bring about [a group's] physical destruction in whole or in part,” or “intended to prevent births within the group,” constitutes a part of the definition of the crime of genocide.
I am forcibly struck by the contrast between the reactions of Canadian and of British parliamentarians to this crisis. It is noteworthy that in Westminster, members not just of the opposition Labour Party, but also of the governing Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition, have risen in the House of Commons to denounce the illegality and barbarism of Israel's policies, and in some cases to demand sanctions against the state of Israel. (See “Israel accused of war crimes [UK Parliament],” YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v-AJWNE83j__k.)
Is the New Democratic Party no longer willing to take a stand on issues of fundamental human rights, justice, and international law? Has the Opposition in our parliament been so intimidated by the sleaze machine operated by Mr. Harper's government and its media allies that it is afraid to speak out on matters that have touched the conscience of decent people worldwide?
Yours sincerely and respectfully,
Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph
This letter was copied to other members of the Editorial Board and to members of the Board of Contributors of The Canadian Charger. It has not previously been published.
To: Dr. Mohamed Elmasry, 1 December 2013
I'm writing to you, with regret, to declare my resignation from the Editorial Board of The Canadian Charger.
This is a matter of sorrow to me. It has been a pleasure and an honour to have been involved with you in this news-commentary-and analysis website since its early planning stages; and I continue to believe that the project of bringing together voices from the Muslim community and the Canadian left is an important one.
However, the editorial published on November 27, “Canadians: List Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group,” makes it impossible for me to continue my association with The Charger.
I do not claim any expertise on recent events in Egypt. However, I have read enough to be aware of some of the ways in which a sequence of stupid political misjudgments, errors, and illegalities committed by President Morsi and his entourage fractured their previous support, persuaded many Egyptians that the Muslim Brotherhood was determined to impose a theocracy, and made his government vulnerable to military intervention. It is understandable that the initial response of many secular and Coptic Egyptians to the military overthrow of the Morsi government was a feeling of relief. But over the past five months, the violently anti-democratic intentions of the military junta and its obvious continuities with the Mubarak dictatorship have been repeatedly made evident. To deny that the coup was a coup, as The Charger's November 27 editorial appears to do, is fatuous.
On principle, I oppose political parties whose actions and policies are guided, openly or otherwise, by sectarianism. (Such parties include the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, the U.S. Republican Party, most of the parties in the Israeli Knesset, and the governing party of this country: witness its insistent Christian Zionism and Islamophobia.)
But that does not mean one should automatically believe everything that is said or written to the discredit of such parties.
In the case of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, there is substantial evidence that a propaganda campaign conducted by the Egyptian military junta and its supporters in the international media has sought to blame the Muslim Brotherhood for the appalling acts of violence that have occurred since the beginning of July. (For a sample of critical analyses of this campaign, see two articles by Esam Al-Amin, “The Grand Scam: Spinning Egypt's Military Coup,” CounterPunch [19-21 July 2013], and “Putting Egypt's Coup on Trial,” CounterPunch [8-10 November 2013]; and a further article exposing the fabrication of supposed Muslim Brotherhood atrocities: Mohamed Malik and Mohamad Omar, “How Amnesty International was Played by the Egyptian Junta,” CounterPunch [25 November 2013].) To this should be added the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood's official English-language website, Ikwanweb.com, has repeatedly denounced acts of violence, whether directed against the military and the police, against ministers in the coup regime, or against members of Egypt's Coptic minority and their churches.
One might well want to weigh critical analyses of the kind I have cited, as well as the statements posted at Ikwanweb.com, against news reports of an opposing tendency. But distressingly, I do not find any hint of an attempt to weigh competing claims and sift out probable truths in The Charger's editorial.
The above matters might be understood as questions of editorial imbalance that could be corrected by a follow-up editorial. But the November 27 editorial offers clear support to the Egyptian military as a force aligned with the interests of the Egyptian people, and it demands that the Harper government label the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist group and reject any Egyptian refugee claimants stained by association with this party. I reject these positions, and refuse any association with them.
Since when does The Canadian Charger concede to the Harper government—which since it came to power in 2006 has without fail supported Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which boasts of having “punched above its weight” in the NATO bombing of Libya two years ago, and which has pressed for aggression against Syria and Iran—the moral authority to make such a determination?
In its demand for the criminalization of the party overthrown by Egypt's military coup, and in its reference to the Palestinian political party Hamas, the editorial is lending The Charger's support to the policies of the Egyptian junta and of the Harper government—and to the use by both of them of the discredited rhetoric of the “war on terror.”
I oppose political parties guided by sectarian principles. I also oppose, more adamantly, military dictatorships, not least because their guiding principle is state terrorism.
One of the things that needs urgently to be said about the Egyptian coup is that its consequences have included not merely a harshly augmented infliction of state terror on Egyptians, but also—through the closure of the Rafah crossing and the tunnel systems—a radical intensification of the state terrorism inflicted by Israel and its allies on the population of Gaza, in punishment for having freely elected a Hamas government in 2006. (Bombing a captive and defenceless civilian population is state terrorism: so also is depriving them of drinking water, food, medicine, sewage facilities, employment, and contact with the outside world.)
The November 27 editorial supports the Egyptian military coup, and it supports Mr. Hassan Sherif's call for the Canadian government to “be consistent” and list the Muslim Brotherhood along with Hamas “as a terrorist group.” Whatever the editorialist's intentions, the text carries an implicit endorsement of these consequences as well. I find this intolerable.
Yours sincerely and respectfully,
Professor Emeritus, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph
cc: Members of the Editorial Board and Board of Contributors
A version of this short text was sent to the Toronto Star on October 21, 2013 as a letter to the editor, but ignored. It was first published as “Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) Rejects Ads Concerning the 'Disappearance of Palestine',” Centre for Research on Globalization (2 November 2013), http://www.globalresearch.ca/toronto-transit-commission-ttc-rejects-ads-concerning-the-disappearance-of-palestine/5356515; published with the present title by Independent Jewish Voices Canada (2 November 2013), http://www.ijvcanada.org/2013/the-toronto-transit-commission-vs-ternational-law/.
On October 21, 2013, the Toronto Star reported that the Toronto Transit Commission had decided to reject ads submitted by Canadians for Justice and Peace in the Middle East (CJPME). A principal features of the ads is a sequence of four maps (which closely resemble the maps provided in the Wikipedia article on Palestine, and those which have appeared in similar transit ads in cities including Boston and Vancouver). These maps show the accelerating disappearance since 1947 of land held by Muslim and Christian Palestinians in historic Palestine.
According to CJPME, after draft designs were sent to the TTC in June 2013, the transit company and ad agencies tried in various ways “to prevent the ads from being posted. Designs were 'lost,' employees told to 'drop the ads,' emails and calls ignored.”1
In September, a letter from CJPME's legal counsel, noting a 2009 Supreme Court of Canada ruling that forbade transit authorities from blocking political ads, demanded that the TTC respect CJPME's right to post these ads.2
In announcing the TTC's rejection of the ads, spokesperson Brad Ross is reported to have given reasons that reflect a sad level of ignorance. According to Ross, CJPME's ad copy indicates that the process of Palestinian dispossession has involved unfairness and illegality. However, he said, “There is no finding in our legal opinion of illegality around loss of land under international law ... no court, no tribunal has ruled on loss of land being illegal.”3
This claim is false and misleading.
The July 9, 2004 ruling of the International Court of Justice on Israel's so-called Separation (or Apartheid) Wall has a direct bearing on the ongoing Israeli appropriation of Palestinian land. Recalling that the UN Security Council “described Israel's policy of establishing settlements in [the Occupied Palestinian Territory] as a flagrant violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the Court found that Israeli settlements on occupied land, which by now have a population of some 600,000 people, “have been established in breach of international law.”4
In regard to Israel's occupation regime and the related destruction of private property, restrictions on freedom of movement, and confiscation of land and of water resources, the Court found Israel to be in contravention of Article 2, paragraph 4 of the UN Charter and General Assembly resolution 2625 (XXV), which make the acquisition of territory by force illegal; as well as the Hague Regulations of 1907, the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and repeated UN Security Council resolutions.5 Does this not suggest unfairness, as well as illegality?
It is no less absurd of Mr. Ross to suggest that honest and non-inflammatory statements of historical fact may lead to the incitement of hatred. The real fear of opponents of CJPME's ads is that Canadians may become aware that our own government has been supporting and facilitating intolerable Israeli policies of land theft and colonization. They are afraid that Canadians, acting out of common decency, will instead take a stand against injustice and oppression.
Michael Keefer is Professor Emeritus in the School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph.
1 See “Please express your disagreement with the TTC decision: More Info,” CJPME, http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs146/1101893905212/archive/1115382118381.html.
3 Tess Kalinowski, “TTC rejects controversial Middle East as campaign,” Toronto Star (21 October 2013), http://www.torontostar.com/news/gta/2013/10/21/ttc_rejects_controversial_middle_east_ad_campaign.html. See also Ali Abunimah, “Toronto transit bans 'Disappearing Palestine' ad claiming risk of anti-Jewish violence,” The Electronic Intifada (24 October 2013), http://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/toronto-transit-bans-disappearing-palestine-ad-claiming-risk-anti-jewish-violence.
4 “Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” International Court of Justice (9 July 2004), http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/index.php?pr=71&code=mwp&p1=3&p2=4&p3=6.
Terry Glavin made a defamatory reference to my Israeli Apartheid Week public lecture, “'Dark Hope': The Resistance to War and Ethnic Cleansing in Israel/Palestine” (University of Guelph, March 7, 2012), in an article he published in the Ottawa Citizen on March 8 and the Vancouver Sun on March 10. My letter responding to this defamation was published by both newspapers—as “Words were misinterpreted,” Ottawa Citizen (14 March 2012), http://www.ottawacitizen.com/news/Words+were+misinterpreted/6297753/story.html; and in abbreviated form as “Attack on critics of Israel distorts, ignores facts,” Vancouver Sun (14 March 2012), available at http://www.ottawcitizen.com/news/Attack+critics+Israel+distorts+ignores+facts/6298790/story/html. The other correspondence reproduced here has not previously been published.
The newspapers integrated into Conrad Black's media empire received a hard right-wing stamp from Black and the editors he hired—an ideological slant that remained unchanged when his Canadian holdings passed into the hands of Israel Asper's CanWestGlobal chain, and that has persisted in the mutation of that chain's ownership into something calling itself Postmedia.
With honourable exceptions, journalists writing for this chain have learned that their job description includes an element of ideological police-work, which involves seeking to discredit people of opposing viewpoints by any means available. Terry Glavin, who writes for the Ottawa Citizen, and whose articles are often carried by other Postmedia newspapers, has made himself an expert in this kind of work.
On March 7, 2012 I delivered a public lecture, “'Dark Hope': The Resistance to War and Ethnic Cleansing in Israel/Palestine,” as part of Israeli Apartheid Week at the University of Guelph. (That title, as I made clear in my lecture, echoes the title of a book by Israeli scholar and peace activist David Shulman, Dark Hope: Working for Peace in Israel and Palestine.) The online poster advertising the IAW event was noticed by Glavin, who incorporated a defamatory reference to my lecture into an article, “The pseudo-left marches away from reason,” published by the Ottawa Citizen on March 8 and by the Vancouver Sun on March 10.
I reproduce here my correspondence with the Vancouver Sun, which may be of interest for what it reveals about the difficulty, once one has been smeared by newspapers in this chain, of exercising what used to be known as the right of reply.
I will not offer any recital, beyond what is contained in the correspondence, of the vicious inanities contained in Glavin's article: anyone interested in the full details of his text can look it up on the Ottawa Citizen's website.
One of the subjects on which Glavin exposed his ignorance and vented his hatred was the Israeli attack, in international waters, on the humanitarian relief vessel Mavi Marmara, the flagship of an international flotilla that was seeking peacefully to break Israel's illegal blockade of the Gaza strip.
I chose in the letter I sent for publication in the Ottawa Citizen and Vancouver Sun to mock Glavin's stupidities; it remains a fact that the nine civilian peace activists who were murdered by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010 were shot a total of thirty times, and that five of the victims, as The Guardian reported, “were shot either in the back of the head or the back.”1
1. Letter to the Editor, Vancouver Sun (sent March 11, 2012)
To the Editor:
Terry Glavin's shillelagh-swinging is a treat to watch, even when it's oneself he's trying to whiff with his little cudgel (“The pseudo-left marches away from reason,” March 10, 2012).
What other journalist could consign opponents to “The Zombie Octoplex” and produce scoops at the same time? Who'd have guessed that the rights and liberties Arab activists struggle for across the Middle East are “already guaranteed” by Israel? The news will be a relief to the anemic women and stunted children of the blockaded Gaza strip, and to the Palestinian prisoners held without charges and dying on hunger strikes in Israeli jails.
Glavin tells us the Mavi Marmara's humanitarian aid mission was a “disgraceful hoax.” Let me guess: zombies again? Is that why Israeli commandos used head shots on “so-called peace activists” they killed?
A third example exposes Glavin's method. My Israeli Apartheid Week lecture, the online poster said, would reveal in the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign “a humane, rational, and peaceful approach to solving the conflict.” With a wave of the Glavin shillelagh, this becomes “a lecture on the humane, rational and peaceful necessity of Judenstaatsrein.”
When they're not zombies, peace activists are neo-Nazis; human solidarity is a hoax; and the blockaded are free. How clever!
Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph
2. Second letter to the Vancouver Sun (sent March 11, 2012)
To: The Editor, Letters Page, The Vancouver Sun
I sent you a letter early this-morning, responding to Terry Glavin's smearing of me in the article “The pseudo-left marches away from reason” that you published on March 10.
Although my letter is within the 200-word limit that you specify, and although you very clearly owe me a right of reply, I have not yet heard back from you.
My letter points out three flagrant falsifications in Glavin's column.
The third of these falsifications appears in the paragraph Glavin devotes to me. Let me explain to you why Glavin's words are defamatory as well as false.
The University of Guelph's Israeli Apartheid Week organization advertised my March 7, 2012 lecture, “'Dark Hope': The Resistance to War and Ethnic Cleansing in Israel/Palestine,” in an online poster. That poster, which Mr. Glavin very clearly read, stated that my lecture would argue “that the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign offers a humane, rational, and peaceful approach to solving the conflict.” But Mr. Glavin informs your readers that I delivered “a lecture on the humane, rational and peaceful necessity of Judenstaatsrein.”
The statement that I used that last word is of course false. But are you aware of the word's implications?
“Judenrein” (meaning “cleansed of Jews”) is a term that was used by the Nazis to describe the goal of a murderous antisemitism that culminated in the Shoah.
“Judenstaatsrein” (meaning “cleansed of a Jewish state”) is a polemical coinage invented by supporters of the policies of the state of Israel as a means of smearing opponents of those policies. The claim that is made by people who deploy this word is that criticisms of Israeli policies amount to a devious continuation of the antisemitic project of the Nazis. Nazi antisemites wanted a world that would be “Judenrein”; their successors (call them what you like: neo-Nazis or new antisemites) now supposedly want a world that would be “Judenstaatsrein”—and the continuity of their hatred is implied by the resemblance of the two words.
I hope you understand now, if you didn't before, why Mr. Glavin's statement that I myself used that word is a defamatory smear.
I hope you understand as well that I regard this as a very serious matter.
Your newspaper, by publishing Mr. Glavin's article, has defamed me. I expect from you a right of reply—by which I mean that I expect you to publish my letter, in its entirety.
I would like to hear from you at your earliest convenience.
p.s. I am appending to this letter a copy of my 'Letter to the Editor'.
3. Third letter to the Vancouver Sun (sent March 12, 2012)
From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Monday, March 12, 2012 2:06 PM
To: Valerie Casselton, Executive Editor, The Vancouver Sun; Nicholas Palmer, Senior Editor, The Vancouver Sun; Harold Munro, Deputy Managing Editor, The Vancouver Sun; Fazil Mihlar, Editorial Pages Editor, The Vancouver Sun
Dear Valerie Casselton, Nicholas Palmer, Harold Munro, and Fazil Mihlar,
On March 10, The Vancouver Sun published an article by Terry Glavin, “The pseudo-left marches away from reason,” a short paragraph of which was devoted to me.
Mr. Glavin's remarks included a statement that is both false and defamatory.
Early on March 11, I sent a 'Letter to the Editor' to the address firstname.lastname@example.org. In that message, sent from my g-mail account, I provided my home address and telephone number; and in a follow-up message sent several minutes later, I gave you my University of Guelph email address as well.
When by yesterday evening I had not heard back from The Vancouver Sun, I sent a follow-up message to the same address (email@example.com).
Mr. Glavin stated in his article that I had delivered “a lecture on the humane, rational and peaceful necessity of Judenstaatsrein.” His wording implies very clearly that I used the word “Judenstaatsrein” (which, by the way, Mr. Glavin evidently believes to be a noun rather than an adjective).
I did not use the word, and in my follow-up message I explained very clearly why Mr. Glavin's ascription of it to me is defamatory as well as false.
Having given this explanation, and having indicated that I regard this as a very serious matter, I am, frankly, astonished not to have heard back from The Sun.
I would now like to have a prompt assurance that this matter is being dealt with in a manner consistent with professional journalistic standards and common decency.
Professor Emeritus, University of Guelph
p.s. I append a copy of my follow-up letter, and of the original Letter-to-the-Editor.
4. The Outcome
At 5:08 p.m. on March 12, I heard from Fazil Mihlar, the Vancouver Sun's Editorial Pages Editor: “Dear Prof. Keefer: This is the first I am hearing of this; will read and get back to you.” Mihlar wrote again ten minutes later to say that “We will run the letter in its entirety in wed's paper.” The Sun didn't quite come through on this promise: the letter appeared on March 14, 2012 in a slightly abbreviated form, though with my mockery of Glavin largely intact.
In the mean time the Ottawa Citizen, which whom I had a similar but briefer correspondence, published my letter without changes, though with a stultifying headline: “Words were misinterpreted.” (It would seem that in the mental universe inhabited by the Citizen's editorial staff, a gratuitous insinuation of neo-Nazi antisemitism counts as “misinterpretation.”)
A satisfactory outcome? Hardly—even if it was a small pleasure to see language diverging from the uncritically pro-Israel party line appearing, however briefly, in two Postmedia outlets. For it would seem that Terry Glavin himself had the pleasure of knowing he had got away with yet another smear.
“Dieu me pardonnera,” wrote the poet Heinrich Heine: “c'est son métier.” Terry Glavin's métier has become the production of vicious libels. But perhaps, in his ongoing practice of this debased sub-journalism, Glavin may make the mistake of smearing someone who has the leisure and the inclination to press libel charges.
I was content to mock Glavin's idiocies in the same Postmedia outlets where he makes his living; before too long, some other recipient of his abuse may feel inclined to impose a more substantive penalty.
1 Quoted by Moustafa Bayoumi, “Introduction,” in Bayoumi, ed., Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict (New York: OR Books, 2010), p. 3.
The first short piece reproduced here appeared in the Winnipeg Jewish Review (23 November 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=558&sec=4. The two footnotes in the present version have been added to the text. The first of these provides information about the Ottawa conference, hosted by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA), at which the article by Catherine Chatterley to which I objected was first presented, and about my participation in the press conference held at the same time on Parliament Hill by Independent Jewish Voices to protest against that conference.
In August 2010, my book Antisemitism Real and Imagined, which assembled an array of texts by human rights activists and human rights organizations as well as my own contributions, had been praised by Gerald Caplan in the Globe and Mail as “important,” “timely,” and “indispensable.” It is perhaps not surprising that Chatterley's article attempted to smear me as exemplifying what she called “Antisemitism Denial” (a concept that chimes obliquely with “Holocaust Denial”).
Together with my response, the WJR printed a rejoinder by Chatterley that contained another much nastier oblique smear. But the WJR's response to a letter from Professor Joanne Naiman reproaching Chatterley for the tone and content of her second text—it printed two absurd letters from hardcore Zionists in Canada and Israel, together with a shrill editorial—dissuaded me from wasting any further time in attempting to reason with such people.
In August 2014, however, the exposure by the American website Common Dreams of hasbara smear tactics reminiscent of Chatterley's behaviour prompted me to write a sequel analyzing her reply to me. This text, the second one provided here, has not previously been published.
1. Right of Reply: A Response to Catherine Chatterley (2010)
I applaud Dr. Catherine Chatterley’s statement (in her November 15, 2010 article on “Campus Antisemitism”) that debates over subjects like antisemitism, Israel, and Palestine “must be self-reflexive, reasoned, and accurate,” and that we need to avoid ad hominem attacks, so as to “encourage intelligent discussion and debate that employs meaningful, ethical, and accurate language”—the italics are Dr. Chatterley’s—“to describe what are truly difficult, complex, and contested histories.”1
But Dr. Chatterley abandons her own standards of ethics and accuracy when she refers to me as exemplifying what she calls “Antisemitism Denial.” It is not unduly sensitive to hear in these words a deliberate echo of “Holocaust Denial”—and therefore a vicious ad hominem attack. Dr. Chatterley’s claim that I have “gone on the assault against antisemitism as a contemporary problem, arguing that there is no such thing and comparing this so-called phantom to the ‘real’ antisemitism of the past,” goes beyond mere inaccuracy: it is a flagrant falsehood.
In addition to my work in other fields, I am the editor and part-author of Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (Waterloo: The Canadian Charger, 2010). This book includes texts by eleven Canadian scholars and human rights activists (a majority of whom, as it happens, are Jewish), and by the leaders of seven human rights organizations. Far from minimizing the reality of contemporary antisemitism, these texts recurrently express concern that uncritical support for the state of Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights could feed a renewal of antisemitic prejudice and hatred in this country.
My own contributions, which make up just over half of the book, include an extended analysis of the statistical evidence relating to antisemitic incidents and hate crimes. My study of UK government figures, Statistics Canada data, the annual incident-report tallies published by the Community Security Trust (CST) in Britain, and B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audits of antisemitic incidents, led me to conclude that the CPCCA’s claims of an alarming resurgence of antisemitism in Canada are untrue, and B’nai Brith’s figures seriously inflated.2 But after noting that police statistics show a declining trend in hate crimes, I wrote that “I am not suggesting that we should find anything very reassuring about the data analyzed in this chapter: Jews are indeed being disproportionately targeted by hatemongers.”3
Readers of my contributions to the book will find many further examples of a lively concern over real present-day antisemitism—together with a strong critique of the deceptions practiced by those who imagine that they can get away with smearing advocates of international human rights law by labelling their criticisms of Israeli policies as instances of a “new antisemitism.”
As for Dr. Chatterley: If she genuinely wishes to earn a reputation for responsible, accurate, and ethical scholarship, she will have to begin by making some effort to live up to her own ideals.
Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph
2. Dr. Chatterley's Scurrilous Sequel: A Further Response, August 2014
A reply by Catherine Chatterley which appeared in the same November 23, 2010 issue of the Winnipeg Jewish Review made it clear that the scurrilous overtones of her first reference to me were not accidental—and that her commitment to the ethics of scholarly discussion is, as one might already have suspected, a pious fraud.
Dr. Chatterley began by quoting, to no obvious effect, from comments I had made about my book Antisemitism Real and Imagined in an interview with Mordecai Briemberg on the Redeye program of Vancouver Public Radio,4 in one of my public lectures during a book tour across western Canada in September-October 2010,5 and in an interview with Jack Etkin on a community television program in Victoria, BC.6 “In your public discussions about this book,” she wrote,
you make a distinction between what you view as real antisemitism and the new antisemitism, which you call a “rhetorical shell game” and rhetorical trickery.” You say that real antisemitism is a “toxic prejudice,” now largely on the wane in Canada, and that the new antisemitism is “not new and it's not antisemitism” but it makes “use of this history of suffering, this history of martyrdom, in a way that is at the service of unacceptable political positions.” You argue that in 1973, when “real antisemitism was in rapid decline ... leading figures in the Anti-Defamation League [tried to] redefine antisemitism to incorporate criticism of the State of Israel, and to use that as a way for providing public support ... to hold on to the conquered territories, the occupied [Palestinian] territories.”7
The point of this unfocused sequence of quotations may seem opaque: the matters alluded to are all exhaustively documented in the final three chapters of Antisemitism Real and Imagined. The only distortion appears in the last sentence, which alludes not to any argument originated by me, but rather (as anyone doing scholarship in the field should know) to my repetition of plain facts that had been laid out five years previously by Norman G. Finkelstein in his book Beyond Chutzpah,8 and that have remained unchallenged since then.
However, Dr. Chatterley's purpose became clear when, having provided links to the lecture and the interviews from which she quoted, she wrote (in italics) that “The two public comments below your discussion on the last site clearly illustrate the consistencies between old and new, or classic and contemporary, antisemitism.”
Following the link that Dr. Chatterley gave, which takes the reader, not to the original online posting of the television interview I did with Jack Etkin of ICTV Victoria in early October 2010, but rather to an unauthorized reproduction of it at Wide Eye Cinema,9 one discovers that the first two comments on my interview which appear at this internet site are vehemently antisemitic—indeed, neo-Nazi—in tone. These semi-literate rants, posted on October 24 and November 1, 2010, by 'paschn' and 'Annie Ladysmith' respectively, attribute the murder of “tens of millions” (in the second comment, “60 millions of white Christains” [sic], plus a further “10 millions of the same in the Ukraine, hung up to trees after torture”) to the “Jew treachery” of the “Bolshevik Revolution.” In the words of 'Annie Ladysmith', capitalized by herself for emphasis, this was “HOLOCAUST BY THE JEWS.”10 There's none of the “sophistication” here that Chatterley and other Zionist ideologues—among them, Prime Minister Stephen Harper11—have ascribed to the so-called “new antisemitism.” As the commenters' linking of Jews and Bolsheviks makes plain, this is “old” or “classic” antisemitism of the Joseph Goebbels variety.12
Dr. Chatterley's point was obvious enough. She was implying (with what she perhaps believed to be cunning indirection) that if these comments represent the old antisemitism, then my television interview exemplifies the new antisemitism whose actuality I was challenging. It need hardly be said that in asserting the existence of “consistencies” between my interview and the deranged ranting of neo-Nazis, Dr. Chatterley was not trying to “encourage intelligent discussion and debate that employs meaningful, ethical, and accurate language.”
For her polemical purposes, neo-Nazis like these two commenters are useful idiots. In some instances, however, comment posters of this sort turn out to be useful idiots of another kind: hasbara agents whose deliberate function is to litter the internet with antisemitic filth, for the precise purpose of enabling slander tactics like those of Catherine Chatterley.
Such a pattern might seem improbable. But in August 2014, an investigation conducted by the news website Common Dreams revealed that more than a thousand inflammatory antisemitic comments posted at the site during the preceding two years, under dozens of different screen names, had all been authored “by a Jewish Harvard graduate in his thirties who was irritated by the website's discussion of issues involving Israel.”13 One of the masks this man adopted, the African-American identity of 'DeShawn S. Williams', cemented his antisemitic street creds by posting not just at Common Dreams, but also at the white-supremacist Vanguard News Network, where his more than 1,400 posts included over 200 comment-thread exchanges in which 'Williams' “encouraged the malevolence of Frazier Glenn Miller, the neo-Nazi [who is] accused of killing three people whom he believed were Jews outside a Jewish community centre and retirement home in Kansas in April .”14
This hyperactive Harvard man, now a graduate student at a midwestern university, appears to have devoted more effort to sleazy hasbara work than to his studies. When he was not inciting Vanguard's antisemites to acts of violence, he was posting neo-Nazi rants in the comments sections of the Common Dreams site, most frequently under the screen name 'HamBaconEggs'—and at the same time, entering into earnest debates with that persona under the screen name 'JewishProgressive'.
The aim of this shadow-boxing was of course to show up Common Dreams as a website that had itself to blame for attracting antisemitic commenters, for the simple reason that it published articles that were themselves antisemitic. In one exchange, 'JewishProgressive' wrote:
I stopped posting on this site and others like it a long time ago, as it became increasingly clear to me that genuine anti-Semitism and their purveyors were becoming tolerated and, at worst, embraced by so-called progressive communities [....]
I would challenge anyone to find a Common Dreams article relating to African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, or LBGT people containing the volume of hateful, venomous garbage found in the comments section of this article. Sadly, I would offer the additional challenge of finding any CD article relating to Israel that doesn't contain copious amounts of Jew-hatred.15
In another posting, once again in debate with his alter ego 'HamBaconEggs', 'JewishProgressive' declared more emphatically:
Common Dreams and Stormfront: the web's foremost hubs of unapologetic anti-Semitism. True progressives don't support this sort of rank Jew-hatred, even though it's become increasingly conflated with legitimate criticism of Israel.16
What then about the comments on my interview to which Dr. Chatterley referred readers of the Winnipeg Jewish Review? One might well suspect that the “hateful, venomous garbage” of 'paschn' and 'Annie Ladysmith' came from a single keyboard and IP address. I do not mean to imply that Catherine Chatterley—'Lady Chatterley', I am tempted to call her, in ironic deference to her less than flawless manners—and 'Annie Ladysmith' could be one and the same person. The neo-Nazi author of both comments could well be someone from Ladysmith, South Africa, or the Gulf Islands village of Ladysmith, BC—or possibly even someone actually named 'Annie Ladysmith'.
But while Dr. Chatterley has, one must hope, been spared the multiple-personality disorder that afflicts 'HamBaconEggs', a.k.a. 'JewishProgressive' and 'DeShawn S. Williams', she is playing a less elaborate form of the same dirty game. Someone else may have written the neo-Nazi filth that she found posted at a site that reproduced my interview, but she is the one who turned it into a smear by claiming to find “consistencies” between my interview and comments that at no point intersected with anything I had said.
* * * *
Two other features of Dr. Chatterley's response might also be of passing interest. She of course did not acknowledge, much less apologize for, the initial misrepresentation to which I drew attention. But her rejoinder exposed a derisory lack of scholarship when, to display her understanding of “the global resurgence of antisemitism, which is in fact a very serious problem,” she wrote:
The most obvious example is the leader of Iran, who routinely threatens the nuclear destruction of the Jewish State, which constitutes incitement to genocide and is a clear violation of international law.17
This sentence drew a rebuke from Joanne Naiman, Professor Emerita of Sociology at Ryerson University, who wondered politely what sources Chatterley might be relying on, and quoted recent news reports which make it clear that “the Israelis and Americans know full well that Iran does not yet have nuclear weaponry,” and that “it is Israel and the U.S. that are routinely threatening Iran militarily, not the reverse.”18
The Winnipeg Jewish Review promptly published stern but foolish rejoinders from David Matas, B'nai Brith Canada's Senior Honorary Legal Counsel,19 from Professor Elihu Richter of the Hebrew University-Hadassah in Jerusalem, who is also active in an organization called Genocide Prevention Now,20 and from the WJR's editor, Rhonda Spivak:21 these contributed some heat to the discussion, but no light.
Despite the rhetoric of Matas, Richter, and Spivak, Dr. Chatterley's sentence does indeed contain compounded stupidities. Although there's evidence that the former President of Iran to whom she was referring, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, is indeed an antisemite, he was not the leader of that country (a position held rather by the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei). Akbar Ganji wrote in Foreign Affairs in 2008 that “Despite all the attention he receives, Ahmadinejad does not even rank among Iran's top 100 leaders over the past 30 years [...]. Ahmadinejad is only as powerful as he is devoted to Khamenei and successful in advancing his aims.”22
Moreover, the statement that Dr. Chatterley was remembering—made in a speech Ahmadinejad delivered in October 2005, and subsequently repeated in variant forms—was mistranslated in the Western press, and misrepresented as a threat of military action, a threat to literally wipe Israel off the map. It was in fact no such thing, but rather a re-statement of a supposed prophecy.
Ahmadinejad reminded his audience that the Imam Khomeini, the founding leader of Iran's theocracy, had said that the Shah of Iran's “regime must go,” had predicted the end of “the rule of the East” (the USSR), and had said that the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein “must go” amid unprecedented humiliation. To this sequence of fulfilled prophecies of regime changes Ahmadinejad added a fourth as yet unfulfilled one: “The Imam said (Imam ghoft) this regime (een rezhim-e) occupying Jerusalem (ishghalgar-e qods) must vanish from (bayad [...] mahv shavad) the page of time (az safheh-ye ruzgar).”23
Arash Norouzi, whose transliteration and translation of the Farsi I have borrowed, noted that “Ahmadinejad would seem to be calling for regime change, not war.”24 Jonathan Steele of The Guardian, who is well enough informed to know that Ahmadinejad had misquoted Khomeini, saying “page” instead of “stage of time” (the Farsi words safheh and sahneh also rhyme),25 likewise judged that the sentence is not a military threat,26 and found support in the reference to the fall of the Shah's regime for the view that Ahmadinejad was talking “about regime change, not the end of Israel.”27 University of Michigan Middle East scholar Juan Cole was of the same opinion, remarking that the Khomeini quotation “does not imply military action, or killing anyone at all.”28
Given Dr. Chatterley's taste for ad hominem smears, it is perhaps necessary to remark that Arash Norouzi and Juan Cole, my main sources on this translation issue, are not supporters of the Iranian regime. Cole has written that he despises “everything Ahmadinejad stands for, not to mention the odious Khomeini, who had personal friends of mine killed”; while Norouzi, after citing a statement of the Iranian president to the effect that “History shows us that oppressive and cruel governments do not survive,” commented that “With this statement, Ahmadinejad has also projected the outcome of his own backwards regime, which will likewise 'vanish from the page of time'.”29 But along with their contempt for the Iranian theocracy, both writers also share a commitment to truth.
As Karim Sadjadpour has observed, the consistent position of the Ayatollah Khamenei has been “that Iran's goal is not the military destruction of the Jewish state or the Jewish people....” In Khamenei's own words, in June 2005, “[the] solution to the issue of Palestine [...] is to hold a referendum with the participation of all native Palestinians, including Muslims, Jews and Christians, the Palestinians who live both inside and outside the occupied territories. Any government that takes power as a result of this referendum [...] will be an acceptable government....”30 In his speech at Columbia University in September 2007, Ahmadinejad echoed this position: “What we say is that to solve this 60-year problem, we must allow the Palestinian people to decide about its future for itself. [....] We must allow Jewish Palestinians, Muslim Palestinians and Christian Palestinians to determine their own fate themselves through a free referendum.”31 But to supporters of the Zionist project who believe that full rights of citizenship in Israel must continue to be reserved for Jews alone, a democratic solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is anathema.
However unpleasant some of Iran's public discourse may be, and however violent its suppression of internal dissidence, Dr. Chatterley was wrong in claiming that Ahmadinejad threatened Israel with war, or with “nuclear destruction.” Any such threat, moreover, would have been toothless, for as U.S. intelligence agencies have repeatedly acknowledged, Iran has no nuclear weapons and (whatever its ambitions may have been more than a decade ago) no nuclear weapons program.32
* * * *
One last issue raised by Dr. Chatterley's rejoinder remains to be discussed. In 2010 she became the founding director of the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA)—from which position she declared, in a 2011 op-ed on disputes over the allocation of exhibition space in the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, that “Subjective feelings are influencing [the Museum's] content and design choices rather than objective historical and legal reality and this does not bode well for the international reputation of this institution.”33 She rightly reproached the Ukrainian Civil Liberties Association for its interventions in that debate, which included the distribution of antisemitic postcards. But it does not bode well for the future of CISA, as a centre whose professed aim is to support research, that its director has shown so little respect for the ethics of scholarship in her own public pronouncements—and that in the closing paragraphs of her rejoinder to me she revealed a strangely deficient understanding of the very issues CISA was founded to study.
Dr. Chatterley objected there to my statement that the texts by scholars and human rights activists that I had published in Antisemitism Real and Imagined “recurrently express concern that uncritical support for the state of Israel's systematic violations of Palestinian human rights could feed a renewal of antisemitic prejudice and hatred in this country.”
Her first reason for objecting is a foolish and dishonest non sequitur: “First, I do not know anyone who actually supports human rights violations in the Palestinian territories or anywhere else.”34 The range of Dr. Chatterley's acquaintanceships was not a matter I had raised—but she is mistaken. A moment's attentiveness to the Socratic injunction Gnothi seauton35 would show her that she knows one such person rather well.
In a situation in which Jews were being violently persecuted, with the facts authenticated by human rights organizations and agencies of the United Nations, we would not hesitate to declare that any scholar or public intellectual who denied that human rights violations were taking place was by that act lending support to their continuation.
Consider, in this light, the essay on “Campus Antisemitism” in which, while accusing me of “Antisemitism Denial,” Dr. Chatterley argued that
The seriously flawed accusations that underpin IAW [Israeli Apartheid Week] events must be addressed head on by reasoned academic presentations given by leading scholars. [....] What we need [...] is high quality academic programming that both unpacks and counters the Israel Apartheid propaganda that we see on our campuses and actually engages with the difficult and contested reality of the conflict.
[....] Students care about racism and human rights [...]. As a result, they are easily and actively mobilized against those labeled racists and human rights violators, for whom there is little sympathy in our contemporary culture. IAW relies on the lack of public and student knowledge about Israel and the complex history of the Middle East, and it also depends upon the widespread ignorance about the system of Apartheid and the history of South Africa.36
She is claiming, in an essay whose title implies that IAW events foment antisemitism,37 that only people befuddled by propaganda and false labelling could believe Palestinians to be victims of systematic policies of racism and human rights violations. It follows that she is a supporter of and apologist for Israeli policies of internal discrimination and of violent oppression in the occupied territories—policies that have been correctly identified, by South African legal scholars among others, as involving the crime of apartheid, defined under international law as a crime against humanity.38
Secondly, Dr. Chatterley says,
antisemitism is not a form of normal human hostility or even a function of normal human outrage, both of which are inevitable human reactions to war and conflict. This is precisely why criticism of Israel is not by definition antisemitic.
Antisemitism is never a legitimate reaction to the behaviour of Jews, either as a collective or as individuals. Antisemitism is the product of a conspiratorial ideological way of thinking about Jews that relies on a belief in the actual existence of “Jewish power and its evil machinations for control.” To understand the nature and motives of antisemitism one does not study Jews or their behavior but those who manifest this antisemitic mindset.39
Let's be clear: no form of racism is ever legitimate; and whatever the boundaries of “normal” hostility or outrage might be, most of the manifestations of antisemitism that go beyond sullen prejudice into hurtful action fall outside them. But Chatterley's thinking here is coarse, and tells against the point she would like to make.
Set aside the fact that serious historians and sociologists study all aspects of such matters, perpetrators and victims alike. Set aside the fact that throughout nearly all of the long and atrocious history of antisemitism it has been obvious to even the most blinkered antisemites that, whatever fantasies they might entertain about “the synagogue of Satan” or some demonic conclave of Jewish Elders, the Jewish communities they were assaulting were largely powerless and unable to defend themselves, whether against judicial persecution or mob violence.
Delusions about Jewish power and machinations did become a significant part of antisemitic discourse during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries;40 and as the historian Tom Segev has shown, Chaim Weizmann made astute use of such beliefs prior to and during World War I in the maneuverings that culminated in the 1917 Balfour Declaration.41 During recent decades, however, Jewish elites have come to exercise a very considerable degree of actual power, in the United States especially.
That power may to a considerable degree be permissive or derivative in nature—based, that is, on a combination of geopolitical calculations by Western political elites which find Israel useful as a proxy and assistant in their own imperial ventures; of religious beliefs, ranging from the colonial impulses of Christian Zionists since the mid-nineteenth century to the apocalyptic fanaticism of present-day Christian fundamentalists; and of guilt, stemming from memories of institutionalized antisemitism and of the failure during World War II to mitigate the Shoah by any timely intervention.
Western political elites have found it convenient to have an Israel that is also a Spartan garrison-state, militarized to the hilt, nuclear-armed, and bristling with advanced weaponry. They are happy to make use of Israeli technologies of surveillance, policing, and population control. They don't seriously object to Israel's seizure and colonization of Palestinian land and resources, or to its increasingly bloody-minded treatment of the rightful owners of that land and those resources. If anything, they find the political interventions of Zionist organizations, pressure groups and ideologues congenial, because these prod their populations, for the most part, in directions they have already decided upon themselves.
If I am right in thinking of the power exercised by Western Jewish elites in support of the actions of the state of Israel as at least partially permissive or derivative, that doesn't make it any the less real as power, any less dangerous to its primary victims, the Palestinians42—or for that matter, any less dangerous, in a secondary manner, to Jewish communities worldwide.
Among people who have studied such matters, it is patently obvious that there is a direct connection between the recurrent surges of violence against Palestinian civilians by the state of Israel—let us call it the “behaviour” of the Jewish elites who govern that state—and corresponding surges in antisemitic incidents acts in Western countries.43
Dr. Chatterley's apparent denial of any such connection is a further sign that her scholarship is no less shoddy than her ethics.
1 Catherine Chatterley, “Campus Antisemitism: Combating Israel Apartheid Week on Campus—Thoughtful Engagement Required,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (15 November 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=518&sec=1&title=_CAMPUS_ANTISEMITISM:_COMBATING_ISRAEL_APARTHEID_WEEK_ON_CAMPUS_-_THOUGHTFUL_ENGAGEMENT_REQUIRED. That article offers the text of a paper Dr. Chatterley delivered at the Ottawa conference of the Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA), November 7-9, 2010, an event hosted by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA). I was in Ottawa at the same time, and as I said in my “Statement at the Independent Jewish Voices Press Conference” on Parliament Hill (8 November 2010): “The conference is being held under false pretences because the CPCCA and the ICCA are not so much concerned with real and actual antisemitism as they are with extending the definition of antisemitism to encompass any systematic criticism of the state of Israel's systematic violations of international law in its oppressive occupation and colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. [....] [T]he CPCCA is attempting to create a climate of opinion in which Canadian defenders of Palestinian human rights and exponents of the universal principles of international law can be smeared as antisemites and disseminators of hatred.” For an account of the origins of the ICCA and CPCCA, see my Introduction to Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition for Combatting Antisemitism (Waterloo: The Canadian Charger, 2010), pp. 12-18.
2 See Michael Keefer, ed., Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 165-77, 185-205. Prior to the publication of this book, suspicions that B'nai Brith Canada's annual tallies of antisemitic incidents are significantly inflated had been voiced by Gerald Caplan in the Globe and Mail and by Jonathan Kay in the National Post. Their suspicions are understandable, given such statements by B'nai Brith as that the eighteen-fold increase in the number of antisemitic incidents recorded since the organization first began to tally them in 1982 reflects a corresponding worsening of antisemitic hatred in Canada (rather than, for example, a substantially increased effort devoted to tracking such incidents). My conclusion that B'nai Brith's figures are inflated arose primarily out of comparative study of the parallel tallies of antisemitic incidents kept since the early 1980s by the Community Security Trust (CST) in the UK.
3 Ibid., p. 191.
4 Interview with Mordecai Briemberg, “Antisemitism: Real and Imagined,” Redeye (Vancouver Community Radio), 14 September 2010. posted at Rabble.ca, http://rabble.ca/podcasts/shows/redeye/2010/09/antisemitism-real-and-imagined.
5 Public lecture at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library, 25 September 2010, http://www.pasifik.ca/2010/09; Chatterley's link is to a reproduction of this video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5g4xQdnqLk.
6 Interview with Jack Etkin, “Face to Face with Jack Etkin: #46. Professor Michael Keefer: Criticize Israel—Go To Jail?” ICTV Victoria, 7 October 2010, http://www.vimeo.com.15655804. Chatterley provided a link to the reproduction of this interview at Wide Eye Cinema, http://wideeyecinema/?p=9534, where it is followed by three comments. The first two, posted on October 24 and November 1, 2010, are discussed below. The third comment, posted much later, in September 2011, is likewise antisemitic, but in a tone of arrogant pseudo-erudition rather than of neo-Nazi ranting.
7 “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (25 November 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=558&sec=4.
8 Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), pp. 21-27. Finkelstein devotes the entire first part of this book (pp. 21-85) to an incisive demolition of the ideology of the “new antisemitism.” My own critique of this ideology (which includes detailed citations of Finkelstein's work) can be found in the final two chapters of Antisemitism Real and Imagined (pp. 165-259).
9 See note 6 above.
11 In his address to the Israeli Knesset on January 20, 2014, Prime Minister Harper proposed that serious criticism of the policies and structures of governance of the state of Israel must be understood as impelled by “a mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain,” a translation into “more sophisticated language for use in polite society” of the “old hatred” that “led to the horrors of the [Nazi] death camps.” See “Read the full text of Harper's historic speech to Israel's Knesset,” Globe and Mail (20 January 2014), http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/read-the-full-text-of-harpers-historic-speech-to-israels-knesset/article16406371/?page=1.
12 The reference in these comments to supposed genocidal atrocities committed in Ukraine and blamed on Jews might suggest some connection to the organized and institutionally supported antisemitism now widely disseminated in Ukraine: see Per Anders Rudling, “Organized Anti-Semitism in Contemporary Ukraine: Structure, Influence and Ideology,” Canadian Slavonic Papers/Revue canadienne des slavistes 48.102 (March-June 2006): 81-119; available online at http://www.academic.edu/380652/_Organized_Anti_Semitism_in_Contemporary_Ukraine_Structure_Influence_and_Ideology_Canadian_Slavonic_Papers-Revue-candienne_des_slavistes_XLVIII_1-2_March_June_2006_81-119. The accusation, together with the Jew/Bolshevik motif, of hallucinatory numbers of Ukrainians “hung up to trees after torture,” is a marker of the historical layering of antisemitic hatred: in many medieval and more recent Christian devotional texts, the cross on which Jesus was crucified (after torture) is spoken of as a tree. The wording of the comments thus evokes the original blood libel of the canonical gospels (in which the Jews were said to accept guilt for the shedding of Jesus's blood), while also alleging a multiplication of that original crime that is suggestive of the reign of Antichrist prophesied in a long tradition of commentaries on the New Testament book of Revelations. A demonizing of Jews in apocalyptic speculations forms a consistent part of patristic, medieval, and more recent forms of antisemitism.
16 Ibid. Stormfront is a white supremacist and neo-Nazi website that describes itself as “the voice of the new, embattled White minority.”
17 “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply.”
18 Joanne Naiman, “RE: Catherine Chatterley's Response to Dr. Michael Keefer,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (27 November 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/editorial.cfm?pg=32. Professor Naiman also described Chatterley's response as “shoddy” and “a weak piece of propaganda masquerading as academic analysis.”
19 David Matas, “To the Editor,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (1 December 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=616&sec=1. Matas declared that “Independent intelligence sources consistently over years have reported that Iran is developing nuclear weaponry.” Since this is the precise inverse of the truth, and U.S. and Israeli intelligence agencies have in fact come to the opposite conclusion, “independent intelligence sources” must mean something like “PR flaks of Dick Cheney and Benjamin Netanyahu.” Matas proposed as authoritative an article by Gregory S. Gordon, “From Incitement to Indictment? Prosecuting Iran's President for Advocating Israel's Destruction and Piecing Together Incitement Law's Emerging Analytical Framework,” Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 98.3 (2008): 853-920. This article, an exemplary instance of “lawfare,” the deliberate perversion of international law in the interests of U.S. and Israeli political goals, fails to distinguish between critically established evidence and journalistic or governmental propaganda. Noting the judgment of the U.S. National Intelligence Estimates that Iran has no nuclear weapons program, Gordon attempts to counter this with the opinions of “Henry Kissinger and other experts” (864), and states, without further evidence, that Iran “is attempting to develop nuclear weapons for the ostensible purpose of annihilating Israel” (900). His treatment of translation issues (896-99) is comparably slipshod. And nowhere, in his concern with possible or prospective genocide, does he ask why legal precedents in the field should apply to the Iranian president—but not to U.S. and Israeli leaders, who have threatened to use nuclear weapons in first-strike attacks on Iran (with obviously genocidal consequences), and who actually possess such weapons.
20 Elihu D. Richter, “To the Editor,” Winnipeg Jewish Review (1 December 2010), http://www.winnipegjewishreview.com/article_detail.cfm?id=616&sec=1. Richter referred readers to the website of Genocide Prevention Now, where one finds, from 2012, his open letter, “Israeli Genocide Scholar Protests Israeli President Shimon Peres Opposing Military Action Against Iran,” http://www.genocidepreventionnow.org/Home/tabid/39/ctl/DisplayArticle/mid/1144/aid/645/Default.aspx. This might seem an odd position for a scholar concerned to prevent genocide to take. In one of the footnotes in Antisemitism Real and Imagined (p. 258 n. 142), I commented on another genocide scholar who in 2009 recommended putting an end to what he called “Gaza's extreme demographic armament” by de-funding UNRWA and thereby starving the people of Gaza: see Gunnar Heinsohn, “Ending the West's Proxy War Against Israel,” Wall Street Journal Europe (12 January 2009), http://online.wsj.com/article/SB12317117974341961.html. One would think scholars in this field ought to understand the difference between researching genocide and helping to provoke it.
21 On the same page, Rhonda Spivak provided several paragraphs of irrelevancies, focusing largely on the fact, revealed by Wikileaks, that authoritarian Arab states allied to the U.S. (Saudi Arabia, the Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt) have also advocated pre-emptive war against Iran. What bearing she thought this might have on the issues raised by Professor Naiman is anyone's guess.
22 See Akbar Ganji, “The Latter-Day Sultan: Power and Politics in Iran,” Foreign Affairs 87.6 (2008): 46, available online at http://content.akbarganji.org/docs/foreign_affairs.pdf.
23 See Arash Norouzi, “'Wiped off the Map'—The Rumor of the Century,” The Mossadegh Project (18 January 2007), http://www.mohammadmossadegh.com/news/rumor-of-the-century/. I have altered slightly the Farsi word order to conform with the word order of the English translation; the original is as follows: “Imam ghoft een rezhim-e ishghalgar-e qods bayad az safheh-ye ruzgar mahv shavad.” Claims that the Farsi verb rendered as “vanish” is active and transitive and hence deserves a more forceful translation (see Gordon, “From Incitement to Indictment?” 897-98) do not alter the fact that the sentence does not identify any agency that is to produce this effect of the vanishing of a regime—unless perhaps the divine will with which Khomeini was supposedly in touch.
25 Jonathan Steele, “Lost in translation,” The Guardian (14 June 2006), http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/jun/14/post155.
26 Jonathan Steele, “If Iran is ready to talk, the US must do so unconditionally,” The Guardian (2 June 2006), http://www.theguardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2006/jun/02/comment.usa.
27 Steele, “Lost in translation.”
28 Juan Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist,” Informed Comment (3 May 2006), http://www.juancole.com/2006/05/hitchens-hacker-and-hitchens.html.
29 Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker”; Norouzi, “'Wiped off the Map'.” (The name of Norouzi's website, The Mossadegh Project, is indicative of a commitment to secular democracy.)
30 Karim Sadjadpour, Reading Khamenei: The World View of Iran's Most Powerful Leader (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2009), p. 20; available online at http://www.carnegieendowment.org/files/sadjadpour_iran_final2.pdf.
31 “President Ahmadinejad Delivers Remarks at Columbia University,” Washington Post (24 September 2007), http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/24/AR2007092401042.html.
32 See Rory McCarthy, “Israel considering strike on Iran despite US intelligence report,” The Guardian (7 December 2007), http://www.guardian.co.uk/iran/story/0,,2224052,00.html; Gareth Porter, “Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group,” Antiwar.com (1 March 2008), http://www.antiwar.com/porter/?articleid=12443; “US believes Iran not trying to build a nuclear bomb,” Ynet News.com (24 February 2012), http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4194307,00.html; John Glaser, “US, Europe, Israel Agree on Solid Intel: Iran Nuke Threat Far Off: Solid, in depth intelligence confirms with high confidence Iran has no weapons program, but peace is still rejected,” Antiwar.com (23 March 2012), http://www.news.antiwar.com/2012/03/23/the-us-europe-israel-agree-.... See also Ed Cropley, “Massive Diplomatic Leak Exposes Israel Claims on Iran: Mossad Contradicted Netanyahu 'Red Line' Speech,” Forward: The Jewish Daily (24 February 2015), http://forward.com/articles/215378/massive-diplomatic-leak-exposes-israel-claims-on-i/?.
33 Catherine Chatterley, “The war against the Holocaust,” Winnipeg Free Press (2 April 2011), http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/opinion/analysis/the-war-against-the-holocaust-119110699.html.
34 “Dr. Chatterley's Response to Professor Keefer's Right of Reply.”
35 “Know thyself!”
36 Chatterley, “Campus Antisemitism.”
37 My own experience goes counter to this claim. I have been an invited speaker at Israeli Apartheid Week events on four occasions at three different Canadian universities. On those occasions anyone who spoke in defence of Israel was given a courteous hearing, and the organizers made it clear that any expression of antisemitism or any other form of racism would not be tolerated.
38 See Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 231-32. Israeli behaviour in the occupied territories has been denounced as not merely answering to the legal definition of the crimes of apartheid and of colonizing, but also as being genocidal in intention and effect: see, for example, Kathleen and Bill Christison, Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation (London: Verso, 2009), pp. 136-37. For discussion of this and similar opinions, see Antisemitism Real and Imagined, pp. 234-38; and for indications of the increasing willingness of Israeli politicians, state agencies, and a large part of the Israeli public to accept genocidal discourse and implicitly genocidal treatment of the Palestinians as normative, see Max Blumenthal, Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel (New York: Nation Books, 2013), pp. 250-60, 278-84, 303-29, 353-64.
39 “Dr. Chatterley's Response.”
40 Close analogues to these delusions are provided by some of the Sherlock Holmes fictions of Conan Doyle, in which all of the criminal activity in London is ascribed to a single mastermind, Moriarty, “the Napoleon of crime”; and by a similarly conspiratorial mindset evident in the spy fictions of John Buchan, such as Greenmantle (1916).
41 Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs Under the British Mandate, trans. Haim Watzman (New York: Henry Holt, 2000), pp. 38-50.
42 Middle Eastern Muslims in other countries have also been victims of the power exercised by organizations like AIPAC in the U.S. The Israel lobby was strongly supportive of the George W. Bush regime's invasion of Iraq, supported the bombing campaign that reduced Libya to chaos, continues to support the proxy war that has devastated Syria, and has agitated for a war of aggression against Iran.
43 See, for example, “Anti-Semitic attacks reach record UK high, Israel's Gaza offensive blamed—study,” RT (5 February 2015), http://rt.com/uk/229555-jewish-antisemitism-hate-crime/. Robert Cohen is one of many who have stated the obvious fact: “What's clearly nonsense is to claim that Israel's behavior plays no part in the political and cultural dynamic that is provoking growing racism against Jews. When things kick off in Israel and the Occupied Territories anti-Semitic attacks spike in Western Europe. When peace is being talked about, with real plausibility, anti-Semitism in Europe dies down.” Robert Cohen, “#JeSuisUnJuifBritannique,” Mondoweiss: The War of Ideas in the Middle East (18 January 2015), http://mondoweiss.net/2015/01/jesuisunjuifbritannique.
At the invitation of Diana Ralph of Independent Jewish Voice's Steering Committee, I took part with her in the IJV press conference in the Charles Lynch Room (130-S, Centre Block), Parliament Hill, at 9:30 a.m. on November 8, 2010. The press conference introduced a video produced by IJV, Defend Free Speech: The threat is from the new McCarthyism, NOT the new Anti-Semitism (http://ijvcanada.org/racism/new-antisemitism/new-video-on-antisemitism-threat-is-from-the-new-mccarthyism-not-the-new-antisemitism/), featuring statements by human rights lawyers, professors, experts, and activists: Alex Neve, Trevor Purvis, Terry Greenberg, Brian Campbell, Sid Shniad, Warren Allmand, Joanne Naiman, Kevin Neish, Khaled Mouammar, Barbara Jackman, George Galloway and myself. This press conference received coverage from Le Devoir, The Toronto Star, CBC, The Jewish Chronicle, The Daily Herald-Tribune (Grande Prairie, AB), The Hamilton Spectator, and the Kitchener-Waterloo Record, and Diana Ralph was interviewed by the Globe and Mail.
A conference has been held during the past two days on Parliament Hill by a group of MPs calling themselves the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (CPCCA); they are hosting the meeting of a group called the Inter-parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (ICCA) to which they have affiliated themselves.
I am here because I believe that conference is being held under false pretenses, and because it constitutes a threat to free speech and to the proper rule of law in this country—as well as a potential threat to Canada's already shaky standing as an upholder of international law.
The conference is being held under false pretenses because the CPCCA and the ICCA are not so much concerned with real and actual antisemitism as they are with extending the definition of antisemitism to encompass any systematic critique of the state of Israel's violations of international law in its oppressive occupation and colonization of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. As the Palestine Freedom of Expression campaign has observed, “the CPCCA is not an equity initiative, but rather an attack on Palestinians and the global Palestinian solidarity movement.” I would prefer to say that the CPCCA is attempting to create a climate of opinion in which Canadian defenders of Palestinian human rights and exponents of the universal principles of international law can be smeared as antisemites and disseminators of hatred.
The CPCCA launched a parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism in Canada—whose report we are still waiting for six months after the announced date of its release—with inflammatory claims about a terrifying resurgence of antisemitism in this country, and in Canadian universities especially. These claims are refuted by the oral testimony given in the CPCCA's own inquiry by Canadian university administrators and by senior police officers. They are also more comprehensively refuted by the analyses contained in the book Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism, copies of which are available here—and copies of which have been given to every MP and senator.
The book includes eloquent, incisive texts by eleven Canadian human rights activists and scholars—a majority of whom happen to be Jewish—and by the leaders of seven human rights organizations. It also includes my own extended analysis of the relevant hate-crime and antisemitic-incident statistics, and of the rhetoric and ideology of the so-called “new antisemitism” (a term which deliberately incorporates criticism of the state of Israel).
I'd like to emphasize, as I have in the book, that criticism of Israeli policies, and support for peaceful pressure to bring Israel into conformity with international law through a campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions, do not mean being “against” Israel. The great English poet William Blake said, “Opposition is true friendship.”
It is not an act of friendship to encourage Israel's passage down a darkening path of violence, oppression, and illegality. Nor are we friends to ourselves if we permit our own government to continue its disgraceful complicity in the oppression of the Palestinians.
The United Nations' rejection of Canada's recent bid for a Security Council seat should be a wake-up call: this country's international reputation is in tatters. The CPCCA's attack on human rights discourse and its attempt to discredit and even criminalize criticism of Israel's policies and actions are a direct threat to free speech and to the rule of law in this country.