Defending Critical Research into 9/11

The primary content of this piece was first published among the comments to an article by Robyn Urback, “Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? University of Lethbridge student awarded $7,714 to investigate war on terror 'truth',” Maclean's (26 November 2010),


The short texts reproduced here were occasioned by a minor outbreak of McCarthyist journalism in the autumn of 2010. It was initiated by Jonathan Kay of the National Post, who had recently published Among the Truthers, an attempt to explain, in the inept vocabulary of pop psychology, the phenomenon of scepticism about the official narrative about the events of September 11, 2001 and the “global war on terror” which that narrative legitimized.

On November 25, 2010, Kay devoted his column to what might seem a bizarrely petty subject: the fact that the University of Lethbridge had awarded a quite modest graduate fellowship to Joshua Blakeney, a student who planned, under the supervision of Professor Anthony Hall, to write an MA thesis that would “evaluate the content, quality and veracity of the body of literature that both supports and criticizes the government version of history used to justify the invasions and domestic transformations that make up the GWOT [Global War On Terrorism].”1

My own assessment of such a research proposal would be that, barring rigorous selectiveness as to how much of the field it attempted to cover, the subject risked being much too large for an MA thesis.

Kay thought it deficient in other respects—first, because he knew that both Professor Hall and Joshua Blakeney had expressed vocal doubts about the veracity of that “government version of history,” and secondly because Blakeney's research proposal indicated that his and Professor Hall's interest in “debates and controversies concerning the originating events of the GWOT” had been stimulated “by the scholarship of a number of academics including professors David Ray Griffin, John McMurtry, Michel Chossudovsky, Graeme MacQueen, Michael Keefer, Peter Dale Scott, Stephen Jones, Niels Harrit, and Nafeez Ahmed.” These names, Kay remarked,

effectively constitute a who's-who of the most influential Canadian, American and British 9/11 Truth conspiracy theorists. [....]

In other words, the University of Lethbridge—and, through the province of Alberta's funding arrangements, the taxpayers of Alberta—are paying a British graduate student $7,714 to pursue his conspiracy theory that the 9/11 attacks were staged by Washington.

Does anyone else see a problem with that?2

I would have liked to post a comment on the National Post website, indicating that I saw two problems with Jonathan Kay's own column—the first being a transparent McCarthyism, and another more serious one being a matter of intellectual dishonesty.

That might seem a severe judgment, but Kay interviewed me at length in 2009 for his Truthers book. Knowing him to have had a scientific education, I gave him detailed guidance during that interview and in follow-up correspondence as to the scientific studies and the physical, chemical, and materials-science evidence that underlies my own rejection of the “government narrative” of the three World Trade Center skyscraper collapses on 9/11. One would not guess from Kay's book, or from anything else he's written on the subject, that such information as this existed.

It would be absurd to demand that others automatically assent to my own interpretations of such matters. But I do observe that Jonathan Kay knows very well that scepticism about the government narrative of 9/11 is supported by a substantial body of unchallenged peer-reviewed scientific evidence, some of it published by Stephen Jones and Niels Harrit. He should also know, if he has read any of the books on 9/11 by David Ray Griffin, Michel Chossudovsky, Peter Dale Scott, and Nafeez Ahmed, as well as essays by John McMurtry, Graeme MacQueen, and others, that a large amount of other evidence points in the same direction. For him to give no hint of this, while smearing as “conspiracy theorists” the scientists and scholars who have helped to assemble and to analyze this evidence, is dishonest.

I am not writing out of any animus over my own treatment in Jonathan Kay's book. Aside from his suppression of serious evidence with which I know him to have been acquainted, my only objection to the three pages he devoted to me in the first chapter of Among the Truthers would be that he gave readers an inflated impression of my academic reputation as a scholar of Renaissance literature and early modern philosophy.

I would have liked to raise a parallel objection to being included among a list of “influential” 9/11 sceptics in Kay's November 25th article: I am indeed a 9/11 sceptic, but the characterization “influential” is in my estimation untrue. (In this case, to be fair, the error was Joshua Blakeney's: Kay merely quoted and commented on his list.) However, I was unable to post a response to Kay's article on the National Post website. Since no comments of any kind appear under the article in question, I suppose that the comments function must have been deliberately disabled.

Kay's stirring of the pot was quickly taken up in Maclean's magazine by Robyn Urback, who on the next day, November 26, 2010, published a short article whose title ends with a question mark: “Research grant to fund conspiracy theories?”3 Perhaps she hoped the grant would be withdrawn.

Urback's trajectory in this piece is interesting. To her mind, the “lunacy” of using tax dollars “to fund conspiracy theories” was “readily apparent.” But unexpectedly, she deviated into what looked like a defense of academic freedom, writing that “the expectation of graduate research is that it challenges the status quo and seeks to break through conventional belief.” Though feeling “little faith” that Blakeney's MA thesis could amount to more than “9/11 jabber,” she proposed that “academic freedom would be compromised if taxpayers could suddenly decide which theses were worth their dollar.” But then another swerve took her to her real goal:

Indeed, I think the outrage is warranted [...], but if anything, this situation just reinforces the need to establish a fully private post-secondary education system.4

I took this as a starting point in commenting on Robyn Urback's article.


1. Comment on Robyn Urback “Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? University of Lethbridge student awarded $7,714 to investigate war on terror 'truth',” Maclean's (26 November 2010), posted on 27 November at 4:52 p.m.

Let's ask ourselves a simple question. Why do Canadians think it important to pay for publicly funded universities—including paying the salaries of real scholars who do actual research as well as teaching, and including the provision of research grants to support graduate students who will go on to become university researchers and teachers themselves?

One reason, I would suggest, is that Canadians still see some value in being able to distinguish between critically sifted historical actualities and the miasmal deceptions of propaganda. We still see some value in being assisted to an understanding of the forces at work in contemporary history by people who (as Shakespeare's Hamlet put it) can show “the very age and body of the time his form and pressure.”

Professor Anthony Hall of Lethbridge University is a scholar of high distinction whose two books, The American Empire and the Fourth World (2004) and Earth Into Property: Colonization, Decolonization, and Capitalism (2010), both published by McGill-Queen's University Press, are major contributions to an understanding of North American history.

The sneering attacks by Jonathan Kay and now also by Robyn Urback on the quite modest research funding that the University of Lethbridge is offering to Professor Hall's graduate student Joshua Blakeney are easily identifiable as McCarthyist gutter journalism. But it may not be immediately obvious how much is at stake in this apparently quite minor controversy.

A significant number of young Canadians, serving in good faith and courageously in a war whose only justification is the official narrative of the events of 9/11, have been killed and maimed in Afghanistan. (Let us add that a much larger number of Afghans have been killed, maimed, or tortured as a result of our presence in their country.)

But that official narrative about 9/11—that official conspiracy theory—is, from top to bottom, untrue. The key evidence adduced by the 9/11 Commission Report was all based upon torture, and the pseudo-scientific explanations of the destruction of the Twin Towers and World Trade Center 7 that were offered by the US government's National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have been refuted by independent scientific studies that show the buildings were brought down by explosive demolition.

I am a graduate of the Royal Military College of Canada. In early October of this year, I stood on the College's parade square with several hundred other ex-cadets, including more than fifty from the class in which I graduated forty years ago, and watched as two currently serving officer cadets were presented with awards given to them by the bereaved families—parents, widows, and small children—of two RMC graduates recently killed in Afghanistan. I grieved then for the loss of those young lives, and I grieve now.

I do not want to see any more young Canadians killed or maimed in a war that is grounded in a pack of lies about the events of 9/11.

How then would I describe the behaviour of those, whether journalists or fellow citizens, who seek to obstruct, through mockery or through threats of de-funding, the honest research of scholars in Canadian universities into what happened on 9/11, and into the ways in which the events of that day have been so thoroughly obfuscated?

I have one word to describe that mockery, and those threats. They are contemptible.


2. An addendum, posted on 27 November 2010 at 6:18 p.m.

How interesting: the British newspaper The Independent has named Professor Hall's Earth Into Property as one of the best books of 2010. (See “The best books for Christmas: Our pick of 2010,” The Independent [26 November 2010].)


3. A response by David Leitch, Ph.D., 27 November 2010 at 9:07 p.m.

One of the first posts in response to Robyn Urback's article had been by David Leitch, who identified himself as “a recent graduate of a Ph.D. program here in Canada,” and professed himself “fairly appalled at the fact that government-dispensed grant money is going to fund such nonsense. [....] What I cannot fathom is that some granting agency actually gave credence to a verifiably false thesis: that the United States government somehow orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.” Expressing his faith in NIST's report on the collapse of the Twin Towers, Dr. Leitch marvelled that anyone could “honestly believe” that a government incapable of preventing the leaking of hundreds of thousands of documents relating to its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and including confidential diplomatic cables, “could possibly keep a MASSIVE conspiracy under wraps” for a week, let alone nearly a decade.

Dr. Leitch responded aggressively to my first post:

“You're accusing the NIST of pseudo-science? Do you have advanced degrees in Civil, Structural, Mechanical, and Materials Engineering? Architecture? Physics? Do you even know what the NIST is actually tasked with, or how many other agencies and groups contributed to that report? The NIST is NOT the US government—they are about as apolitical as you can get. Throw in for good measure the Structural Engineering Institute of the American Society of Civil Engineers, Society of Fire Protection Engineers, National Fire Protection Association, American Institute of Steel Construction, Simpson Gumpertz & Heger Inc., Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat, and the Structural Engineers Association of New York. But I guess all these groups are in on the conspiracy too hey? Just how many tens of thousands of people are 'in the know' about 'the truth,' and why have none of these people come forward with any shred of evidence to support the controlled demolition theory? And where are these independent scientific studies that refute the NIST report? Are they published? Certainly the NIST report is not perfect, no scientific paper ever is, but making the leap to controlled demolition is ludicrous. Ever heard of Occam's Razor? Everyone in the entire world saw planes hit those buildings. Why is there a need to invoke an astronomically complex plan to blow the buildings up? And no, analyzing YouTube videos does not count as scientific. [....]”


4. My response, posted on 30 November 2010 at 8:54 p.m.

A quick seminar for David Leitch, who doesn't like criticism of the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

   i. “As apolitical as you can get?”

NIST, an agency of the US Department of Commerce, was under direct Bush administration control. A NIST whistleblower went public in 2007, claiming that NIST had been “fully hijacked from the scientific into the political realm,” and that their work on 9/11 evidence was done under direct surveillance by the National Security Agency, senior officials of the Department of Commerce, and President Bush's Office of Management and Budget. (See David Ray Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor Revisited, pp. 11-12.)

   ii. Some scientific studies:

(a) Steven Jones at al., “Extremely high temperatures during the World Trade Center destruction,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2008); 
(b) Kevin Ryan et al., “Environmental anomalies at the World Trade Center: evidence for energetic materials,” The Environmentalist (August 2008); 
(c) Graeme MacQueen and Tony Szamboti, “The Missing Jolt: A Simple Refutation of the NIST-Bazant Collapse Hypothesis,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2009); 
(d) Niels Harrit et al., “Active Thermitic Material Discovered in Dust from the 9/11 World Trade Center Catastrophe,” The Open Chemical Physics Journal 2 (2009).

   iii. Plus two studies of witness evidence, both by Graeme MacQueen:

(a) “118 Witnesses: The Firefighters' Testimony to Explosions in the Twin Towers,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (August 2006); 
(b) “Waiting for Seven: WTC 7 Collapse Warnings in the FDNY Oral Histories,” Journal of 9/11 Studies (January 2008).

   iv. Occam's Razor

Yes, I've heard of it. If David Leitch cares to look up William of Occam's Reportatio II (Book 3 of his Super quatro libros sententiarum), q. 150, he'll learn that Occam himself thought the so-called “Razor”—his injunction against “multiplying entities” in causal explanations—doesn't apply to observations of physical events.

Of course two hijacked aircraft hit the Twin Towers. But NIST's account of the buildings' destruction has been refuted, and the clear scientific evidence that explosives were used is massively supported by the testimony of witnesses.

   v. Since we've strayed into medieval philosophy....

Let's hear what another English Franciscan, Roger Bacon, said in the opening section of his Opus Maius about the causes of error.

“The four chief obstacles to grasping truth,” he says, “are submission to incorrect and unworthy authority; the influence of custom; popular prejudice; and concealment of our ignorance, accompanied by an ostentatious display of our knowledge.”

Ouch. (That last phrase hurts.) Does the shoe pinch you as well, Dr. Leitch?


5. An objection by 'George', posted on 1 December 2010 at 3:42 a.m.

Dear Michael Keefer,

I hope you know your use of “scientific evidence” is terribly misguided, and that you are just pretending and are performing a study to see how people react to your statements... Sure the Journal of 9/11 Studies and The Open Chemical Physics Journal contained peer-reviewed “science”—to the ability of those peers. There's a reason who those “peers” are stuck submitting their articles into the open version of a real science journal, and the Journal of the 9/11 Conspiracy.

“...the clear scientific evidence that explosives were used...” What is this scientific evidence exactly? I fear you mean “the clear YouTube video analysis...”


6. Signing off, on 2 December 2010 at 11:04 p.m.


I'm sorry—I forgot to mention that the six studies I mentioned are all available online: Google will fetch them for you in an instant. Do please read them and form your own opinion of their significance.




1  Joshua Blakeney, MA research proposal quoted by Jonathan Kay, “University of Lethbridge pays student $7,714 to pursue 9/11 conspiracy theories,” National Post (25 November 2010),

2  Kay, “University of Lethbridge pays student $7,714.”

3  Robyn Urback, “Research grant to fund conspiracy theories? University of Lethbridge student awarded $7,714 [to] investigate war on terror 'truth',” Maclean's (26 November 2010),

4  Ibid.   

A Double Bouquet for Catherine Chatterley

The first short piece reproduced here appeared in the Winnipeg Jewish Review (23 November 2010), 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.

Michael Keefer
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 [2014].”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), 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,

5  Public lecture at the Nanaimo Harbourfront Library, 25 September 2010,; Chatterley's link is to a reproduction of this video at

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, 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),

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.

10  Wide Eye Cinema, http://wideeyecinema/?p=9534.

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),

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 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.

13  Lance Tapley, “The Double Identity of an 'Anti-Semitic' Commenter: Smearing a Progressive Website to Support Israel,” Common Dreams (20 August 2014),

14  Ibid.

15  Ibid.

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), 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), 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), 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,” 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), 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

23  See Arash Norouzi, “'Wiped off the Map'—The Rumor of the Century,” The Mossadegh Project (18 January 2007), 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.

24  Ibid.

25  Jonathan Steele, “Lost in translation,” The Guardian (14 June 2006),

26  Jonathan Steele, “If Iran is ready to talk, the US must do so unconditionally,” The Guardian (2 June 2006),

27  Steele, “Lost in translation.”

28  Juan Cole, “Hitchens the Hacker; And, Hitchens the Orientalist,” Informed Comment (3 May 2006),

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

31  “President Ahmadinejad Delivers Remarks at Columbia University,” Washington Post (24 September 2007),

32  See Rory McCarthy, “Israel considering strike on Iran despite US intelligence report,” The Guardian (7 December 2007),,,2224052,00.html; Gareth Porter, “Iran Nuke Laptop Data Came from Terror Group,” (1 March 2008),; “US believes Iran not trying to build a nuclear bomb,” Ynet (24 February 2012),,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,” (23 March 2012), 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),

33  Catherine Chatterley, “The war against the Holocaust,” Winnipeg Free Press (2 April 2011),

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), 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),   

Statement at the Independent Jewish Voices Press Conference, Parliament Hill, Ottawa (8 November 2010)

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 (, 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.   

Smear Tactics of the National Post: Correspondence with Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay, February 17-21, 2010

On February 14, 2010 I gave an invited lecture on “Media Self-Censorship and the Threat of Government Censorship” at the Islamic Society of York Region's Crescent Centre in Richmond Hill, a suburb of Toronto. My talk received hostile coverage in the National Post in an article by Joseph Brean published on February 16—to which I responded in a letter to the editor, sent very early the next morning.

My ensuing correspondence with two National Post editors is of some interest for what it reveals about the ethics of this newspaper. Letters editor Paul Russell stated on February 17 that he would print my letter (though not until after the 18th), and Jonathan Kay agreed that I was owed a right of reply. In the interim, the National Post printed on February 17 a letter which attributed to me an opinion Brean's article had snidely insinuated must be part of my belief system—and on that basis made a direct accusation of antisemitism. On the afternoon of February 21, by which time it was obvious that my original letter had been flushed down the memory hole, I wrote again to Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay. The last text here is Paul Russell's two-sentence message of apology (if that's what it is).

Cyril Connolly wrote in The Unquiet Grave that “Imprisoned in every fat man a thin man is wildly signalling to be let out.” One might say, by analogy, that within each of these two editors of the National Post a person of some decency was making rather pallid efforts—not, alas, sustained—to make himself visible.


Smear Tactics of the National Post: Correspondence with Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay, February 17-21, 2010


1. Michael Keefer to Paul Russell (Letters editor), February 17, 2010

From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Wed 17/02/2010 1:42 a.m. 
To: Letters (National Post
Subject: Letter to the editor (responding to Joseph Brean's Feb. 16 comments on me)


Joseph Brean's report on my talk at the Islamic Society of York Region's Crescent Centre illustrates very neatly some of the points I made about systematic omission, distortion, and deception in the news.

Mr. Brean wished elsewhere in his article to insinuate that an Iranian video shown earlier in the evening had stupidly exposed warlike nuclear ambitions on Iran's part. Naturally, then, he avoided mentioning that one of my examples of media falsehood was the deployment against Iran of the same lies about WMDs that were used to legitimize the invasion of Iraq in 2003—this despite the 2006 US National Intelligence Estimates, which declared that Iran was at least a decade away from being able to produce key components of a nuclear weapon. (The IAEA's rigorous inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities have of course never found any sign of a weapons program.)

I referred also to scientific analyses, published in the online Journal of 9/11 Studies, which show unequivocally that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by planned demolition—and noted, as one of my examples of deception-by-omission, that the corporate media have avoided mentioning these very newsworthy studies. Mr. Brean also managed not to mention their existence.

As for the Toronto 18 group, its only two or three members who had dangerously fanatical ideas had been under close surveillance for years. The group as such was assembled by one police agent, given the idea of making bombs by a second, and provided with expertise, financial assistance, and materials by a third. Until Mr. Brean can propose a better name for this pattern of events, “police frame-up” will do just fine.

Michael Keefer


2. Paul Russell to Michael Keefer (and replies), February 17

Letters (National Post) wrote (Feb 17, 6:10 a.m.):

Thanks for your letter. It will be considered for upcoming editions
Paul Russell
Letters editor


Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 12:04 p.m.):

Dear Paul,

Thanks for your quick reply. 

My text is perhaps longer than you normally print in the letters column. However, I do think the National Post owes me the right to respond to Mr. Brean's remarks about me.

Would that fall more under Jonathan Kay's editorial responsibilities than yours? I'll send him a copy of my letter.

Michael Keefer

p.s. I note that for some reason the apostrophes have dropped out of my text in the form you have it. I'm re-sending it to you as an attachment to this message.


Letters (National Post) wrote:

I'm planning to run your letter, so no concerns. 


Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 2:32 p.m.):

Dear Paul, 
Many thanks. 


Letters (National Post) wrote:

Thanks, and FYI, there is no room tomorrow. 


3. Michael Keefer to Jonathan Kay (and replies)

Michael Keefer wrote (Feb 17, 12:22 p.m.):

Dear Jonathan,

I'm attaching a copy of a letter I wrote in response to Joseph Brean's February 16 column, in which I received his unflattering attentions at some length.

I sent the letter last night to the Post's letters page, and received a very prompt response from Paul Russell. I've replied to him saying that I would guess my text is longer than the Post usually publishes on its letters page—but that I do think the Post owes me a right of reply.

I also guessed that right-of-reply issues might be your editorial responsibility, and said I'd send my letter to you: I've attached it to this message. (For some reason, all the apostrophes dropped out of the version that Paul has.

Best wishes, 


Kay, Jonathan (National Post) wrote (Feb 17, 12:30 p.m.):

Let me talk to the letters editor
I think you should have the right to respond ...


4. Michael Keefer to Paul Russell and Jonathan Kay (and reply), February 21

From: Michael Keefer
Sent: Sun 21/02/2010 4:29 p.m. 
To: Letters (National Post); Kay, Jonathan (National Post
Subject: Re: Letter to the editor (responding to Joseph Brean's Feb. 16 comments on me)

Dear Paul and Jonathan,

Unless I've been more than usually unobservant, the National Post hasn't run my letter. I would guess now, since we'll soon be five days on from the time I sent it in, that it's not going to be published in the Post. So much, then, for the right to reply.

I don't reproach either of you, but I do reproach whoever countermanded the good intentions you expressed in your notes to me.

In my letter, dated on the 16th but actually sent very early on the morning of the 17th, I replied just to Joseph Brean's article.

But let me draw your attention to the little twist the Post gave to the story by publishing on the 17th a letter from a person in Thornhill who asserted that Brean “quotes Michael Keefer as saying 9/11 was a planned demolition run by Americans (which was obviously a product of the all-powerful Zionist lobby in Washington).”

Most if not all readers will understand that sentence to mean that everything after “as saying” was actually quoted by Joseph Brean from the talk I gave. Not so: Brean didn't quote the bracketed words from me, for the very good reason that I said nothing of the sort.

Of course, without the implication that I blamed 9/11 on “the all-powerful Zionist lobby in Washington,” the direct accusation of antisemitism in the person-from-Thornhill's last sentence wouldn't work quite as smoothly. (Unless one has something plausibly antisemitic to start with, it's a long jump to the blood libel.)

The profound indecency here isn't Joseph Brean's—he was just doing his job, which seems to consist of repeated exercises in what I've termed “subtractive politicizing.” Nor should it be laid at the door of the letter writer with the Passover-Seder-hymn name, who's probably no more than a clever schoolboy.

The real indecency is on the part of a newspaper that amuses itself by dancing in the waltz-time of Two Smears-No Reply.



Letters (National Post) wrote:


I'm sorry, but while Jonathan and I generally supported the idea of running your letter, other senior editors had concerns with it, and hence its lack of publication. But thanks for your note and your observations about the other letter.

Paul Russell
NP letters editor


In Defence of Jenny Peto - A letter to Dalton McGuinty

In December 2010, three members of the Ontario legislature, one of them a minister in the provincial government, took the extraordinary step of denouncing a recently accepted University of Toronto Master of Arts thesis in the legislature as being “shockingly antisemitic,” “disgusting,” “hateful and poorly researched,” a “piece of garbage,” and an “attack on Ontario's Jewish community.”

I had read the thesis in question, and had formed a very different opinion of its qualities. I was struck by the indications both in news reports and in their own language that none of the three MPPs had read the thesis—despite which they were willing, under the protection of legislative immunity, to slander the author and the supervisor of the thesis (both of whom happen to be members, if dissident ones, of Ontario's Jewish community).

Taking advantage if the fact that the Liberal Premier of Ontario, Dalton McGuinty, had been a student of mine three decades earlier at the University of Ottawa, I addressed this open letter to him. It was published by Independent Jewish Voices/Voix Juives Indépendentes (17 December 2010),, and at four other websites, among them PULSE Media, in 2010-11. I was unaware when I published this text that Eric Hoskins, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, is a doctor: I have altered the text, where appropriate, to recognize that title.


The Right Honourable Dalton McGuinty, 
Premier of Ontario. 11 December 2010.


Dear Mr. McGuinty,

I am writing to you as a senior member of the teaching profession in Ontario’s college and university sector. I began my teaching career at Centennial College in Toronto nearly forty years ago, resigned from my position there in order to pursue doctoral research in England, and returned to Ontario in 1980—where I was taken on by the English Department of the University of Ottawa in time to have the pleasure of being one of your professors there in 1980-81.

I have taught at the University of Guelph since 1990—and have done external work as well, including service for one year as Chair of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s research grants adjudication committee in Literature, and for two years as President of the Association of Canadian College and University Teachers of English.

Please forgive this recitation of ‘street-creds’—but since I'm addressing you on a very serious matter, I would like to hope that this letter may receive your personal attention.

I am prompted to write by an extraordinary episode that occurred in the Ontario Legislature on December 7th. Two MPPs, Mr. Steve Clark and Mr. Peter Shurman, rose in the Legislature with questions addressed to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the Honourable Eric Hoskins. Both MPPs denounced, in the most strenuous terms, a Master of Arts thesis recently accepted by the University of Toronto. Mr. Clark called it “shockingly anti-Semitic” and “disgusting,” and asked, “What are you doing as Minister of Citizenship to stop the rising tide of anti-Semitism?” Mr. Shurman called the thesis a “hateful and poorly researched paper,” and invited the Minister to “speak up on behalf of Jewish groups who have been so deeply hurt by this piece of garbage and condemn it not as an academic paper but for the hate that it actually is.”

Responding to his questioners with expressions of appreciation, Dr. Hoskins said, “I join them in condemning this attack on Ontario's Jewish community.” His responses also included a double reference to the pride he felt “earlier this year when the Legislature came together to condemn anti-Semitism on our campuses....”

I would like to draw several issues to your attention.


1. Mr. Shurman is reported in the newspapers as acknowledging that he had not himself read the MA thesis that he denounced in such inflammatory terms. Dr. Hoskins appears not to have read it either—and the wording of his first response would suggest that he believed Mr. Clark also derived his opinions about it at second hand: “I too, was greatly disturbed and in fact disgusted when I read the immediate reports as well.”

In contrast to your colleagues in the Legislature, I have read Ms. Jenny Peto’s MA thesis, The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education. I believe that the language used by the two MPPs and by the Minister to characterize this thesis is very seriously misleading. It is in my opinion a well-researched study with a clearly-defined ethical focus; it makes thoughtful and interesting use of critical race theory to construct a persuasive interpretive framework, and it arrives through close critical analysis at conclusions that could lead into further productive work at the doctoral level.


2. The central argument of Ms. Peto’s thesis—alluded to by Mr. Clark and Mr. Shurman—is that two particular Holocaust education projects, the “March of the Living” and the “March of Remembrance and Hope,” are making instrumental and political use of the appalling history of Jewish martyrdom and suffering in the Shoah, and thereby perpetuating claims to victimhood that, in Ms. Peto’s words, “are no longer based in a reality of oppression,” but rather produce effects that benefit “the organized Jewish community and the Israeli nation-state.”

Harsh though Ms. Peto’s language might seem to some readers, this is in fact an issue that is being vigorously discussed within Israel—perhaps most movingly and brilliantly by the film-maker Yoav Shamir, in his documentary Defamation. In that film’s climactic sequences, Shamir accompanies a group of Israeli teenagers who are being taken to Poland by one of the Holocaust education programs that Ms. Peto’s thesis discusses. There is a sequence in which these adolescents, having toured the site of the death camp at Auschwitz, are overwhelmed by the horror of the place and the appalling scale of the atrocities inflicted there; they huddle together in little groups, weeping. This scene is unforgettable. But scarcely less so is the new hardness that some of the young people then immediately express in relation to the sufferings of the Palestinians living in the territories illegally occupied by their country since 1967.

Shamir’s documentary leaves viewers with a clear sense that this hardness toward the Palestinians is an intended effect of the state-organized program whose workings he has shown us. (I would urge you and your colleagues, Mr. Premier, to watch this film: it is available online at Mr. Clark, Mr. Shurman, and Dr. Hoskins may find it instructive that the argument they object to so vehemently in Ms. Peto’s work is unambiguously supported by Yoav Shamir’s documentary footage.)


3. Arguments similar to those of Ms. Peto’s MA thesis have recently been made by a distinguished Israeli politician, Avraham Burg, in his book The Holocaust is Over, We Must Rise from its Ashes. For a brief account of this book’s relevance to current political debates in Canada, see Gerald Caplan, “A Mideast reading list for Tories willing to learn,” The Globe and Mail (27 August 2010). Noting that Burg, the son of a prominent Israeli cabinet minister, has himself been “a leader of the Labour Party, speaker of the Knesset, and chairman of the Jewish Agency and the Zionist Executive,” Caplan writes that “From the heart of Israel itself, Mr. Burg has the courage to accuse his fellow Israelis of deliberately exploiting the Holocaust as an excuse to treat Palestinians deplorably.”


4. In their remarks in the Legislature on December 7th, the two opposition MPPs and your cabinet colleague agreed that Ms. Peto’s MA thesis is an expression of antisemitic hatred, and an attack on the Jewish community. I would argue that it is crucial for members of the Legislature to recognize that the issue of antisemitism has become heavily politicized in Canada—and that claims made on this subject have with increasing frequency been motivated by a desire to silence legitimate criticism of the actions and policies of the state of Israel by branding them as antisemitism and as hate speech.

Claims motivated in this manner have often taken the form of assertions that Canadian civility and decency are menaced by a “new antisemitism,” in which the traditional antisemitic loathing of Jews and Judaism has mutated into hatred of “the collective Jew” and now takes the form of attempts to demonize and delegitimize the state of Israel.

However, many distinguished contemporary scholars of Judaism and antisemitism have rejected attempts to expand the category of antisemitism by conflating it with criticisms of Israeli state policy and actions. These scholars include the late Raul Hilberg, whose magisterial three-volume work The Destruction of the European Jews (1961) is acknowledged as the seminal study of the Shoah; University of Oxford philosopher Brian Klug, whose writings on antisemitism include “The Collective Jew: Israel and the New Antisemitism,” Patterns of Prejudice (June 2003), and “The Myth of the New Antisemitism,” The Nation (February 2004); Yakov M. Rabkin, Professor of History at the Université de Montréal, whose book Au nom de la Torah: une histoire de l’opposition juive au sionisme (2004) was shortlisted for a Governor-General’s Award; and Marc H. Ellis, Director of the Center for Jewish Studies at Baylor University, a theologian whose nearly two dozen books include The End of Jewish History: Auschwitz, the Holocaust and Palestine (2005).

Their principal reason for rejecting the conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israeli policies is that its obvious purpose is to deflect attention away from Israel’s systematic violations of international law, including the Geneva Conventions, in its treatment since 1967 of the people of the Palestinian Occupied Territories.

A secondary reason is that this conflation actually detracts from the struggle against real antisemitism. As Professor Yanis Varoufakis of the University of Athens has written, “[W]hen a worthy cause, like that of ‘zero-tolerance to antisemites’, is appropriated by a regressive campaign whose purpose is, in effect, to terminate any critical engagement with the subjugation, repression and expropriation of another people, the Palestinians, then the worthy cause suffers. Antisemites rejoice when criticism of Israel’s Wall in Palestine is equated with antisemitism. For they are suddenly included in the wider community of fair minded people for whom the collective humiliation, mass harassment and disconnection of a whole people from their own backyards, not to mention the rest of the world, constitutes a hideous state of affairs in need of urgent redress.”


5. I have myself published on these subjects. I am the editor and part-author of Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (2010), a book described by Gerald Caplan, in the same Globe and Mail article in which he introduced Avraham Burg to Canadian readers, as “indispensable” and “important.” I would note that two matters raised in the Legislature, the first by the comments of Mr. Clark, and the second by Dr. Hoskins’s responses, are dealt with at some length in my book.


6. Mr. Clark asked Dr. Hoskins: “What are you doing as Minister of Citizenship to stop the rising tide of anti-Semitism?” But is there actually, as B’nai Brith Canada has repeatedly asserted, an alarming resurgence of antisemitism in Canada? Recognizing this as an important question, I devoted a long chapter to it in Antisemitism Real and Imagined (“Data and Deception: Quantitative Evidence of Antisemitism,” pp. 165-205). My conclusion, after detailed comparative analysis of the available statistical evidence, was that although Canadian Jews continue to be disproportionately victimized in hate crimes, antisemitic attitudes have declined steadily in recent decades, and Statistics Canada and Toronto Police Service data show declines in antisemitic hate crimes. It would therefore have been appropriate for Dr. Hoskins to reply by expressing a due determination to act firmly against antisemitism and all other forms of racism—and then to have added that according to the best available evidence, there is no “rising tide” of antisemitism in Canada.


7. The second of these two matters was evoked by Dr. Hoskins’s double reference to the pride he felt “earlier this year when the Legislature came together to condemn anti-Semitism on our campuses....” He was alluding to the vote taken in the Legislature on February 25th, 2010, in the presence of just thirty MPPs, to condemn Israeli Apartheid Week as “odious.”

It would have been more appropriate for Mr. Hoskins to feel shame over that vote, which revealed a remarkable level of ignorance among members of the Legislature.

The term “apartheid” was applied with clinical accuracy by Marwan Bishara in 2001 to describe what Israel had done in the Occupied Palestinian Territories from the early 1990s onward, “physically and demographically divid[ing] up the West Bank and Gaza into islands of poverty, or bantustans, while maintaining economic domination and direct control over Palestinian land and natural resources” (Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid [2001], p. 4). The term was re-used by former US President Jimmy Carter in 2006 (Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid)—a usage validated in 2007 by Israel Prize laureate and former Israeli Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni (“Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel,” CounterPunch [8 January 2007]). And in January 2010, Henry Seigman, the former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress and current President of the US/Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that Israel’s “relentless” construction of new settlements “seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that ‘achievement’ [...] Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the western world” (“Imposing Middle East Peace,” The Nation [7 January 2010]).

More conclusively, in May 2009 the Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa published a report produced by a team of South African and international jurists and entitled Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid?: A Reassessment of Israel's Practices in the Occupied Palestinian Territories Under International Law ( This report came to the conclusion that Israel’s rule in the Occupied Palestinian Territories is “a colonial system that implements a system of apartheid.”

Dr. Hoskins is proud to have condemned as unacceptable and hateful any application of the term “apartheid” to the structures of land theft, cantonment, and racialized subjugation, separation, and oppression of a subject-population that characterize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians. But South African legal scholars have had direct and bitter experience in their own country of the realities of apartheid. Are we to believe that members of the Ontario Legislature know better than they do what apartheid is?

* * * *

I would propose, in concluding, that the issue at hand is not one of whether we should provide Holocaust education to our children. I have strong feelings on this subject: I have traveled widely in Poland, and during those travels have walked on what I regard as sacred ground—in the vacant spaces that are all that remain of synagogues in Lodz and Lublin, in the surviving Old Synagogue in Kazimierz, in the gas-chamber at Majdanek, and in the hillside monument of shattered gravestones that is Kazimierz Dolny’s only memorial to the fifty percent of the town’s population who were murdered in the Shoah. What is at issue is not the question of whether our children should know this history, so they can dedicate themselves to ensuring that horrors of this kind can never be repeated: all of us, surely, believe this should be the case.

What is at issue, rather, is our right to subject the various representations of and responses to that history to lucid criticism and analysis—and to speak out openly when it appears that they are being used, not to bring young people into a determination to stand up against injustice, but instead to desensitize them to present-day actualities of dispossession, oppression, and suffering.

Ms. Jenny Peto has exercised that right in an MA thesis that in my opinion deals courageously with difficult and painful materials. I honour her for it.

I hope, Mr. Premier, that you and your fellow leaders in the Ontario Legislature—the Speaker of the House, the members of your cabinet, and the leaders of the two opposition parties, Ms. Horwath and Mr. Hudak—may be able to provide the appropriate leadership to bring other MPPs to an understanding of the principles of university autonomy and academic freedom, and the underlying principle that the intellectual work of universities must not be constrained by political interference.

I hope you may be able as well to inculcate a fuller recognition among members of the Legislature of the meaning of parliamentary decorum. Behaviour reminiscent of the denunciatory antics of Senator Joseph McCarthy in the early 1950s does not enhance the dignity of our Legislature—and there is reason to believe that the statements made by Mr. Clark, Mr. Shurman, and Dr. Hoskins amount to an abuse of parliamentary privilege. It would appear that none of the three MPPs had direct knowledge of Ms. Peto’s MA thesis, and Mr. Shurman’s remark, reported by the National Post on December 9th, is particularly shocking in its casualness: “He hasn’t read the paper, but nonetheless owes it to his largely Jewish constituents to defend Israel on their behalf, he said.”

All three MPPs made statements which, if spoken outside the Legislature, without the protection of parliamentary privilege, would be recognized under Canadian law as libelous. I believe there are good grounds for rejecting these statements as irresponsible, ill-informed, and untrue. I would recommend, then, that the Legislature exercise its own collective parliamentary privileges—which include the power to discipline its members—by requiring Mr. Clark, Mr. Shurman, and Mr. Hoskins to withdraw and apologize for their remarks.

Yours sincerely and respectfully,

Michael Keefer
Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph.  

Death Squads vs. Democracy: Tom Flanagan’s Joke

This essay was first published by the Centre for Research on Globalization (7 December 2010),, and subsequently reproduced at fifteen other websites.

Tom Flanagan, University of Calgary political science professor, right-wing pundit, and mentor and former senior advisor to Prime Minister Harper, has earned himself more international media attention during the past week than even he may have an appetite for.

On November 30th, 2010, Flanagan spoke as one of the regular panelists on CBC Television’s national political analysis program, Power and Politics with Evan Solomon. Staring into the camera, while across the bottom of the television screen there appeared a banner reading “WIKILEAKS LATEST: New document mentions PM Stephen Harper,” Flanagan had this to say about Julian Assange, the founder and editor of Wikileaks:

“Well, I think Assange should be assassinated, actually. I think Obama should put out a contract and maybe use a drone or something.”

Evan Solomon’s reaction was delayed—and when it finally came, thumpingly stupid. After letting Flanagan outline for nearly ten seconds his reasons for advocating political murder, he broke in at last, saying: “Tom, that’s pretty harsh stuff, just for the record, that’s pretty harsh stuff.”1

Flanagan responded to this interruption with what appears to have been a joke: “Well, I’m feeling very manly today.” But making it clear that his initial remarks were seriously intended, he wrapped up his contribution to the program with a parting shot: “I wouldn’t feel unhappy if Assange disappeared.” This sounds rather as though, after proposing a murder contract and a drone attack, he was offering Obama a third form of assassination: how about a death-squad “disappearance”? Solomon responded, echoing his earlier feebleness: “Well, I’ve gotta say, Tom Flanagan calling for that, that’s pretty strong stuff….”2

One of the most lucid comments to date on this disgusting episode has come from Calgary Herald journalist and University of Calgary alumnus Kris Kotarski, in a public letter calling on Dr. Elizabeth Cannon, the university’s President, “to condemn Dr. Flanagan in the harshest possible terms.” Kotarski writes:

Better than most, a professor of political science should understand that academic freedom is not possible without political freedom, and that political freedom cannot survive in a climate where journalists and opponents of a ruling regime hear public intellectuals advocate for their assassination on the nightly news.

If this were a Russian, Chinese or Iranian intellectual calling for the murder of a regime opponent, Canadians would be appalled. Considering Canada’s proud tradition of political freedom, it is all the more offensive to hear an active member of the University of Calgary faculty and the former chief of staff and campaign manager for the sitting Prime Minister do the same.3

As one would expect, there have been attempts both by Flanagan and by his supporters in the media to explain his remarks away as an ill-judged attempt at humour. For example, Sarah Petz has written in Macleans: “Joking about the assassination of a major public figure is terrible […]. However, considering it was obviously a bad joke and not a serious incitation to commit violence, maybe it’s time for everyone to move on.”4

Petz likens Flanagan’s comments in the video footage to “something your conservative uncle would say in a drunken argument over an awkward family dinner.”5 But while there may have been a note of brutal flippancy in his tone, Flanagan was stone-cold sober. The only jest in his statement was the inane Neo-Con in-joke about “feeling very manly today.” Some people of Flanagan’s political leanings—men like Dick Cheney, John Bolton, and George W. Bush—seem to find the quasi-erotic charge they get from making threats of violence invigorating, even amusing. Others might wonder how manly it is to find one’s pleasure in bullying and terrorizing people.

Flanagan’s feelings of manliness seem to be recurrent—and perhaps more seriously out of control than his supporters are aware. At much the same time as Sarah Petz described him in Macleans as “someone who should be an expert in what not to say,” a Ms. Janet Redmond of Toronto reproached Flanagan by email for his comments on Assange (“So you are in favour of assassinating people that you disagree with. Does the Reform Party have no ethical basis? Agree with us or get assassinated”?). She received a one-sentence response from Flanagan: “Better be careful, we know where you live.”6

It’s perhaps just as well that the video footage of this CBC program has gone global, together with explanations of Flanagan’s close links to our current Prime Minister. Julian Assange, let us remind ourselves, is not just the “major public figure” that Macleans calls him: he has for several years taken a leading role in what is arguably the most courageous and the most significant journalistic work currently ongoing anywhere in the world.

In an age in which the “memory hole” imagined by George Orwell in his dystopian novel 1984 has become a literal reality, the work of Wikileaks is crucial. Assange has himself pointed out in public lectures and interviews that news reports are now routinely deleted by media corporations, both from their online archives and from their indexes, leaving behind nothing but a “document not found” message for search-engine inquiries; while in the UK some 300 news stories, including one about a deliberate chemical spill that injured over 100,000 people, are currently smothered by court orders that make it illegal even to mention the existence of a court order blocking publication of the facts.

Moreover, the US government has been moving steadily toward a situation in which its agencies possess something approaching what Admiral John Poindexter called “total intelligence awareness,” while citizens are increasingly confined to a corresponding state of ignorance on all matters of importance. Lawrence Davidson explains the strategy:

Democratic elites have learned that they do not need to rely on the brute force characteristic of dictatorships as long as they can sufficiently control the public media environment. You restrict meaningful free speech to the fringes of the media, to the ‘outliers’ along the information bell curve. You rely on the sociological fact that the vast majority of citizens will either pay no attention to that which they find irrelevant to their immediate lives, or else they will believe the official story line about places and happenings of which they are otherwise ignorant. Once you have identified the official story line with the official policy being pursued, loyalty to the policy comes to equate with patriotism. It is a shockingly simple formula and it usually works.7

While it is undoubtedly embarrassing for American elites (whom one hesitates to grace with the word “democratic”) to have the dirty linen of their diplomatic double-dealings exposed to the world, their most urgent concern seems to be to ensure that as little as possible of the Wikileaks material becomes known in any organized way to the American public. Hence the censorship being exercised by the New York Times (in contrast to the manner in which The Guardian and Der Spiegel are releasing the material that they all possess)—and hence also the vitriolic hatred expressed toward Julian Assange by Hillary Clinton, Newt Gingrich, and Bill O’Reilly, and the death-threats issued against him by Sarah Palin, Mike Huckabee, and William Kristol.

Noam Chomsky has remarked that “Perhaps the most dramatic revelation [of the leaked cables] is the bitter hatred of democracy that is revealed both by the U.S. government—Hillary Clinton, [and] others—and also by the diplomatic service.”8 The paroxysms of loathing now being directed at Julian Assange are another expression of that same hatred of democracy.

While most Canadians are already aware of our own government’s repeated demonstrations of contempt for democratic principles and practice, understanding the implications of Tom Flanagan’s behaviour remains important. Canada’s standards of public discourse have decayed to the point at which our national broadcaster is not ashamed to carry an open incitement to political murder made by the leading ideologue of the governing party, a former and for all we know continuing close associate of Prime Minister Harper. It is dismaying to recognize that our media system includes, at its centre, people for whom the open-eyed advocacy of lawless violence is something merely to shrug off, like an off-colour joke, as “pretty strong stuff.”

But acceptance of that kind of dismissal is only possible so long as Canadians continue to believe that our governing elites have always operated at a safe distance from such totalitarian tactics as those recommended by Tom Flanagan. Is that in fact the case, or is our belief perhaps conditioned by effective control of what Davidson calls the “public media environment”?

How many of us know about Canada’s central role in the overthrow of Haiti’s duly elected democratic government in February 2004, or about the role of Canada’s military in facilitating—or at the very least doing nothing to prevent—the campaigns of political terror, massacre and rape that followed the coup? Or about the fact that Canada exercised effective control over a post-coup prison system in Haiti that even the Organization of American States condemned as horrifying? (The Deputy Minister of Justice who ran that system was both appointed and paid by the Canadian International Development Agency.) Or about the role of the RCMP in providing training and tutelage for a reconstituted Haitian National Police that engaged in documented death-squad activities against civilians between 2004 and at least 2006, and is suspected of involvement in such crimes as the “disappearance” of human rights activist Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine in August 2007? (Should we not feel some degree of responsibility for these crimes? Might it be in any way significant that Lovinsky was “disappeared” just three weeks after having annoyed Canadian authorities in Haiti by trying to organize a demonstration against Stephen Harper’s brief visit to the island in July?)9

The Wikileaks cables apparently include more than 1,800 documents emanating from Ottawa (whether from American diplomats posted there or from Canadian authorities communicating with the US is unclear). Their contents may be entirely confined to banal and routine matters. Or they may perhaps provide further substantiation of the fact that crimes of state terror of the kind Tom Flanagan thought it appropriate to recommend on CBC Television—far from being mere rhetoric, let alone a “joke”—touch Canadians more closely than most of us have been able to recognize.

Should the Wikileaks cables turn out to contain material of this kind, we might expect to hear angry denunciations of Julian Assange from Liberal as well as from Conservative quarters—for Canada’s participation in the Haitian coup of 2004 was decided and acted upon by the governments of Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin, whose policies the Harper Conservatives have in this respect merely continued.

One may hope that in such a case, Canadian public opinion would respond with a firm defence of our democratic right to know about and to control the doings of our elected representatives and public servants—and to ensure that their actions remain in conformity with domestic and international law.

As for the present, I note with interest that Vancouver lawyer Gail Davidson has filed a complaint against Tom Flanagan with the Vancouver police and the RCMP.10 I’m happy to endorse a comment posted by ‘Delmazio’ in response to this news: “We need more people like Mr. Julian Assange who are willing to speak truth to power, and encourage the free flow of information which directly affects public policy decisions. If we value freedom of information, transparency, openness, and democracy, we ought to praise not to condemn such efforts.”11




1  The key sequence from the November 30, 2010 broadcast is available at “Tom Flanagan calls for assassination of Julian Assange,” Youtube (19 May 2012),

2  Ibid.

3  “Open letter to University of Calgary President Dr. Elizabeth Cannon regarding Dr. Tom Flanagan's remarks,” Censure Tom Flanagan (6 December 2010, updated 16 December 2010),

4  Sarah Petz, “Let Flanagan's remarks die: Ucalgary prof wasn't inciting violence, just making a really horrible joke,” (4 December 2010), Petz denies that Flanagan's words could have been “a serious incitation to commit violence.” “Incitation”? Does Petz mean “incitement”? Is she dimly recollecting the horse, Incitatus, that the emperor Caligula wanted to appoint to the Roman senate? Or have Macleans’ standards of political decency and writing both collapsed?

5  Petz, “Let Flanagan's remarks die.”

6  Bill Graveland, “Tom Flanagan threatened me over Wikileaks comment, Toronto woman says,” The Globe and Mail (7 December 2010), As Isobel Teotonio and Tonda MacCharles of the Toronto Star noted, Flanagan himself coined a term in his book Harper's Team (2007) for the kind of behaviour he indulged in on the CBC program and in his email: “bozo eruptions.” (See Teotonio and MacCharles, “Toronto woman gets apology from former Harper aide,” Toronto Star [8 December 2010],

7  Lawrence Davidson, “On the Historical Necessity of Wikileaks,” MWC News (4 December 2010),

8  See

9  Information on these subjects can be found in my essay “Canada and the Dignity of Haitian Women,” Centre for Research on Globalization (12 December 2010),

10  Charlie Smith, “Police complaint filed after Tom Flanagan calls for assassination of Wikileaks’ Julian Assange, [4 December 2010],

11  Some may be concerned about the news that Sweden’s Public Prosecutor’s Office announced in August 2010 that it intended to arrest Assange on charges of rape, withdrew the arrest warrant on the same day, asserting that there was no evidence, and then resurrected the charges three months later. See the article by Melbourne barrister James D. Catlin, who acted for Assange in London in October: “When it comes to Assange rape case, the Swedes are making it up as they go along,” Crikey (2 December 2010),   

Dignity of the Haitian Women (and Canada’s Shame)

First published in Investigating Canadian Identities: 10th Anniversary Contributions, ed. Anna Pia De Luca (Centre for Canadian Culture Studies. Udine: FORUM, Editrice Universitaria Udinese, 2010), pp. 111-25, this essay was subsequently published online at The Canadian Charger (8 December 2010),; and at the Centre for Research on Globalization (12 December 2010), Since it is concerned for the most part with events that occurred between early 2004 and August 2007, this essay was not in any sense “news” when it was first published in 2010. Nonetheless, it might contribute to an understanding of Haiti’s vulnerability to disasters like the hurricanes of 2008 and 2012, and the catastrophic earthquake of 2010—which caused such appalling suffering in part because the overthrow of Haitian democracy in February 2004 by a coalition of foreign powers (including Canada) was also a deliberate attack upon the government infrastructures that made up Haiti’s very fragile ‘civil commons.’ After the coup, these social-service infrastructures were either dismantled or immobilized by de-funding and by purges of personnel who had supported the democratically elected Aristide government.


1. Harper’s 2007 ‘Tour of the Americas’

Attentive readers of the Toronto Globe and Mail may have noticed an element of dissonance in its coverage of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s brief visit to Haiti during his stint of diplomacy in late July 2007.

Despite spin from the Prime Minister’s Office’s about Harper’s gravitas and growing international weight, his “Tour of the Americas,” a journey to Colombia, Chile, Barbados and Haiti, was not an unmixed success. Its most memorable moment was Harper’s ringing endorsement of the entirely imaginary strides toward democracy being made by Colombia’s President Uribe, a man so tainted by his connections with death squads and the drug trade that even many Washington politicians recoil from the prospect of sharing a platform with him—let alone glibly offering him a free-trade agreement (Podur; Gordon).

In Chile, any good will garnered from Harper’s meeting with President Michelle Bachelet was promptly spoiled by the outrage of Toronto’s police force tasering and pepper-spraying members of Chile’s quarter-finalist soccer team, La Rojita, during Toronto’s hosting of the FIFA Under-Twenty championship (“Chile officials”). (Canadians should think about what it means to have, in our largest city, a police force so out of control as to be capable of shocking a nation that still retains vivid memories of its sufferings under Pinochet’s neofascist dictatorship.)

And Haiti’s President René Préval, who compared Harper’s six- or eight-hour whistle-stop stay in his country (Woods; Freeman) to a “doctor’s visit,” was quietly ironic at the prime minister’s expense. “You’ll have been able to notice, dear doctor, that the patient is not doing so badly,” he declared at a news conference in the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince. “Our country, Haiti, is in convalescence” (Freeman). The Globe and Mail mentioned Harper as having scheduled luncheon with Préval, an event that took all of fifteen minutes—or thirty-five minutes, if we add in the press conference (see Pierre). The PM preferred to spend his time pinning medals on Canadian police officers “for their participation in the peacekeeping mission,” and taking part in a pre-lunch photo-op (no doubt the source of Préval’s metaphors) at the Sainte Catherine Labouré Hospital in the slum of Cité Soleil, to which he was taken by “UN peacekeepers with automatic weapons at the ready” (Freeman).


2. Reading a photograph

It was this photo-op that provided readers of the Globe and Mail with an experience of dissonance. According to the text of the article, Harper was greeted at the hospital by two “adorable” four-year-old girls, whose mothers are HIV-positive, but who thanks to “a Canadian-financed drug treatment provided at the hospital” were both born HIV-negative “and are in excellent health.” Harper was soon “doing high-fives with the girls, who gave him a basket of fruit” (Freeman). The moment was captured in a photograph circulated by the Presse Canadienne (see Beltrane, “Harper démontre”).

And yet the Globe and Mail preferred to print another much stronger image from a subsequent phase of the photo-op. In this photograph, credited to Kena Betancur of Reuters, a smiling Harper is squatting, with forearms on his knees, in front of two strikingly beautiful Haitian women who are waiting with their small children in their laps at the Labouré Hospital’s oral polio vaccination clinic.1

Two features of the image are remarkable. The first is its obviously staged quality: Harper, whose posture puts his head lower than those of the two seated women, is with some show of humility taking credit for the rest of what we see—for the corrugated-iron-roofed building, with the logo of Médecins du Monde partially obscured by his shoulder, and for the treatments, financed by the Canadian and Québec governments, that Haitians are receiving there.

More remarkable still is the lack of human contact within the photograph. Harper’s smile seems oddly unfocussed: he is not quite looking at the camera, yet neither is he in contact with the women and their children. The child closest to him, a girl of about two in a frilly party dress and with a little Canadian flag in her right hand, is turning her head away from him; her mother, with downcast eyes and head gently tilted over her child, likewise ignores his presence. Mother and child both seem, in different ways, to be retreating from the event.

It might be objected that maternal solicitude is not a political position. And yet the expression of the other woman, who is seated closer to the camera, is unambiguous. She is not just refusing to participate: she is negating the photo-op by refusing even to acknowledge it. Her infant is asleep in her lap, head cradled by her hands. The camera is almost directly in front of her, at knee level, and Harper is likewise within her field of vision: he is close enough that he could, without rising from his crouch, touch her arm or the head of her child. But she holds herself erect, ignoring politician and photographer, and looks serenely and unsmilingly to her front.

This is no accidental gesture of abstention. For another photograph, taken moments earlier from almost the same angle, shows a prior phase of the photo-op. In that image Harper, who has not yet gone into his crouch, is standing in front of the first of the two mothers and leaning over the little girl in the frilly dress; the woman with the sleeping infant has turned her head toward this spectacle (see Beltrane, “Stephen Harper”). What we see in the Globe and Mail’s photograph is thus, quite explicitly, an act of refusal. She has understood the staged event, and with her steady gaze negates it and its intended meanings.

How are we to read the silent contestation of Harper’s smiling face by this young woman’s gaze?

The earlier photograph of Harper leaning over the little girl in the frilly dress was provided in the Presse Canadienne report with a caption tactfully informing us that his approach was a failure: the Prime Minister “a semblé mal à l’aise par moments en s’approchant des enfants haïtiens brandissant de petits drapeaux canadiens”—he “seemed awkward at times in approaching Haitian children brandishing little Canadian flags” (Beltrane, “Stephen Harper”; my translation). So what are we to make of his smile in the Globe and Mail photograph? It cannot reflect pleasure given or received—and yet Harper’s mouth is slightly open, as though he were on the point of speaking, or even laughing. Is he ruefully amused by the Haitian women’s rejection of his approach, or struggling to seem so? Is he responding to someone standing behind the photographer? Or have image consultants told him that a close-lipped smile may look smug, while a smile showing parted lips and teeth signifies the bonhommie that is so conspicuously not part of his character?

One might then say of Harper’s smile that it dismisses or forgets the immediate human situation—the minor reversal of a little girl turning away from him, and the larger affront of two beautiful young women refusing the role of props in a photo-op—while remembering his political purpose in being seen there, which was to reinforce what he would say to the press just minutes later: “Canadians can be proud of the impact that Canadian aid and support of the UN-backed peacekeeping mission are having on the country” (Freeman).

Images of Stephen Harper smiling disingenuous smiles are no rarity. It is quite clearly the other, unsmiling face—or, more distinctly, the dissonance between this woman’s expression and Harper’s—that makes this photograph memorable. Yet while the young mother’s posture of refusal is dignified and explicit, it is also wordless. It does not seem that any of the reporters in Harper’s entourage took the trouble of asking her what she may have meant by it.

What then are readers of the Globe and Mail to think? That one Haitian woman, at least, remains stolidly ungrateful to our country for all its manifold benefactions to hers—including her own infant’s vaccination against polio? Or is it possible she knows something about “Canadian aid and support of the UN-backed peacekeeping mission” that we don’t—and that our government and corporate media have been taking some trouble to conceal from us?


3. Helping Haiti ‘get back on its feet’: the official line

On July 20th, 2007, the day of Prime Minister Harper’s visit, the Globe and Mail devoted a full page to explaining Canada’s relations to this desperately impoverished country. The basic narrative was made clear by the title and subtitle of Marcus Gee’s lead article: “Canadian aid helping Haiti get back on its feet: Though the country still faces huge problems, efforts to stabilize and rebuild are yielding signs of progress.”

The problems Gee identified include a “prostrate economy,” “a ruined environment,” “a jobless rate near 70 per cent,” a daily income of less than $1 (US) for half of the population and of less than $2 for three-quarters of Haitians, and a standing of “154th out of 177 countries on the UN’s index of human development.” Demographic data listed on the same page helped to fill out the picture. The median age of Haiti’s 8,700,000 people is 18.4 years; nearly half of those aged 15 or over are illiterate; and the adult prevalence rate of HIV-AIDS is 5.6 per cent. The infant mortality rate is almost 64 deaths per 1,000 live births, and life expectancy at birth is 57 years (Cowan; figures rounded off).

Gee gives Canada credit as “one of the leaders of the international effort to stabilize and rebuild Haiti,” noting that Canada “has sent more than $700-million in aid since 1968 and has pledged another $520-million for 2006 to 2011,” giving to Haiti more than to “any country in the world except Afghanistan.” Some of Canada’s aid money, as Gee observes, went into financing a Canadian military presence in Haiti: “More than 500 Canadian troops served in the UN peace-keeping mission in Haiti until coming home in August 2004. Canadian officers led the UN police force, which still includes about 175 Canadian police officers, for two successive terms.” He neglects to say that the expense of an earlier military presence in Haiti in the mid-1990s (a full battalion of the Canadian army, and a contingent of police) would likewise have been counted as “aid.” (We will have something to say in a moment about the coups d’état of 1991 and 2004 associated with these interventions.)

As a whole, the Globe and Mail’s narrative seems puzzling. Alluding to the “three decades of terror and repression” suffered by the country “under François (Papa Doc) Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude, known as Baby Doc, who ruled with the help of the dreaded Tonton Macoutes secret police,” Marcus Gee tells us that Haiti “was reduced to beggary by dictators, generals and drug lords.” The present situation, he says, “is a definite improvement from the time just three years ago [i.e. in 2004] when there were almost daily clashes among armed gangs, rogue policemen and UN peacekeepers.” He quotes the Brussels International Crisis Group’s opinion that Haiti “has an historic opportunity to design a democratic future and establish conditions conducive to economic development,” and adds that “the result of the 2006 presidential election, considered the most fair of five held in the past two decades, has been generally accepted, even if supporters of ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide still hold rallies calling for his return from exile” (Gee).

And yet Gee fears that “Haiti could easily tip into turmoil again.” He quotes Daniel Erikson of the group Inter-American Dialogue in Washington DC, according to whom “Haiti is a tough case. This is a country that has received millions and millions of dollars in aid and hasn’t shown much progress.” Despite external interventions consisting only, by this account, of generous aid programs, equally generous peacekeeping and policing assistance, and anxious expressions of concern, Haiti remains a basket case.

Is there something wrong then with Haitians, a kind of inborn gravitation towards squalor, violence and turmoil? Or is there, on the other hand, something missing from this story? Has it been given, by selective omissions, a meaning quite different from what one would derive from a more complete, a more adequate, a more honest narrative? Is it, in short, subtractively politicized?2


4. Who knocked Haiti off its feet?

Marcus Gee’s account of Canada’s relations with Haiti has a vaguely Good-Samaritan quality, but with this difference—that in Jesus’s parable, the man whom the Good Samaritan found bleeding by the roadside, and to whom he gave such generous aid, both medical and financial, was not suffering from self-inflicted wounds: he had fallen “among robbers who stripped and belaboured him and then went off leaving him half-dead” (Luke 10: 30, in Moffatt).

External interventions in Haiti have, as a matter of historical fact, been very much less beneficent than the Globe and Mail’s narrative, or many similarly structured ones published at intervals in the corporate media, would imply. Who then, are the robbers that have stripped and beaten this poor country and left it prostrate in the ditch? Are they perhaps, in fact, the same people who now pose as Haiti’s benefactors? The short answer is: Yes.

At different moments in its history, Haiti has challenged in a most extraordinary manner the imperial powers exercising hegemony in the Caribbean region. The country was born out of a slave revolt that began in 1791 and, at appalling cost, succeeded in defeating the forces of the planter aristocracy, armies sent by Spain and Britain, and finally, an expeditionary force dispatched in 1801 by Napoleon (James). Haiti’s achievement of formal independence in 1804 was profoundly disquieting to the European colonial powers and the slave-holding United States. Peter Hallward has written that “Of the three great revolutions that began in the final decades of the eighteenth century—American, French, and Haitian—only the third forced the unconditional application of the principle that inspired each one: affirmation of the natural, unalienable rights of all human beings. Only in Haiti was the declaration of human freedom universally consistent. Only in Haiti was this declaration sustained at all costs, in direct opposition to the social order and economic logic of the day” (Hallward 2007: 11).

Haiti has indeed paid a heavy price for this challenge to the ruling global order—in the form of a sustained history of predatory interventions by colonial powers, and of no less predatory externally-supported dictatorships.3 But in its presidential election of 1990, Haitians astonished the world once more—and the United States especially—by giving an overwhelming 66.7 per cent of their votes to a young priest and liberation theologian, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who had become a focal point of resistance to the murderous violence of rule by military dictatorship and death squads (see Wilentz). Aristide made it clear that he was not willing to serve as a sock-puppet for elite and transnational interests, but actually intended to fulfill the program on which he had been elected. Its foundational principle, a steadfast assertion of radical human dignity and human equality—“tout moun se moun,” glossed by Peter Hallward as meaning that “every person is indeed a person, regardless of their race, background or class”—was to be actualized through a uniting and empowerment of the great mass of the poor in a process of democratic social transformation, of non-violent struggle against iniquitous class divisions (Hallward 2007: xxxiv, 21-24). After just seven months in office, Aristide was overthrown in September 1991 by a CIA-sponsored coup.

Re-elected in November 2000,4 this time with 92 per cent of the vote (and a voter turn-out of 62 per cent, even though US-backed candidates had tried to discredit the election by urging their supporters not to vote), Aristide was overthrown again on the night of February 28-29, 2004.

The 1991 coup was followed by a reign of terror in which 4,000 to 5,000 civilians were murdered (Flynn and Roth; Lemoine). Some 300,000 Haitians became internal refugees; “thousands more fled across the border to the Dominican Republic, and more than 60,000 took to the high seas” (Parks, quoted by Chossudovsky). A similar bloodbath followed the 2004 coup. Its scale is indicated by a peer-reviewed study published in The Lancet which revealed that in the Port-au-Prince region alone some 8,000 murders and 35,000 sexual assaults were committed between the end of February 2004 and December 2005 under the rule of the coup regime, the Interim Government of Haiti; nearly 4,000 of these murders were clearly politically motivated and committed by security forces or partisans of the regime (Kolbe and Hudson). Sexual assault was one form of state terror: nearly one-quarter of the perpetrators were identified as members of the Haitian National Police or of anti-Aristide groups (Sanders, “The Coup-Installed Regime” 8; Buncombe; “Haiti—The Traditional Predators”).

One crucial difference between the two coups is that the former, though supported materially and diplomatically by the US, was carried out by the Haitian military, with the assistance of paramilitary formations and death squads controlled by Haiti’s economic elite; the latter was planned, organized, and executed—in what can appropriately be termed a state crime against democracy—by three foreign powers, the United States, France, and Canada.5

All three flew troops into Haiti, ostensibly to protect their interests at a time of crisis—the crisis being an invasion of northern Haiti from the Dominican Republic, beginning on February 5th, by detachments of US-armed paramilitaries who swiftly overwhelmed the lightly-armed police in a series of northern towns and small cities—but who, despite a vigorous propaganda campaign abetted by the US Secretary of State, had neither the capacity nor the intention of making a move on the capital, Port-au-Prince, and prior to the coup never got beyond Gonaïves, nearly one hundred kilometers to the north (see R. Robinson 86, 196, 204, 212).

The coup was well organized. It took place on the very day a shipload of small arms Aristide’s government had purchased from South Africa—weapons that would have enabled the Haitian police to fight back against the paramilitary invaders on equal terms—was due to arrive in Port-au-Prince (Hallward 2006). US troops abducted Aristide from the presidential palace and brought him to Port-au-Prince airport, which had been seized by the Canadian Joint Task Force 2 special forces; from there he was flown to the French-controlled Central African Republic. The three countries then formed a “Multilateral Interim Force,” which occupied the country, allowing the opposition forces the aggressors had sponsored and financed to purge the elected government and the Haitian police and take power.


5. Canada’s responsibility

Canada played an important part in the preparations for the 2004 coup. Beginning in 2000, Canada took the lead internationally in propagating new doctrines of “humanitarian intervention” and the “responsibility to protect” (R2P), which directly contradict the United Nations’ founding principles of national sovereignty and the outlawing of military interventions.6 The Canadian government’s official human rights organization, Rights & Democracy, responded to Aristide’s re-election by issuing a statement, together with five US-based groups, that questioned “his own and the [1996-2000] Préval government’s commitment to democracy” (“Joint Statement”). It made further contributions to a propaganda campaign delegitimizing Haiti’s government by accusing Aristide’s Fanmi Lavalas party of primary responsibility for gun violence in Haiti and describing the “Group 184” opposition movement led by sweatshop owner Andy Apaid as “grassroots” and a “promising civil society movement” (see “Justice”; Engler, “NGOs” and “Canada’s NED?”)—this at a time when most of the actual violence was being perpetrated by the paramilitaries, allied to Apaid, which in July 2001 had begun to conduct raids and terrorist operations from the Dominican Republic (Barry-Shaw).

On January 31-February 1, 2003, Denis Paradis, Canadian Secretary of State for Latin America and La Francophonie, convened a meeting in Ottawa of American, French, Canadian and Organization of American States (OAS) officials to discuss a coup against Aristide, the reconstituting of Haiti’s military, “and the option of imposing a Kosovo-like trusteeship on Haiti” (Barry-Shaw; Engler and Fenton 42-45). Canadian governing circles were well aware of the manner in which the International Republican Institute (IRI), the external arm of the US Republican Party, was financing and organizing the activities of Apaid’s movement and the attacks of the paramilitaries. Former Foreign Affairs Minister Barbara McDougall was a member of the IRI’s Haiti International Assessment Committee, and appears to have provided liaison between the IRI and the Canadian government; and the then-current Foreign Affairs Minister, Pierre Pettigrew, met in Montréal with the political leader of the paramilitaries on February 5, 2004—the day they launched their full-scale attack on Haiti (Sanders, “Pettigrew”; R. Robinson 155; Fenton and O’Keefe). On February 11, Canadian Ambassador to Haiti Kenneth Cook wrote a memo to the Privy Council Office and the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade “which discusses specific plans for military intervention” (Fenton and Jay).

Canadian officials bear a heavy responsibility as well for the murderous repression that followed the coup. Three examples will give some sense of the scale of the problem. When Lt. Colonel Jim Davis, the commander of Canadian forces in the Multilateral Interim Force, was presented on July 29, 2004 with eyewitness testimony that dozens of civilians had been killed by international forces in an attack on a Port-au-Prince slum on March 12, and with evidence that at least 1,000 people had been buried in a mass grave in Port-au-Prince within a month of “restoring stability,” he responded austerely: “I do not deny that these things have happened” (Fenton). After the coup, the RCMP provided training for the Haitian National Police and exercised a function of tutelage: RCMP officers cannot have been ignorant of the HNP’s rape and death squad activities, and of the well-documented sniper teams it sent out to attack peaceful pro-democracy demonstrations (Pina). The coup regime’s Deputy Minister of Justice, who presided over a prison system that even the OAS condemned as horrifying, was both appointed and paid by the Canadian International Development Agency (see Griffin; Neatby, “The Politics”; Haiti: Failed Justice vi-vii, 67-71, 87-91).

What did Canadian soldiers and police officers think they were doing in Haiti? Military statements give some impression of a deliberately inculcated confusion. The Canadian army’s draft counter-insurgency field manual, made public in March 2007, says that Canadian troops have been “conducting COIN [counter-insurgency] operations against the criminally-based insurgency in Haiti since early 2004” (Elmer and Fenton). Of course, the only actual “criminally-based insurgency” of early 2004 (unless one counts the US-French-Canadian invasion) was the paramilitaries’ incursion from the Dominican Republic.

The Canadian Air Force’s account of its initial large-scale deployment to Haiti in March 2004 is equally muddled: the Air Force boasted of how, “Working with the army and navy within the UN Multinational Interim Force, Canada’s air force helped to restore peace and democracy in Haiti following that country’s democratic elections” (“Serving the World”). What phantom election was the writer imagining, and why would a foreign invasion have been required in its aftermath to “restore peace and democracy”?7


6. Conclusion

One can begin to understand Stephen Harper’s chilly welcome in 2007 by the young women at the Sainte Catherine Labouré Hospital—and also, according to the Vancouver Sun, by the residents of Cité Soleil, through whose streets he passed to get to his photo-op: “Armed Brazilian soldiers from the United Nations stabilization mission were on every street corner as his motorcade made its way through neighbourhoods filled with ramshackle homes and storefronts pock-marked by bullet holes […]. Residents stared at the passing Canadian vehicles with moody detachment. Few smiled or waved” (Foot).

In fact, a demonstration had been planned to protest Harper’s visit. One of its organizers was the prominent human rights activist, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine, who had also courageously denounced the post-coup UN occupation of his country as a mission neither of stabilization nor of peacekeeping: “It is a mission that engages in operations of massacres, of assassinations, [and] of destabilization more so than activities of reconstruction and peacekeeping.” Pierre-Antoine’s demonstration never took place: it was preemptively disrupted by UN soldiers, who, starting at 6 a.m., arrested some forty would-be demonstrators, three-quarters of whom remained in prison a fortnight later (Neatby, “UN Arrested 40”).

Three weeks after Stephen Harper’s visit, on the night of August 12th, Lovinsky Pierre-Antoine was ‘disappeared’ by unknown assailants. It can be assumed that he was murdered, but his body has never been found. Canadian trade unionists who were being guided through Haiti by Pierre-Antoine went the next day to our embassy in Port-au-Prince to request that the embassy publicly condemn this kidnapping. The Canadian embassy’s refusal to issue any statement leaves one to assume that our diplomats—one of whom, I am informed, described Pierre-Antoine as a trouble-maker—believe he got what was coming to him.

Right-wing pundits from Conrad Black to David Frum have for decades been urging Canadians to drop our traditional humanitarian scruples and to join our American neighbours in treating international relations as a game of hardball, to be played by hard men.

Another name for the game is “crimes against humanity.”

Are we there yet?




1  The same photograph appeared in the Toronto Star with the print (but not the online) text of Woods.

2  ‘Subtractive politicizing’ involves distortion through omission: what is there to be interpreted is ‘politicized’ through a selective forgetting or deletion that critically alters the balance of the available evidence. For a detailed explanation of this term, see the chapter “Monster Zombies on Campus” in Keefer 1996: 67-95.

3  A salient feature of this history was France’s 1825 imposition on Haiti of a debt worth some $21-billion US in present-day money as reimbursement for losses suffered by French colonists, including the liberated Haitians’ market value as slaves. The ensuing debt-bondage choked off any chance of independent development (payments in the late 19th century swallowed up some 80 per cent of Haiti’s national budget). The final installment was paid only in 1947—to the US, which had held Haiti under military occupation between 1915 and 1934, killing up to 30,000 people in the process (Bellegarde-Smith 107). For accounts of this history, see Farmer 2006: 53-89; Hallward 2007: 12-13; Engler and Fenton 103-04; R. Robinson 20-22; and also Wilentz, Fatton, Dupuy, and Goff.

4  Since Haiti’s Constitution prevents a president from serving two consecutive terms, Aristide was not a candidate in the 1995 election—which was won by his former prime minister René Préval, with a landslide 88 percent of the vote.

5  One reason for this is that when Aristide was restored by the US in 1994 to serve out the end of his term as a lame-duck president, he disbanded the Haitian army, the primary instrument of dictatorship and tyranny. Since the 2004 coup, it has been reconstituted (and manned, need it be said, by reliably anti-democratic officers and troops).

6  In September 2000, the Canadian government founded the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS), with its head office in Ottawa (and with funding from the Carnegie, MacArthur, and Rockefeller foundations); through this and other means, Canada has vigorously promoted “R2P” and “humanitarian intervention.” See Sanders “R2P” 11.


7  The 2004 coup inflicted much deeper structural damage upon Haitian society as well, corrupting its electoral machinery (Keefer 2006), and radically accelerating a process in which governmental functions have been usurped by foreign NGOs—with catastrophic consequences for the country’s capacity to provide basic supplies of water and food, basic health care and education, and, no less crucially, its capacity to respond to catastrophes like the hurricanes of 2008 and the appalling earthquake of 2010. (See Cooley-Prost, W. Robinson, Shamsie.) But these are matters for more extended study. 



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“Serving the World, Peace Support, UN Mission.” Canada’s Air Force website,

Shamsie, Yasmine. “Building ‘low-intensity’ democracy in Haiti: the OAS contribution.” Third World Quarterly 26:6 (September 2004): 1097-1115.

Wilentz, Amy. The Rainy Season: Haiti Since Duvalier. 1989; 2nd ed. London: Vintage, 1994.

Woods, Allan. “‘Extraordinary challenges’ faced by Haiti, Harper says.” Toronto Star (21 July 2007): A15;



Desperate Imaginings: Rhetoric and Ideology of the ‘New Antisemitism’

This text was first published as chapter three in Part Three of Antisemitism Real and Imagined. The pagination of this chapter in the book (where it occupies pp. 207-41, with the notes on pp. 241-59) is indicated numbers in square brackets inserted into the text.


Antisemitism Real and Imagined (2010), Part 3, Chapter 3


This chapter offers an account of the rhetorical turns by means of which supporters of Israeli policies have sought to deflect criticisms of even the most flagrant crimes and illegalities, libeling human rights activists as antisemites and representing victimizers as victims. I begin by drawing upon the work of Norman Finkelstein for a quick outline of the principal means by which this libelous inversion is carried out—the ideology of the so-called “new antisemitism,” which I concur with him in recognizing as fraudulent.1

A related inversion of actuality is apparent in the CPCCA’s claims about the academic victimization of Jews. Stories of Jewish students being subjected to abuse and intimidation on Canadian campuses turn out to be seriously exaggerated: the reality is that critics of Israel in Canadian universities, and in American and Israeli universities as well, are the ones who most commonly have had to face slanders and vituperation—as well as the threat, and sometimes the actuality, of administrative sanctions, expulsion, or loss of employment.

But the CPCCA’s interventions may yet turn out—depending on how we respond to its explicit targeting of free speech and academic freedom, and depending on what the Canadian people make of the issues it has raised—to have been beneficial. This chapter concludes with some remarks about how we might, as a nation, take meaningful action against real—rather than imagined—antisemitism.


The “New Antisemitism”

As we have seen, the ideology of the “new antisemitism” rests on a rhetorical strategy that deals with criticisms of Israel by re-describing them as no more than [208] revivals of the traditional tropes of antisemitism. Reports of Israeli war crimes against Palestinian civilians, for example, are transformed into blood libels and denounced as vile and abusive. As in the example of the Community Security Trust’s smearing of Johann Hari, this rhetoric does away with the material evidence, slandering as antisemites those who report and analyze violations of human rights. Moreover, by identifying criticisms of Israel as evidence of a “new antisemitism,” it produces the illusion of a widespread resurgence of Jew-hatred, thereby legitimizing further aggressions as self-defense.

The pattern is one of a perverse feedback loop. Israel is treated as effectively indistinguishable from world Jewry—a point made forcefully when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was introduced at the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly in Washington, DC in November 2009 as “the leader of Israel and the leader of the Jewish people,”2 and again when he himself declared in January 2010, at a ceremony commemorating the liberation of Auschwitz sixty-five years ago, that “From this place, I swear as the leader of the Jewish people, never again shall we allow evil to hurt our people.”3 (The many Israelis who voted against Netanyahu, and the many diaspora Jews who regard him as a violent and dangerous hypocrite, were not asked what they thought of these Mosaic pretensions.)

How is it possible, within this ideology, to interpret thoroughgoing criticism of the state led by such a politician as anything but antisemitic? Of course, the deeper that state plunges into apartheid policies, the more vocal become the criticisms of its behaviour—and the more persuasive therefore the evidence is that not just Israelis but Jews worldwide are beset by antisemites, whose evil desires “to hurt our people” must be combated by all means available.

Another complementary (and equally perverse) feedback loop is set in motion by this one—a loop in which the vile prejudices of a real if residual antisemitism find confirmation in the lawless violence of a state that the antisemite believes, because ideologues like Netanyahu tell him so, is acting on behalf of Jews worldwide. Of course, this second loop also amplifies the first one: any increase in real, and not just imagined antisemitism that may be prompted by the state of Israel’s words and deeds is grist to the “new antisemitism” propaganda mill.

* * * *

As Norman Finkelstein has remarked, “the allegation of a new anti-Semitism is neither new nor about anti-Semitism.”4 Over the past thirty-five years the term has been persistently advanced in books by national leaders of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL): Arnold Forster’s and Benjamin Epstein’s The New Anti-Semitism (1974), Nathan and Ruth-Ann Perlmutter’s The Real Anti-Semitism in America (1982), and Abraham Foxman’s Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (2003); and their work has been supplemented by a chorus of [209] other writers, among them Phyllis Chesler and Gabriel Schoenfeld, authors, respectively, of The New Anti-Semitism (2003) and The Return of Anti-Semitism (2004).5

Where there is so much smoke, there must be fire—but lit by whom, and for what purposes? Finkelstein argues that the intention of these books, and of the “meticulously orchestrated media extravaganzas” that have accompanied them, “is not to fight anti-Semitism but rather to exploit the historical suffering of Jews in order to immunize Israel against criticism.”6

The principal target of Forster’s and Epstein’s polemic was not the New York Times or the Washington Post, which they castigated for going easy on antisemites; or Norman Jewison, whose film version of Jesus Christ Superstar they attacked. Rather, as Finkelstein shows through extensive quotation, it was “criticism directed at Israel after the October 1973 war, when new pressures were exerted on Israel to withdraw from the Egyptian Sinai and to reach a diplomatic settlement with the Palestinians.” Interpreting this criticism as “hostility” to Israel, Forster and Epstein defined it as “the heart of the new anti-Semitism.”7

In the Perlmutters’ book, the “real” antisemitism is similarly defined, Finkelstein observes, “as any challenge inimical to Jewish interests”:

“Essentially [the Perlmutters write], this book’s thesis is that today the interests of Jews are not so much threatened by their familiar nemesis, crude anti-Semitism, as by a-Semitic government policies, the proponents of which may be free of anti-Semitism and indeed may well—literally—count Jews among some of their best friends.” Practically, this meant pinning the epithet “anti-Semitic” on domestic challenges to Jewish class privilege and political power as well as on global challenges to Israeli hegemony. American Jewish elites were, in effect and in plain sight, cynically appropriating “anti-Semitism”—an historical phenomenon replete with suffering and martyrdom, on the one hand, and hatred and genocide, on the other—as an ideological weapon to defend and facilitate ethnic aggrandizement.8

It is telling that the Perlmutters allied themselves with the openly antisemitic, and yet pro-Israel, ideologues of the religious right, while regarding the liberal Protestants of the National Council of Churches, whose leadership in opposing antisemitism they acknowledged, as opponents because of their criticisms of Israeli violations of international law.9

In Abraham Foxman’s 2003 book, Finkelstein argues, the ideology of the new antisemitism arrived at its mature form and “reveal[ed] its true essence”—for in this book, despite chapters on “The Rift between American Blacks and Jews,” and on the racism of right-wing extremists, “all pretenses were dropped that it was about anything except Israel.” Finkelstein briskly outlines Foxman’s logic:

[210] [T]he reasoning is that, since Israel represents the “Jew among nations,” criticism of Israel springs from the same poisoned well as anti-Semitism and therefore is, by definition, anti-Semitic. And since the last major outbreak of anti-Semitism climaxed in The Holocaust, those currently criticizing Israel are fomenting a new Holocaust. “Very quickly,” Foxman portends in Never Again? “the actual survival of the Jewish people might once again be at risk.” The transparent motive behind these assertions is to taint any criticism of Israel as motivated by anti-Semitism and—inverting reality—to turn Israel (and Jews), not Palestinians, into the victims of the “current siege” (Chesler).10

As can be seen from other recent texts—among them Pierre-André Taguieff’s Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe (2004), a translation of his La nouvelle judéophobie (2002); Fiamma Nirenstein’s Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War Against the West (2005), translated from her L’Abbandono (2003) and Gli Antisemiti Progressisti (2004); some of the essays collected by David I. Kertzer in Old Demons, New Debates (2005); Alan Dershowitz’s The Case Against Israel’s Enemies (2008); and Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism (2009), by Denis MacShane, the Labour MP who chaired the British All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Antisemitism—claims about a new antisemitism continue to be vigorously advanced.11 But though each of these texts adds new flourishes and new examples, the basic line of argument remains the one laid out by their ADL precursors.


Rhetorical Turns

The tropes of traditional antisemitism that we encountered in the preceding chapter—the conspiracy trope, the trope of dual loyalty, the trope of defilement, and the blood libel—have a degree of rhetorical complexity that may be worth reflecting on.

The conspiracy trope, with roots in New Testament fictions about the behaviour of Caiaphas the High Priest and his Sanhedrin in the trial of Jesus, took shape through the same passion for symmetry that seats an infant Antichrist in the lap of Satan, in direct imitation of the infant Jesus with the Virgin Mary, in the great 12th-century Last Judgment mosaic in the Italian cathedral of Torcello. Antisemites found it tempting to conceive of a demonic Jewish equivalent to the Pope and his College of Cardinals—and what could such a body concern itself with, if not a demonic parody of the papacy’s claim to universal spiritual regency? From here it’s not a great distance to the fantasies elaborated in that grotesque late-19th-century forgery, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

The same process of mimetic projection and inversion gave rise to that most revolting of antisemitic tropes, the blood libel, which evidently stemmed from reflection on the image of the Christ child, the future crucified Redeemer [211] whose blood would be shed to atone for human sins.12 The disbelief of Jews in this Messiah was generally thought to exclude them from the community for whom Christ’s blood was spilled; through a sick projection and inversion, this conviction prompted accusations of ritual murder involving the crucifixion of a Christian child in a demonic parody of the Christian narrative of redemption.13 Further extensions of the same process led to elaborations including a parodic kosher butchery of the victim, whose blood would then be incorporated into Passover matzohs in a blasphemous mockery of the Mass.14

The conspiracy trope and the blood libel represent the obviously dominant Christian community as victimized—and the blood libel was clearly aimed at inciting the ‘victims’ to take revenge, in the form of judicial and mob violence against Jews. The full pattern, then, is one in which mimetic projection and inversion produce an illusion of victimization and consequently an incitement to persecution and violence.

While these antisemitic tropes displace structures of Christian belief into forms that provoke persecutory social action, the rhetoric developed by the ideologues of the “new antisemitism” involves a further act of displacement—one in which the antisemitic tropes are used as an overlay or re-description that serves to occult or erase actual present-day social actions.

The material reality may be that AIPAC, with an estimated budget of $40 to $60 million, is indeed the most powerful and most effective lobby on Capitol Hill;15 and that, as former U.S. President Jimmy Carter as written, “Under AIPAC pressure, there are few significant countervailing voices in the public arena, and any balanced debate is still practically nonexistent in the U.S. Congress or among presidential hopefuls.”16 But when such perceptions as Carter’s are re-described as mere revivals of the trope of a Jewish world conspiracy, the putative material reality becomes unspeakable—except by those willing to court being branded as antisemites.

Accusations, however well substantiated, of Israeli atrocities against Palestinian civilians, can similarly be re-described as no more than a renewal of the ancient and despicable blood libel. Thus in March 2009 Jonathan Kay of the National Post complained that “From the opening days of the Gaza campaign, the blood-libels of ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’ have flown thick and fast”; and on the same day, his English counterpart in unwavering support for Israel, Melanie Phillips, went so far as to accuse the Israeli newspaper Haaretz of a blood libel for having reported the testimony of Israeli soldiers that they had witnessed and participated in war crimes against Gaza civilians.17 In August 2009 a Human Rights Watch report that documented the murder during Operation Cast Lead of eleven Palestinian civilians holding white flags was dismissed by an American pro-Israel blog as “a blood libel disguised as an investigative report.”18

But by mid-September 2009, when the Goldstone Report, Human Rights in Palestine and Other Occupied Arab Territories: Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, was released, with its meticulous and [212] scrupulous documenting of war crimes, the blood-libel tactic seemed to be losing its effectiveness.

Harvard law professor and Israel apologist Alan Dershowitz let out all the stops in denouncing Richard Goldstone, the principal author of the UN report, as “a full-fledged member of the international bash-Israel chorus” whose name “will forever be linked in infamy with such distorters of history and truth as Noam Chomsky, Norman Finkelstein and Jimmy Carter. The so-called report commissioned by the notorious United Nations Human Rights Council and issued under his name is so filled with lies, distortions and blood libels that it could have been drafted by Hamas extremists.” 19

In the extremity of his rage, Dershowitz is unwilling to concede even that the “so-called” report is a report.

There are multiple ironies here: Goldstone is, like Dershowitz, a very senior member of the legal profession, a Jew, and a lifelong Zionist. The difference between them would appear to reside in the fact that Goldstone’s personal and judicial integrity has led him to face up to realities—in the case of the attack on Gaza, appalling realities—of a kind that Dershowitz has spent most of his adult life concealing, distorting, or defending.

* * * *

One of the more influential voices among what I have called the ideologues of the new antisemitism is that of Irwin Cotler, Professor of Law at McGill University, former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, and co-founder of the Inter-Parliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism, at whose February 2009 meeting the Canadian delegation of which Cotler was the co-leader decided to form a Canadian branch of this international body, and to follow the British example of conducting a parliamentary inquiry into antisemitism.

In the presentation he made to a conference in Jerusalem in 1999, Professor Cotler expressed his outrage over international condemnations of Israel for human rights violations. He identified some poignant ironies in this situation, writing that

there is a clear symbolic—if not symbiotic—relationship between Israel, the United Nations, and human rights. For if the commitment underpinning the Genocide Convention is “never again,” then Israel is a state born of that commitment; and if the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was designed to be the Magna Carta of humankind, Israel was to be, in the words of its founders, “a light unto the nations”; if the Geneva Conventions of 1949 were to be commemorative of international humanitarian law, the genocide of European Jewry was the paradigmatic basis for the “grave breaches” of the laws of war as set forth in the Geneva Convention.20

[213] Cotler found it paradoxical, to say the least, that

a state which advocated fifty years ago for the establishment of an international criminal court to bring war criminals to justice—and pioneered in the development of international criminal law—now finds its settlement policy characterized as a serious war crime under the draft Treaty to establish an International Criminal Court; and a state committed to the pursuit of peace becomes the only state singled out for condemnation as a “non-peace loving nation” by two Emergency Sessions of the UN General Assembly under the Uniting for Peace Resolutions.21

One might expect some recourse to historical evidence on the part of a writer interested in challenging condemnations of Israel’s human rights record—but it is clear that Cotler is not interested in historical actualities. No responsible scholar approaching the issues on which he was touching could fail to have been aware that the myth of the untarnished, heroic birth of the state of Israel as “a light unto the nations” had been effectively demolished by historians like Michael Palumbo and Benny Morris, whose books documented the atrocities involved in the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948.22 And the bland description of Israel as “a state committed to the pursuit of peace” appears more metaphysical than historical in character: for the period since 1971 especially, its falsity is quickly exposed by any honest recourse to the historical record.23

Cotler’s wording suggests, moreover, that this expert in human rights law does not recognize the international consensus according to which it is clear from Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, together with UN Security Council Resolutions 446, 452, 465, 471, and 476, that Israel’s settlements are indeed serious and flagrant violations of international law.24

Cotler takes it as axiomatic that criticisms of Israel must be false. On the basis of this dogma, his paper defines and distinguishes between old and new antisemitisms, analyzes the identifying features of the “New Anti-Jewishness,” and proceeds to a “case-study” of its operations in the UN, in the course of which he offers the striking image of Israel as being, in UN representations, the international “poisoner of the wells.” This is, by now, a familiar rhetorical turn: if we know a priori that UN condemnations of Israel’s behaviour are simply revivals of a disgraceful antisemitic trope, then there is no need to bother with any of the evidence on which they might be based.

Cotler is effectively extending the peculiar doctrine of American exceptionalism to cover the state of Israel as well. Most Americans have imbibed from childhood a mythic, religiously-inflected representation of their country as the culmination of a world-historical story of human liberation and material progress. And since to be the end-point, the goal or telos of a story of such grandeur is also in a sense to escape from the story—the New Jerusalem or [214] the City on a Hill is not a city like any other, merely historical one—they have found it easy to believe that their own uniquely virtuous country somehow stands outside the structures of socio-economic causality and grubby Realpolitik that motivate other nation-states.25

Not surprisingly, exceptionalism gives free play to hypocrisy and self-deception. As Lewis Lapham has put it, “The doctrines of American exceptionalism forbid American politicians to see any contradiction between what they practice and what they preach. America is always and everywhere innocent, a country so favored by fortune that its cause is always just.”26

Exceptionalism amounts to a form of American civic religion. And as Cotler made clear in a widely-cited version of this paper that he published in the Jerusalem Post in 2004, it is in similarly quasi-religious terms that he sees the conflict between Israel and the United Nations. One manifestation of political antisemitism, he says, is

discrimination against, denial of, or assault upon the Jewish people’s right to self-determination […]. To the extent that Israel has emerged as the “civil religion” of world Jewry—the organizing idiom of Jewish self-determination—this new anti-Semitism is a per se assault, in contemporary terms, on the religious and national sensibility of the Jewish people.27

Cotler proposes that another manifestation of political antisemitism, “the ‘demonizing’ of Israel,” needs to be understood in relation to a different form of secularized religion:

This [“demonizing”] is the contemporary analogue to the medieval indictment of the Jew as the “poisoner of the wells.” In other words, in a world in which human rights has emerged as the new secular religion of our time, the portrayal of Israel as the metaphor for a human rights violator is an indictment of Israel as the “new anti-Christ”—as the “poisoner of the international wells” […].28

Two comments are called for here. First, the criticisms of Israel’s human rights record in UN forums have been based, not on metaphor, but on considerations of legality and of material evidence. It is Cotler, and not the UN, who wants to reconfigure this issue as a problem of rhetoric, rather than a matter of persistently illegal actions that have caused irreparable harm to large numbers of people.

Indeed, his evocation of “new-antisemitism” tropes of metaphorical well-poisoning and of Israel as a “new anti-Christ” looks uncommonly like shadow-boxing. Since it is Cotler, and no-one else, who produces these tropes, and since he gives no evidence that they have actually figured in UN deliberations, one may be tempted to conclude that any injury resulting from their use is self-inflicted.

[215] Secondly, Cotler’s framing of the matter in terms of a sacralized Israeli state facing off against a secular religion of human rights is in several respects unfortunate. If his remarks on Jewish self-determination are meant to imply that there exists any real threat to the continued existence of Israel as a state, they are a serious exaggeration.29 If, on the other hand, Cotler wishes to imply that a Jewish right to self-determination extinguishes, a priori and forever, the right of Palestinians to a parallel self-determination,30 then he is putting his own reputation as an upholder of human rights at risk.

And what of Cotler’s claims on behalf of “world Jewry”? Setting aside the fact that for some communities of orthodox Jews a concession of religious value to any state is blasphemous, many Jews worldwide regard a commitment to debate, vigorous dissent, and dissidence as a central feature of their culture and their spirituality: the very name of Israel was conferred upon the patriarch Jacob for wrestling with his God.

Large numbers of such people, while feeling a deep and abiding affection for the country, Israel, are vehemently opposed to the policies into which that nation’s ruling elites, aided and abetted by American Zionism,31 have led it. They would object to any even implicit sacralizing of those policies, and would resent any insinuation, however indirect, that their sensibility as Jews—whether religious, national, or bound up with ethical, familial, and ethnic-cultural traditions—could be “assaulted” by the universally binding principles of human rights, even if Professor Cotler wants to represent these as having become conflated with a “new antisemitism.”32


How Episodes of Academic Antisemitism Have Been Invented

During the early and mid-1990s, the North American news media were awash with scandalous stories about an alarming and systematic suppression of academic and intellectual freedoms in American and Canadian universities: sane and decent academics and students alike were being terrorized by radical “politically correct” literary scholars—feminists, Foucauldians, deconstructionists, new historicists, cultural materialists—and their student acolytes, who together made up a rampaging horde denounced by right-wing pundits as “cultural storm troopers,” “moral vigilantes,” “Red guards,” “academic Brownshirts,” “new puritans,” and “PC thought police.”

Scholarly analysis of the evidence revealed, however, that in the vast majority of cases, the abusive behaviour so noisily denounced in the media was either fabricated wholesale or else a product of grotesque and malicious exaggeration. The real problem was that a coalition of powerful forces in government, in right-wing corporate-funded think-tanks, and in the corporate media had discovered (somewhat belatedly) that wide-ranging forms of ethically oriented cultural criticism were gaining a foothold, not just in literary studies [216] but throughout the human sciences, with the result that academic disciplines which had formerly been reliable upholders of the status quo were becoming places where critical analyses based on issues of colonization, settlement, gender, race, and social class were widely approved.

The so-called “political correctness debates”—more accurately referred to as the “culture wars,” because they produced more vituperation than debate, more heat than light—were primarily an attempt by these powerful forces to tame and purge dissident elements within the academy. The rhetoric with which “anti-PC” polemicists sought to drum up public support for this project by creating a state of moral panic made heavy use of lurid narratives of victimization. Where such narratives were not available—and they very seldom were—polemicists simply made them up wholesale.33

There is good reason to think that contemporary accusations of a widespread “new antisemitism” within North American universities—which an article in the National Post devoted to recent events at York University suggested can only be cured by a systematic purging of “hateful elements”34—are an attempt to repeat this pattern.

In 2002 Todd Gitlin, professor of journalism at Columbia University, expressed dismay over an apparent return of the “rough beast” of antisemitism. His primary evidence was a widely-circulated email message from Laurie Zoloth, then-director of Jewish Studies at San Francisco State University. Zoloth denounced her own university as “the Weimar Republic with brown shirts it cannot control”—the purported neo-Nazis being “an angry crowd of Palestinians,” an “out of control mob” who launched a “raw, physical assault” on “praying students, and the elderly women who are our college participants, who survived the Holocaust,” while the police looked on and did nothing.35

Had Gitlin taken the trouble to check his source (as he presumably teaches journalism students to do), he might have discovered, Norman Finkelstein writes, that

the consensus among Jewish spokespersons in the Bay Area, including Dr. Fred Astren, current director of Jewish Studies at SFSU (and a personal witness to the alleged incident), was that Zoloth had a penchant for “wild exaggeration,” born of a mindset nurtured in “Marxist-Leninist” politics—except that she’s in thrall not, as in bygone days, to the Soviet Union, but to “the Jewish State of Israel, a state that I cherish.” The police didn’t intervene because nothing happened warranting their intervention.36

Other similar stories—a claim in late 2003 that “A Jewish student wearing a yarmulke at Yale University” had been “attacked in his dormitory by a Palestinian,” and a report in 2004 that at the University of Chicago “a university-appointed preceptor told a Jewish student he would not read her BA paper because it focused on topics related to Judaism and Zionism”37—turned out to be groundless fictions.38

[217] Three recent episodes, one at UCLA and two at Toronto’s York University, invite more extended consideration. In all three cases distortions and falsifications can be traced, and all three were marked by interventions from member organizations of the very powerful Israel on Campus Coalition (ICC), which gathers together thirty American pro-Israel organizations, among them AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee (AJC), the American Jewish Congress, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), CAMERA, The David Project, Aish HaTorah/Hasbara Fellowships, Hillel/The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, the Jewish National Fund (JNF), Media Watch International, StandWithUs, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), as well as five affiliate members, including Simon Wiesenthal Center Campus Outreach. At York University there have also been interventions from member organizations of a proportionately no less powerful Canadian umbrella organization, the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA),39 as well as from B’nai Brith Canada and, more disturbingly, from the terrorist-vigilante Jewish Defence League.

* * * *

Professors David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi have written at some length about the consequences of interventions on California university campuses of the Israel on Campus Coalition—most particularly in relation to a January 2009 panel discussion on “Human Rights and Gaza” hosted by UCLA’s Center for Near Eastern Studies in which they took part, Makdisi as a panelist and Goldberg as a member of the audience.40 They describe an academic event marked throughout by civility, even by occasional applause and laughter from the audience, despite a somewhat “heated and contentious” question and discussion period.

However, on February 1, 2009 Roberta Seid, the research director of StandWithUs, published an article entitled “Reviving 1920’s Munich’s Beer Halls at UCLA” which was laced with malicious falsehoods,41 and which set off an ascending spiral of further distortions. Seid said that the four panelists “expressed hope that Israel would lose against Hamas,” and claimed that in response to one panelist’s answer to a question, “The audience roared with laughter and some began chanting ‘Zionism is racism’ and ‘Free Free Palestine’.”

Two days later, ardently pro-Israel UCLA professor Judea Pearl, writing in the Wall Street Journal, described the panel as “a Hamas recruitment rally” conducted by “terrorist sympathizers.”42 This motif was picked up by Tom Tugend, who wrote in the Jewish Journal of Los Angeles on February 11 that “outraged critics across the country” were characterizing the symposium as an “‘academic lynching,’ a ‘one-sided witch hunt of Israel,’ a ‘Hamas recruiting rally’”; at the same time he inflated Seid’s account of the discussion period by saying that the panelist’s answer “was met by audience cheers and chants [218] of ‘Zionism is racism,’ ‘Zionism is Nazism,’ ‘Free, Free Palestine’ and ‘F…, f… Israel’.”43

A week later Judea Pearl wrote in the same journal that “the panelists […] bashed Israel, her motives, her character, her birth and conception and led the excited audience into chanting ‘Zionism is Nazism,’ ‘F---, f--- Israel’ […].”44 In this article, Pearl expressed outrage that “the word ‘terror’ and the genocidal agenda of Hamas were conspicuously absent” from an account of the panel discussion, entitled “Scholars Say Attack on Gaza an Abuse of Human Rights,” that had been published by the campus newspaper, the UCLA Daily Bruin. One might wonder why a news report should focus on matters that appear to have been conspicuously absent from the event itself. But Pearl’s complaint is simply an extension of the slanders of his Wall Street Journal article: from the notion that “terrorist sympathizers” were taking part in “a Hamas recruitment rally,” he draws the insinuation that they must also have been engaged in incitements to genocide.45

Of course, neither Tugend nor Pearl had been present at the UCLA event. Goldberg and Makdisi, who were there, insist that there was no chanting, and no invective directed by audience members or panelists “at Israel or at any other state.” They invite readers to compare podcast recordings of the panel with the claims made by hostile interpreters—at the same time regretting that distortions and fabrications “have become the public record of note, the ‘truth’ of the matter.”46

By the time Pearl returned for a third time to the attack, writing in mid-March in the Los Angeles Times that the event was a “hate-fest” in which “the excited audience reportedly chanted ‘Zionism is Nazism’ and worse,”47 the subject had indeed been successfully changed. The questions of human rights law and human rights abuses analyzed by the panelists had largely disappeared from public discussion; the issue instead had become one of whether or not the panelists and their audience were guilty of disgraceful outbursts of antisemitism.

* * * *

As Dan Freeman-Maloy has shown in a carefully documented essay, somewhat less civil student-organized events at Toronto’s York University in February 2009 were subjected to a similarly cynical process of falsification.48 On February 11, 2009, the Jewish student organization Hillel and the Israel advocacy group Hasbara Fellowships (both of them well-funded members of the ICC) called a press conference to publicize their campaign to impeach the leadership of the York Federation of Students (YFS), which in January had passed a resolution condemning Israeli attacks on educational institutions in Gaza. There are competing accounts as to whether pro-YFS students were deliberately barred from the press conference or excluded because of the size of the room that had been booked. Believing the former to be the case, [219] supporters of YFS demonstrated noisily outside the press conference room, with chants including “Shame on Hillel,” “Zionism is racism,” and “Racists off campus”—“Not messaging everyone can get behind,” as Freeman-Maloy comments, “but hardly anti-Semitic.”

Accounts of this student confrontation were published by York’s student newspaper, the Excalibur, by an alternative left campus newspaper, the YU Free Press, and by the Globe and Mail, all of which had reporters on hand; another response by a Jewish student who had attended the press conference was published online by Jonathan Kay at the National Post. The sheer numbers of students outside the press-conference room (and subsequently the Hillel office) alarmed Hillel members, and the author of the National Post article records having been frightened by the stare of a pro-Palestinian student wearing a Kaffeiyah scarf over part of his face. But as Freeman-Maloy remarks, “No quotes from Hillel spokespeople are relayed in any of these stories alleging specifically anti-Semitic statements.”

On the next day, February 12, 2009, a demonstration of some 150 students condemning Israeli attacks on Gaza in York University’s Vari Hall was confronted by a Hillel counter-demonstration of equal or larger size—whose participants included Frank Dimant, the leader of B’nai Brith Canada, together with some of his colleagues, and reportedly also Bernie Farber, the head of the Canadian Jewish Congress. If the aim of this counter-demonstration was to disrupt the pro-Palestinian event and drown out its would-be speakers with counter-chanting, it appears to have succeeded. Freeman-Maloy writes that he was present at this event, and is not aware “of one half-credible allegation of anti-Semitism relating to it.”

A viewing of the seven distinct videotapes of this demonstration and counter-demonstration listed by Independent Jewish Voices in the first of their contributions to this book is instructive.49 These videotapes show that two banner-carrying Jewish groups took part in the demonstration against Israel’s behaviour in Gaza, and that the participants in that demonstration apparently ignored provocative behaviour by some of the counter-demonstrators (no responses to their shouted taunts are audible, and the Jewish pro-Palestinian demonstrators turned their banners away from the counter-demonstration). The counter-demonstration included one potentially intimidating feature: a line of young men in black T-shirts with the slogan “Jews Need Not Fear Here” in large block letters on their chests. Decent people would agree that Jews should not suffer intimidation on campuses, or anywhere else, but the primary message projected by such uniforms in a confrontational demonstration might well be that people—including pro-Palestinian Jews—with views opposed to those of the counter-demonstrators should themselves be fearful, especially if, as seems possible, the men were members of the Jewish Defence League Canada, an extremist vigilante organization with a terrorist past and an ongoing commitment to violence.50

[220] On February 13, 2009 the National Post carried a story in which Hillel@York president Daniel Ferman claimed that demonstrators on February 11 had called him a “dirty Jew” and “f---ing Jew.” Though unsubstantiated, as well as politically convenient, the claim is not implausible. But on the same day, the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA), followed on February 15 by the Jerusalem Post, added “a new pair of alleged (and unattributed) quotes: ‘Die bitch, go back to Israel’; ‘Die Jew, get the hell off campus’.” As Freeman-Maloy notes, these death threats were not reported to the police who were on campus on February 11, nor witnessed by any of the reporters present, “nor accompanied by any effort to determine who said these things or to whom the threatening comments were directed.”51 They would appear to belong to the same category as the nasty chanting that never occurred at the UCLA panel discussion on “Human Rights and Gaza.”

The drift from a confrontational but non-violent pair of encounters between opposing groups of students on the York campus, during which no antisemitic statements or gestures were detected by any of the reporters in attendance, to a fiction that could be summed up on February 15 by a columnist in the Jerusalem Post as “violent anti-Jewish riots at York University in Toronto, Canada,”52 was rapid and seemingly effortless. By late February Frank Dimant of B’nai Brith had embellished the story further, claiming to the Ottawa Citizen that “People were banging on walls and screaming things like ‘death to the Jews’.”53

Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Minister Jason Kenney weighed in as well, declaring on February 23, 2009 that “This stuff is getting out of control,” and blaming the Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, which represents graduate teaching assistants and contract faculty at Ontario universities and has been urging boycott action against Israel, for “creat[ing] an opinion environment which makes it acceptable to start shouting at Jewish kids who probably also happen to support Israel.”54 In September 2009, speaking in Thornhill, Ontario, Kenney charged that “Israel Apartheid Days on university campuses like York sometimes begin to resemble pogroms”—a remark that journalist Linda McQuaig has challenged, noting that to compare “intense debate” and “heated exchanges to pogroms—organized campaigns of slaughter and pillage of European Jews—is absurd.”55

* * * *

A more recent event at York University initially followed a similar trajectory, but then took a surprising turn. Tyler Golden, Co-President of Hasbara Fellowships at York University,56 informed the news website Shalom Life that when on February 1, 2010 he and other members of Hasbara were distributing information about the captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and about their “Free Palestinians from Hamas” campaign from a table in Vari Hall, “several anti-Israel known faces on campus” came to question and debate with them—a [221] group that quickly swelled, in the Shalom Life journalist’s words, “into an angry mob of around 50 students, who surrounded [Golden’s] group and chanted anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slurs.” When Hasbara students began to videotape this behaviour, Golden said, some students on the other side “were upset that there were cameras in their faces, so they started yelling and screaming. As they were trying to push cameras out of the way, they actually hit two students.”57 Hasbara Fellowships Co-President Marlee Mozeson, who claimed to have been one of the victims of assault—she had been slapped and had her camera knocked out of her hand—declared that “The University’s steps to ensure a safe campus for all have been proven unsuccessful and ineffective. We call on the University to take immediate action to restore order and safety for all students on campus.”58

By February 3 Meir Weinstein, head of the JDL in Canada, had signaled his organization’s intention of taking vigilante action by offering a reward for information that would enable the JDL to track down the supposed perpetrators. Here is the text of his reward notice, in the form in which he posted it on February 5:

Two Jewish Students were the victims of hate crimes and assaults at York University Monday February 1

The Jewish Defence League of Canada is offering a $500.00 reward for the assailants identities, names, alias, phone numbers and addresses (work and home)

Contact the Jewish Defence League of Canada at 416-736-7000 or [….]

Meir Weinstein, Toronto (02/05/10)59

The story of Jewish students being assaulted at York quickly went international, with an account published by the news service JTA on February 7 that was reproduced in the Jerusalem Post the following day.60 But on February 8 the story unraveled: CCTV surveillance video from Vari Hall, the site of the incident, revealed that the Hasbara students’ claims to have been assaulted were false. As Elad Benari of Shalom Life wrote in a follow-up article,

At one point, it can be seen that an argument may have taken place; however, at no point during the video is there any evidence of a brawl, nor can a shouting match be evident from the students’ body language. At several points, cameras are being used by the students, and at one point a female student who obviously does not take well to being on camera tries to reach for the camera, but the male student holding it lifts it up so it is out of her reach. No evidence of students being physically assaulted can be found during the video.61

[222] The student newspaper Excalibur interviewed Jesse Zimmerman, a pro-Palestinian student activist who had been among the group that approached the Hasbara table:

“There was never a mob,” he said. “There were four of us, and they [Hasbara] were surrounding us and making personal attacks on us and yelling shit at me.”

Surveillance footage made available to Excalibur shows no evidence of a physical brawl. While the footage lacks audio, it does clearly show that no one physically touched another person or invaded anyone’s space in a threatening manner.

Body language is exuberant, at most, but never aggressive. No more than 20 to 30 people can be seen around the table in the video, including both parties and bystanders. Two visible handheld cameras can be seen on screen, none of which is smacked to the ground.62

Zimmerman’s account of the number of pro-Palestinian students involved in the incident is supported by the JTA report of February 7 (republished in the Jerusalem Post), which notes that the alleged assaults “occurred when about 20 Jewish members of the on-campus group Hasbara Fellowships at York University gathered, with permission from the university, to raise awareness of captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit and terrorist acts committed by Hamas.”63 The approach of Zimmerman and his three companions would bring the number of students present to about two dozen; add in some bystanders, and we have the full number visible in the CCTV videotape.

The claim that fifty or so activists “surrounded the Jewish students and began chanting anti-Israel and anti-Semitic slurs” was, then, no less a fabrication than the assaults.

It appears that Jesse Zimmerman and his companions are the ones who were surrounded, and that Golden, having perhaps taken part in some less than civil behaviour, promptly inverted the reality to make himself and his friends into victims. Zimmerman, who evidently told the truth about the numbers involved in the tabling incident, also told the Excalibur reporter that his Palestinian activism “has made him the target of non-stop harassment by pro-Israel students. ‘They have harassed me online and in person […] I don’t feel safe on campus,’ said Zimmerman.”64

York University’s handling of these two episodes, in February 2009 and February 2010, seems oddly unbalanced. Students Against Israeli Apartheid, the group that organized the demonstration in Vari Hall on February 12, 2009, was fined $1,000 by the university for making noise that disturbed classes being held in the same building; an additional fine of $250 was levied on the leader of the group. No fine was imposed on Hillel.

[223] York University has to date made no public reference to the fact that the falsehoods disseminated by the campus leaders of Hasbara Fellowships in February 2010 were not just damaging to the university’s reputation, but also exposed other students to a serious risk of stalking, harassment, and violence at the hands of a dangerous extremist group, the JDL.

B’nai Brith’s weekly journal, the Jewish Tribune, published an article on February 10, 2010 praising York University for “taking complaints about anti-Semitism seriously during this school year […].” The article quotes from a press release issued by Hasbara Fellowships in which “the group ‘commends York University for their swift investigation into … [an] incident where [allegedly] two Jewish students were assaulted in Vari Hall on Feb. 1, 2010.’”65

Hasbara Fellowships makes no acknowledgment of or apology for the fact that its allegations had been exposed as fraudulent—even the bracketed word “allegedly” appears to have been supplied by the Jewish Tribune—but it now patronizingly commends security arrangements it had a week previously denounced as “unsuccessful and ineffective.” This press release seems an instance not so much of hasbara (the Hebrew word means “explanation” or, more accurately, “propaganda”), as of chutzpah (the primary meaning of which in Hebrew is “shamelessness”).66

The university, for its part, has avoided any hint of reproach. The Jewish Tribune quotes York’s director of media relations, Alex Bilyk, as saying, with some delicacy, “that although Hasbara did not wish to involve the police when filing its initial complaint, ‘we viewed [a tape of the incident] for our own peace of mind. If we had felt there was a physical safety issue, we would have filed a police report.’”67

What, then, of the JDL’s clear and very public threat of violence against members of the university community? Mr. Bilyk did not say whether he thought this raised a physical safety issue that might justify dropping a line to the Toronto police.


Academic Terror’

In the second of his three articles dealing, at greater or lesser length, with the UCLA panel on “Human Rights and Gaza,” Professor Judea Pearl denounced the “academic terror” to which he claimed pro-Israel academics in the U.S. are being subjected. Colleagues have told him, he says, “about lecturers whose appointments were terminated, professors whose promotion committees received ‘incriminating’ letters, and about the impossibility of revealing one’s pro-Israel convictions without losing grants, editorial board memberships, or invitations to panels or conferences.”

Should we find this all a bit vague, Pearl explains the absence of detail: “all, literally all” of his terrorized colleagues “swore [him] into strict secrecy”—a fact, for anyone gullible enough to accept it as such, that seems designed to reinforce Pearl’s claim that “we have entered the era of ‘the new Marranos.’”68 [224] But once we move beyond unsubstantiated rumours such as this, the available evidence indicates, on the contrary, that the academics whose reputations and careers have been placed at risk in the U.S. and Canada are those who have been bold enough to criticize the geopolitics of the American empire—and, in particular, the behaviour of the state of Israel toward the Palestinians of the occupied territories, as well as the comportment of Israel’s passionate and uncritical North American supporters.

Thus, for example, Dr. Joseph Massad of Columbia University’s Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures (MEALAC) was the object of a three-year witch-hunt between 2002 and 2005. Massad’s persecution may have been prompted by his articles on Palestine, published in scholarly journals like Social Text, Middle East Journal, Critique, and the Journal of Palestine Studies, and perhaps also by the incisive and much more widely circulated essays he has contributed to Al Ahram Weekly.69 It was initiated by faculty members of Columbia’s medical school, who sought to co-opt students into working toward his dismissal; it was taken up by the Columbia Spectator, whose misquotations of Massad’s words, though quickly corrected, were maliciously reproduced by the pro-Israel propagandists Martin Kramer of Tel Aviv University and Daniel Pipes, originator of the neo-McCarthyite Campus Watch. The campaign was joined by New York Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner, and amplified by the New York Sun and the New York Post; it was taken to a new height by The David Project, which circulated to university administrators and journalists a film, Columbia Unbecoming, in which students and non-students complained of supposed instances of antisemitic intimidation; and, finally, it was given added impetus by Columbia’s president Lee Bollinger, who in public statements shamefully accepted easily disproven allegations as facts.70

Despite the best efforts of the Anti-Defamation League, The David Project, the New York tabloid press, Columbia medical school colleagues who circulated racist and threatening emails, Daniel Pipes’ Campus Watch (with the tag-team work of Pipes’ Tel Aviv friend Martin Kramer), as well as Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who felt called upon to intervene,71 Massad remains a faculty member—now tenured—at Columbia. The reasons for his survival include an outstanding teaching record and obvious brilliance as a scholar,72 the international support he received from defenders of academic freedom, and the simple fact that, as a New York Times editorial observed, there was no evidence “that anyone’s grade suffered for challenging the pro-Palestinian views of any teacher or that [MEALAC] professors made anti-Semitic statements.” Indeed, the editorial acknowledged, “the professors who were targeted have legitimate complaints themselves. Their classes were infiltrated by hecklers and surreptitious monitors, and they received hate mail and death threats.”73

The New York Times was itself far from innocent in this affair: rather, as University of Michigan Middle East scholar Juan Cole noted, it “slammed” [225] the university committee that investigated Massad “for not being inquisitorial enough,” thereby lending its support to a “witch hunt” that Cole thought, in the spring of 2005, represented “the gravest threat to academic freedom in decades.”74

* * * *

Dr. Norman Finkelstein, a political scientist who came up for tenure at DePaul University in 2007, was less fortunate than Mossad, possibly because his major publications had in a more particular way exposed and embarrassed powerful pro-Zionist institutions and individuals.

Finkelstein first gained wide public notice, and some influential enemies, by revealing the fraudulence of Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial: The Origins of the Arab-Jewish Conflict over Palestine (1984), a best-seller that sought through demographic analysis to revive the Zionist myth of Palestine as a land without people awaiting the return of a people without land, and that had been acclaimed by Daniel Pipes, Martin Peretz, Lucy Dawidowicz, Barbara Tuchman, and Nobel Laureates Saul Bellow and Elie Wiesel. In the wake of a devastating review by demographer Yehoshua Porath, and of Finkelstein’s analysis, published as a long essay and then as a chapter in his first book, From Time Immemorial has been recognized by historians as worthless.75

Finkelstein’s critique of another widely praised book, Daniel Goldhagen’s prize-winning Hitler’s Willing Executioners: Ordinary Germans and the Holocaust (1996), was first published as a review essay in New Left Review. But on this occasion plans to republish the analysis, together with another review essay by historian Ruth Bettina Birn that had appeared in the Cambridge Historical Journal, were met with a concerted campaign by mainstream Jewish organizations to strangle the project in its cradle.

Abraham Foxman of the ADL wrote to Finkelstein’s editor at Metropolitan Books, an imprint of Holt, calling his opinions “beyond the pale”; and Leon Weseltier, literary editor of the New Republic, denounced Finkelstein to Holt’s publisher, Michael Naumann, as “poison,” “a self-hating Jew, […] something you find under a rock.”76

The pressures against Birn were if anything more extreme. Goldhagen threatened her with legal action, and the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC) warned Birn, who was chief historian in the War Crimes section of Canada’s Ministry of Justice, to drop the book project: “‘Publish,’ sniff[ed] CJC spokesman Bernie Farber, ‘but don’t publish with someone who’s loathed and despised by the Jewish community.’” When Birn, in response, complained of intimidation, saying that “the real story for Canadians [….] is a question of the attempted suppression of fair comment through the exertion of political influence,”77 she was accused by CJC president Goldie Herson of “what some might consider an anti-Semitic canard,” and the Justice Department was pressured into launching an investigation. In the mean time, Mordecai Briemberg writes, “Irving Abella, [226] incoming president of the Canadian Historical Association and past president of the Canadian Jewish Congress (CJC), pronounced Finkelstein ‘an enemy of the Jewish people’ and said that for Dr. Birn to publish with him is ‘like being published with someone from the Ku Klux Klan’.”78

This campaign struck a number of observers as outrageous: Israeli historian and journalist Tom Segev described it as “bordering on cultural terrorism.”79 Equally peculiar was the asymmetry, no less marked in the case of Hitler’s Willing Executioners than in that of From Time Immemorial, between the reception of these books (and Finkelstein’s refutations of them) by the corporate media and mainstream Jewish organizations, and their reception by scholars and historians with expertise in the field.

The criticisms of Goldhagen by Finkelstein and by Birn in their book A Nation on Trial: The Goldhagen Thesis and Historical Truth (New York: Metropolitan Books, 1998), were endorsed by distinguished historians80—most devastatingly by Raul Hilberg, the leading Holocaust scholar, who has declared Goldhagen’s book to be “totally wrong about everything [….] I mean, totally off the wall, you know, and factually without any basis,”81 and by Yehuda Bauer, Professor Emeritus of Holocaust Studies at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, who acidly remarked that “I have yet to read of a single historian who has publicly expressed agreement [with Goldhagen]. Not one, and that is a very rare unanimity. In my university, this book would never have passed as a Ph.D. dissertation.”82

Irving Abella stands out as an exception to the consensus claimed by Bauer—for unless his remarks about Finkelstein were intended as a gratuitous insult, they would seem to imply an endorsement of Goldhagen. But if Abella’s branding of Finkelstein as “an enemy of the Jewish people” invites questions about his own ethics as an historian, it also betrays an embarrassing degree of literary ignorance: the protagonist of Henrik Ibsen’s classic play An Enemy of the People (1882) is a man of integrity and courage, who incurs the hatred of dishonest elites and a deluded public through his exposure of a threat to public health.

Finkelstein’s two best-known books, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2001, expanded second edition, 2003), and Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (2005), exposed more serious and more damaging forms of dishonesty and hypocrisy within mainstream American institutions and discourses. As Ibsen might have predicted, they earned him honour (not unmixed, sometimes, with criticism) among those able to recognize their scholarly integrity and profoundly ethical orientation—and, from ideologues, an increased level of hatred.

The Holocaust Industry contains, in its third and perhaps most notable chapter, a powerful exposé of the diversion of funds provided by the German government, and more recently by the major Swiss Banks, as indemnifications for the crimes of the Holocaust and reparations to surviving victims.

[227] Finkelstein notes that $120 million (worth about a billion present-day dollars) was paid by the German government between 1952 and 1964 to the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany (or Claims Conference), an umbrella group of major Jewish organizations, for distribution to Holocaust survivors who had not otherwise received compensation for their sufferings under Nazi persecution. In what he calls a “flagrant breach” of the “letter and spirit” of the agreement, the Claims Conference diverted all but about 15 percent of the money from the victims who should have been the beneficiaries to its own constituent organizations, which used the money to finance projects such as Holocaust Museums, university chairs in Holocaust studies, Yad Vashem pensions to “righteous Gentiles,” subsidies to Jewish communities in Arab countries, projects to encourage immigration to Israel from eastern Europe, and payments to “outstanding Jewish leaders.”83

Finkelstein also documents what he calls the “double shake-down” of the Swiss banking system during the late 1990s by the World Jewish Congress (WJC) and other U.S.-based Jewish organizations, purportedly on behalf of Holocaust survivors. What was supposedly being recovered, even though indemnities had been agreed on and paid by the early 1950s, was money from dormant bank accounts of Holocaust victims, the value of “Nazi gold” acquired by the Swiss banks during or after the Nazi period, and the estimated accumulated value of deposits earned from slave labour in the Nazi camps. But as Neve Gordon observed in a review of the book, Finkelstein demonstrated “how Jewish organizations […] consistently exaggerated numbers—of slave laborers or the amount of ‘victim gold’ purchased by the banks—in order to secure more money.”84

The sums amassed by the WJC through what Finkelstein terms “an extortion racket” come to a total of at least $1.25 billion.85 While the lawyers negotiated, Gordon remarks, “the Jewish lobby launched an extensive campaign” which “included the publication of studies—supported by the Simon Wiesenthal Center—that accused Switzerland of ‘knowingly profiting from blood money’ and committing ‘unprecedented theft,’ and claimed that ‘dishonesty was a cultural code that individual Swiss have mastered to protect the nation’s image and prosperity.’” Pressing these allegations in the House and Senate banking committees, the lobby simultaneously “convinced officials in a number of states, including New York, New Jersey and Illinois, to threaten the Swiss banks with economic boycott. Finally, the banks bent in response.” 86

As before, only a fraction of the money obtained was passed on to the heirs of Holocaust victims, or to Holocaust survivors and their families. Angelo Codevila concluded from his own study of the matter that a “coalition of powerful Americans” had used “the power and prestige of the United States government to funnel money into its own hands.”87

Finkelstein was firmly supported by Raul Hilberg, who declared him to be “one hundred percent correct” in his analysis of the WJC and the Swiss [228] banks: it “was not only coercive on the part of the Jews who mobilized, but also on the part of all the insurance commissioners, the Senate, the House, and the critical committees. [….] The claims lawyers, joined by the World Jewish Congress, made an incredible display of totally inappropriate behavior.”88 But in a defensive flourish of a kind that is by now familiar, Omar Bartov denounced The Holocaust Industry as “a novel variation on […] The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”; Alan Dershowitz, preferring what Shakespeare’s clown Touchstone called “the Lie Direct,” has smeared it as “a screed against Holocaust survivors.”89

Dershowitz, of course, has particular reasons for his hatred of Finkelstein. In 2005 Beyond Chutzpah (a book whose publication Dershowitz had frantically sought to obstruct) substantiated at length Finkelstein’s charge that Dershowitz had plagiarized extensively in The Case for Israel from Joan Peters’ discredited book; and in the course of a scrupulously scholarly and very thorough analysis of the state of Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ human rights, Beyond Chutzpah demolished with equal thoroughness Dershowitz’s claims to be regarded as in any serious sense a defender of human rights.90

Finkelstein’s tenure at DePaul University was, as Amy Goodman wrote, “overwhelmingly approved at the departmental and college level,” but opposed by the dean of DePaul’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences,91 and finally rejected by the university—thanks in large part to a campaign of vilification led by Dershowitz, who wrote to DePaul faculty members demanding Finkelstein’s dismissal, and denounced him in The Wall Street Journal as an antisemite who “does not do ‘scholarship’ in any meaningful sense.”92 StandWithUs and the Jewish Defense Organization (a successor to the JDL in the U.S.) took part in the campaign, and when the denial of tenure was announced, the Anti-Defamation League declared that “To the extent that DePaul’s decision […] is intended as a repudiation of his hateful and bigoted ideas, we applaud the University […].”93

We should perhaps give the last word on this case to Raul Hilberg, who in scholarship and Mentschlekhkeyt stands high above any of Finkelstein’s detractors: “I would say that [Finkelstein’s] place in the whole history of writing history is assured, and that those who in the end are proven right triumph, and he will be among those who will have triumphed, albeit, it so seems, at great cost.”94

* * * *

In both Canada and the United States there have been other vigorous, if perhaps less widely known, attempts to suppress academic criticism of Israel. Here are several instances.

In 2002, the distinguished sociologist Sherene Razack,95 who participated in a session on Israel’s military assault on Jenin at that year’s Canadian Critical Race Studies Conference, circulated a resolution agreed on at the conference [229] condemning Israel’s actions. She was subjected to sustained attacks by the National Post and B’nai Brith, which called on her university to discipline or dismiss her for having supposedly misused her university email account, and also to an organized campaign of hate mail and threats. Although the University of Toronto defended her academic freedom, Razack has recently remarked that “informal ‘sanctions’ against her continue to this day (with speaking invitations and grants disappearing without explanation) […].”96

Three years later another CanWest Global newspaper, the Ottawa Citizen, joined B’nai Brith in smearing Michel Chossudovsky, a prominent economist, political analyst, and human rights advocate,97 as an antisemite, and in demanding that the University of Ottawa take action (as Anita Bromberg of B’nai Brith put it) “to hold him to a certain standard of acceptable civil discourse.”98 The pretext for this attack was B’nai Brith’s discovery that real antisemites had managed briefly to insert their noxious drivel into discussion threads hosted by Chossudovsky’s website, the Centre for Research on Globalization—but its evident motivation, as I observed at the time, was the fact that articles published on his website, his own among them, have offered well-researched critiques of a wide range of injustices, including “the state of Israel’s shameless violations of human rights, international law and common decency in its treatment of the Palestinians.”99

A related case is that of the University of Ottawa’s Denis Rancourt, a tenured full professor of physics and a highly regarded researcher, who in 2001, after he won a prestigious Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) research grant, was featured in full-page newspaper advertisements in which his university boasted of its prowess as a research institution. Rancourt was fired in March 2009, and his research laboratory (for which he had recently won ongoing funding) was unceremoniously shut down. The pretext for this action was his radical pedagogy—in particular, his assignment of A+ grades to all of the students who completed one of his courses in the Winter 2008 semester. But Rancourt has plausibly suggested that “the real reasons for the university’s attempts to discipline me since September 2005 and for recent more harsh actions against me […] might be the administration’s opposition to my political views about the Palestine-Israel conflict, which, starting in 2005, I have expressed in articles, on radio, in my blog postings, at public venues, and in my classes.”100

In 2005 a complaint from the Jewish Student Association against an invited speaker in Rancourt’s “Physics and the Environment” course—Professor Michel Chossudovsky, “who spoke about Middle East geopolitics”—gave rise to “a sustained but failed” attempt to discipline Rancourt. In the autumn of 2006, his invitation to two Canadian-Palestinian speakers to address his “Science in Society” course led to an editorial attack in the Ottawa Citizen and to his removal from this and other first-year courses he had developed. In 2007, Rancourt criticized the University of Ottawa’s official position on the [230] academic boycott of Israel on his blog, and was punished by being suspended without pay from his academic duties.101

Rancourt provides evidence that he was denied due process in the proceedings that led to his dismissal; more scandalous still is the copious documentation he has published in support of his allegation that from 2006 to 2008 the University of Ottawa hired an undergraduate student journalist, as an agent of the university’s legal counsel, to spy on and make covert recordings of him and of students with whom he associated. Even in “the dark period of McCarthyism in North America,” Rancourt comments, “one does not find abuses comparable to a university practicing covert surveillance of its own professors and students.”102

At much the same time as Professor Rancourt’s case was coming to a head, the University of California at Santa Barbara was in turmoil over accusations of antisemitism leveled against Professor William I. Robinson, a highly respected sociologist and political theorist, and one of the leading figures in critical globalization studies.103 In January 2009, Robinson had circulated internet material to the students in his course on global affairs which “included an article critical of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and a photo essay that juxtaposed graphic images of Nazi atrocities against Jews and Israeli atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza.” Two students out of the eighty in the class withdrew from the course, and, with assistance from the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, lodged a grievance with the Academic Senate claiming that the material was antisemitic and unrelated to the course.104

The ADL pursued this matter very actively: its first letter to the UCSB administration demanding an investigation was received before the students’ complaints (which echoed its claims and rationales) had actually been made, and ADL National Director Abraham Foxman’s on-campus meeting with senior university officials was no doubt a factor in the launching of an investigation a fortnight later. Despite continued pressure from the ADL and a letter-writing campaign organized by StandWithUs, the investigation—which involved an uninterrupted sequence of procedural improprieties—collapsed. On June 4, 2009, the UCSB Academic Senate initiated a counter-investigation of the mismanagement of the student complaints; and when on June 25 UCSB officials rather belatedly announced that no charges would after all be laid against Robinson, the American Association of University Professors, which had already written “querying the initiation of potential disciplinary action,” promptly wrote again to UCSB Chancellor Henry T. Yang, urging him to “cooperate fully” with the Academic Senate in its inquiry into the matter.105

* * * *

Other cases could also be cited, ranging in seriousness from the threat of disciplinary action made by the senior administration of York University [231] against Professor David McNally, Chair of the Political Science Department, after he gave a speech in support of Palestinian human rights in May 2008, to the appalling treatment of Sami Al-Arian, a Palestinian-American University of South Florida computer science professor, whose persecution since 2001 has involved not just smearing and dismissal, but a trial for terrorism, and, despite the embarrassing failure of the prosecution, continued imprisonment. (According to human rights lawyer Scott Horton, the recent convolutions of Al Arian’s case “should be studied as a textbook case of prosecutorial abuse.”)106

But more is involved than attacks upon individuals. Jason Kunin notes in his contribution to this book that in Ontario (as elsewhere) there have been sustained attempts by university administrations to suppress human rights discourse about the worsening plight of the Palestinians: among them McMaster University’s attempt in 2008 to ban the use of the term “Israeli apartheid,” University of Toronto President David Naylor’s maneuverings “to block the event Standing Against Israeli Apartheid in October 2008,” and in 2009 the banning of Israeli Apartheid Week posters “at Carleton, the University of Ottawa, Trent University, and Wilfrid Laurier University.”107

How strange: the term “apartheid” was applied with clinical accuracy by Marwan Bishara in 2001 to describe what Israel has done in the occupied territories from the early 1990s onward, “physically and demographically divid[ing] up the West Bank and Gaza into islands of poverty, or bantustans, while maintaining economic domination and direct control over Palestinian land and natural resources.”108 It was re-used by Jimmy Carter in 2006—a usage validated in 2007 by Israel Prize laureate and former Minister of Education Shulamit Aloni.109 And in January 2010, Henry Siegman, the former Executive Director of the American Jewish Congress and current President of the US/Middle East Project of the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote that Israel’s “relentless” construction of new settlements “seems finally to have succeeded in locking in the irreversibility of its colonial project. As a result of that ‘achievement,’ one that successive Israeli governments have long sought in order to preclude the possibility of a two-state solution, Israel has crossed the threshold from ‘the only democracy in the Middle East’ to the only apartheid regime in the western world.” 110

There is, as Jason Kunin remarks, a pungent irony to the fact that while Canadian university administrators—not to mention politicians111—denounce as unacceptable any application of the term “apartheid” to the structures of land theft, cantonment, and racialized subjugation, separation, and oppression of a subject-population that characterize Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, “South African legal scholars, who might be expected to have a more immediate understanding of the nature of apartheid, have not hesitated to describe the state of Israel’s behaviour in the occupied Palestinian territories as ‘a colonial system that implements a system of apartheid.’”112

Margaret Aziza Pappano asks, very pertinently, of the opposition to Israeli Apartheid Week: “What justification can be found to block an event in which [232] scholars and activists speak about the history of the region, with a focus on the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, information that is taught in history and political science classes and available in books published by university presses?” It is a sad fact, she suggests, that “A pattern of intolerance for speech about Palestinian human rights appears to have established itself in Canadian universities.”113

As Meron Benvenisti wrote in Haaretz in April 2009, “there is a growing realization” in Israel and internationally “that the chances of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state no longer exist,” and that the two-state solution is now a “fictitious option.”114 It is all the more interesting, in this light, to reflect on the noisy campaign conducted in the spring of 2009 against an academic conference jointly organized by York University and Queen’s University, and scheduled for June 22-24, 2009, with the aim of mapping different models of statehood and corresponding paths to peace for Israel and Palestine.115

As Professor Dorit Naaman of Queen’s University has noted, B’nai Brith denounced the conference in a full-page ad in the National Post on June 11, 2009, and on the following day “issued a press release attacking conference presenters.” Other organizations joined in: the Canadian Council for Israel and Jewish Advocacy (CIJA), the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Greater Toronto, and the “avowedly racist and violent” Jewish Defence League.116 At the same time, Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear made an unprecedented attempt to intervene in the peer-review adjudication process of the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council by asking the Council to re-examine its funding support for the conference—a request his office backed up with a threat of withholding federal budget funding for SSHRC.117

One of the complaints made against the conference was a supposed one-sidedness—though more than one-fifth of the conference’s nearly sixty presenters were Israeli scholars, and many more were North American or European Jews. The conference organizers also made attempts to encourage community participation—though when one of them spoke with officials of the Canadian Jewish Congress, she was advised, in all seriousness, to meet with the Jewish Defence League. The abusive attacks on this conference were, Naaman says, “an attempt to silence discussion of [a] critical debate, which—ironically—is already taking place within Israel,” and “a disgraceful act meant to prevent Israelis, Jews, Arabs, Palestinians and others from speaking with one another in a serious academic forum.”118


The War on Truth

In one example after another, we have observed a pattern of what David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi describe as “disproportionate and unbalanced intervention on campuses […] by a coalition of well-funded organizations, [233] who have no time for—and even less interest in—the niceties of intellectual exchange and academic process.” Their tactics are, to put it mildly, unpleasant: “Insinuation, accusation, and defamation have become the weapons of first resort to respond to argument and criticism directed at Israeli policies.”119

It is not just the decorum of intellectual exchange that apologists for the Israeli state and polemicists against its critics are attempting to subvert, but the very processes by which the academy structures itself. Joseph Massad has remarked in one of his essays that people like Martin Kramer and Daniel Pipes

are angry that the academy still allows democratic procedure in the expression of political views and has an institutionalized meritocratic system of judgment […] to evaluate its members. Their goal is to destroy any semblance of either in favour of subjecting democracy and academic life to an incendiary jingoism and to the exigencies of the national security state with the express aim of imploding freedom.120

Minister of State Gary Goodyear is likewise angry121 with another aspect of the academic merit system, the process of peer-reviewed research funding.

What is under attack in all of these instances is something quite fundamental. The first and highest value of academic life is the notion that truth—however differently we may construe it or understand it to be configured, however discordantly we may dispute over the appropriate means of access to it, however harshly we may debate with one another over the appropriate methods of separating it from dogma, delusion, or deception, and however pessimistic we might sometimes feel about its prospects of prevailing over even the most arid of established ideologies—truth remains, beyond all these doubts and differences, the professed goal of the human sciences, no less than of the mathematically based or natural sciences.

Yet as we have seen in one example after another, this central value of the academy is treated with open contempt by the apologists and polemicists whose tracks we have been following. The reason is simple enough: the truth about what they are defending puts them to shame.

In the preceding chapter, I showed that the claims made by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism about a terrifying resurgence of antisemitism in Canada and elsewhere are not supported by the available evidence. Attempts to push Canadians into a state of moral panic over the issue should be rejected with indignation—as they have been, surprisingly enough, by the National Post. In a recent editorial criticizing B’nai Brith’s 2009 Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, the Post declares that it “flies in the face of reality” to claim “that anti-Semitism in this country is a widespread and rising problem”: Canada “is probably the least anti-Semitic country in the entire world—including Israel—and it becomes more tolerant, not less, with [234] every passing year.”122 Setting aside the note of self-congratulation in this last sentence, and the comparison with Israel—why try to be more Catholic than the Pope?—the refusal to be panicked is well taken.

In this chapter, I have proposed that what the CPCCA would like us to believe about threats to civility on Canadian campuses is equally bogus. Where there have been such threats, they seem in most cases to have come not from faculty and students who are trying to make known the truth about the state of Israel’s treatment of the people of the occupied Palestinian territories, but rather from polemicists and apologists for Israel who are trying either to conceal these truths, or else, by invoking the rhetorical maneuvers of the “new antisemitism,” to change the subject, and thereby to transform themselves from allies of the victimizers into victims.


Opposition Is True Friendship

As we have seen, the Israel-Palestine conflict is a recurrent point of reference in contemporary discussions of antisemitism. In moving toward an assessment of the implications for Canada of these discussions, we need to have some understanding of the full horror of what Israel, with the eager support of Canada’s government and the governments of other western nations, is inflicting upon the people of the occupied territories.

The conclusions of Kathleen and Bill Christison, whose book Palestine in Pieces is a model of humane and respectful reportage, are worth listening to on this subject:

There are hardly words to describe the human suffering and degradation deliberately imposed on Palestinians by Israel’s occupation. The Israeli threat to Palestinian lives and livelihood, individually and collectively—indeed to Palestinian national existence—through theft of land and the sieges of towns and villages, through walls and roads and blockades that strangle, through the crippling of economic opportunity, through deliberate large-scale killing, together resemble a hunting expedition designed to cage and ultimately eliminate animals from a natural habitat. Israeli leaders, Israeli settlers, Israeli soldiers treat Palestinians not as a collective of human beings, but as trapped animals whose fate is of little or no concern.123

The Christisons quote legal scholar and U.N. Rapporteur Richard Falk’s wrestlings in 2007 with the question of whether it would be “an irresponsible overstatement to associate the treatment of Palestinians with [the] criminalized Nazi record of collective atrocity”:

Answering his own question, he asserted, “I think not.” His attention was focused primarily on Gaza, struggling under an international [235] embargo, and he warned that Israel’s “abuse of the Palestinian people” there vividly expressed “a deliberate intention on the part of Israel and its allies to subject an entire human community to life-endangering conditions of utmost cruelty.”124

Writing more than a year later, the Christisons both endorse and supplement this judgment:

It takes but a few visits to towns and villages around the West Bank to conclude that, although Gaza’s suffering places it farther along the path toward a holocaust, conditions in the West Bank clearly constitute a “holocaust-in-the-making.”125

The judgments of these observers—a very distinguished legal scholar, author and co-author of some three dozen books, and two former CIA political analysts whose interest in and experience of Middle East affairs goes back forty years—are disturbingly supported by what seems a recent drift in Israel toward openly genocidal language. Racist references to Palestinians have long been commonplace in Israel, but took a stronger turn in 2003 when Avigdor Lieberman, now Israel’s Deputy Prime Minister, said in a Knesset debate that Palestinian prisoners “should be drowned in the Dead Sea” and that he—one must presume in his capacity as Transport Minister, the post he then occupied—“would provide the buses to take them there.”126 In May 2004 Lieberman proposed deporting 90 percent of Israel’s 1.2 million Palestinian citizens (“They have no place here. They can take their bundles and get lost”)—a proposal extended in September 2006 by former cabinet minister Effi Eitam’s declaration that “The vast majority of West Bank Arabs must be deported […].”127 What had been a taboo on expressions of explicitly genocidal intentions was broken at the end of February 2008, when Deputy Defence Minister Matan Vilnai threatened Gaza in an IDF radio interview with “a bigger shoah” if Gaza militants continued to fire rockets into adjoining areas of Israel.128 The word he used, meaning literally “catastrophe,” has since World War II been used primarily to refer to the Holocaust (the word by which it is translated into English). Although Vilnai’s aides issued statements insisting that the minister was not referring to that Shoah, it is impossible not to hear a threat of genocide in his statement.129

Martin Kramer, a long-time faculty member at Tel Aviv University, the President-designate of the new right-wing Shalem College in Jerusalem, an associate both of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy (AIPAC’s Washington think-tank) and of Daniel Pipes’ Middle East Forum, a visiting scholar at Harvard University’s Weatherhead Center for International Affairs—and also, as Juan Cole writes, “a notorious anti-intellectual opposed to the mainstream academic study of the Middle East”—made a more explicitly genocidal proposal in his presentation to the 10th annual Herzliya Conference in early February 2010.

[236] Starting with the claim that “Aging populations reject radical agendas” (a clear mark of ignorance, Cole observes, since the notion is amply refuted by historical evidence),130 Kramer argued that a decline in Palestinian radicalism

will happen faster if the West stops providing pro-natal subsidies for Palestinians with refugee status. [….] Israel’s present sanctions on Gaza have a political aim—undermine the Hamas regime—but they also break Gaza’s runaway population growth and there is some evidence that they have. That may begin to crack the culture of martyrdom, which demands a constant supply of superfluous young men. That is rising to the real challenge of radical indoctrination and treating it at its root.131

The genocidal implication of this is clear: Kramer informs us that Israel’s blockade of Gaza—thanks to which, according to the World Health Organization and UNICEF, 35 percent of pregnant women and 65 percent of children aged 9-12 months are anaemic, and more than 10 percent of children under five are stunted through chronic malnourishment132—has slowed down Gaza’s population growth. (How, one must ask, does he imagine this could have happened, unless through increased levels of miscarriages and of infant mortality?) And he has made clear, in responding to critics of his Herzliya speech,133 that what he means by “pro-natal subsidies” is, in his own words, the assurance of UNRWA (the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East) “that every child with ‘refugee’ status will be fed and schooled regardless of the parents’ own resources […].”134 Kramer is recommending, in short, that the population of Gaza be reduced to starvation through a withdrawal of support for UNRWA.

Significant mortality might indeed by produced by the means Kramer recommends. By 2007, according to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the Israeli blockade had produced a ten percent decline from the 2005 level of “food acquisition and energy consumption” in Gaza; in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that two-thirds of Gaza’s population was “deemed food insecure.”135 In January 2010 Akiva Eldar wrote in Haaretz that “Ninety-seven percent of Gaza’s factories are idle due to Israeli government restrictions on the import of raw materials for industry,” while “Israel’s ban on bringing in building materials” has made it impossible to repair or rebuild the “nearly 60,000 homes and factories” damaged or destroyed in Operation Cast Lead, leaving “10,000 people […] without running water, 40,000 without electricity.”136 It has likewise been impossible, as the World Health Organization noted in a fact sheet published in January 2010, to repair the damage caused to 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals and 43 of its 110 primary health care clinics, or to alter the fact that Gaza’s children are at risk due to the “increasing salinity and high levels of nitrates in water supplies.”137

[237] The collective punishment being inflicted on Gaza is already a war crime, a flagrant violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949.138 But as M. J. Rosenberg has noted, Kramer’s proposal directly contravenes the Geneva Convention on Genocide, signed by Israel and nearly every other country in the world, which bans

killing of members of any racial, ethnic, national or religious group because of their membership in that group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, inflicting on members of the group conditions of life intended to destroy them, imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group, and taking members’ children away from them and giving them to members of another group.139

With every additional explanation of what precisely he meant, Kramer has succeeded only in making it clearer that Israel’s existing policies toward Gaza are as genocidal in their implications as the intensification of them he is arguing for:

I didn’t propose that Israel take a single additional measure beyond the sanctions it now imposes with the political aim of undermining Hamas. And I didn’t call on the West to “deliberately curb the births of Palestinians.” I called on it to desist from deliberately encouraging births through pro-natal subsidies for Palestinian “refugees,” which guarantee that Gazans will remain both radicalized and dependent.140

Whatever wriggle room he may think terms like “pro-natal subsidies” give him, Kramer is proposing to take food out of the mouths of women and children—whose communities are to a very large degree “dependent” upon external aid only because of the policies that Kramer and people like him support, and “radicalized” by their resistance to those policies.

* * * *

Canadians need to think deeply about the very disquieting implications of the Harper government’s withdrawal of funding from UNRWA, which was announced by Treasury Board Minister Vic Toews—in Jerusalem141—just over a week before Martin Kramer’s Herzliya speech. Speculations as to whether Toews or other members of the Harper government had been influenced by Kramer, or by the German, Gunnar Heinsohn, from whom Kramer derived his proposal, do not interest me.142 The unpleasant fact is that Canada was the first country in 2006 to join the Israeli blockade in Gaza—and now it has become the first country to participate in what is evidently designed (by Kramer at least) as an intensification, with genocidal intent, of the cruel effects of that blockade.

[238] Kathleen and Bill Christison inform us that “In early 2008, UNRWA Commissioner General Karen Koning AbuZayd harshly condemned the international embargo of Gaza. The territory, she said, ‘is on the threshold of becoming the first territory to be internationally reduced to a state of abject destitution, with the knowledge, acquiescence and—some would say—encouragement of the international community.’”143

The situation in Gaza has now passed that threshold—and the Canadian government has been participating in the project with open eyes. It has made us complicit in the war crime of the embargo or blockade of Gaza, and, through its support for Operation Cast Lead, in further war crimes against Gaza’s people and their life-supporting infrastructures. It is now seeking to make us complicit in actions that, with Martin Kramer’s unwitting help, we can recognize as genocidal in intention.

The choice Canadians must make is one of whether we are willing to accept this complicity, or whether we will take a stand against these actions, and in solidarity with their victims.

* * * *

One of the ways we can take such a stand is by demanding Canada’s immediate withdrawal from the blockade of Gaza, and an immediate restoration of Canada’s financial support for UNRWA.

Another is by demanding that Canada participate in a measured and carefully calibrated program of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) against Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and the universal principles of human rights.

As has been explained by Neve Gordon, Chair of the Department of Politics and Government at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, the ten-point boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign formulated in 2008 in Bilbao, Spain by a coalition of organizations from around the world is designed “to pressure Israel in a ‘gradual, sustainable manner that is sensitive to context and capacity.’ For example, the effort begins with sanctions on and divestment from Israeli firms operating in the occupied territories, followed by actions against those that help sustain and reinforce the occupation in a visible manner.”144

A program of this kind would involve an academic boycott—directed, one must emphasize, not against individual scholars, but rather against government-supported institutional contacts.145 It would involve a rejection of Israeli state involvement in events like the Toronto International Film Festival (which as the “Toronto Declaration” of September 2009 made clear would not affect the inclusion at such events of Israeli films and of individual Israeli filmmakers).146 It would involve careful consideration of whether fundraising in Canada that goes into support for programs of ethnic discrimination and property theft in Israel can continue to enjoy tax-exempt status as a “charitable” endeavour. It would involve an immediate revision of the Canada-Israel Free [239] Trade Agreement (CIFTA) to exclude all products emanating from Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, and a withdrawal from all aspects of the Canada-Israel Industrial Research and Development Fund (CIIRDF) that involve support for the infrastructure of the occupation.

Many of the people who most strenuously oppose campaigns for boycott, divestment, and sanctions directed at Israel are not opposed on principle to such tactics. Professor (and former IDF paratrooper) Neve Gordon’s article calling for a boycott, on the grounds that “Putting massive external pressure on Israel is the only way to guarantee that the next generation of Israelis and Palestinians—my two boys included—does not grow up in an apartheid regime,”147 evoked, as Gideon Levy remarks, a “mini-maelstrom” the timing of which “was somewhat grotesque”:

Hardly have the throats dried of those calling for his dismissal, for his citizenship to be revoked, for his expulsion and, if all else fails, his stoning, when another petition has surfaced on the Internet, this one calling for a boycott of Ikea. A bad article on the back page of a Swedish tabloid is enough to produce a call here for a consumer boycott to which thousands sign their names. Turkey has barely recovered from the boycott that our package tourers imposed on it because its prime minister had the gall to attack our president, and already we are cruising toward our next boycott target.148

On a similar note, the neo-McCarthyist Israeli watchdog groups IsraCampus and Israel Academia Monitor are calling for potential donors to boycott universities that employ professors who, like Gordon, advocate a boycott of Israel.149 And in August 2009 Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu called for “crippling sanctions” against Iran—the kind of blockade, as Paul Craig Roberts commented, that “qualifies as an act of war.”150 As Levy writes, “A country that constantly demands boycott from the world and also imposes boycotts itself, cannot play the victim when the same weapon is turned against it. If the election of Hamas is cause for boycott, then occupation is a more potent cause.”151

* * * *

This issue is, most immediately, about protecting the lives of Palestinians, and doing what lies within our power to do in restoring to them their right to political self-determination, political independence, and full self-governance within the territories occupied by Israel since 1967.152 At the same time, it is about restoring to Israelis their lost honour as a nation, and doing what can be done with what remains of Canada’s tattered reputation as a peacemaker to help bring about a lasting peace between Israel and its neighbours, so as to lift from Israelis the burden of anxiety and fear that has afflicted them for at least two generations, and that has deformed and polluted their political discourse.

[240] In this regard, it must be insisted that what is at issue, in Canada at least, is not primarily, or to any significant degree, antisemitism. Exponents of the ideology of the “new antisemitism” will of course say otherwise, but they are mistaken. Their governing assumption appears to be that people will not make profound, serious and systematic criticisms of the state of Israel unless they are impelled, perhaps knowingly, or possibly at some deep level of a feral goyisch unconscious, by hatred of Jews. I believe that Canadians are, by and large, more complicated than this, and less hypocritical or evil. I believe we are perfectly capable of combining, without cognitive dissonance, an amicable sense of Israel as a place inhabited by interesting, attractive, creative people, and a lively curiosity about their spiritual traditions and their culture—and at the same time a sense of dismay and even horror at this people’s growing entanglement in a mesh of injustice and violence that to a very considerable degree is the creation of their own political leaders.

If there is hypocrisy here, or unconscious self-deception, I would suggest that it is to be found most often among the ideologues of the “new antisemitism.” We have seen good reason in this book to find their ethics dubious, and their explanations unsatisfactory. I would suggest substituting for those often laboured and usually libellous explanations an aphorism of the great English poet William Blake:

“Opposition is true friendship.”153

* * * *

But this issue is also, as we have seen recurrently from the beginning of this book, one of domestic Canadian politics. The questions of antisemitism and of the domestic relevance of the Israel-Palestine conflict have been foregrounded for us by the actions of our own political leaders. The questions raised by the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism are also, more distinctly, questions about the instrumental use of false charges of antisemitism as a means of delimiting political discourse and of making a whole domain of critical discourse literally unspeakable.

Judith Butler, one of the leading literary and cultural theorists in the U.S., has written with characteristic lucidity about how a distinction between Israel and Jews helps one to oppose “anti-Semitic reductions of Jewishness to Israeli interests,” and to begin “an intellectual discussion of both Zionism and anti-Semitism.” Having insisted that a “progressive Jewish stance” will “refuse to brand as anti-Semitic the critical impulse or to accept anti-Semitic discourse as an acceptable substitute for critique,” Butler turns to consider the problems that arise when the charge of antisemitism is used to stigmatize “those who voice opposition to Israeli policy or to its founding ideology,” to discredit their “point of view as hatred or, indeed, hate speech, and to put into question its permissibility as protected speech or, indeed, valued political commentary.” The charge of antisemitism, she says,

[241] works to circumscribe the publicly acceptable domain of speech. It also works to immunize Israeli violence against critique by refusing to countenance the integrity of the claims made against that violence. One is threatened with the label, “anti-Semitic,” in the same way that within the US, to oppose the most recent US wars earns one the label of “traitor,” or “terrorist sympathizer” or, indeed, “treasonous.” These are threats with profound psychological consequence. They seek to control political behavior by imposing unbearable, stigmatized modes of identification which most people will want more than anything to avoid identification with.154

Those who perform this labelling know very well how powerfully it can work, in Butler’s words, “to circumscribe what can and cannot be permissibly spoken out loud in the public sphere,” and to “decide the defining limits of the public sphere through setting limits on the speakable.” The consequences of a shrinkage of the public sphere through an exclusion of critical perspectives are potentially dire:

The exclusion of those criticisms will effectively establish the boundaries of the public itself, and the public will come to understand itself as one that does not speak out, critically, in the face of obvious and illegitimate violence—unless, of course, a certain collective courage takes hold.155

That collective courage exists in this country, as does a generously shared fund of common decency. This book goes out to the public in the hope that what it offers in the way of critical analysis may help to facilitate an increasingly full and well-articulated expression of that decency and courage.




1  Some historians and sociologists have used the term “new antisemitism” in scholarly studies of the receptions and mutations of traditional Christian and European antisemitism in other parts of the world. My critique applies to their writings only to the degree that they deploy this same rhetoric, and thereby participate in this strategy of deception.

2  James D. Besser, “A Chill in the D.C. Air as Obama, Netanyahu Meet,” The Jewish Week (10 November 2009),

3  “Survivors, liberators, leaders mark Auschwitz liberation,” (28 January 2010), By way of contrast, on a similar occasion four years previously, Netanyahu’s predecessor Ehud Olmert described himself as “prime minister of the state of Israel and the leader of the Jewish people here” (my emphasis); see “Remarks by Ehud Olmert, Acting Prime Minister, State of Israel [speaking from Israel by video link] to the Anti-Defamation League Shana Amy Glass National Leadership Conference, April 25, 2006, Washington, DC,”

4  Norman G. Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah: On the Misuse of Anti-Semitism and the Abuse of History (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005), p. 21.

5  Arnold Forster and Benjamin R. Epstein, The New Anti-Semitism (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1974); Nathan Perlmutter and Ruth-Ann Perlmutter, The Real Anti-Semitism in America (New York: Arbor House, 1982); Abraham H. Foxman, Never Again? The Threat of the New Anti-Semitism (2003; rpt. New York: HarperCollins, 2004); Phyllis Chesler, The New Anti-Semitism: The Current Crisis and What We Must Do about It (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003); Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Return of Anti-Semitism (San Francisco: Encounter Books, 2004).

6  Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. 22.

7  Ibid., p. 24; and Forster and Epstein, The New Anti-Semitism, pp. 323-24 (quoted by Finkelstein).

8  Ibid., p. 27 (quoting Nathan and Ruth-Ann Perlmutter, The Real Anti-Semitism in America, p. 9).

9  Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, pp. 30-31.

10  Ibid., p. 33 (quoting Foxman, Never Again? p. 39; and Chesler, The New Anti-Semitism, p. 180).

11  Pierre-André Taguieff, La nouvelle judéophobie (Paris: Éditions Mille et une nuits, 2002), translated by Patrick Camiller as Rising from the Muck: The New Anti-Semitism in Europe (Chicago: Ivan R. Dee, 2004)—and see also Taguieff’s more recent Prêcheurs de haine: Traversée de la judéophobie planétaire (Paris: Éditions Mille et une nuits, 2004); Fiamma Nirenstein, L’Abbandono: Come l’Occidente ha tradito gli ebrei (Milan: Rizzoli, 2003), Gli Antisemiti Progressisti: la forma nova di un odio antico (Milan: Rizzoli, 2004), translated together by Anne Milano Appel as Terror: The New Anti-Semitism and the War Against the West (Manchester, NH: Smith & Kraus, 2005); David I. Kertzer, ed., Old Demons, New Debates: Anti-Semitism in the West (Aachen: Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2005); Alan Dershowitz, The Case Against Israel’s Enemies: Exposing Jimmy Carter and Others Who Stand in the Way of Peace (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2008); Denis MacShane, Globalising Hatred: The New Antisemitism (London: Orion Books, 2009).

12  So-called Infancy Gospels like the Protevangelium Jacobi, dating from the early centuries of the Common Era and designed to satisfy curiosity about the childhood of the Son of God, were widely circulated and commented on during the medieval period. The key elements of the medieval blood libel, as it emerged in the mid twelfth century, were the slaughter of a Christian child and a parody of some key element of Christian narrative or doctrine—initially, the crucifixion. (The inventors of this fantasy may have been aware of the accusation of Apion, refuted by the first-century C.E. Jewish historian Josephus in Against Apion, Book II, that the Jews made an annual sacrifice of a Greek man in their temple; or of claims by Roman writers of the early centuries C.E. that Christians drank the blood and ate the flesh of human victims. I regard these anticipations as related but separate phenomena.)

13  This is the form the blood libel took in the mid 13th-century episode of Little Saint Hugh of Lincoln. The Prioress’s Tale in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (late 14th century) alludes to the Lincoln blood libel, but in the Prioress’s own blood-libel narrative the crucifixion motif is missing (the Christian boy is murdered because Satan and the Jews dislike his habit of singing the hymn “Alma Redemptoris Mater” in a piercing soprano while strolling through the Jewish quarter).

14  These blood-libel motifs appear in dispersed and ironic form in a less centrally canonical literary text, Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller (1594). For details, see my essay “Violence and Extremity: Nashe’s Unfortunate Traveller as an Anatomy of Abjection,” in Donald Beecher, ed., Critical Approaches to English Prose Fiction 1520-1640 (Ottawa: Dovehouse Editions, 1998), pp. 183-218. The point of the host-matzoh blasphemy is that during the Roman Catholic Mass the host-bread blessed by the priest is supposedly converted in substance, by the miracle of transubstantiation, into the flesh of Christ (while remaining unaltered in ‘accidents’ such as appearance and taste). The murdered child’s blood would be concealed in the matzoh in a manner parodically analogous to the concealment of Christ’s flesh in the host.

15  For the estimate of AIPAC’s current budget, see Mearsheimer and Walt, The Israel Lobby, p. 119. On p. 117 of this book former Congressman Mervyn Dymally is quoted as calling AIPAC “without question the most important lobby in Congress,” and Lee Hamilton, former chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, is quoted as having said in 1991 that “There’s no lobby group that matches it….” Nineteen articles assessing AIPAC are collected at “Perspectives on AIPAC & its Role in Helping to Shape U.S. Foreign Policy in the Middle East,” STOP AIPAC,

16  Jimmy Carter, Palestine: Peace not Apartheid (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), pp. 253-54.

17  Jonathan Kay, “Here is the difference between Israel and its Arab enemies,” National Post (22 March 2009),; Melanie Phillips, “The Ha’aretz Blood Libel,” Spectator (22 March 2009),

18  “A Blood libel disguised as an investigative report,” (15 August 2009), The report in question is White Flag Deaths: Killing of Palestinian Civilians during Operation Cast Lead (Human Rights Watch, 13 August 2009),

19  Alan Dershowitz, “UN Investigation of Israel Discredits Itself and Undercuts Human Rights,” Hudson New York (16 September 2009),

20  Irwin Cotler, “The United Nations, Israel, Human Rights, and the New Anti-Jewishness,” abstract of a paper delivered at the International Conference on The Dynamics of Antisemitism in the Second Half of the 20th Century (SICSA: The Vidal Sassoon International Center for the Study of Antisemitism, and The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 13-16 June 1999),

21  Ibid.

22  By 1999, Cotler could have read Michael Palumbo, The Palestinian Catastrophe: The 1948 Expulsion of a People from Their Homeland (London: Faber & Faber, 1987); Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), and 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994); he could also have read Christopher Hitchens’ essay “Broadcasts,” in Edward W. Said and Christopher Hitchens, eds., Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestinian Question (London: Verso, 1988), pp. 73-83.

23  For the period to which Cotler’s 1999 statement would have been referring, see Noam Chomsky, Fateful Triangle: The United States, Israel, and the Palestinians (2nd ed., Cambridge, MA: South End Press, 1999), pp. 64-88, 181-328, 333-75, 455-69, 515-32. Chomsky tellingly quotes the Israeli writer Amos Elon’s comment, published in Haaretz on November 13, 1981, that Anwar Sadat’s peace proposal in April 1971 had caused “panic and unease among our political leadership,” while the Israeli government’s reaction to the Saudi peace plan of August 1981 had been “emotional and angry”—a response Elon found “shocking, frightening, if not downright despair-producing” (quoted on p. 75).

24  A clear statement of that consensus is provided in Amnesty International’s recent report, Troubled Waters—Palestinians Denied Fair Access to Water (27 October 2009), p. 81:

International humanitarian law: While recognizing the de jure applicability of the Hague Regulations, which it has not signed, Israel has consistently rejected the applicability to the OPT [Occupied Palestinian Territories] of the Fourth Geneva Convention, to which it is a party. Nevertheless, Israel maintains that, in practice, it applies what it has termed ‘humanitarian provisions’ of the Geneva Convention to the OPT, though without ever specifying what it deems the ‘humanitarian provisions’ of the Convention to comprise. Israel stands alone in contending that the Fourth Geneva Convention does not apply to its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which works to ensure the application of international humanitarian law (including as set out in the 1949 Geneva Conventions and their two Additional Protocols), as well as the other states that are party to this treaty (known as High Contracting Parties), fundamentally reject the Israeli government’s view. The most recent Conference of the High Contracting Parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention in December 2001 reaffirmed ‘the applicability of the [Fourth Geneva] Convention to the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem’ and reiterated the need for full respect of its provisions. This position of the ICRC and the High Contracting Parties of the Geneva Conventions on the applicability of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention to the OPT has been supported by numerous resolutions of the UN Security Council [e.g. Resolutions 465, 681, 799].

International human rights law: Israel has never recognized its obligation to abide by the international human rights treaties to which it is a state party in the OPT, and contends that under international law it is not required to apply these treaties to areas that are not part of its sovereign territory. It argues that limited provisions of humanitarian law should be applied in the OPT to the exclusion of international human rights law. However, all of the UN bodies entrusted with monitoring adherence by Israel to the treaties it has ratified have categorically rejected Israel’s contention that its human rights obligations do not apply in the OPT.”

25  I am borrowing here from the brief discussion of exceptionalism in my book Lunar Perspectives: Field Notes from the Culture Wars (Toronto: Anansi, 1996), pp. 14-16. For an approach to specifically Zionist exceptionalism, see Shahid Alam, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

26  Lewis Lapham, “Déjà Vu,” Harper’s Magazine (March 1990), rpt. in Lapham, Hotel America: Scenes in the Lobby of the Fin-de-Siècle (London: Verso, 1995), p. 30.

27  Irwin Cotler, “Human Rights and the New Anti-Jewishness,” Jerusalem Post (5 February 2004), available at SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East,

28  Ibid. For Cotler’s most recent re-working of these motifs, see his essay Global Antisemitism: Assault on Human Rights, Working Paper #3, The Yale Initiative for the Interdisciplinary Study of Antisemitism (2009),

29  Iran has repeatedly been identified, by American and Israeli politicians and propagandists, as just such a threat. Setting aside the fact that Israel possesses an estimated 100-200 nuclear warheads, and multiple means of delivering them, as well as firm promises of diplomatic and military support from the US, there is strong evidence that Iran has no nuclear weapons program. In early 2006, when an American-Israeli aerial attack on Iran seemed imminent (despite the statement of the August 2005 US National Intelligence Estimate that Iran was a full decade away from having the capacity to manufacture “the key ingredient for a nuclear weapon”), I analyzed some of this evidence in “Petrodollars and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation: Understanding the Planned Assault on Iran,” Centre for Research on Globalization (10 February 2006), While Iran has since moved closer to activating a civil nuclear electricity-generation program, claims that the country has a nuclear weapons program remain wholly unsubstantiated.

30  For an important argument against doctrines of ethnic (as opposed to civic) self-determination, see Michael Neumann, The Case Against Israel (Petrolia, CA and Oakland, CA: CounterPunch and AK Press, 2005), pp. 12-23. Neumann remarks that “The ideal known as ‘the self-determination of peoples’ is built on myths of unanimity” (p. 14); that in cases often perceived as legitimate exercises of a people’s right to self-determination (e.g. Vietnamese resistance to occupation, or the Cuban revolution), “their justifications rest on non-ethnic rights—the rights, for instance, of those who happened to inhabit those countries—not on a supposed right of a supposed ethnic or cultural entity to determine its destiny” (p. 19); and that the violation and attempted extinguishing of the civic rights of non-Jewish Palestinians has been an inescapable consequence of the Zionist project of implementing a Jewish “right to self-determination” (pp. 23-40).

31  Edward Said commented in 2001 on the “brazen arrogance, moral preachiness, and […] hypocrisy” with which Zionists like Norman Podhoretz, Charles Krauthammer and William Kristol instructed Israel to conform to their political dictates. “American Zionism,” he remarked, “has now reached the level of almost pure fantasy in which what is good for American Zionists in their fiefdom and their mostly fictional discourse is good for America and Israel […]. Anyone who defies or dares to challenge them (especially if he/she is either an Arab or a Jew critical of Zionism) is subject to the most awful abuse and vituperation, all of it personal, racist and ideological.” Said, “American Zionism—The Real Problem (2),” Al-Ahram Weekly; reproduced online at Media Monitors Network (14 March 2001),

32  See, for example, Marc H. Ellis, Toward a Jewish Theology of Liberation (3rd ed., Waco: Baylor University Press, 2004), and Judaism Does Not Equal Israel (New York: New Press, 2009); Jacqueline Rose, The Question of Zion (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005), and The Last Resistance (London: Verso, 2007); Judith Butler, “No, it’s not anti-semitic,” London Review of Books 25.16 (21 August 2003): 19-21,, and Frames of War: When Is Life Grievable? (London: Verso, 2009); Naomi Klein, “Israel: Boycott, Divest, Sanction,” The Nation (26 January 2009),, and “The Tel Aviv Party Stops Here,” The Nation (28 September 2009),; Shlomo Sand, The Invention of the Jewish People (London: Verso, 2009); Philip Weiss, “At NYU, devilish Shlomo Sand predicts the Jewish past and pastes the Zionists,” Mondoweiss: The War of Ideas in the Middle East (17 October 2009),

33  In my book Lunar Perspectives: Field Notes from the Culture Wars I offered an extended analysis of these matters; see especially pp. 2-17, 21-38, 67-86, 121-24, 135-40, 183-99. Earlier collections of essays on the same issues include Darryl J. Gless and Barbara Herrnstein Smith, eds., The Politics of Liberal Education (Durham: Duke University Press, 1992); Phyllis Artiss, ed., Political Correctness, special double issue of Philosophy and Social Action 19.1-2 (January-June 1993); Michael Bérubé and Cary Nelson, eds., Higher Education Under Fire: Politics, Economics, and the Crisis of the Humanities (New York and London: Routledge, 1995); Jeffrey Williams, ed., PC Wars: Politics and Theory in the Academy (New York and London: Routledge, 1995); and Stephen Richer and Lorna Weir, eds., Beyond Political Correctness: Toward the Inclusive University (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995).

34  Matt Gurney, “Anti-semitism at York University,” National Post (13 February 2009),

35  See Todd Gitlin, “The Rough Beast Returns,” Mother Jones (May-June 2002), rpt. in Ron Rosenbaum, ed., Those Who Forget the Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism (New York: Random House, 2004), pp. 263-66; quoted by Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, pp. 67-68 (whose account I am paraphrasing).

36  Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. 68.

37  Miriam Greenspan, “The New Anti-Semitism,” Tikkun (November-December 2003),; Gabriel Schoenfeld, The Return of Anti-Semitism, p. 121; quoted by Finkelstein, Beyond Chutzpah, p. 68.

38  Of the first incident Norman Finkelstein writes that “no one at Yale’s Center for Jewish Life or the university administration had ever heard of such an assault”; the second incident (Schoenfeld’s source for which was Campus Watch, an organ of opinion specializing in rumour-mongering and campaigns of defamation) was never reported to the University of Chicago’s Center for Jewish Life, and was investigated by the university administration, which “found no evidence to substantiate it” (Beyond Chutzpah, p. 68).

39  The processes through which the CIJA was launched in 2002 have been studied in three linked articles by Dan Freeman-Maloy, “AIPAC North: ‘Israel Advocacy’ in Canada, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3” ZNet (26 June 2006),,, In the second article, he writes that in late 2002, the United Israel Appeal Federations Canada (UIAFC) brought together “leading tycoons,” among them Israel Asper, CEO of CanWest Global; Gerry Schwartz, co-founder of CanWest Global and CEO of Onex Corporation; Heather Reisman, CEO of Indigo/Chapters Books; and Sylvain Abitbol, CEO of NHC Communications, as “the Israel Emergency Cabinet.” This group planned “a new ‘functional framework’ for Jewish establishment advocacy and governance” centred on the CIJA. In the first article, Freeman-Maloy remarks that the CIJA has converted mainstream Canadian Jewish organizations into “a streamlined ‘Israel advocacy’ apparatus” whose principal aim is “to weaken solidarity with the Palestinian people and solidify Canadian rejection of basic Palestinian rights.” CIJA supported the invasion of Iraq, and has “help[ed] to lay the political groundwork for possible aggression against Iran, and oppos[ed] progressive social movements at the grassroots level (particularly on campuses).” See also Ben Saifer, “Shalom-Salaam? Campus Israel advocacy and the politics of ‘dialogue’,” Upping the Anti 9 (November 2009), pp. 73-90, especially pp. 79-82.

40  David Theo Goldberg and Saree Makdisi, “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics,” Tikkun (September-October 2009), It is relevant to note that David Theo Goldberg is a major figure in critical race studies, whose books include Racist Culture: Philosophy and The Politics of Meaning (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), Racial Subjects: Writing on Race in America (New York and London: Routledge, 1997), The Racial State (Oxford: Blackwell, 2002), and The Threat of Race: Reflections on Racial Neoliberalism (Oxford: Blackwell, 2009). Saree Makdisi’s publications include Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2003), and Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (New York: Norton, 2008).

41  Roberta P. Seid, “Reviving 1920’s Munich’s Beer Halls at UCLA, Courtesy of California Taxpayers,” SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East (1 February 2009), Even if recordings and alternative accounts of the event were not available, Seid’s malicious falsehoods would be evident. Her own tendentious accounts of what each panelist said do not begin to justify her claims that “they seemed to be enacting a burlesque of the anti-Semitic rabble rousing in Munich’s 1920’s beer halls,” that “Israel was painted precisely as Nazis used to paint the Jews,” that the panelists “produc[ed] a cartoon image divorced from all reality of an unfettered, demonic Israel—not unlike the Nazi cartoons of Jews holding the globe and pulling all the strings of history,” and that “the speakers indulged in repeated blood libel.”

42  Judea Pearl, “Daniel Pearl and the Normalization of Evil,” Wall Street Journal (3 February 2009), Professor Pearl’s son Daniel was the journalist kidnapped and brutally murdered by extremists in Pakistan in 2002.

43  Tom Tugend, “UCLA Symposium on Gaza Ignites Strong Criticism,” (11 February 2009),

44  Judea Pearl, “Dust Over Campus Life: UCLA at a Crossroad,” (18 February 2009),

45  Pearl’s assertions about Hamas can be compared with an article by Bassem Naseem, Minister of Health and Information in the Hamas administration in Gaza, “Hamas condemns the Holocaust: We are not engaged in a religious conflict with Jews; this is a political struggle to free ourselves from occupation and oppression,” The Guardian (12 May 2008),

46  Goldberg and Makdisi, “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics.”

47  Judea Pearl, “Is anti-Zionism hate?” Los Angeles Times (15 March 2009),,0,6323783.story.

48  Dan Freeman-Maloy, “The Israel advocacy push to ‘reclaim’ York University,” ZNet (2 March 2009),; reproduced online at The Bullet, E-Bulletin No. 191 (3 March 2009),

49  See Independent Jewish Voices, “Submission to the CPCCA,” note 4, in Antisemitism Real and Imagined, p. 110.

50  The JDL has taken an active interest in events at York University; there have been recurrent student complaints during the past year about JDL intimidation on the York campus. If these men were JDL members, they were restrained by Hillel: the JDL of Canada’s “Parsha of The Week” for February 14, 2009 includes a complaint that “It is a shame that the Hillel Jewish Student leadership prevent proper aggressive counter measures to be taken” on the York campus ( The Jewish Defense League was founded by Rabbi Meir Kahane, as was the political party Kach (also known since Kahane’s death in 1990 as Kahane Chai, meaning “Kahane lives”). In 1994 the Israeli government declared Kahane Chai a terrorist organization, and in October 2006 a U.S. federal appeals court ruled that the State Department was correct in labeling Kach and Kahane Chai as terrorist organizations (see Neil A. Lewis, “Appeal Court Upholds Terrorist Label for a Jewish Group,” New York Times [18 October 2006], Meir Weinstein, the leader of the Canadian JDL since the late 1970s, has also concurrently been Canadian spokesperson for Kach. In the latter capacity, he refused to condemn Kach and JDL member Baruch Goldstein’s 1994 machine-gun attack on the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron (see “Meir Weinstein,” Wikipedia,, in which Goldstein murdered at least 29 worshippers and wounded another 150. Giving proud emphasis to the fact that Goldstein was a “charter member,” the JDL’s website defends him “as a martyr in Judaism’s protracted struggle against Arab terrorism” (“About JDL: FAQs,” Jewish Defense League, Another “martyr” is JDL Chairman Irving Rubin, who died in prison in 2002 after being arrested by the FBI for preparing bombing attacks on a California mosque and the office of an Arab-American congressman. (See Terrorism 2000/2001 [FBI Publication #0308],, where the JDL is described as “a violent extremist Jewish organization.”)

51  Freeman-Maloy, “The Israel advocacy push.”

52  Isi Leibler, “Candidly Speaking: Zionism and the global anti-Semitic frenzy,” Jerusalem Post (15 February 2009), available online at SPME: Scholars for Peace in the Middle East,; quoted by Freeman-Maloy, “The Israel advocacy push.”

53  Quoted by Freeman-Maloy, “The Israel advocacy push.”

54  Kenney’s statements were reported by the Canadian Press on February 23 and by the Belleville Intelligencer on February 24; see YFile: York’s Daily Bulletin (25 February 2009),

55  Linda McQuaig, “Harper’s extremism is showing,” (3 November 2009),; McQuaig is quoting Kenney’s words reported by the Thornhill Liberal (11 September 2009).

56  Hasbara Fellowships was formed in 2001 by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and AishHaTorah, a right-wing fundamentalist organization associated with the Israeli settler movement.

57  Elad Benari, “Two Jewish Students Assaulted in York University,” Shalom Life (3 February 2010),

58  Benari, “Two Jewish Students Assaulted.” Mozeson’s claim to have been assaulted is reported by Yuni Kim, “Security footage debunks assault allegations,” Excalibur (10 February 2010),

59  Gil Ronen, “Toronto: Jewish Students Attacked,” Arutz Sheva: (4 February 2010),, Talkback comment #7. Weinstein’s offer of a $500 reward was noted by Elad Benari in the February 3 Shalom Life article (whose text Ronen reproduces, with minor changes, as his own); this posting provides Weinstein’s own words.

60  “University investigating assault on Jewish students,” JTA: The Global News Service of the Jewish People (7 February 2010),; also published in the Jerusalem Post (8 February 2010),

61  Elad Benari, “‘York University is a Safe Place for Students,’” Shalom Life (8 February 2010), See also Yuni Kim, “Security footage debunks assault allegations,” Excalibur (10 February 2010),

62  Kim, “Security footage debunks assault allegations.”

63  “University investigating assault on Jewish students,” JTA (7 February 2010), Jerusalem Post (8 February 2010).

64  Kim, “Security footage debunks assault allegations.”

65  “York, U of T act promptly on anti-Semitism complaints,” Jewish Tribune (10 February 2010),

66  In Yiddish and in English usage, this word carries a definite hint of admiration for boldness or audacity, an overtone that is apparently absent in Hebrew.

67  “York, U of T act promptly.”

68  Pearl, “Dust Over Campus Life.” “Marrano” was a derogatory term applied in late 15th and 16th century Spain to Jews who had (under compulsion) converted to Christianity, but who were suspected of continuing to practice Jewish rites in secret.

69  For a list of Massad’s publications to 2007, see

70  See Joseph Massad, “Response to the Ad Hoc Grievance Committee” (4 April 2005), and “Statement to the Ad Hoc Committee (14 March 2005), Columbia University Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures,

71  Dershowitz published a St. Valentine’s Day essay attacking Massad, “At Columbia, fairness is job one,” New York Daily News (14 February 2005), The piece includes a sentence that might be mistaken for an unwitting self-description: “I am told that he is a mediocre scholar whose main claim to fame is his vocal extremism.”

72  In 2000, Massad was one of two finalists for Columbia’s Van Doren teaching award; his publications include Colonial Effects: The Making of National Identity in Jordan (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001), The Persistence of the Palestinian Question: Essays on Zionism and the Palestinians (London: Routledge, 2006), and Desiring Arabs (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), which won Columbia University’s 2008 Lionel Trilling Book Award.

73  “Intimidation at Columbia,” New York Times (7 April 2005),; see also Karen W. Arenson, “Columbia Panel Clears Professors of Anti-Semitism,” New York Times (31 March 2005), The Columbia ad hoc committee reprimanded Massad for a single incident in which three students attested that he made a testy answer to a question from one of them; Massad’s Columbia University website reproduces a letter in which twenty other students deny that the alleged incident ever occurred.

74  Juan Cole, “The New McCarthyism: A witch hunt against a Columbia professor, and the New York Times’ disgraceful support for it, represent the gravest threat to academic freedom in decades,” (22 April 2005),

75  See Yehoshua Porath, “Mrs. Peters’s Palestine,” New York Review of Books 32: 21-22 (16 January 1986),; and “Mrs. Peters’s Palestine: An Exchange” (letters by Daniel Pipes and Ronald Sanders, reply by Yehoshua Porath), New York Review of Books 33: 5 (27 March 1986), Finkelstein’s analysis of Peters’ book was first published as “Disinformation and the Palestine Question: The Not-So-Strange Case of Joan Peters’ From Time Immemorial,” in Edward Said and Christopher Hitchens, eds., Blaming the Victims: Spurious Scholarship and the Palestine Question (London: Verso, 1988), pp. 33-69; it reappears as a chapter in Finkelstein’s Image and Reality of the Israel-Palestine Conflict (London: Verso, 1995).

76  Adam Shatz, “Goldhagen’s Willing Executioners,” Slate (8 April 1998), (See also Finkelstein’s response to Shatz’s essay, at The opinions of Foxman and Weseltier, and of Bernie Farber and Irving Abella (cited below), no doubt reflect an awareness of Finkelstein’s second book, The Rise and Fall of Palestine: A Personal Account of the Intifada Years (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

77  Sean Fine, “Nazi-hunting scholar under fire for views: Link with anti-Zionist enrages CJC,” Globe and Mail (26 January 1998). See also Tim Cornwell, “Daniel in the lions’ den,” Times Higher Education Supplement (20 February 1998),

78  Mordecai Briemberg, “Holocaust Scholarship, Zionism and Political Orthodoxy,” Outlook 36.3 (1 April-15 May 1998), available online at Briemberg quotes Abella’s words from a report in the Canadian Jewish News (29 January 1998).

79  Tom Segev, Haaretz (15 May 1998), quoted by Dominique Vidal, “From ‘Mein Kampf’ to Auschwitz: Holocaust book sparks fresh controversy,” Le Monde diplomatique (October 1998),; Segev’s article is reproduced online at

80  Several statements by historians of international reputation are quoted by Shatz in “Goldhagen’s Willing Executioners.” Arno Mayer wrote that Finkelstein and Birn “raise hard questions about the political reasons for the inordinate promotion and reception of Goldhagen’s book. No serious student of history can afford to ignore these well-reasoned and withering reflections on the perils of pseudo-scholarship.” Eric Hobsbawm urged that “All readers of Goldhagen’s controversial book should take note of these much-needed studies, which, in line with serious historians, convincingly and authoritatively dismantle its arguments.” And according to Ian Kershaw, “Finkelstein and Birn provide a devastating critique of Daniel Goldhagen’s simplistic and misleading interpretation of the Holocaust. Their contribution to the debate is, in my view, indispensable.”

81  “Is There a New Anti-Semitism? A Conversation with Raul Hilberg,” Logos 6.1-2 (Winter-Spring 2007),

82  Bauer is quoted by Mordecai Briemberg, “Holocaust Research and Intellectual Freedom,” Peace Magazine 14.3 (May-June 1998),

83  Finkelstein, The Holocaust Industry: Reflections on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering (2nd ed., London: Verso, 2003), pp. 86-87.

84  Neve Gordon, “Cloud After Auschwitz,” The Nation (13 November 2000): 28-34, available online at

85  Finkelstein quotes WJC president Edgar J.Bronfman as giving a total figure more than five times higher, but it is not clear than Bronfman can be trusted in this: Raul Hilberg remarked that this tycoon (who headed the WJC from 1979 until his resignation in 2007, amid a cloud of scandal over mismanagement and peculation in the WJC’s senior management) appeared “from his own autobiographical statements to be totally, not even average, but like a child almost” (“Is There a New Anti-Semitism? A Conversation with Raul Hilberg”).

86  Ibid.

87  Angelo M. Codevilla, Between the Alps and a Hard Place: Switzerland in World War II and Moral Blackmail Today (Washington DC: Regnery, 2000), p. 4.

88  “Is There a New Anti-Semitism? A Conversation with Raul Hilberg.” See also Amy Goodman, “‘It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage to Speak the Truth When No One Else is Out There’—World-Renowned Holocaust, Israel Scholars Defend DePaul Professor Norman Finkelstein as He Fights for Tenure,” Democracy NOW! (9 May 2007), In this interview, Hilberg makes it clear that his endorsement was based on research into “the same territory that Professor Finkelstein was covering [….] rel[ying] upon the same sources that Professor Finkelstein used, perhaps in addition some Swiss items.”

89  Alan Dershowitz, “Norman Finkelstein: the case against,” The Guardian (14 June 2007), In this article, and in an earlier version of it published as “Finkelstein’s Bigotry,” The Wall Street Journal (4 May 2007), Dershowitz quotes from Bartov’s New York Times review of The Holocaust Industry. Finkelstein's book is suffused with outrage over the postwar treatment of Holocaust survivors—among them his mother, who after six years of suffering in the Warsaw Ghetto, in two slave-labour camps, and in the Majdanek death camp, received $3,500 in compensation; Dershowitz’s offhand inversion of this is thus an instance of giving “the Lie Direct” (for which see Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act 5, scene 4.)

90  For assessments of Finkelstein’s analysis and Dershowitz’s counter-claims, see Matthew Abraham, “The Case for Norman Finkelstein,” The Electronic Intifada 15 June 2007),; Michael C. Desch, “The Chutzpah of Alan Dershowitz,” The American Conservative (5 December 2005), 30-33,; and Frank Menetrez, “Dershowitz v. Finkelstein: Who’s Right and Who’s Wrong?” CounterPunch (30 April 2007),

91  Amy Goodman, “‘It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage’.”

92  See note 89 above.

93  “ADL Reacts to DePaul’s Denial of Tenure to Prof. Norman Finkelstein,” Anti-Defamation League (11 June 2007), Links to the JDO and StandWithUs interventions can be found at

94  Amy Goodman, “It Takes an Enormous Amount of Courage.” (Like the German “Menschlichkeit,” the Yiddish word used here means rectitude and nobility of character.)

95  Razack’s publications include Canadian Feminism and the Law (Toronto: Second Story, 1991), Looking White People in the Eye: Gender, Race and Culture in Courtrooms and Classrooms (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1998), the edited collection Race, Space and the Law: Unmapping a White Settler Society (Toronto: Between the Lines, 2002), Dark Threats and White Knights: The Somalia Affair, Peacekeeping and the New Imperialism (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2004), and Casting Out: Race and the Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008).

96  Justin Podur, “For Free Expression on Palestine,” The Bullet: Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 211 (28 April 2009),

97  My article “Resisting the Post-National: Canadian Critiques of the Geo-Cultural Politics of Globalization,” in Gunilla Florby, Mark Shackleton, and Katri Suhonen, eds., Canada: Images of a Post/National Society (Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 2009), 39-54, includes a brief assessment of Chossudovsky’s scholarly and political work; an earlier version of this essay is available as “Canada’s Thinker-Activists and Critics of Globalization,” Centre for Research on Globalization (27 December 2005), Chossudovsky’s books include Capital Accumulation in Chile and Latin America (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 1977), Towards Capitalist Restoration? Chinese Socialism After Mao (London: Macmillan, 1986), Exporting Apartheid to Sub-Saharan Africa (New Delhi: Madhyam, 1997), The Globalization of Poverty and the New World Order (Shanty Bay, Ontario: Global Outlook, 2003), and America’s ‘War on Terrorism’ (Pincourt, Québec: Global Research, 2005).

98  See my article “Unspeakable Truths: CanWest Global Defines ‘Acceptable Civil Discourse’. In Defence of Michel Chossudovsky,” Peace, Earth and Justice News (11 September 2005),

99  Ibid.

100  “Statement By Denis Rancourt Regarding His Dismissal By The University Of Ottawa,” available at “Canadian University Professor Fired for Criticising Israel,” Palestinian Mothers (24 April 2009),

101  Ibid.

102  Denis Rancourt, “University of Ottawa’s Covert Surveillance of a Professor and Several Students (2006-2008),” January 2010,, p. 3.

103  His books include Promoting Polyarchy: Globalization, US Intervention, and Hegemony (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), Transnational Conflicts: Central America, Social Change and Globalization (London: Verso, 2003), A Theory of Global Capitalism: Transnational Production, Transnational Capitalists, and the Transnational State (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2004), and Latin America and Global Capitalism: A Critical Globalization Perspective (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008).

104  “Santa Barbara News Press—Prof. Robinson’s Op-ed Letter—May 31, 2009,” Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB,

105  The documents referred to in this paragraph are all available at the Committee to Defend Academic Freedom at UCSB website,

106  Scott Horton, “More Prosecutorial Misconduct in the Al-Arian Case,” Harper’s Magazine (11 March 2009), For links to many further documents, see the website Free Sami Al-Arian: Political Prisoner Since Feb. 20, 2003,

107  Jason Kunin, “Freedom to Teach, Freedom of Speech: Israel-Palestine.” Naylor’s behaviour was revealed by Liisa Schofield, “Exposed: University of Toronto suppresses pro-Palestinian activism,” (18 February 2009), For a thorough discussion of the resources marshalled “to silence criticism of the Canadian government’s unwavering support for Israel,” see Rafeef Ziadah, “Freedom of Expression and Palestine Advocacy,” The Bullet: Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 219 (19 May 2009),

108  Marwan Bishara, Palestine/Israel: Peace or Apartheid (2001; 2nd ed., London and New York: Zed Books, 2002), p. 4.

109  Jimmy Carter, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid (2006; rpt. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2007), and “Canada’s withholding funds from Palestinians ‘criminal’: Carter,” CBC News (9 December 2006),; Shulamit Aloni, “Yes, There is Apartheid in Israel,” CounterPunch (8 January 2007), Aloni is also the author of Demokratia ba’azikim [Democracy or Ethnocracy] (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2010).

110  Henry Siegman, “Imposing Middle East Peace,” The Nation (7 January 2010), See also Siegman, “For Israel, defiance comes at the cost of legitimacy,” Financial Times (23 February 2010),, in which he remarks that “The democracy Israel provides for its (mostly) Jewish citizens cannot hide its changed character. A democracy reserved for privileged citizens while all others are denied individual and national rights and kept behind checkpoints, barbed wire fences and separation walls manned by Israel’s military, is not democracy.”

111  See Michael Ignatieff, “Israel Apartheid Week and CUPE Ontario’s anti-Israel posturing should be condemned,” National Post (5 March 2009), Ignatieff writes: “International law defines ‘apartheid’ as a crime against humanity. Labelling Israel as an ‘apartheid’ state is a deliberate attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state itself. Criticism of Israel is legitimate. Attempting to describe its very existence as a crime against humanity is not.” (The sophism is obvious: What is actually being objected to is the fact, not of Israel’s existence, but of its behaviour. South Africa did not cease to exist when it ceased to be an apartheid state; neither will Israel when it either returns to its pre-1967 borders or else offers recompense and full citizenship rights to the people of Palestine.) See also Robert Benzie, “MPPs unite to condemn ‘odious’ Israeli Apartheid Week,” Toronto Star (25 February 2010),

112  Kunin, note 2. Karin Brothers also draws attention to the same study: Virginia Tilley, ed., Occupation, colonialism, apartheid?: a reassessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law (Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa, May 2009),

113  Margaret Aziza Pappano, “Academic Freedom Threatened in Ontario Universities,” The Bullet: Socialist Project, E-Bulletin No. 187 (18 February 2009),

114  Meron Benvenisti, “The binationalism vogue,” Haaretz (30 April 2009), See also Benvenisti, “The Inevitable Bi-national Regime,” Haaretz (22 January 2010 [Hebrew]), English translation by Zalman Amit and Daphna Levitt available at Israeli Occupation Archive (26 January 2010),

115  For information about the conference, see Israel/Palestine: Mapping Models of Statehood and Paths to Peace (June 22-24, 2009 / York University, Toronto),

116  Dorit Naaman, “Coordinated Campaign Aimed to Stifle Academic Discussion about Israel Raises Critical Questions,” CAUT/ACPPU Bulletin 56.8 (October 2009), p. A4.

117  See “Minister’s Office Threatens SSHRC’s Federal Budget Funding: Internal Email,” CAUT/ACPPU Bulletin 56.8 (October 2009), pp. A1, 9; and “Gary Goodyear’s attempted blackmail,” Dawg’s Blawg (28 September 2009),

118  Naaman, “Coordinated Campaign.”

119  Goldberg and Makdisi, “The Trial of Israel’s Campus Critics.”

120  Massad, “Policing the academy,” Al-Ahram Weekly, No. 633 (10-16 April 2003),

121  Goodyear does in fact have a well-earned reputation for being foul-tempered; see “Researchers fear ‘stagnation’ under Tories,” The Globe and Mail (2 March 2009, updated 10 April 2009),; and “Maybe a ‘time out,’ Minister?” Dawg’s Blawg (2 March 2009),

122  “One size doesn’t fit all,” National Post (25 February 2010),

123  Kathleen and Bill Christison, Palestine in Pieces: Graphic Perspectives on the Israeli Occupation (London: Pluto Press, 2009), pp. 136-37.

124  Ibid., p. 137, quoting Richard Falk, “Slouching Toward a Palestinian Holocaust,” ZNet (5 July 2007),

125  Ibid., p. 137.

126  Gideon Alon, “Lieberman blasted for suggesting drowning Palestinian prisoners,” Haaretz (8 July 2003),

127  “LIEBERMAN, Avigdor—Israeli Politician and deputy prime minister,” Electronic Intifada,; Jonathan Cook, “Israel’s Dark Future,” Electronic Intifada (20 January 2007),

128  Tim Butcher, “Israeli minister vows Palestinian ‘holocaust’,” The Telegraph (29 February 2008),; “Israel warns Gaza of ‘shoah’,” Reuters (29 February 2008),; James Hider, “Israel threatens to unleash ‘holocaust’ in Gaza,” Times Online (1 March 2008),

129  It does not seem likely that Vilnai thought of the preceding days’ events, in which one Israeli was killed by rocket fire, and thirty Palestinians by Israeli attacks, as a “shoah.” Perhaps he was using “shoah” to translate the Arab work “nakba,” which also means “catastrophe,” and also has a specific historical reference—to the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians which accompanied the founding of the state of Israel in 1948. But a “greater nakba” would also be a genocidal act.

130  Juan Cole, “Harvard Professor’s Modest Proposal: Starve the Gazans into Having Fewer Babies,” Informed Comment (24 February 2010),

131  Martin Kramer, “Superfluous young men,” Sandbox (7 February 2010),

132  “OPT: Signs of worsening malnutrition among children,” UNISPAL (21 April 2009),

133  See, for example, M. J. Rosenberg, “Is Harvard Prof Advocating Palestinian Genocide?” The Huffington Post (22 February 2010),; and “Harvard center condemns, then defends, fellow’s pro-genocide statements,” Electronic Intifada (23 February 2010),

134  Kramer, “Smear intifada,” Sandbox (22 February 2010),

135  “OPT: Signs of worsening malnutrition.”

136  Akiva Eldar, “Israel’s compassion in Haiti can’t hide our ugly face in Gaza,” Haaretz (18 January 2010),

137  “Gaza Health Fact Sheet,” World Health Organization (20 January 2010),

138  See International Humanitarian Law—Treaties & Documents, ICRC,

139  M. J. Rosenberg, “Yes, Kramer Did Advocate Palestinian Genocide,” The Huffington Post (24 February 2010),

140  Kramer, “Smear intifada.”

141  Bahija Réghaï, “Canadian Policy: The Jerusalem Effect,” OpEd News (26 January 2010),

142  In his “Smear Intifada” posting, Kramer protests that the ideas he presented were derived from Gunnar Heinsohn, “Ending the West’s Proxy War Against Israel,” Wall Street Journal Europe (12 January 2009), Heinsohn’s argument is just as de-historicized as Kramer’s—and also more grotesquely genocidal, because more detailed in its attack on UNRWA’s contribution to what Heinsohn calls “Gaza’s extreme demographic armament.” Heinsohn, who the Wall Street Journal tells us “heads the Raphael Lemkin Institute at the University of Bremen, Europe’s first institute devoted to comparative genocide research,” appears not to understand the difference between researching genocide and helping to provoke it. (His publications include extensive and disastrously incompetent attempts to revise ancient Near Eastern chronology, as well as equally incompetent applications of demographic analysis to contemporary situations.) Kramer might also have given some credit for his ideas to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, who as Jonathan Cook notes boasted in January 2007, when he was leader of the opposition, “that child allowance cuts he imposed as finance minister in 2002 had had a ‘positive’ demographic effect by reducing the birth rate of Palestinian citizens.” See Cook, “Israel’s Dark Future.”

143  Kathleen and Bill Christison, Palestine in Pieces, p. 161; quoting from Care International UK, Oxfam, Trocaire, Save the Children UK, et al., The Gaza Strip: A Humanitarian Implosion (March 2008),

144  Neve Gordon, “Boycott Israel: Stopping the Apartheid State,” CounterPunch (24 August 2009),

145  See “PACBI Issues Guidelines for Applying Academic Boycott,” Global BDS Movement (6 October 2009),

146  “The Toronto Declaration: No Celebration of Occupation. An Open Letter to the Toronto International Film Festival” (9 September 2009),; see also Ken Loach, Rebecca O’Brien and Paul Laverty, “Boycotts don’t equal censorship,” The Guardian (1 September 2009),; and Eric Walberg, “The Battle in Canada: ‘Brand Israel’ Teflon v. Palestinian Reality,” CounterPunch (19 October 2009),

147  Gordon, “Boycott Israel.”

148  Gideon Levy, “The Last Refuge: Neve Gordon and the Boycott of Israel,” CounterPunch (27 August 2009),

149  Jonathan Cook, “Campus Watch Copycats Close In On Israeli Professors,” (16 November 2009),

150  Paul Craig Roberts, “Why Not Sanctions for Israel? Gross Violations of Human Rights,” CounterPunch (1 September 2009),

151  Levy, “The Last Refuge.”

152  I do not mean to dismiss other issues at stake, most importantly the right of return of people expelled from Israel in 1948. But diplomatic miracles cannot be expected to come all at once.

153  William Blake, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, in Mary Lynn Johnson and John E. Grant, eds., Blake’s Poetry and Designs (New York: Norton, 1979), p. 98.

154  Judith Butler, “The Charge of Anti-Semitism: Jews, Israel, and the Risks of Public Critique,” in Precious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence (2004; rpt. London and New York: Verso, 2006), pp. 126-27.

155  Ibid., p. 127.