B’nai Brith sounds the alarm

03.12.04

The annual audit of antisemitic incidents in Canada has echoed the disturbing worldwide trend of a rise in antisemitic incidents – 584 in 2003, up 27% since last year and 119% since 1999. B’nai Brith has also pointed out what the EU tried so hard to keep quiet: that the source of many of these incidents is young Arabs and Muslims:

Issuing its 22nd annual “audit” of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada, B’nai Brith’s League for Human Rights took the unprecedented step of naming Arabs and Muslims generally as perpetrators of incidents.

“We’ve been able to identify 30 probable Arab perpetrators of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada in 2003,” said Stephen Scheinberg, a Concordia University history professor who is the League’s national chairperson.

“We’re not saying all Arabs and Muslims are implicated, not at all,” he told reporters at a Montreal news conference.

“But we are saying a small minority have brought these ideas with them” from the Arab world, he added, and “have been worked up” and “propagandized” by what they hear in Internet chat rooms and on Al-Jazeera broadcasts.

“And it’s caused some real problems for the Jewish communities,” Scheinberg said.

Of course this accusation is drawing an immediate flurry of criticism for B’nai Brith for “generalizing” – even though Scheinberg clearly accused a “small minority”. Also, there are some questions as to the legitimacy of these audits – were there really more incidents, or were there simply more people reporting them? And does B’nai Brith’s line of counting certain anti-Israel incidents as antisemitic fall in a different place than some other organization would draw it? We’re sure to hear all of this and more, as antisemitic groups launch their usual backlash against B’nai Brith.

Doesn’t change the fact that they’re simply daring to speak the non-politically-correct truth. And that Canada will need to face up to that truth if we’re going to improve the situation.

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

1 joe 03.12.04 at 5:42 PM

“And does B’nai Brith’s line of counting certain anti-Israel incidents as antisemitic fall in a different place than some other organization would draw it? We’re sure to hear all of this and more, as antisemitic groups launch their usual backlash against B’nai Brith.”

So it is anti-semitic to question the legitimacy of labeling criticism of Israel as anti-semitism?

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2 Puck 03.12.04 at 5:49 PM

According to The Gazette, B’nai Brith is saying that it is an increase in those politically opposed to Israel.

It also considers anti-Semitic “any positions that delegitimize the state of Israel and call for its destruction,” the audit says.

This sounds like marketing on behalf of Israel rather than the truth. It is much easier to call your opponents names such as “anti-Semitic” rather than face their criticisms. You even go on to suggest that anyone critising the report are “antisemitic groups launch[ing] their usual backlash against B’nai Brith“. With the B’nai Brith presenting the “small minority” of arabs and muslims as targets, I can see where the real racism is. Calling a group “anti-Semitic” does create a certain amount of fear and hatred against them.

Finally, shouldn’t “audits” be conducted by independent groups that have no vested interest in the outcome?

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3 Hanthala 03.12.04 at 9:03 PM

OK, that’s good. B’nai Brith’s got its critics even among the “pro-Israel” side(s). I’m glad, Sari, that you recognize that this organization might be confusing criticism of Israel with antisemitisism in some of these incidents and that there are problems of definition in general (the debates in Haaretz et al. over antisemitism). I was witness to at least two incidents which made it into previous BB annual reports and I still can’t see how those could be construed as antisemitic so I’m always a bit skeptical about these reports (they involved criticism of Israel).

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4 Hanthala 03.12.04 at 9:03 PM

Your point about reported vs unreported instances and, therefore, the apparent rise in antisemitism since 1999 is also important. Some incidents (this time clearly of an antisemitic nature–ie. name-calling) that were reported in previous years (2000, 2001) probably would never have been were it not for the attention of Scheinberg and Poupko to student politics following the start of the current intifada. Good that they were reported, but not sure that this means an increase.

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5 Hanthala 03.12.04 at 9:04 PM

And, speaking of Scheinberg, you’ll have to excuse me for discounting offhand anything that man says. A few years ago, I interviewed him, and in chatting after the interview, off record, he made some very disturbing and demeaning remarks about Palestinians (and I mean Palestinians in general). I don’t think he is necessarily racist, but he does see the value of promoting negative feelings towards Arabs and Muslims for his political agenda and he is also very good at tapping into the anti-Arab/Muslim feelings of North Americans to bolster his arguments. He could tell I did not have an opinion either way on the issue and was trying to get me on side…he ended up doing the exact opposite. Read the Jewish Tribune regurlarly and the subtle, sometimes not so subtle, anti-Arab tone is nearly always present.

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6 Hanthala 03.12.04 at 9:05 PM

Finally, imagine if the Canadian Arab Federation took it upon itself to publish annual reports on the incidence of anti-Arab racism in Canada and in its analysis blamed Jews, but only a “minority” of them, “of course, not all Jews,” for a rise in anti-Arab racism, adding that there were at least X number of incidents where the perpetrator was “probably” Jewish (based on what??), and explaining that these people had brought their racism over from the “Jewish world.” Would that be antisemitic?

Scheinberg and the B’nai Brith in general are doing Canadian Jews a disservice with these reports. Antisemitism is a serious issue and a report dealing with this issue should make it, and not pro-Israel, anti-Arab propaganda, its central concern.

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7 8opus 03.12.04 at 9:51 PM

This sounds like marketing on behalf of Israel rather than the truth. Puck, I don’t agree. The report is condemning as racist, not those who criticize Israel’s policies — and why would they? — but those who stand against Israel’s existence. Can you see how these things are different?

Similarly, Hanthala, you condemn B’nai Brith for conflating antisemitism with being pro-Israel. But you seem to be using the word “pro-Israel” in a different way than most people do. When someone says “pro-Israel”, I take it to mean — and I take this to be the general understanding — someone who is generally in agreement with most of Israel’s policies.

That’s not what B’nai Brith means, however. They’re quite clear: It also considers anti-Semitic “any positions that delegitimize the state of Israel and call for its destruction,” the audit says.

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8 segacs 03.12.04 at 10:11 PM

The line isn’t as black-and-white as you might think, Hanthala. A lot of anti-Israel criticism is, in fact, antisemitism cloaked as anti-Israel criticism. For example, one of the incidents listed in the Gazette article happened at my former high school last spring:

Anti-Semitic comments like “Go home, Jews” and “Die, Sharon” are scrawled on the outside walls of a Jewish high school in St. Laurent.

Now, would you interpret that as antisemitic or “legitimate political criticism of Israel”?

B’nai Brith’s point is that, while criticism of a political entity is legitimate, the singling out of Israel for criticism to the exclusion of far worse violations from the criticizers, coupled with the fanatical efforts to de-legitimatize the rights of Israel to exist or the existence of the Jewish people as a nation, do amount to antisemtism. And since the antisemites are cloaking their hatred of Jews by pretending that it’s really only hatred of Israel, such incidents should be counted.

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9 Hanthala 03.12.04 at 11:12 PM

“Now, would you interpret that as antisemitic or “legitimate political criticism of Israel”?” Of course it isn’t “legitimate political criticism of Israel,” Segacs. However, the “die Sharon” part is not necessarily antisemitic (nor would die Arafat necessarily be anti-Arab or Palestinian). Depends on context. Next to “Go home Jews” (isn’t that a little ironic???), then yeah, it looks antisemitic to me.

Not sure what you mean by “the singling out of Israel for criticism to the exclusion of far worse violations from the criticizers.” I’m a criticizer, and I don’t think I’m guilty of far worse violations than Israel. If you mean governments, well they all do that, including Israel.

8opus, not sure I get what you mean either. My definition of “pro-Israel” pretty much concurs with yours.

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10 8opus 03.13.04 at 4:46 PM

Oh. Sorry. Your posting was immediately after Puck’s, and I suppose I read them as concurring — didn’t get that you were disagreeing with her…

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11 Josh 03.13.04 at 8:19 PM

Canada will need to face up to that truth

Do you really think that Canada cares about this too much? The first ‘me’ generation is making kids now, and no one really cares about anything else unless it affects them. And if anti-semitism is a Jew/Arab problem, then the usual solution is not to pressure the Arabs (or others) to be tolerant, rather pressure the Jews to stop bringing this onto themselves. Actually who cares, the thinking will be, ‘let them kill each other’.

Dog eat Dog world, I’m afraid (it’s too bad you only get to see the cynical side of me, sigh…)

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12 Peter 03.14.04 at 1:41 AM

Well, it looks like arabs are responsibe for the carnage in Madrid.
http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsPackageArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=475379&section=news

Aren’t arabs such lovely people? Lets
give them another state!

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13 joe 03.14.04 at 3:00 PM

It’s interesting that B’nai Brith can condemn, and quite rightly, the vile racism of white supremacist pamphlets found at Concordia suggesting that Jews have taken over the university administration, yet also make commnets such as the following quoted from the Jewish Tribune April 5, 2001:

Raphael Lallouz, director of advocacy for B’nai Brith in Quebec,
acknowledges that Concordia remains a hot-bed for anti-Israel propagandists
who continue to manipulate, through disinformation, the minds of university
students. “And now the Arab student leadership has infiltrated the CSU,” he
said.

Could anyone imagine the (justified) shock and outcry if someone were to write “And now the Jewish student leadership has infiltrated the CSU?”

How can the claims of this organisation be believed when dealing with Muslims when they are clearly racist against them?

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14 Hanthala 03.14.04 at 8:35 PM

“How can the claims of this organisation be believed when dealing with Muslims when they are clearly racist against them?”…Well Joe, that’s cuz they’re believed by people who make comments such as “Aren’t arabs such lovely people?”

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15 Joshua 03.16.04 at 11:17 PM

Yes it is funny that there have been only meagre reports of arabs and muslims being attacked and accosted since 9-11, even though it is estimated such incidents have increased tremendously. One would have to blame the media for reports on terrorism and people’s stupidity in generalizing about all arabs from the example of terrorists. But I guess no one is willing to take up the cause of most arabs (who incidentally are not terrorists) because organizations like bnai brith are really opposed to racism in principle. The day they care so much about every little increase in assaults on arabs, I will put more stock in what they say. And the same goes for the CSU and their ‘concern’ for innocent israelis.

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16 g 03.18.04 at 2:22 AM

And the same goes for the CSU and their ‘concern’ for innocent israelis.

This CSU Executive cares only about innocent Israelis who would vote for them. Hillel will not challenge the Arabs but hide behind others. A Torah Jew would not do this.

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17 Joshua 03.18.04 at 9:11 PM

My point was that they pay much less attention to the innocent israeli victims than they do to their preferred victims.

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18 Hanthala 03.19.04 at 10:53 PM

Joshua, the CSU these days cares neither for Palestinian nor Israeli victims. But I think your opinion on past CSUs (that they care more for Palestinian victims) is erroneous. The problem, I think, from your standpoint, is that they placed MOST of the blame for ALL victims on the Israeli government.

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