The latest column by Robert Fisk – the Independent’s “award-winning” Middle East correspondent – contains the usual distortions, half-truths and fabrications, as well as an especially appalling smear of Canadian Jewry’s largest human rights organization, B’nai Brith.
The inspiration for his latest polemical tirade – oddly titled ‘How on earth can Israel tolerate this filth from B’nai Brith Canada?‘ – was an advert in the National Post.
Not long ago, I was handed the most outrageous, vile, dishonest and slanderous calumny uttered against the people of Canada. It was contained in a full-page advertisement in the National Post (founder, Conrad Black), a newspaper handed out – free, I’m happy to say – on my Air France flight out of Toronto. Here is the headline: “Almost 4 million Canadians are afflicted by this disease.”
Beneath this title is a half-page, very blurred and uncaptioned colour photo of a large crowd – they could be football supporters, rush-hour commuters in Vancouver, you name it; they are mostly white males but include women and with at least one dark-skinned man close to the camera. Beneath the picture, this incredible ad continues: “Left unchecked, it [the disease] can result in violence tendencies. Many times, those infected haven’t been diagnosed and may pass it on to their children, grandchildren, colleagues or friends. Please help stop the spread of this disease before it contaminates your community.”
the “disease” afflicting “almost 4 million Canadians” is “anti-Semitism” and this disgusting advertisement – published without comment by one of Canada’s leading right-wing newspapers – was produced by B’nai Brith Canada and the “Jewish Christian Alliance”.
Fisk fails to note that the advert’s claim is based on a well-publicized poll commissioned by Anti-Defamation League which, in gauging antisemitic attitudes around the word, determined that 14% of Canadians hold antisemitic views.
He then begins his tirade against the ‘false’ accusation of antisemitism:
In other words, this pro-Israeli Jewish group – whose exaggerations and hateful propaganda have been rightly condemned by Jewish Canadians – claims that four million of their fellow-countrymen and women are sick, racist neo-Nazis
Of course, B’nai Brith does not claim that 4 million Canadians are “neo-Nazi” style racists. In fact, the group’s press release on the ADL poll contextualized levels of antisemitism in Canadian society quite soberly in arguing that “these results clearly show that Canadians are being exposed to mediums containing antisemitic messaging, since almost a third of respondents have little to no contact with the Canadian Jewish community directly”. Another B’nai Brith press release on the ADL poll correctly noted that the levels of antisemitism in Canada are “relatively low” compared to other parts of the world.
Now let’s forget that B’nai Brith regards any criticism of the state of Israel – however justified, however mild, made by Jews and non-Jews alike – as anti-Semitic.
Again, this is a lie, one typically peddled by those who downplay antisemitism. B’nai Brith has often used language which clearly distinguishes between legitimate criticism of Israel and that criticism which evokes anti-Semitic canards. In fact, on the site of B’nai Brith Canada there’s a fact sheet by the group’s senior legal counsel David Matas which makes their position quite clear:
It is legitimate to criticize discriminatory practices wherever they are found, whether in Israel or elsewhere.
However, to criticize alleged discrimination only in Israel and in no other country of the world becomes a political act of selective criticism, itself a form of discrimination against Israel.
Fisk is fighting a straw man. As, there is no major Jewish organization we are aware of which has ever claimed – explicitly or implicitly – that “any criticism of Israel” is antisemitic.
Fisk’s rant continues:
Let’s forget previous protests by Jewish Americans against the organisation’s grotesque exaggerations. Let’s even ignore its equation of Palestinians with Nazis…
However, the ad in question did not equate “Palestinians with Nazis”, only the antisemitic goals of Radical Islamic groups (such as Hezbollah) with that of the Nazis.
Further in the article, after criticizing Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s condemnation of antisemitism, Fisk throws in a Nazi comparison of his own:
But what, we have to ask, possesses Israel’s “friends” to publish this pernicious material about 4 million “diseased” Canadians? Does B’nai Brith Canada not realise that these very same despicable lies were used by the Nazis in their hate propaganda against the Jews of Europe? In Hitler’s Germany, Jews were described as microbes. Jews, according to Julius Streicher, were “the carriers of disease and vermin among men”. In August 1941, Goebbels called Jews “the carriers of infectious diseases” and two weeks later referred to Jews as “parasites”. By November, he was calling them “lice”. But now, 4 million Canadians carry “disease”. Undiagnosed “infections” will be passed on to children and grandchildren. The “community” is in danger of being “contaminated”. If this stuff was not so revolting, it could be laughed off.
In addition to the shameful smear, his logic is stunning – and goes something like this:
- Nazi propagandists used the “disease” metaphor to characterize the threat posed by world Jewry.
- B’nai Brith Canada used the word “disease” to characterize the threat posed by anti-Jewish racism.
- Ergo, since both groups used the disease metaphor – albeit one to characterize Jews and another to characterize those who hate Jews – both are nonetheless guilty of using Nazi-style propaganda.
It really is stunning that the Independent – a newspaper which prides itself on being guided by “enlightenment values” – can ‘tolerate such filth’
Fisk is certainly correct about one thing: ‘If this stuff was not so revolting, it could be laughed off’!