The Jewish Divide
We often view the Jewish entity as a monolithic, uniform group of
people with a single perspective of the world around them. The
attached article gives a rare glimpse of the divide within the Jewish
community--at least in Canada.
It is written by Marvin Kurz who practises law in Canada and is
national legal counsel of the League for Human Rights of B'nai Brith;
a Jewish Canada human rights group that works hard to protect the
image of Israel and salvage its sullied reputation as a human rights
Read and reflect.
(still in Karachi)
Friday, July 26, 2002
The Canadian Jewish divide
Are the barbarians at the gate, or are a few community leaders
overplaying the 'hate' card? This is no time to take things for
granted, says lawyer MARVIN KURZ
By MARVIN KURZ
Globe and Mail
There's an old joke that still holds: Put two Jews in the same room,
you get three opinions. Another has two Jews stranded on a desert
island, where they build three synagogues -- one for each survivor,
and one that neither of them will go to.
These wisecracks came to mind recently when thinking about the debate
raging in the Jewish community about the murder of David Rosenzweig.
There is no dispute that the killing of this kind, Orthodox Jewish
man has caused great unease among Jews across the country. The debate
is whether the crime should be labelled a "hate crime." Underlying
this rift is a suddenly very public quarrel between Canada's two most
prominent Jewish organizations about the state of anti-Semitism in
Canada. Are the barbarians at the gate, or are a few community
leaders overplaying the "hate" card?
On the one hand, there is Frank Dimant and B'nai Brith. Mr. Dimant's
organization recently released some disquieting statistics about anti-
Semitic incidents in Canada over the first half of 2002. Even before
the Rosenzweig murder, the numbers greatly increased over the first
half of this year. In analyzing these figures, B'nai Brith decried
the "hate culture" that it says has enveloped Canada. B'nai Brith
holds that a climate of hate results from anti-Israel bashing in the
media, trade union movement and the United Nations, which demonizes
Jews. B'nai Brith believes this view is reinforced by the Canadian
government's ambivalence toward Israel.
On the other hand, there is Ed Morgan and the Canadian Jewish
Congress. After the murder, the CJC sought to reassure Canadian Jews
that there is no epidemic of hate in Canada. Mr. Morgan pointed out
that the Rosenzweig funeral was attended by the province's premier
and attorney-general and Toronto's mayor and police chief. Canada may
have seen a spate of recent anti-Semitic activities, Mr. Morgan
concedes, but it would be irresponsible to exaggerate the Canadian
situation by comparing it to, say, France. The CJC has had to
reassure elderly Jewish women, who wonder whether it is safe to go
out shopping. All of this talk of an anti-Semitic climate, the CJC
believes, does a disservice to tolerant Canadians, and unnecessarily
This serious and perhaps even philosophical dispute -- Is the glass
half full or half empty? Who has the right to speak for the Jewish
community? -- has taken on something of a life of its own. Whereas
the two organizations do not always see eye to eye and have developed
quite a notorious (and often personal) rivalry, their disputes are
rarely this public. But who is right? Should B'nai Brith be pushing
the hate-crime angle or is it just making politics out of the fate of
poor Mr. Rosenzweig?
I have a long-standing association with B'nai Brith. I am the
national legal counsel of its League for Human Rights. I am also a
member of the board of two Jewish organizations, which, like the CJC,
are supported by the United Jewish Appeal Federation of Toronto.
Further, I know and respect most of the principals of both
organizations. They are honourable people, who work tirelessly for
the good of their community.
Like many things in life, the answer to the questions raised by the
Rosenzweig murder lies somewhere in the middle. First of all, Canada
is far from being an anti-Semitic nation. This is no longer the
Canada of the late 1930s and early 1940s. In that Canada, no Jews
were too many. In 1948, my family began to arrive in Canada,
desperate to escape bigotry. Who could have thought that, in one
generation, the descendants of these Polish peasants would be
doctors, lawyers, teachers and successful businesspersons? We owe
everything to the tolerance of Canadians.
And yet, a cliché has it that Jews are like the canaries in the coal
mine. Centuries of persecution have enabled them to sense the rise of
intolerance against all minorities. Maybe before others see it, maybe
when others will not see it. To modern Jews, bigotry is not the relic
of another generation. For example, last year's UN conference on
racism at Durban has now been relegated to a footnote in history.
But, for Jews, Durban was a UN-sponsored human-rights conference that
unleashed an orgy of hate against Israel and Jews around the world.
Canada was one of the few nations that stood up to the onslaught, but
only in a half measure; it refused to walk out in protest.
Jews have also seen Israel singled out as an outlaw state. They have
witnessed in disbelief as a radical chic has been created around the
cult of suicide bombers (even Tony Blair's wife professed her
sympathy). Too few people have stood up as Jewish schools in France
are attacked and synagogues throughout Europe torched. Arab nations
that publish the vilest anti-Semitic slurs are courted as our allies.
Closer to home, there was a spate of anthrax-like white-powder
envelopes sent to Toronto Jewish organizations, even a nursery
school. There was also the recent torching of a downtown Toronto
synagogue. In the past year, every Jewish communal organization in
Toronto has been forced to reconsider its security needs. Many Jewish
day schools have added an annual surcharge of $200 for extra
security; one school prefers that its name not be displayed at its
entrance. The real fear in the Jewish community is a story that goes
This is the background that led the CJC's Bernie Farber to proclaim
his "gut feeling" that the Rosenzweig killing was a hate crime.
There is no section of the Criminal Code that refers to a "hate
crime." Rather, a hate motivation is only relevant to sentencing
where a person is convicted of an ordinary crime, and found to have
been motivated by "bias, prejudice or hate." With the man accused of
killing Mr. Rosenzweig charged with first-degree murder, a charge
that carries a mandatory 25-year sentence, the "hate crime"
designation may turn out to be irrelevant. But this seems beside the
The debate is not so much about the label for this crime. It is about
what we are breathing in the coal mine. The glass may be more than
half full in Canada, but is it starting to empty? Mr. Morgan, Mr.
Dimant and their respective organizations may disagree about this
now. But make no mistake: Jews in Canada are beginning to wonder.
This is no time to panic. But it is no time to take things for
granted, either. The joke may be true about three opinions, but,
while Jews in Canada are hoping Mr. Morgan is right, they are
beginning to fear that Mr. Dimant is.