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The Jewish Divide

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  • tarekfatah
    Friends, 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
    Message 1 of 1 , Jul 26, 2002

      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.

      Tarek Fatah
      (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

      Globe and Mail
      Toronto, Canada

      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
      spreads fear.

      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
      largely unreported.

      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.
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