CBC’s Michael Enright is mistaken about how to approach anti-Semitism: Martha Roth of IJV

michael enright

As the host of CBC’s Sunday Edition, Michael Enright is one of the most influential intellectuals in Canada. He is educated, well travelled and thoughtful. Each Sunday, thousands of Canadians listen to his interviews and are influenced by his observations. So when he warns about the growing danger of Anti-Semitism in Canada, it is important. But on this point, argues Martha Roth, of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Enright is mistaken. Read more…

On January 28th, CBC journalist Michael read a powerful essay warning Canadians about the growing danger of anti-Semitism in Canada. “Anti-Semitism is not just going away, it is growing”. argued Enright. His essay is worth reading, or listening to.

The immediate provocation for Enright was a clearly anti-Semitic letter from a listener complaining that Enright’s thoughtful program was always about “just Jews and jazz”.

There is no doubt that anti-semitism exists in Canada, as do many other forms of racism and should be strongly opposed.

But Martha Roth, of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, who supports the movement to boycott Israel called (BDS), points out that Enright seems to make his claim mainly on an annual “audit” of anti-Semitism by Bnai Brith Canada. This “audit” she points out,  includes activities or comments critical of Israel, such as calling for a boycott of Israel,  as “anti-Semitic.”

Here is her letter:

Martha-Roth-and-Itrath-Syed-225x300

Martha Roth (l)  here with Itrath Sayed, was one of the organizers of a public event in Vancouver featuring musician Roger Waters  talking about BDS

Dear Michael Enright,

I have been an admiring listener to “The Sunday Edition” for many years. You bring an informed and compassionate light to bear on Canadian and world issues, and as a Canadian concerned with democracy, equality and human rights, I appreciate your commitment to these basic Canadian values.

As a Canadian Jew, I appreciate your concern about anti-Semitism. Like you, I was appalled by the crude anti-Semite whose letter you cited on Sunday, Jan. 28. The person had apparently written several times complaining about “Jewish content” on The Sunday edition (“just Jews and jazz”).

Your powerful response to that letter, “Anti-Semitism is not just going away; it’s growing,” warns about the danger of anti-Semitism in Canada, which you describe as “in large measure…a hatred of Israel.”

To support your claim that anti-Semitism is a growing problem, you cited information from a B’nai Brith study reporting a total of 1,728 incidents of “anti-Semitism” in Canada in 2016, an increase of 26% over 2015 – a shocking statistic indeed. According to that report, 11 incidents involved some level of violence and 158 involved vandalism.

However a careful reading of that B’nai Brith report shows that these incidents of violence or vandalism against Jews or Jewish institutions have sharply declined over the last five years.

What has increased are reports of “harassment” of Jews.

“Harassment” is a broad category. B’nai Brith says it includes in the term harassment any statement by supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement (BDS) who, it says, “are guilty of unfairly targeting the world’s only Jewish state, therefore engaging in antisemitism.”

Here is the crux of the matter. I am a non-zionist Jew and I do not support the idea of a Jewish state. I am also a member of Independent Jewish Voices Canada, an organization that believes in democracy, in equality for all, in Israel as in Canada.

Along with thousands of other Canadians, Jewish, Muslim, Christian and unaffiliated, we support the international call to boycott Israel until it respects the three democratic demands of the BDS movement: an end to the occupation, equality for non-Jews living in Israel, and a just solution for Palestinian refugees. That means that every time I say this, write it or attend a demonstration, B’nai Brith can report it as an anti-Semitic “incident.” B’nai Brith should brace for more anti-Semitic “incidents” as the BDS movement continues to grow.

But to call them “anti-Semitic incidents” is utter nonsense.

Many Canadians, including Jewish Canadians, support BDS, driven not by antisemitism but by a sense of justice and a commitment to equality and democracy. Their support for equality makes them opponents of Zionism, which proposes a Jewish state as a way to defend Jews. The Zionist notion of protecting Jews by creating a Jewish state in the middle of the Arab world, expelling most of the people living there and refusing refugees the right to return, while giving Jews more rights than non-Jews, is not a good approach. It is a recipe for continual friction, pain and strife.

The only lasting approach to protecting Jews is the same as for every other minority – a culture of tolerance, supported by a strong legal framework. Ironically, while antisemitism was the kindling for Zionism in the 19th century, today it is Zionism and its claim to an exclusive Jewish state, that are the fuel for what B’nai Brith calls antisemitism.

Cordially,
Martha Roth

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24 comments

    1. the most important point she makes concerns the issue of what constitutes “anti-semitic incidents”- in other words the actual CONTENT of such incidents. Is it a synagogue bombing, a physical assault, a joke about jews, or maybe something even neutrally expressed about the BDS campaign? B’Nai Brith and other Zionist watchdogs are often very dishonest about this.

  1. “….Definitely, most definitely we oppose a Jewish state in any part of Palestine. No Palestinian, rational Palestinian, not a sell-out Palestinian, will ever accept a Jewish state in Palestine.”

    –Omar Barghouti

    1. Hey Harry, thanks for your comment. I think many people, including many Jews, confuse the idea of “ending a Jewish State” with “getting rid of Jews”. Most European countries were, at some point “Christian States”. Now they are secular states. But the Christians still live there.

  2. So here it is. Israel keeps on inflicting never ending atrocities with the aim of stealing a piece of land using utmost brutality. But if anyone dares to criticize, he/she immediately contracts the Antisemitism disease.

  3. Excellent letter Martha…not much I could add. I too am of Jewish background and I fully support BDS.
    BDS is not ‘anti-semitic’; rather it is a mechanism for making the statement that we do not support anything that gets in the way of resolving the fact that the Palestinians pay dearly so that the Israelis can have what they want irrespective of the suffering it causes. I believe both peoples would be much better off if they could live together or side by side in dignified and satisfying lives without diminishing the rights and the safety of others.

  4. I couldn’t agree more with Martha Ross and she said it much more eloquently than I ever could. So I will leave that part of the issue alone.

    With that said, even though statistics may show a decline in antisemitic incidents I think there is a a huge possibility of overlooking the danger of, not only antisemitism, but racism in general. I feel that it has been enabled largely due to Trump but not solely. While historic rates may be down the risk or danger of major racist incidents and their damage has never been so high in my lifetime at least. While most white supremacist leaders support zionism and Israel there is a large group of followers who have a deep well of antisemitic hatred and my fear is that will boil over at some point.

    I don’t feel we should downplay the risks faced by all of our minority communities in these days where racism has been given a degree of free reign. Indeed we need to increase our efforts at education and monitoring of radical groups on all sides.

  5. If I could amend the forgoing
    ” While most white supremacist leaders support zionism and Israel there is a large group of followers who have a deep well of antisemitic hatred and my fear is that will boil over at some point. ”

    to
    While most white supremacist leaders support zionism and Israel there is a large group of followers who have a deep well of antisemitic hatred and my fear is that will boil over at some point. And we must not forget that the support of those supremacists is not out of any philosemitic belief held by them.

  6. Sadly, this letter and the IJV (C) are not capable of denouncing Antisemitism itself and merely resort to a cliché about how BDS is not Antisemitism. Such a Canadian Jewish assimilationist tendency affiliated with the United Church represents the same Canadian pro-Zionist political culture that did not even manage to boycott Nazi Germany during the Holocaust let alone support the immigration of Jewish refugees afterwards.

  7. Michael Enright might rid himself of his image as a dated ’50s small l liberal CBC personality who’s views on Israel still reflect the naïve viewpoint so many Canadians accepted when optimism still ruled our airwaves if he chooses to present Martha Roth’s balanced, yet frank response to his rote use of B’nai Brith’s annual rant against those not in love with the regime of Benni Netanyahu.

    1. Thanks Ahik, I had included the link in my original post. But happy to have it here again, as I think it is worth while listening to.
      I take it that you agree with Martha that Enright’s essay was way off base because he relied on Bnai Brith’s rather foolish definition of anti-Semitism.

      1. But is B’Nai Brith’s definition of anti-semitism concrete enough for an onlooker to either verify or falsify its claims? My guess is that it (B’Nai Brith) wants to rely on the (inverted!) wisdom of Golda Meir when she said: “Too much anti-semitism is not good because it can lead to a holocaust. Too little anti-semitism is also not good because it could lead to a decrease in immigration to Israel. Rather what we need is a moderate amount of anti-semitism” – my paraphrase.

      2. Obviously supporting BDS is not Antisemitic but that is not the point. If the B’nai Brith definition of Antisemitism is skewed to be pro-Zionist then where is the database of the Jewish solidarity movement with the Palestinians against Antisemitism. Is it nowhere to be found because so many born-again Jewish assimilated Canadians choose to believe that Antisemitism no longer exists? Really, how foolish. The IJV (C) neglects the recognition of Antisemitism simply because BB misuses the noun! You will have to ask the Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians as to what the real story is about Antisemitism since the pseudo-Left has forgotten what it is.

      3. Hey Dr. Weizfeld, thanks for your contribution. I think a more careful reading of Martha Roth’s letter will show that she agrees that anti-semitism is a problem in Canada. Her point, however, was that BB far overstates it by including the BDS movement which is not animated by antisemitism.

  8. I don’t agree with Dr. Weizfeld. If, as he says, BDS is not anti-semitic, then that IS very much to the point because it is the most common slur against the BDS campaign (“it’s anti-semitic”) made by the Zionist lobbies in north america. They sound universally like a “broken record”. I was immunized against anti-semitism in the late 1940s and there were good grounds then for empathizing with the suffering of Jews – the holocaust. But as I gradually became more fully politically aware about Israeli brutality against its colonized population it finally dawned on me that the anti-semitic “incidents” I was hearing about in SoCal in those days were, in most cases, the refusal of country clubs to admit Jews to their membership – to which Groucho Marx (?) replied, “I wouldn’t join a club which would have me as a member, anyway”. There were no bodies of Jews being found dead on the streets of LA, no synagogue bombings, etc., etc. This is why I insist on an empirical – an “operational” – definition. If I overhear a joke about Jews while riding the bus, does that count in B’Nai Brith’s lexicon as an anti-semitic” incident?? If not, why not? If so, why? Is there any evidence of an increase in such “incidents”? It’s nearly all baloney.

    1. The perfect Antisemitic response by one who cannot distinguish between the Zionist State of Israel and the Canadian Jewish nationality. Where OH—CLEM once feigned sympathy with the Jewish People over the Holocaust, now he has abandoned that sympathy because of what some other State is doing, a State that does not speak or act for the Jewish People despite its pretence.
      The question here is not BDS but rather Antisemitism, a topic which such a person and so many others cannot address. The incidents recorded about BDS pale in comparison to the actual Antisemitic incidents which such a person prefers to ignore. The obvious conclusion is that such an Antisemitic mentality considers that Antisemitism is the fault of Israel and so it is not Antisemitism. Such sparkling logic to blind the eye of any racist.

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