Michael Enright is right about the danger of anti-Semitism – but wrong about how to fight it

 

CBC’s Michael Enright (l) interviewed US professor Deborah Lipstadt (r) on March 30th about the rise of anti-Semitism and how to combat it. They were right to signal the danger, but their analysis is faulty and so is their solution, according to two OFIP members. Read more.

CBC journalist Michael Enright came back to the subject of anti-Semitism again on March 30th with a half hour interview on his regular “Sunday Edition” program with an American author named Deborah Lipstadt. The interview is worth listening to because Enright is well respected across Canada and many people will no doubt be influenced by his argument. https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thesundayedition/why-anti-semitism-continues-to-spread-1.5076667 . 

lipstadt antisemitism here and nowEnright’s guest was Professor Lipstadt, professor of Modern Jewish History and Holocaust Studies at Emory University in Georgia, United States. She has been Enright’s guest before. This time she was back in Toronto to promote her latest book “Anti-Semitism here and Now”, in which she argues that anti-Semitism is a permanent and especially ugly feature of human society.  

Of course Enright is completely right to draw attention to anti-Semitism – unfortunately a real phenomenon in Canada as it is in the USA – and to the need to combat it. It should be vigorously opposed. But two OFIP members think that Enright and Lipstadt make some serious errors in analyzing anti-Semitism and suggesting how to oppose it.

First a note from Ottawa Forum on Israel Palestine (OFIP) chair Peter Larson. Followed by a copy of a letter sent to Mr. Enright at CBC by OFIP Advisory Council member David Lorge Parnas.

Anti-Semitism cannot be solved by creating a special state for Jews

– Peter Larson, Chair, OFIP

In his introduction to the interview with Professor Lipstadt, Michael Enright says that anti-Semitism is the “oldest hatred”, a claim that seems most improbable, as David Parnas points out in his letter to Michael Enright (reproduced below). This is no mere historical error. Enright, like Professor Lipstadt, sees anti-Semitism as a unique form of hatred, in a category all of its own, that has to be dealt with differently from other forms of hatred.

The argument that anti-Semitism is unique (“older” or “more vicious” or “more widespread” than other forms of racism) is the core Zionist argument justifying the claim that the only way to effectively protect Jews is through the creation of a “Jewish State”.

But there are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of racial and ethnic groups around the world which have been and still are targets of discrimination and racism. Rohingya, Roma, Black Americans and Algonquins living in Canada are examples. Clearly, it would be disruptive and disfunctional to try to give each one a country of its own.

The rise in anti-Semitism in North America today is part of a broader manifestation of racism directed by (mostly white) people against those who are seen to be “other” in some way – whether by skin colour, religion or language.

It should be dealt with as other forms of racism are – through a combination of public education and legal protections. It cannot and does not justify the creation of a “Jewish State” through the expulsion of a whole people, the confiscation of their goods, and explicitly denying the equality of non-Jews living in it. This approach will neither effectively combat anti-Semitism nor can it protect Jews.

Fight Anti-semitism by opposing all forms of ethnic discrimination

– David Lorge Parnas

Here is Dave Parnas’ thoughtful letter sent to to Michael Enright about the interview with Deborah Lipstadt.

Dear Mr. Enright,

I have personally been a victim of  antisemitism many times and can have no doubt that it exists. Nonetheless, I found several points of disagreement with what was said in your interview with Professor Lipstadt.  
 
First, you introduced antisemitism as possibly “the oldest hatred of all”.  Professor Lipstadt later voiced her agreement. That seems unlikely.  There were religious groups long before there were Jews.  I cannot imagine that there was no tribalism, racism, or other variety of hatred before Judaism was formed. As there are current religions that are older than Judaism, I am confident that there are hatreds that have lasted longer. 

I was glad that Prof. Lipstadt reminded us that criticism of Israeli policies is not (necessarily) anti-Semitism because there are many groups and movements trying to convince us of the opposite.  The International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of “anti-Semitism”, which the Labour Party in England was pressured to adopt, includes criticism of Israel in its list of anti-Semitic acts.  That definition should be revised or abandoned. 

However, I was bothered when she said that not supporting the right of Israel to exist was anti-Semitic.  The problem is that the phrase, “Israel’s Right to Exist”, is not well defined.  That makes, “Do you accept Israel’s Right to Exist?” a trick question. Those who cannot say “Yes, I do”, usually do not mean that they want Israel replaced by a black hole or a body of water.  They probably do not believe that all Jews must leave or be killed. They may not even mean that there should be no state named “Israel. They probably do believe that Israel should cease to be a state that discriminates against many people on the basis of their religion or ethnic background, i.e. that while Israel could remain a state where Jews are safe, it could no longer remain a state where Jews are favoured by laws and practices.

There are many Israel supporters who state and believe that such a change, a change to a secular and religiously neutral state, would mean the destruction of Israel.   I disagree!

I also disagree with her support of a so-called “two state solution” because I do not believe that such a solution exists. No matter where they put the border between the two states, there will be people on both sides who sincerely believe that they should have a right to live and vote on the other side; there would be no peace.  Further, the second state that Israel describes is not a state at all.  It would not control its borders nor would it be able to defend itself. 

Finally, I disagree with Professor Lipstadt’s description of the BDS movement as anti-Semitic.  BDS opposes the discrimination against one group of people by another.  It doesn’t matter who is doing that discrimination; the only thing that matters is that people are being hurt and suffering is being inflicted upon them.  BDS would not change its position if the people claiming Israel as exclusively theirs were Japanese, Hindus, Africans, or any other group.

The only way to defeat anti-Semitism is to stop treating anti-Semitism differently from other racial, ethnic, or religious discrimination.  All who want to fight anti-Semitism should be fighting anti-them-ism instead. They should oppose all forms of hatred, prejudice and discrimination against other groups, not just discrimination against their own religious or ethnic group.  If nobody is a victim of hatred, Jews will not be a victim of hatred.  If we fight all forms of anti-them-ism, every minority group will support us.  If we only fight antisemitism, we lose the support of the other groups and may even find that they oppose us. 

David Parnas

Dr. Dave Parnas is a member of the OFIP Advisory Council. He is a software engineer, son of 2 holocaust survivors and grandson of two who did not survive.

_____________________________________________________________

Canada Talks Israel Palestine (CTIP) encourages and promotes a thoughtful discussion among Canadians on the Israel/Palestine issue, including a well informed and sensitive discussion about solutions. CTIP encourages serious people who disagree with any column to make comment. Disagreements respectfully offered are welcome. To learn more about what CTIP does, contact us at chair.ctip@gmail.com.

16 comments

  1. The Justin Trudeau-led Liberal government, and its media appendage the CBC, should end their complicity with Israeli apartheid, and stop telling lies about Venezuela.

  2. Enright is a schmuck.

    On Tue, Apr 16, 2019 at 9:38 PM Canada Talks Israel/Palestine wrote:

    > Peter Larson posted: ” CBC’s Michael Enright (l) interviewed US professor > Deborah Lipstadt (r) on March 30th about the rise of anti-Semitism and how > to combat it. They were right to signal the danger, but their analysis is > faulty and so is their solution, according to two OFI” >

    1. Enright is a skilled radio interviewer. He gets more out of his guests by appearing sympathetic to them. I have heard him do the same when interviewing a Palestinian guest. His job is to draw the guest out and he usually does that well.

  3. The wide abuse of anti Semitism by Zionists to shut up every mouth criticizing Israel is harmful to Jews more than anyone else, if not seen in the short term, for sure it will be noticed in the long term.

  4. I also quite like Michael Enright, but I believe that David Parnas is correct in his criticism of Prof. Lipstadt’s equating support for BDS with anti-Semitism. I am another one of those Jews who has experienced anti-Semitism, and is also critical of Israel, in particular for its discriminatory and oppressive treatment of Arabs, including Israeli citizens. I speak out against anti-Semitism in Canada and around the world, and I also support BDS as a non-violent and increasingly effective form of pressure on the Israeli government.

  5. Although Michael Enright is a liberal person and often has critics of Israel on his program. nevertheless his interview with Deborah Lipstadt is a good example of the latitude that supporters of israel get in the North American media. There are lots of examples in this interview when Ms. Lipstadt makes questionable statements which are not challenged. For example. she falsely claimed that Jeremy Corbyn, if he is not an anti-Semite, certainly enables anti-Semites. She incoherently failed to make the case that BDS is different than boycotts against South Africa and grapes in California. Also, without any proof, Michael Enright said that most speakers which were shut down on college campuses were pro-Israel.
    There is another example of how pro Israel the western press is.A few months ago, Steve Paikin, of TV Ontario was interviewing Deborah Lipstadt, also about her book. When Ms, Lipstadt said that Jeremy Corbyn enables anti-Semites, Mr. Paikin responded by saying that Jeremy Corbin…” certainly hangs out with anti-Semites”.

  6. Commentators shld be carefully analyzing traditional polethnoreligious largely right wing antisemitism and contrasting and distinguishing it from criticism of and activism against Iarael and its policies in support of Palestinian rights and resolution of the Israel Pal conflict. But most pro Israel experts and lobbyists like Lipsept fail miserably at this and end of conflating antisemitism with anti Israelism one way or another while leaving many inconsistencies and ironies in their wake. By refusing to make this distinction clearly and calling certain policies ie BDS or critics of antisemitic, they distract and deviate from finding a solution both to the conflict and discrimination against Pals therebye allowing resentment to Israel policies to build uo even further. They and she wld be much better to work from the premise that Israel can only exist as a Jewish and democratic state if the Arab state of Palestine exists in security and sovereignty beside it. Of course 1 pluralistic and nonsectarian state with equal rights wld,be preferable but is impossible under Zionism and it’s most recent Jewish nation state law and would not be acceptable to Israeli Jews as demonstrated in the last Israrli elections, even if some Jews in diaspora might of their own volition be more flexible on this..

  7. Israel has no more right to exist than does Iran, North Korea or Canada and if some people feel I’ve uttered an anti-Semitic comment then it’s them who have a problem with their beliefs.

  8. Unfortunately, on the issues of anti-semitism or Israel, Michael Enright for all his strengths and positives can be viewed more or less as a water boy or bat boy in this particular deadly playing field. It is remarkable how often he has tread on these two subjects without adding any value or insight other than the usual rehash of conventional talking points. In this, he routinely abuses the privilege of having a tremendous CBC platform from which to educate and to challenge. He may do a better job on other topics but fails miserably on this score.

    Perhaps Enright is a “philo-Semite” in which case we have to seriously ask is that equally racist and discriminatory in the opposite direction especially when so much hatred and death hangs in the balance. On this topic for a public personality or influencer, there is no better or more productive place than to hold the middle ground – neither anti-Semite nor philo-Semite but look to the context from which to explore the topic. Sorry to get personal here but I consider Enright a pompous, euro-centric anachronism who does not accurately reflect the current reality of many non-white, diverse communities living in multi-cultural country.

  9. When near the beginning of the interview I heard Ms. Lipstadt say that in 1948: “Many Palestinian Arabs left what would become Israel because they were told by their leaders leave now, let us go in and let our armies go in and destroy the Jews and then you’ll come back and you’ll have their shops and their orchards and homes etc.” I knew I not to expect a lot of new insights. For a more nuanced view I highly recommend the chapter in Jonathan Cook’s excellent book Disappearing Palestine “Anti-Semitism and its Abuses”.

    1. My parents lived in Palestine during that period and this is exactly what happened, Lipstadt’s account is as accurate as can be.

      1. Hey Ahik, thanks for your comment. I think your parents memory is correct as far as it goes.

        I am sure there were Palestinians who did run away. In particular many of those of the educated Palestinian elite who had secondary houses in Beirut, Damascus or Cairo decided to leave to wait out what they expected to be a short period of violence. (Whether they listened to “Arab leaders” or had any confidence in them is hard to judge.)

        Most of the Palestinians were peasants, however. Few had radios or telephones. They were stuck to their farms and villages. They could not take their animals with them, nor could they leave their crops untended for more than a few days. A lot of them didn’t realise that the Zionists intention was to drive them out, so they hung on until there was no option.

        A good source for this is Rosemary Saigh’s book “From Peasant to Revolutionary”. It is based on first person interviews. It shows how poorly prepared the Palestinians were compared to the Zionists who had a definite plan and executed it brilliantly – to the detriment of the Palestinians.

        In any event, what is important is not WHY they left, but WHY Israel wouldn’t let them come back. Being afraid is not a crime. If I flee Ottawa for some reason, that does not give anyone the right to prevent my return or confiscate my property.

        Best.

  10. Peter, Robert Cohen, who blogs at http://micahsparadigmshift.blogspot.com/, has just published an open letter to Professor Lipstadt critiquing her book on antisemitism. You may have seen it already. It deserves to be widely read. Can I suggest that, with Cohen’s permission, you reprint it here as an additional reply to Enright and the CBC?

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