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 .
Enright’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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.