I regard my country as much in sorrow as in anger. Not so long ago I was listening to a radio news broadcast in which the remarks of an imam were being reported. Apparently, as a Jew I am the descendant of monkeys and swine and, along with those who share my theriomorphic ancestry, must be done way with, according to a Koranic sura cited by the imam in question, Sheikh Younus Kathrada. The sermon in which my demise and that of my family was being urged did not emanate from Riyadh, Teheran, Ramallah, Damascus or Sa’ana, but from a mosque in Vancouver. This particular offender may be muzzled, but there are many other Kathradas waiting in the wings.
Similarly, Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, speaking on television, justified suicide attacks against Israeli civilians eighteen years of age and over as soldiers in mufti—although how an octogenarian may be considered as a potential military conscript is beyond me. Since many children under eighteen have also been murdered, this may no doubt be justified as the elimination of future soldiers, as Mr. Elmasry implied during his interview. Asked about women, he responded: “The same.” Needless to say, Mr. Elmasry has not been disciplined by the university where he teaches although his immediate dismissal would have been entirely appropriate. I take no comfort from the fact that Mr. Elmasry confines his observations to Israel. After all, the majority of that country’s citizens are my co-religionists and, as we well know, nothing crosses borders more easily than inducement to violence or regional vendettas. Rather than retract his remarks, Mr. Elmasry has gone on to further triumphs, having managed to haul author Mark Steyn and Maclean’s current affairs magazine, which printed an excerpt from Steyn’s brilliant America Alone, before one of Canada’s notorious, speech-muzzling Human Rights commissions.
Several recent events make it hard to resist the impression that antisemitism continues to prosper in Canada. The United Church of Canada, the largest Confession in the country, has recently introduced an “ethical investment plan” to divest from companies involved in building Israel’s security fence or that provide “products, services or technology” to Israel. This is antisemitism by another name, for the Church has not considered divesting from real Human Rights offenders and undeniably oppressive regimes. Trade with China and Syria, for example, continues unabated and unremarked.1 The Ontario branch of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), effectively violating its institutional mandate, resolved to support organizations and unions engaged in the boycott of Israel until Israel recognizes the “right of return” for all so-called Palestinian refugees, which would spell the demographic end of the Jewish state. This is antisemitism pure and simple. The nearly one million Jews expelled from Arab countries, who have no right of return and have enjoyed no compensation for loss of livelihood, savings and property, garner nary a mention. Our universities, presumably centers of enlightenment, are no better. Concordia University in Montreal, with its large Muslim student body and pusillanimous administration, is subject to student riots which prevent Israeli public figures from speaking. Security guards at York University in Toronto warned the well-known Jewish scholar and lecturer Daniel Pipes against inflaming his audience, when it was the audience which should have been policed. The University of Toronto, many of whose staff have joined the divestment campaign, organized an anti-Zionist hatefest under the title “Israel Apartheid Week.” The Université du Québec à Montréal received Leila Shahid, a paid propagandist for the Palestinians, with high honours at an ostensibly impartial political conference.
The political climate in Quebec, which is still part of Canada, is no less distressing. High profile members of several of our political parties, both Federal and Provincial, marched under Hizbullah flags at public demonstrations during the summer 2006 war in the Middle East. The media and entertainment scene in my home province is equally disturbing. The egregiously antisemitic Arab/French comic, Dieudonné Mbala Mbala, whose performances are often banned in his own country, was a welcome guest in Quebec and given star billing on Radio-Canada’s Tout le monde en parle.2
One recalls as well the comments made on December 12, 2002 by David Ahenakew, former Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, to the effect that Hitler was right to have “fried” six million Jews. (Ahenakew stated for the court at his trial for inciting public hatred in April, 2005, that he stood by his earlier comments.) For more than two years following his remarks, Mr. Ahenakew did not have his membership in The Order of Canada revoked, although he should have been cashiered at once. (Indeed, prior to this episode, the only officer of the Order to be stripped of his honours was “hockey czar” Alan Eagelson, for fiscal malfeasance.) Nor to my knowledge did any of the inductees relinquish their pins and medallions in protest over the retention of Mr. Ahenakew on the rolls pending a long-postponed court appearance. And within this same period, a number of celebrated Canadians, including Leonard Cohen, whom one might have thought would have known better, actually accepted the distinction.
It is, arguably, understandable that the Governor General’s Office should be slow to act, given the inherently pedestrian and morally attenuated nature of bureaucratic structures. But that not a single member of the Order moved to surrender his or her badge of dishonour—a few no longer wore it in public, but so lame and sartorial a gesture seems to have been the extent of their protest—and that others gratefully received it defies belief and erodes confidence not only in the institution of the Governor General but in the ethical character of our most illustrious citizens, including the Governor General. Even though Mr. Ahenakew was finally drummed out of the Order, the years that elapsed to effect what should have been instantly obvious bespeaks the debased will to defer a clearly moral decision on behalf of the status quo, as problematic as the latter may be. The whole episode is a blot of shame on the country’s escutcheon. Further, the Senators of the Saskatchewan Federation voted 20 to 1 in favour of reinstating Mr. Ahenakew after his resignation from its councils, and he has won his appeal for a new trial. Mr. Ahenakew subsequently resumed his position as a Senator with the Federation. Despite some noble muttering by the Saskatchewan provincial government, no real pressure was brought to bear upon the Federation.
This is Canada, a country mired in the quicksand of political correctness and sinking inch by inch into moral desuetude, a country with the identity of a harlequin’s tunic, a country that indemnifies the descendants of Chinese immigrants subjected to the poll tax but has nothing to say about a ship full of Jewish refugees sent back to Hitler’s Germany when the Mackenzie King administration closed our ports to the St. Louis—a country in which an obviously culpable aboriginal leader is treated gingerly, it seems realistic to suggest, in order to avoid the stigma of racism against First Nations.
I propose David Ahenakew for Canada’s next Governor General. Failing that, Sheikh Younus Kathadra or Mohamed Elmasry would surely confer honour upon the office.
1. In the words of columnist Lysiane Gagnon, “It is certainly perfectly acceptable to criticize the state of Israel, but the practice can become anti-Semitic when only the Jewish state is singled out as a rogue state, in a world that contains so many horrible regimes.” (Globe and Mail, July 3, 2006.)
2. Dieudonné is a caricature who belongs in Michel Houellebecq’s The Possibility of an Island—as a more scurrilous version of the offensive French comedian known in the novel as Daniel 1—and not in the Almanach de Gotha of Quebec’s darling set. The fact that a man who makes Holocaust jokes is so lionized is deeply troubling.