Tuesday, October 5, 2010

B'nai Brith is a Laughingstock

Last week's controversy over a cartoon in an Ottawa newspaper (and reprinted online) drawn by Guy Badeaux has actually sparked a row between two Jewish lobby groups, one claiming that the cartoon is antisemitic and the other scoffing at the idea. LINK

The B'nai Brith, a self-proclaimed representative of Canada's Jewish community, accused the cartoonist of inferring in his cartoon, that Canadian Jews control Parliament. The cartoon in question had a Jewish Star placed in the face of Parliament's clock tower.
The cartoonist said the depiction was inadvertent and that it was just a representation of the the clock face, which actually does have a Jewish Star buried it's artwork.
“The caricature plays into vicious and baseless age-old stereotypes of a Jewish conspiracy of control,” said Moïse Moghrabi, Quebec Chair of The League for Human Rights of B’nai Brith Canada."- B'nai Brith
B'nai Brith admits that it never even bothered to get Mr. Badeaux's take on the cartoon, thus demonstrating appalling arrogance and a profound absence of fair play. Labelling someone a racist, without checking the facts is an unpardonable sin, especially when it is done on a organizational level.

Mr. Badeaux's explanation that the depiction was inadvertent seems to be reasonable and his reputation and his friends (many Jewish) back him up.

In accepting B'nai Brith's theory over Mr. Badeaux's explanation, one would have to violate the principle of Occam's Razor, which postulates that "the simplest explanation is usually the correct one".

Faced with a barrage of criticism from all quarters, including the premier Jewish lobby group, the Canadian Jewish Congress, B'nai  Brith reacted the way most self-righteous and moralistic organizations would, they dug in their heels, claiming that they weren't satisfied with the explanation.
"Despite both Badeaux’s and Congress’ claims that the cartoon was innocuous, a Sept. 22 statement by B’nai Brith re-iterated the organization’s belief that it was aimed at the Jewish community." LINK
For that, they have become a laughingstock.

Bernie Farber of the Canadian Jewish Congress, reacted strongly in Mr. Badeaux's defence;
"There is a Star of David on the face of the Peace Tower clock, there is. He has used it not for the first time in a caricature he has done," Farber said. "This has nothing to do with anti-Semitism and everything to do with a cartoonist who was trying to depict the Peace Tower. It was very legitimate." LINK
Farber was incensed that B’nai Brith  did not seemingly “check all the facts” about Badeaux and decided to label him an anti-Semite “when he clearly isn’t. We have to set the record straight.”  LINK
I don't know Moïse Moghrabi, chair of B’nai Brith Canada’s, Quebec region of the League for Human Rights, who levelled the accusations on behalf of the organization, but he certainly deserves to get the sack. Anything less and any semblance of legitimacy, evaporates.

It is ironic that the only reputation damaged in the whole affair, is that of the B'nai Brith, itself.

I've never been a fan of unelected lobby groups presuming to speak on behalf of whole communities, be they Jewish, Italian or whatnot. That includes both the Quebec Jewish Congress and the B'nai Brith and perhaps by saying so, Mr. Moghrabi will label this blog as antisemitic, as well. So be it.
It is impertinent for these organizations to lobby in the name of all Jews. Their position on Israel, on education, language issues and even antisemitism may represent what many Jews believe, but certainly not all. They are elitist organizations that presume quite a bit.
The Quebec Jewish Congress' lobbying on behalf of Hassidic schools that clearly break the education laws certainly does not reflect well on the community and the generally negative reaction has affected the entire Jewish community's standing. LINK
Another major gaffe was the organization's push to influence Premier Jean Charest to increase funding to private Jewish schools, an incident that backfired so badly that it was likely the tipping point in the 'Reasonable Accommodation" debate.

As for it's most important role, denouncing antisemitism, the above brouhaha with Mr. Badeaux is sad proof that many of the accusations of antisemitism are clear over-reactions.

Although antisemitism is a problem, not every crime committed against a Jew is antisemitism. By crying wolf at every slight, imagined or real, B'nai Brith does a disservice to those it claims to protect.

Last month a Catholic cemetery in Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu suffered an appalling attack of vandalism, with over 90 gravestones defaced.  LINK
Was it a case of anti-Catholic racism or an act of stupidity, more likely perpetrated by rowdy youth?

Had it been a Jewish cemetery, I've no doubt that Mr. Moghrabi would be screaming antisemitism.

Don't get me wrong, I am in no way belittling the  problem of racism that Jews and other minorities (especially Muslims) face, but overreacting and 'crying wolf' doesn't help.

B'nai Brith should be ashamed of their actions and apologize to Mr. Badeaux.  If they don't, they lose any moral authority that they claim. For the organization, it's time to suck it up and do the right thing, otherwise, just go away.


  1. Mississauga Guy's Rebuttal...1 of 2

    Dear Editor:

    You told us readers last week you'd give this issue equal time to the MacLean's fiasco. You specifically warned me I wouldn't like it, and I must state you didn't fail to disappoint. I DON'T like it.

    Nevertheless, there definitely are two schools of thought on this right within the Jewish community as you didn't fail to point out. I don't know much about Guy Badeaux, so it would not be reasonable for me to pass judgment on Mr. Badeaux's views.

    That the Canadian Jewish Congress did not admonish Mr. Badeaux does give him some credibility; nevertheless, I will not write harsh words of Mr. Farber or B'Nai Brith in general.

    Why did Mr. Badeaux use the less conspicuous six-point star on the clock face instead of the bolder Roman numerals and hands of the clock? That the six-point star on the clock has NOTHING to do with Judaism is enough to make one wonder, and there has been no shortage of blatant anti-Sematism in Quebec.

    A few years ago, a young religious Jewish adolescent wearing conspicuous garb was caught on a security camera walking and minding his own business when some bully came running to him and started beating upon him. The punk was never provoked in any way.

    A few years ago in Quebec cottage country (Val David), summer cottages owned by Jews were set on fire and/or had their plumbing sabotaged. I watched the CTV newscast where a reporter talked with a [French speaking] resident there who blatantly said "those people" aren't friendly. You can say "hello" to them and they don't respond. Is THAT a reason to torch their homes and wreck their plumbing? The SQ seemed to have better things to do than help Jewish people. I never heard of these cases being solved by the SQ.

    Abbé Lionel Groulx was a much revered clergyman, so much so there is a mountain range in Quebec named after him, a major Metro station, streets, schools, etc. As editor of Le Devoir, the late Claude Ryan couldn't write enough accolades about this blatant anti-Semite. Mordechai Richler in his book Oh Canada! Oh Quebec! also mentioned some radio evangelist [I don't recall his name] who spewed vitriol over the airwaves constantly blaming it on the Jews during the depression. After all, somebody had to take the fall for the economic woes of the day!

    I used to be an employee for the now defunct Pascal Hardware chain. Pascal's was a very successful family business that grew into over two dozen stores, mostly in the Montreal area, but it grew as far as Saint John, NB in the East and Toronto in the West. They also expanded into the furniture business. It was founded by Jacob in 1903, was very successfully grown by his four sons, and then the whole empire annihilated by Sydney, his grandson, by 1992, the imbecile that he was.

    Anyway I digress. During my tenure as a student working part-time there, some nationalist yo-yo was issuing threats at me (he was about six inches shorter than I was), making endless anti-Semitic innuendoes for my consumption. I reminded him his employer is a Jewish family, but that didn't seem to stop him. Some other cohorts became his allies adding innuendoes of their own. I let them know I would only be too happy to alert the Pascal family of their views since he was biting on the hand that was feeding him. Eventually he and his friends stopped snapping at me, but they didn't shut up. A friend of mine who stayed on after I left Pascal's sometime later told me this one little impudent imbecile kept on looking for fights, but he was quickly stopped by a broadly-built fellow employee who stood 6'6" tall.

  2. Mississauga Guy's Rebuttal...2 of 2

    I had friends who worked at the Steinberg store nearby, and the situation there was even worse. Too bad some people have an attitude about who enables them to put bread and butter on their tables.

    Imagine that. Here are people being hired by two formerly prominent Jewish families and that was how they showed their appreciation. Envious ignoramuses!

    I also used to have a «pur laine» neighbour who was immersed in my English speaking Jewish neighbourhood. He couldn't speak English, so we spoke to him in French. It was obvious he was an out-and-out separatist, but he was friendly and quite the handyman, or he was able to point us out to people with good expertise in different areas. I ran into him once at a repair garage (his recommendation) to have minor maintenance to my vehicle and he was there. A neighbour passed away, and during the conversation, knowing full well I'm Jewish, made a crack about Jews having $$$$. Where did THAT come from, esp. since he well knew he was living smack dab in the middle of a predominantly Jewish neighbourhood?

    Does all this imply all «pur lainers» are anti-Semitic? Far from it, but on the other hand, when you add up the score, it's not a long stretch to imagine where the ignorance comes from, inside and outside Quebec.

    Several months ago you wrote about the level of ignorance regarding the definition of secular amongst Sagueneens [i.e., secular = Catholic]. You also wrote about Louise Beaudoin and other fascists of her ilk and how they're trying to develop a "social contract" with how the citizenry should serve the state, and what THEIR definition of secularism is.

    The Bouchard-Taylor Commission brought out enough hateful, vitriolic, racist bigots to the fore. It was the ignorant Hérouxville outcry that started that, and Charest's way of deflecting the problem at a $5 million cost to the taxpayer.

    Again, even if Mr. Badeaux's cartoon was misconstrued, taking the above into account, it's not a long stretch to understand why B'Nai Brith reacted the way it did. I would have thought twice before condemning Mr. Farber et al.

  3. The author of this blog has written a good article. The Toronto guy.

  4. I understand that the Jewish people endured plenty of hardship during the Holocaust and I do know that in the Western world there is a feeling of resentment from some towards them.

    However, I do think that it gets overboard in the way they keep on reminding us that they are the victims of oppression, in one way or the other. Hey, I am a visible minority. Do you think I do not get discriminated or remarked in racist ways? But I do not go out and remind people every day about it.

    That goe also with anti-semitism. Not everything about Jewish is anti-semitism. If I do not like someone who happens to be Jewish, I am not necessarily anti-Smitic, are I? Same with symbolism that may or may not be Jewish. And my big objection of all is to treat criticism to the State of Israel as an act of anti-semitism and an offense to the whole Jewish community.

    Look, if one does not like the policy of the People's Republic of China, does that mean that one is being offensive to Chinese everywhere?

  5. Troy is right. Not every comment about Israel is anti-semetic.
    The reason I make these comments is not because I'm anti-semetic. I'm Jewish.
    Calling anything remotely anti-Israel or anti-someone-who-happens to be Jewish anti-semitism actualy bothers me a lot. It takes the focus away from the real Jew haters.
    These over zealous responses to minimal offenses are the exact same shit the republicans and separatists do. You can't make a minor comment about them without being called a communist or a Quebec basher.

    Having said that, heads of state shouldn't make fun of the holocaust (Italy) or denying it (Iram).

  6. Mississauga Guy concluded...

    This article didn't draw much attention, so at least thankfully, the trolls stayed in their caves. I guess I can call that a win.

    Toronto Guy, this is your opinion, so be it.

    Troy, just about every minority, especially those who are visible, always complain they are racially profiled. The police target them, blah blah blah, and ever since the O.J. Simpson trial, it's called "playing the racial card". If all that has been written on "the evil Jews" was stacked up vertically, it would go straight up from Ground Zero, probably to the moon!

    Even that great document on democracy, a.k.a., the Magna Charta, contains discrimination against Jews, and it goes back to the year 1215 A.D. The Merchant of Venice, a Shakespeare play, is anti-Semitic. Very few newspapers are pro-Israel that you don't even know it when an article is written condescendingly against Israel. Many of the stories are half-truths.

    Just a few short decades ago, a story came out of Malone, a small town in Upper New York State by the St. Lawrence River, about Jews drinking the blood of Christian children. It was red wine they were drinking.

    A couple of more subtle examples: 1) I dated a Catholic classmate in college a couple of times. Her parents talked about a particular Jewish family they knew and how smart these people were. 2) This woman I work with from El Salvador told me stories about rich Jewish families and their enterprises in El Salvador. I for one am not rich, and I'm struggling just ot hold onto what I have, and I can easily introduce you to Jewish people who are complete village idiots.

    I know Jewish and non-Jewish families that are so dysfunctional their children will likely mount to nothing, and I know Jewish and non-Jewish families who came to Canada with little, instilled good family values, an honest work ethic, and the importance of education for their children.

    Aside from some of our religious rituals, our sabbaths being on different days and perhaps our dietary laws (although I do not observe mine), are we really that different?

    Judaism focuses on the family and the community. Israel has only been around for going on 63 years, but it is enormously successful because most people work in community to build and improve the nation, assisted by the Jewish diaspora. It's probably the only nation that is truly a democracy, holding elections periodically and regularly. They're not out to kill each other like some of the states around them. No coup d'états or anything of the sort. Saudi Arabia and Jordan are unelected monarchies, Iran was a monarchy defeated by a religious zealot via a virtual coup d'état and is not a nice country to live in.

    We know about Saddam Hussein, and how the vacuum has been filled since his deposition. Syria: Owned by the Assaads; Egypt? How many presidents since the death of Anwar Sadat? Answer: ONE! Lebanon: Torn apart by civil strife! Need I go on?

    Ignorance is bliss. Case closed!

  7. To the editor:

    Wow, after reading this latest entry, it is YOUR editorials which have become a laughingstock. The article comparing Howard Galganov with Darth Vader also comes to mind, or more recently, your disapproval of Maclean's magazine for publishing an article about Quebec's corruption.

    Are you really that obtuse to believe this political cartoon wasn't anti-semitic? I've been following your writings for several months and I don't believe that, you certainly are an intelligent and observant person. Which leads me to believe you must be one of those anglo appeasers. If you side enough with the French Quebecois racists, then perhaps they'll leave us alone and move along. Perhaps they'll even change their tune and become our friends. There were Jews who sympathized with the Nazis' hate of them and let me tell you, it did not do them any good. They were sent off to the camps to die, regardless of how much appeasement they gave.

    Why would the cartoonist choose something so obscure and hidden in the clock tower? Why would he just not draw clock hands, or at the very least, more points to that star? LOOK AT IT, that is a damn Jewish star. No ands, if or buts. If Guy Badeaux has any lick of intelligence whatsoever, he'd stop and think "Oh, wait, I've clearly drawn a Jewish star. People might take it the wrong way". Better yet, you would think the publishers and editors of a MAINSTREAM French newspaper would catch that and refuse to publish that cartoon as-is.

    Trust me though, the cartoonist was aware, as were the editors and publishers. And the message was about Jews holding power and control in government, and how that's a slippery slop. More than that, it's suggesting it's a danger (like the sign pointing out "danger") and that action should be taken.

    Racism in Quebec goes uncontrolled and ignored. It is a volcano on the verge of erupting, and oh mark my words, it will! In violence. I don't know what's more scary, the people who produce blatant hate cartoons, or the people (like yourself) who defend them and pretend it's not there.

  8. Mississauga Guy to Apple IIGS:

    Excellent article, bravo, consider yourself high-fived by yours truly!

  9. Antisemitic material should be judged objectively not subjectively.
    The fact that BB didn't get Badeaux's take on the cartoon in no way changes the fact that it has antisemitic connotations, i.e. that the Canadian Parlement is headed in a slippery slope while controlled by jews (their star of David. Already racists websites are hailing Badeaux for daring to "say the truth".
    BB never said that Badeaux was antisemitic but rather that he and the editors of the Paper were inconsiderate by not taking into account what the cartoon could mean to antisemites who are already pushing the conspiracy theory that Jews controle governments and the Canadian one in particular.
    One does not have to be antisemitic to draw an antisemitic cartoon.
    Reading all the press releases from Bnai Brith, I think they went out of their way not to condemn Badeaux personally and just stuck to the cartoon and what it represented.

  10. To the Anonymous guy who went on and on about the neighbours of Israel. You conveniently forgot to mention, Turkey (a Muslim nation) is a Democracy. Like most countries in the region, it has it's problems, but Turkey is a legitimate democracy. Israel is a democracy, but not long ago, Israel elected a brutal butcher named Ariel Sharon. Moreover, Hamas (another brutal regime) was also democratically elected, so your "democracy" point is immaterial. P.S. Jewish minorities (and all minorities) do face discrimination and they must be protected.