Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Name That Jewish Blogger

Bernie Farber tees off on...well...someone...during his Sabbath address at Shaar shalom synagogue. His topic is Tolerance and the Jewish concept of slander (known as motsi ra), and more specifically the incidents in the wake of Machetegate, including the blogosphere response to comments made on the topic by the CJC's Ontario regional director Len Rudman:

While Len was not misquoted, his comment was not placed in the clearest context, and this provided a certain blogger with the opportunity to engage in a vicious exercise of motsi ra. According to this blogger, Len and CJC were so intent on riding our censorship hobby-horse that we were incapable of seeing this for what it was: a physical attack on two students. Our view of the universe was so limited that all we could do was talk about the connection between words and actions. Len was, in the loud and proud words of this blogger, “too stupid to be a Jew”. He had other things to say as well, including derisive comments on a perceived physical disability that he wrongly claimed Len had.

Did I mention that the blogger in question is Jewish? Is this the way that one member of the community publicly speaks of another? By engaging in ad hominem attacks? By insulting another person’s intelligence, by referring to physical characteristics? This is the sort of thing one expects to find in the schoolyard. The behaviour is no less acceptable because the practitioner is in his 40s rather than 14. Indeed this was not a “one-off”. This same Jewish blogger who upholds the rights of neo-Nazis to malign Jews, has referred to other Jewish professionals as “liars, cowards, moochers” and has made consistent references to me as a “Nazi book-burner.”

And here comes the big windup:

He is not the only one. The blogosphere is sadly replete with bullies, jerks, racists, homophobes and bigots. But here my friends is the kicker, these same racist, bigots and misogynists all “love” Israel and as a result there are those in our community who will tolerate them even accept them. Accepting those who engage in motsi ra can never be OK….ever!

Again, no names are mentioned in the sermon, but I suspect the guy Bernie is referencing looks something like this.

PS. There's also a nice little shot at Israeli drivers. I thought they'd got better over the years, but maybe not.

32 comments:

Marky Mark said...

He will be attacked for his remarks by people who will be incapable of writing anything anywhere near as analytical. It's important not just for his remarks about the secret blogger's disgusting attack on Len Rudner but for the overall message.

And why again are claims of the use of a machete against Jews and Zionists inherently suspect?

Reality Bites said...

One problem with Judaism is there's no mechanism to excommunicate people. ;)

buckets said...

"And why again are claims of the use of a machete against Jews and Zionists inherently suspect?"

Not inherently in this case, but a specific result of the narrative that had initally been offered and its subsequent evolution.

Marky Mark said...

buckets,

The CJC is different than other organizations-among other things it believes in inter-faith dialogue and inter-community outreach-for this it is heavily criticized by many, especially those on the right for whom Islam=Jihad and Sharia.

however, the CJC also draws the line on the "new anti-Semitism" far differently than I would draw it and our submissions to CPCCA are quite different.

But I agree with Rudner's comments on the machete incident. He is saying that given the constant drumbeat from the far left and academia that Israel is a white supremacist state, it shouldn't be shocking that there are some crazies out there who interpret IAW, QAIA, etc. as license to bash some Jews. I wouldn't have thought that that position was terribly controversial but it is interesting that the same people who held Fox News responsible for the murder of Dr. Tiller aren't prepared to even listen to Rudner's point of view on this issue. It's as if to do so would be to prove the CJC point of view on the new anti-Semitism but I don't think you have to go there.

Holly Stick said...

What about the third person who accompanied the two who claim to have been machete chased? Is that person refusing to be a part of their narrative?

Marky Mark said...

I don't know. But what I do know is police investigations and criminal proceedings have their own time parameters and they don't dovetail with what people expect on blogs. You may be right and it may have been a hoax or an exageration, but the fact that people are so skeptical when they wouldn't have the same reaction to other alleged hate crimes is noteworthy. I believe that that skepticism is fueled by not wanting the Right to be right, but in my view that's a false premise.

Ti-Guy said...

but it is interesting that the same people who held Fox News responsible for the murder of Dr. Tiller aren't prepared to even listen to Rudner's point of view on this issue.

Who are these people, Marky?

Anyway, I think Farber is screaming into the void when he inveighs against malicious gossip and rumour-mongering. Not only do the masses thrive on it, but the elites live and breathe it.

The only way to stop Ezra is more libel suits and faster, please.

wv: "slatorg" A loose woman from planet Flernak?

buckets said...

I believe that that skepticism is fueled by not wanting the Right to be right….

I can only speak to my own motivations, but I can assure you that that's not the case for me. Are you sure that you aren't setting aside an appropriate level of skepticism out of a desire that "the Right" (an odd characterization in this case) might be wrong?

Marky Mark said...

Sorry buckets I'm having touble understanding the question. I hope the Right is wrong. But just because I disagree with their theories as a whole, in principle, doesn't mean that there can't ever be a case of a hate crime fueled by hatred of either Israel of Jews.

I'd add that if we had an actual accused person here, we'd have to worry about the presumption of innocence and so the claims of the accused would be subject to that presumption-or skepticism. But here all we have is a claim that something happened without yet having to worry about whether s particular individual has been falsely accused. The credibility of Bergamini has been questioned with the facts parsed as if we were all capable of forensics and without our knowing all of the facts at all. The way I approach it, I don't think the opening position should be that he is a liar any more than someone who says she was raped should be disrespected in that way.

Ti-Guy said...

Are you sure that you aren't setting aside an appropriate level of skepticism out of a desire that "the Right" (an odd characterization in this case) might be wrong?

What Marky's doing is attempting to downplay normal scepticism in the absence of compelling evidence to further a pet issue of his; that Israeli apartheid is a concept that is inherently antisemitic...or properly neo-antisemtic. All in a frankly Orwellian effort to narrow the scope of language to ultimately make any criticism of Israel impossible without it being someone's full-time job, the qualifications for which would have to be well beyond the scope of anyone but the most highly-educated people whose entire careers are focused on this one issue.

Marky Mark said...

What Marky's doing is attempting to downplay normal scepticism in the absence of compelling evidence to further a pet issue of his; that Israeli apartheid is a concept that is inherently antisemitic...or properly neo-antisemtic. All in a frankly Orwellian effort to narrow the scope of language to ultimately make any criticism of Israel impossible without it being someone's full-time job, the qualifications for which would have to be well beyond the scope of anyone but the most highly-educated people whose entire careers are focused on this one issue.

I hope that made you feel better Ti-Guy, since you know that's not my position at all. Feel free to provide links to where I've said that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism. I think it's nuts but that it can be debated on its merits-civilly and calmly.

But I don't like it when the real deal inserts itself into a good faith discussion, something that happens on occasion--as you well know-from having witnessed countless anti-Semitic tirades by arthurdecco with a detachment reminiscent of the Kitty Genovese incident.

But that's just blog talk. When we get to the level or real life assault and people react to it with unhealthy skepticism, that's a real life issue. So do you agree with what Farber and Rudner said or not? And, if not, why not?

And to buckets and Holly Stick, maybe you can explain for me exactly why we should be so skeptical of the story of this alleged victim? Is it these specific facts and supposed inconsistencies in the various news and second hand blog reports? Or is it the context with the claim that people were assaulted for their political beliefs and/or ethnic/religious identity inherently suspect?

Marky Mark said...

FYI here is an early draft of my submission to CPCCA with the final version on their site.

Ti-Guy said...

Feel free to provide links to where I've said that criticism of Israel is anti-Semitism.

I never asserted that. I specifically referred to "Israeli apartheid" as the target of what is now being condemned as anti-semitic or neo-antisemitic (a distinction which I maintain is irrelevant).

It's difficult to maintain this discussion with you for very long when you make fundamental and fairly significant errors in comprehension like that.

Marky Mark said...

And where have I said that using the term apartheid is anti-Semitic? I haven't.

Marky Mark said...

From my filed submission:

In that regard, while many Jewish (and other) Canadians may disagree with things like Israel Apartheid Week on university campuses, and may (and should, if they disagree) voice their displeasure at things like the label “apartheid” being applied to Israel, as a Jewish Canadian I do not think that the state should step in to control that debate.

Am I left to assume that it's not socially acceptable in liberal circles to even argue against Israel being labeled as a white supremacist state? Read the CJC submission as they and others say that that crosses the line into anti-Semitism. I didn't make that argument. But perhaps you'd rather deal with a straw man than actually articulate why the term actually fits.

Yariv said...

The entire sermon by Farber is veryimpressive. Its no wonder that these right wing loonies seem to have it in for him. Unlike them Farber is civil, articulate and many in his community like and respect him.

buckets said...

why we should be so skeptical of the story of this alleged victim? Is it these specific facts and supposed inconsistencies in the various news and second hand blog reports? Or is it the context with the claim that people were assaulted for their political beliefs and/or ethnic/religious identity inherently suspect?

You express concern that my skepticism is based on some ulterior motive and imply that it's because I have prejudged based on what I want to be true. The problem with that kind of argument is that it is so easily reversed. Is it me who is too skeptical because I'm a secret anti-semite? or you who is insufficiently skeptical because you're a secret Islamaphobe? No, let's leave all that aside.

The credibility of Bergamini has been questioned with the facts parsed as if we were all capable of forensics and without our knowing all of the facts at all.

We have to judge the story that's in front of us, and as I explained at the time, there were things about this one that sounded dubious. First, it was written at 4 am after a night of drinking and within (what?) 90 minutes of the second of two altercations. (Why weren't the police called after the first?) Second, the offered narrative suffers under what seems a dual purpose: it is partly written so as to demonstrate the virility of the author (who did well, on his own presentation, in a fight against the odds), but partly to demonstrate anti-Israeli intimidation. Third, the episode reads like a badly written screen play -- we're told things by the narrator that are difficult to see how he knew (the meaning of insults offered in Arabic, the arc taken by a knife/machete when one is running away, etc.).

Now, maybe all of this is the product of the narrator's poor communication skills -- he took a real event and made it sound unbelievable.

But my guess? There was a fight after a night of drinking. The fight was about politics -- maybe -- or perhaps the result of macho posturing, or macho posturing about politics. One side pulled a knife and the fight was over when the other side withdrew. Not long after the fight, one of its participants typed up a quick self-congratulatory description (still under the influence?) and posted it to facebook. By the time he woke up later that day, his story had gone viral and he had to defend his first version.

Now we know that some of the details of that first story were a little off. The second (?) -- but was there a first? -- fight was not two-on-three but three-on-three. But if 3-on-3 can become 2-on-3, what else can change? The Arabic insults? Was the machete a machete? a knife? etc.

One thing that would help me accept the received version. At what time was the police report filed? Was it at the time of the incident or later in the day?

Holly Stick said...

To begin with, Bergamini is trained as a Conservative politician = liar. And the story is not all that convincing.

I recall a bunch of university students telling their friends all about how they had been kidnapped by some guys with weapon. The friends may have believed for a short while, but soon developed scepticism, which was intelligent of them because it was not true.

Ti-Guy said...

Well, Marky, I'm at a loss as to what you object to with respect to the trope of "Israeli apartheid." It doesn't help that you blithely confound concepts by suggesting that "apartheid state" inherently means "a white supremacist state." Its genesis in South Africa of course explains that line of reasoning, but fundamentally, the concept refers to a state the civic order of which is characterised by the institutionalised "apartness" of classes of people based on criteria that are not democratically defensible in what is nonetheless thought of as (or claimed to be) a democracy.

Don't get me wrong; you have every right to challenge that particular fashion in the critique of Israel; I just wish you'd do it more from first principles, rather than resort to comparisons all the time to indicate that those who support it (or are not condemning it because they frankly don't care anymore) are somehow being inconsistent or hypocritical.

Marky Mark said...

Thanks buckets and HS-understood.

Ti-Guy,

Well, Marky, I'm at a loss as to what you object to with respect to the trope of "Israeli apartheid." It doesn't help that you blithely confound concepts by suggesting that "apartheid state" inherently means "a white supremacist state." Its genesis in South Africa of course explains that line of reasoning, but fundamentally, the concept refers to a state the civic order of which is characterised by the institutionalised "apartness" of classes of people based on criteria that are not democratically defensible in what is nonetheless thought of as (or claimed to be) a democracy.

Don't get me wrong; you have every right to challenge that particular fashion in the critique of Israel; I just wish you'd do it more from first principles, rather than resort to comparisons all the time to indicate that those who support it (or are not condemning it because they frankly don't care anymore) are somehow being inconsistent or hypocritical.


OK. In South Africa the regime believed in apartheid and wasn't shy about it. Whether "apartheid" existed or not was not in dispute. And I think it is fair to say that in the case of South Africa, white supremacism was part and parcel of apartheid.

In Israel, that doesn't hold. The basic concept of Zionism is that there is a people called the Jewish People and that that people is as much entitled to self-determination and statehood as any other people. And the genesis of the Zionist movement is a reaction to centuries of persecution, so to the extent that the idea is that Jewish nationalism is equivalent to racism or apartheid, that strikes a nerve.

In a sense all forms of nationalism inherently contain an element of discrimination, but today the only nation state in the world that I know of that is being attacked using the "A word" is Israel. Why? To say that that particular form of nationalism alone is equivalent to racism or apartheid is to discredit that form of nationalism alone, so presumably people are arguing that Israel alone has crossed some sort of a line. I think this needs to be substantiated and defended by those who pursue that line of attack.

I think that some who use the apartheid word don't really accept the legitimacy of Israel for its stated purpose irrespective of its borders. Hamas would be a good example.

...fundamentally, the concept refers to a state the civic order of which is characterised by the institutionalised "apartness" of classes of people based on criteria that are not democratically defensible in what is nonetheless thought of as (or claimed to be) a democracy.

This really goes to the core of it. If there is never a two state solution and Israel chooses to rule all the land between the river and the sea yet maintain its identity as a "Jewish state," then we'd be in that territory for sure,
but we're not there yet.

Unless and until we're in that situation, how does one distinguish between "legitimate" forms of nationalism or collective rights and illegitimate forms? Are Quebec's language laws legitimate or illegitimate?

Getting to the heart of it, what concerns me is a chasm between the core case for Israel and the historical liberal coalition, such that being pro-Israel on the left is now akin to being pro-choice at a Republican convention. I don't really mind if someone says that Policy X of Israel is tantamount to Apartheid (and some people in Israel make that argument all the time)-but if the argument really amounts to Zionism=Racism or Apartheid and that view becomes the dominant view on the left with hostility to the opposing view, I'd be very concerned.

sue said...

For me I am prepared to wait until the police finish their investigation before I jump all over this Gatineau machete story.

Back to Mr. Farber's sermon, I am thrilled that a Jewish leader has finally expressed how I feel about Jews like Levant and rightwing racist bloggers. Mr. Farber was kind enough not to name them (in sharp contrast to their uncivil, personal attacks that invade the blogosphere). Thanks for posting this BCL

Ti-Guy said...

Marky, I meant argue "Israeli Apartheid" with people who support it or care, not people like me, whose only interest in this issue is to note the Gleichshaltung that's being promoted with respect to public discussions of Israel/Palestine.

Marky Mark said...

Ti-Guy, I had to look up that term. and it's an interesting concept here. On the one hand you're saying people are trying to regulate how these issues are discussed. That's undeniably true, although with the exception of the Galloway ban that side has failed in all attempts that I know of. What I'm saying is that on the traditional left, arguing the core case for Israel is becoming socially unacceptable to the point that your term is quite apt to that phenomenon. So maybe we're both right. But as you think I know, what I care about more is that we not return to an era in Canada where anti-Semitism itself becomes socially acceptable let alone institutionalized. That seems highloy unlikely, but we need to be vigilant given not only our history but the undeniable passions when the ME is discussed. It's a fact that whenever something bad happens over there, like the wars in Lebanon and Gaza, attacks against Jewish Canadians increase.

Ti-Guy said...

But as you think I know, what I care about more is that we not return to an era in Canada where anti-Semitism itself becomes socially acceptable let alone institutionalized.

You don't have much faith in your fellow Canadians or our Charter, do you?

Not that I blame you. How quickly it's become acceptable to publicly vilify Arab- and Muslim-Canadians, not to mention a rotation of black, brown, beige, taupe and écru people depending on the issue du jour has come as a shock to me as well.

And God help me if another referendum happens in my lifetime...

Marky Mark said...

You don't have much faith in your fellow Canadians or our Charter, do you?

Not that I blame you. How quickly it's become acceptable to publicly vilify Arab- and Muslim-Canadians, not to mention a rotation of black, brown, beige, taupe and écru people depending on the issue du jour has come as a shock to me as well.

And God help me if another referendum happens in my lifetime...


I think traditional liberal principles are the answer-for all of us as individuals and as members of groups we may feel connected to. And boy do we have a good thing going in this country. God help us if we screw it up. And I thought Farber's remarks were terrific because he is saying that Israel isn't the be all and end all of issues that ought to matter to Jewish Canadians and that just because X supports Israel doesn't mean X is someone worth supporting.

Dr.Dawg said...

but the fact that people are so skeptical when they wouldn't have the same reaction to other alleged hate crimes is noteworthy.

Marky, you've been beating this drum from the beginning. Speaking for myself, the story sounded far too pat, and from a highly-motivated source. I kept my suspicions to myself for awhile, but finally felt moved to comment as time went on.

Now all we have is the legend, endlessly repeated, to marvellous political effect. Where's the beef?

bigcitylib said...

Dawg, Beef could arrive in a day or two. If I'm wrong I donate $25 to Likud.

Marky Mark said...

You've lost me-beef which way? (And if you're going to make a donation at least pick something where you get a tax receipt!)

Ti-Guy said...

I agree. Farber's remarks are welcome. I'd say timely as well, but they are, in fact, long overdue.

That brings me back to the comment you made about not wanting the Right to be right or correct. I'm guilty of that only because I will *not* make common cause with certain people so long as they are associating with other types of people I am convinced are radicals, extremists or otherwise objectionable and unreachable or themselves invested in causes I would never support. A lot of principled individuals have made that mistake and have come back from the experience traumatised and heart-broken.

As a Christian, I'm all too familiar with the entrenched and irremediable bigotry of the paranoid Christian Right (sometimes articulated in the Godliest of terms, mind you), which includes Catholics as well and whose targets vary, depending on what threat is currently the one great evil we all must confront.

bigcitylib said...

MM,

Beef one way or another. Last week I was told Gatineau police should be coming out with something in "a couple of days".

Liona Campbell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Liona Campbell said...

I just want to emphasize the dfference between a blogger like Mr. Levant and Mr. Farber. Ezra Levant has really only one tactic to humiliae, namecall and very often to fib. Mr. Farber in a precise manner using Jewish thought and interpetation of Jewish law and tradition explains why people like Mr. Levant are parriahs. It is why Bernie Farber, agree with him or not on issues, is widely respected and Mr. Levant widely scorned.