Sanity in Canada?

May 16, 2010

In News The Israel-Palestine Conflict

Here’s a good-news story out of Montreal: Grassroots Jewish leaders are standing up to B’nai Brith’s cynical campaign to convince the world that Canada is a cesspool of violent anti-Semitism.

I last wrote about B’nai Brith in January when the organization issued a bizarre press release comparing the lack of female ski jumpers at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics to the policies of Adolf Hitler. This was part of a pattern of hysteria at BB, I noted: “Every year, B’nai Brith puts out an ‘audit’ of anti-Semitic incidents in Canada. And every year, the document is reported on by the mass media, which uncritically parrots the group’s absurd contention that anti-Semitism is a growing epidemic in this tolerant country. Reporters politely overlook the fact that B’nai Brith’s definition of ‘incident’ is dumbed down: Any web posting, stray comment, or scrap of graffiti fits the bill. This allows B’nai Brith to reel off thousands of examples. Most readers don’t stop to scrutinize how trivial these examples are: They just look at the impressive-seeming bar graphs, which purport to show a Jewish community in a constant state of terror. The result: Older Jews with dark historical memories become terrified, and the donations to B’nai Brith come rolling in.”

Fortunately, many Canadians have learned to tune BB out. But overseas, some folks still get duped. Earlier this month, for instance, the Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz ran an unfortunate article suggesting that Montreal’s Jews were living in fear of anti-Semitic gangs and criminals — an article apparently based on a front-page April 28 story in BB’s newspaper, The Jewish Tribune, titled “Crime wave targeting Jews in Montreal strikes fear in community.”

Today, the Canadian Jewish News presents a thorough debunking of the BB report, and it is gratifying to see that a number of Quebec Jews have stepped forward on this score. To quote from the CJN:

“Late last week, Quebec Jewish Congress president Adam Atlas and Rabbi Reuben Poupko, co-chair of the Jewish community’s security co-ordinating committee, strongly refuted suggestions made in the article that Jews are being singled out for targeting, that members of the community ‘are afraid to leave their homes,’ or that the Chabad community has recently seen a spike in violent incidents against it … Rabbi Poupko said Ha’aretz should have used better sources for its story. ‘I would have preferred if Ha’aretz had consulted with organizations that are actually based in Quebec, that have credibility in Quebec and know the scene well,’ Rabbi Poupko said. He added that B’nai Brith has ‘limited knowledge’ of Montreal and ‘limited credibility’ there. Even Rabbi Mendel Marasow, the executive director of Chabad’s Beth Rivkah Academy, who was quoted in the Tribune story as saying that ‘Jews make good targets,’ told The CJN last Friday that the Tribune article was ‘a non-story.'”

There is a trend here. Many newly assertive Canadian Jewish leaders are tired of B’nai Brith peddling old Fiddler on the Roof stereotypes of the Jews as an endlessly persecuted minority, always one step away from the next pogrom. That reality hasn’t existed in this country for 30 years. It’s something the people at B’nai Brith might want to keep that fact in mind the next time their leader asks his organization for a fresh mandate.

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