Monday, December 27, 2021

“A Tale of Two Tropes or What Systemic Antisemitism Looks Like” by Brian Henry

 

Toronto District School Board Trustee Alexandra Lulka

In a recent scandal, Javier Dávila, a teacher with the Toronto District School Board was found to be distributing “resources to educators” that included links to grossly antisemitic material, promotion of suicide bombings, and glorification of terrorists.

School Trustee Alexandra Lulka took to Twitter: “This is reprehensible,” she wrote. “These materials were provided by an employee from the TDSB equity department, the very department that should be countering antisemitism and violence, not fanning the flames.”

Lulka shouldn’t have been surprised; equity, inclusion and diversity officers as a group have long since been captured by the cult that worships at the altar of antizionism, which is how antisemitism shows itself on the left.

The Heritage Foundation recently reviewed the twitter output of 741 equity, inclusion and diversity staff at American universities on the topic of Israel and, for comparison, China. 

China is a police state with a notoriously horrific human rights record (see here and here for starters). In contrast, Israel is a liberal democracy that aspires to protect everyone’s human rights. It’s the only state in the region in which anyone at all enjoys full civil rights, and Israelis enjoy their rights regardless of whether they’re Muslim, Christian or Jew. It’s not perfect (what state is?), but Israel does a fair job of providing a decent place for people to live.  

Don’t take my word for it; ask Palestinians. Recently, Shfa News, a Palestinian news network, polled Palestinians in Jerusalem, asking if they’d prefer Israel to keep control of the entire city or transfer control to the Palestinian Authority. Only 3% wanted to end Israeli sovereignty. Asked if they would trade their Israeli identity card for a Palestinian Authority ID, only .4% – 5 out of 1,200 – said yes. (See here.)

In contrast, equity staff have a deranged view of Israel and an obsession with it. They tweeted about Israel three times as often as about China, and while most of their China tweets were positive (62%), their Israel tweets were overwhelmingly negative (96%). And they weren’t criticisms of policy; they were accusations of “apartheid,” “genocide,” “settler colonialism,” “ethnic cleansing,” … the usual demonization meant to denounce Israel as illegitimate, as a place that should not exist. (See here).

Such accusations, wholly untethered to reality, are directed against only one state in the world, which happens to be the world’s one Jewish state.

After an investigation, Javier Dávila was returned to the classroom, reportedly with no punishment or reprimand for distributing antisemitic material.

Trustee Lulka's statement posted on Twitter and found
by a supposed human rights expert to be Islamophobic.
Lulka also posted a link to a Toronto Sun article that
details some of the material Davila distributed (see here). 

Trustee Lulka, though, was investigated by the School Board for her tweets objecting to this material. Relying on “an Independent Investigator expert in Human Rights, Harassment and Discrimination” (here), the school board’s Integrity Commissioner recommended that Lulka be formally censured. 

The Commissioner decided that the resources distributed by Dávila did include material that was antisemitic and that promoted terrorism and praised terrorists, but  Lulka’s denunciation unintentionally raised the stereotype of Muslims or Palestinians as terrorists. 

Lulka ought to have explicitly praised the non-antisemitic and non-terrorism-endorsing material distributed by Dávila,as important, positive pro-Palestinian discourse,” and her failure to endorse Dávila’s material fed into Islamophobic tropes, so said the expert.

Fortunately, the school board defeated this wonky recommendation by a vote of 10 to 7.

I suspect that some of those seven who voted to censure Lulka did so because they’re antizionist; meaning they will support anything, no matter how vile or preposterous, as long as it’s directed against Israel. But most of those seven trustees were likely just befuddled. A long, bureaucratic, hard-to-follow report – a torture to read – gave a supposedly expert opinion that Lulka’s tweets were somehow Islamophobic.

The problem is with the human rights “experts.” One of the supposed experts who investigated Lulka was Morgan Sim. During Hamas’s recent war against Israel, Sim liked a tweet that slandered Israel as committing genocide against Palestinians – one of those charges with no basis in reality but meant to paint Israel as an illegitimate state.

And she liked another tweet that praised: “the Palestinian resistance (Hamas PFLP, Islamic Jihad)” for “primarily taget(ting) Israeli military sites” with their “homemade rockets,” while slandering Israel as targeting civilians.

Canada, along with the rest of the democratic world, has designated Hamas, the PFLP, and Islamic Jihad as terrorist organizations, precisely because of their long-standing policy of deliberately targeting civilians. Yet this is the “Palestinian resistance” Sim apparently likes.

Colonel Richard Kemp, formerly commander of British forces in Afghanistan, gives his professional opinion of the ethics of Israel's armed forces here.

The “homemade rockets” fired by these groups, may carry 150 kg (330 lbs) of explosives (see here), but can’t be aimed at anything smaller than a town, and during Hamas’s several wars against Israel have never hit a military target, not even by accident. They do, however, frequently miss Israel altogether and explode within Gaza, where they often kill or maim Palestinian civilians rather than the innocent Israelis they’re meant to murder. (Regarding the 2021 conflict, see here; regarding the 2014 conflict, here.)

This is a strange activity for a human rights expert to be liking. But maybe Morgan Sim hasn’t noticed what terrorists do. Or maybe it’s the school she went to.

Sim was schooled in human rights at the University of Toronto. There a Law School hiring committee recently voted unanimously to hire Valentina Azarova to direct the school’s human rights department. 

Azarova has worked for al-Haq, an organization with close ties to the PFLP terrorist group. The director of al-Haq is a former senior PFLP operative who has spent prison time for multiple terrorism offences. Al-Haq spends much of its time promoting the BDS movement, which seeks to paint Israel as an illegitimate, apartheid state that should not exist and encourages people to shut Israelis out of our shared humanity. (See here.)

In 2018, credit card companies ceased processing funds for al-Haq because of its ties to terrorism (see here) and Israel recently designated al-Haq as a terrorist organization, meaning that it doesn’t only have close ties to the PFLP but is directly controlled by it and channels funding to it (see here).  

Besides her work for al-Haq, Azarova’s career has been devoted to a single-minded effort to attack Israel. This was presumably why the law school hiring committee wanted her, because really, she has nothing else to offer. {For a detailed assessment of Azarova’s work see here.}

Fortunately, Azarova wasn’t eligible to work in Canada and so her application was rejected. There was a huge outcry over this rejection and supposed outside interference in the hiring process. One of those protesting most loudly on Azarova’s behalf was Morgan Sim. (More commentary here).

This is the state of affairs in Canada and the States today: equity officers, law schools, and human rights advocates – the people we expect to be standing up for the rights of everybody, regardless of ethnicity, religion, or nationality – tend to have a marked bias against one ethnicity, one religion, and especially one nationality.

Beyond falsely accusing Israel of genocide, this tweet, liked by Morgan Sim, plays on the trope of Israelis as the new Nazis. Both the far left and far right have tried to reframe the Holocasust as a Jewish crime; the right by saying the Holocaust was a Jewish hoax; the left by saying Jews are now the Nazis. 

I’ll close with a final example. Back in 2010 I complained about a novel, The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, which had been recommended by the Ontario Library Association and that schools throughout Ontario were encouraging kids in grades 7 and 8 to read. 

The novel presents Israelis and Jews as killers and thieves and especially as child-killers.

For example, on page 180, the Palestinian heroine of the story says: “Your God says kill us?  Steal our land?” The Jewish boy replies: “They don’t see it as stealing. They’ll provoke you, kill you.”

On page 61, an Israeli soldier at a checkpoint, tells an innocent kid: “We shoot Palestinian boys.”

Why? No explanation is given for the brutality permeating this novel. Apparently, Israelis are just monsters; the Jewish God tells them to kill.

In the long history of antisemitism, the nastiest antisemitic trope is the blood libel, the notion that Jews like to kill people, particularly children. The Shepard’s Granddaughter is a contemporary example.

As far as I know, it’s still in school libraries across the province, probably across the country. In Toronto, a committee was struck to assess my complaint. The committee – including an Equity Officer and a consultant from the Urban Alliance on Race Relations – determined the novel was controversial but fine, that it didn’t promote “hate or animosity toward others.”

The Shepard’s Granddaughter is one of the teaching materials recommended by Javier Dávila - and which the Independent Investigator had no objection to  indeed it seems to be a book the Investigator thought Lulka should be praising and that it was racist for Lulka not to praise it. According to the Independent Investigator these materials “were intended to, and do for the most part: (1) center the voices of marginalized Palestinians (particularly those of Palestinian children).”

How? By calling Jews child-killers? This seems to be a trope that equity officers and human rights experts are not just blind to but actually embrace.

This is what systemic antisemitism looks like.

Footnote: In a recent article on antisemitism at the University of Toronto's medical school, Ayelet Kuper – who the school employs as an advisor on antisemitism  notes that it was the Equity Diversity and Inclusion crew who were most likely to bully Jews,. See here.     

Brian Henry is a writer, editor, creative writing instructor, and publisher of the Quick Brown Fox blog. He’s written opinion pieces for the National Post and The Toronto Star. He was also a regular contributor to the (now defunct) Jewish Tribune and the Engage and Harry’s Place websites in the UK. This piece was previously pbublished on TheJ.ca, the Canadian Jewish community's online journal of news and opinion. 

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