If asked to choose between biting satire and libelous character assassination, which kind of writing do you think should be deemed dangerous and unacceptable?
If you said “libelous character assassination,” you would, of course, be right. If you refused to answer claiming it was a trick question, you’d also be right–”libel is a prosecutable offence; satire isn’t. If you answered “satire,” I suggest you move to Dick Cheney’s Amerika where you belong.
Now that we’re of one mind on this matter, perhaps, dear reader, you could help me make sense of two events that occurred over the last month. Let’s begin here.
Last issue I satirized a Monty Python sketch and a game show format to expose the dishonesty and hypocrisy of B’nai Brith Canada–”a pro-Israel pressure group that passes itself off as a human rights organization. Because I used the direct approach in a previous column,* I used a different style.
Satire is an especially effective device, but it can be misunderstood by those who don’t appreciate it. By all accounts the reaction was hostile. I expected zionists to blow a gasket, but I didn’t expect to be condemned by Arab and Muslim readers, who said I was too hard on B’nai Brith. Hmm.
When I think of the lack of respect our media shows toward Muslims or how our law virtually assumes them to be guilty until proven innocent, I wonder if they might not be partly to blame for their plight. How can Arabs and Muslims expect the political climate to improve if they rush to defend their enemy, assail one of their own publications, and develop laryngitis when one of their own is vilified.
On Aug. 13, Mohamed Elmasry, president of the Canadian Islamic Congress, issued a media communiquÃ© entitled “Islamic Congress Urges Re-examination of Two New Liberal Appointments: Strong Pro-Israel Voices in Foreign Affairs and National Security Making Canadian Muslims ‘nervous'”
In the first, Foreign Minister Pierre Pettigrew appointed Jonathan Schneiderman to be Middle-East advisor. Schneiderman is a former regional director for B’nai Brith Canada. Appointing a pro-Israel apologist to advise on policy in an area that overwhelmingly concerns Muslims is like appointing a klansman to give advice on black civil rights–”utterly inappropriate.
In the second, Deputy Prime Minister Anne McClellan appointed Leo Kolber to a two-year term as chairman of a new advisory council on national security. Kolber sits on the board of the Canada-Israel Committee, and since we know the Bush junta and the Israel Lobby are joined at the hip, the thought of Kolber influencing national security policy is most disquieting.
Each of these appointments appears to threaten Canada’s sovereignty and exacerbate Canada’s pro-zionist bias. Elmasry has every reason to be alarmed, and every Muslim–”every Canadian, for that matter–”should be thankful he had the courage to denounce this political atrocity. Yet, where’s the support?
The sound of silence emanating from Canada’s main national Arab organizations is also conspicuous. The Canadian Arab Federation and the National Council on Canada-Arab Relations both recently put out excellent statements of concern regarding anti-Arab discrimination by the Canada Security Intelligence Service, but neither organization said anything about the zionist appointments or Elmasry’s statement.
On the other hand, B’nai Brith and the Simon Wiesenthal Centre have been anything but quiet. They launched a vicious attack against Elmasry, all without one word of official protest.
Even if CAF and NCCAR didn’t share Elmasry’s concerns, they had a moral obligation to defend him against libel, lies and character assassinations. Perhaps, though, to call attention to these zionist tactics was too impolite.
If Muslim readers of this paper could become so agitated over my mocking of B’nai Brith and its pretense to honesty, they should have gone ballistic over the treatment Elmasry has received.
First out of the gate was none other than the B’nai Brith’s own Frank Dimant: “Elmasry has singled out these two individuals as unsuitable candidates for the simple reason that they are of Jewish background, with strong communal ties. Since when has it become acceptable to question an individual’s credentials on the basis of race, religion or ethnicity?”
This is libelous.
Nowhere did Elmasry mention that Kolber or Schneiderman were Jewish, and at no time did he make reference to “race, religion or ethnicity.” These two people make Muslims nervous because of their political credentials. The same would be true if non-Jewish zionists had been appointed. If someone like Jewish journalist Naomi Klein had been appointed to either of these positions, Elmasry would have had no reason to worry for the welfare of Muslims.
Dimant hid behind the Big Lie of “zionist = Jew,” under which those who express legitimate criticisms and condemnations of Israel and Israel’s agents can be vilified as anti-Jewish. By imputing to Elmasry a hateful view he does not hold, Dimant attacked his character and reputation. In law, this is called libel, and Dimant could be sued.
The same goes for Leo Adler, director of national affairs for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre: “In each instance, the underlying claim is that Canadian Jews have no loyalty or integrity and would abuse their status by subverting Canada’s well-being in favour of conspiracies and plans that favour Jewish or pro-Israeli interests, whatever those interests may be.”
The deceit in this passage is the use of “Canadian Jews” instead of “Canadian zionists.” If Adler had used the second term, he would have been correct, but to hide this obvious fact, he used the first. Even worse, Adler called Elmasry a bigot and incited the public to attack him through his professional associations and places of employment.
This is hatemongering and harassment at its most typical, and if the religions of the people in question were reversed it would be roundly denounced as “anti-Semitism.” Yet few seem to give a damn about what happens to Elmasry.
Muslims seem content to complain about bias, profiling, stereotyping–”you name it–”but when someone like Elmasry tries to address the cause of this bigotry, they shun him and sympathize with their oppressors.
How do Muslims in this country ever expect to accomplish anything?!
That’s what I can’t figure out.
* “B’nai Brith–”preposterous purveyor of propaganda,” Alberta Arab News, March 4, 2004.
– “Arab- and Muslim-Canadian Groups Deeply Concerned Over CSIS Practices,” Sept. 14, 2005.