Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Are you an antisemite? Am I?

A blessing found in a ditch

I am an anti-Semite . . .

at least according to Minister of Public Safety, Steven Blaney,  who has characterized criticism of Israeli actions as a new antisemitism. I support the efforts of Christian Peacemaker Teams as they accompany Palestinian children to school to protect them from harassment by West Bank settlers and Israeli soldiers. I applaud the United Church and Quakers for speaking up for a humane, negotiated settlement of the Israel/Palestine question.

Ergo, I am on the side of Jew haters . . . according to Blaney.

If Blaney is incapable of separating genuine concern for the future of all people in the Middle East from holocaust-style antisemitism, he ought not be in charge of a government department. Antisemitism exists, of course. Terrorism and extremism too. Guarding against both is logically an important task for the Ministry of Public Safety. In his naivete, Blaney has actually encouraged the conflating of Jewish ethnicity with the secular state of Israel, an action that will promote rather than discourage antisemitic sentiments in people.

These pronouncements can't, of course, be separated from the election campaign. Indeed, all utterances coming from politicians from now until October have to be seen in the light of that reality. The rhetoric surrounding terrorism and related subjects coming from the Harper government recently seems to be painting the world as a place pervaded by evil, where citizens are in imminent danger and the current government is very decisively and wisely taking the necessary steps to protect them.

Something had to be found to redirect our attention when the economy began to tank.

I know persons who staunchly believe that the citizens of present-day Israel are the living remnant of the Children of Israel in the Old Testament. That's not an illogical conclusion as regards genetics and religious tradition. Another reading of the history will show that the Children of Israel were being punished for their error as often as they were being blessed for their faithfulness. Either way, any conclusion about the legitimacy of the state of Israel as it exists today can't possibly exclude the raising of concerns regarding those actions it takes that directly affect its neighbours.

A hallmark of naivete is the promotion of simple answers to complex questions. If campaigning politicians are banking on the electorate swallowing simple answers, they may well be shrewd.

Shrewd, however, is not necessarily wise, and to attempt to castigate and muzzle organizations that promote a negotiated settlement and the rule of law in Palestine is clearly a case of shrewdness trumping wisdom.

Short-term gain for long-term pain, I'm afraid.

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