Tag Archives: Jewish Defence League

Why do politicians align with extremist JDL?

Was he a victim of an anti-Semitic attack or a violent, racist, right-wing provocateur?

On Saturday evening some 5,000 international justice minded individuals packed Toronto’s Nathan Phillips Square. Dozens, maybe hundreds, within the pro-Palestinian crowd were Jewish.

At the same time a counterprotest was held by Canada’s most influential and best organized fascistic group. About 100 Jewish Defence League members and supporters rallied in the hope of provoking or instigating a conflict. They succeeded and by the next morning the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and B’nai B’rith were claiming a 55-year old Jewish man was beaten by pro-Palestinian protesters. By Sunday evening Toronto Mayor John Tory, Ontario premier Doug Ford, Conservative party leader Erin O’Toole and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had all tweeted out about anti-Semitism at protests.

There is, of course, more to this story. Footage has emerged of the main “victim” – who is actually on the cover of a press release titled “CIJA Concerned by wave of violence and antisemitism connected to conflict in the Middle East” — wielding a knife and swinging a bat. Another video shows a JDL member swinging a stick wildly at another individual.

It is altogether unsurprising that the JDL would instigate a confrontation and then other Israel lobby groups would claim Jews were being attacked. A variation of this has taken place on numerous occasions. What was different on this occasion is that the JDL thugs appear to have bit off a bit more than they could chew and ended up running away.

With the tacit support of the Jewish establishment, the JDL have been a thuggish, racist, force in Toronto for half a century. During a stint living in Toronto in 2014 I was shocked to see the JDL in action and it altered my perspective on what drives Canadian policy on Israel. Amidst Israel’s brutal assault on Gaza that left over 2,100 Palestinians dead that year, I was shoved, had my bike damaged and lock stolen by members of the JDL at a protest on the grounds of the Ontario legislature. The following day at Queen’s Park, a JDL member who worked with children at the Schwartz/Reisman Jewish Community Centre and was on a B’nai Brith softball team, Isaac Ezra Nacson, knocked a pro-Palestinian counter demonstrator to the ground and kicked him in the face. Half an hour after Nacson’s attack, a JDL member walked some 50 metres around a barricade to where I was standing alone chanting at the pro-war rally and spat on me three times. Both incidents were caught on tape by major media outlets, but little was done.

Since that time the JDL has engaged in numerous violent acts and deepened its ties to the racist, far right. In the highest profile incident, a mob organized by JDL Toronto attacked counter-protesters at the 2017 American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) conference in Washington, DC. They burned a Quran and tore a Palestinian flag. In the worst incident, a 55 year-old Palestinian-American teacher was punched, kicked and hit with flagpoles. Bruised across his body, Kamal Nayfeh needed 18 stitches around his eye. Thornhill JDL member Yosef Steynovitz was charged with assault causing significant injury and a hate crime.

Last summer JDL supporter Tamara Foster vandalized Foodbenders, a sandwich shop with “I Love Gaza” painted on its window. Similar to what Jewish supremacist settlers do to Palestinian homes in the occupied West Bank, Foster painted the Star of David onto the restaurant window. Soon after Foster’s vandalism, the JDL held a rally in front of the restaurant and during their hate fest they scrubbed off “Palestinian Lives Matter” and “Free Palestine” markings while making racist remarks.

As part of preparing a defamation lawsuit against the JDL on behalf of Foodbenders, lawyer Stephen Ellis has dug into the organization and its long-time leader, Meir Weinstein’s, history of violence and racism:

  • In 1976 JDL members were arrested for setting off a bomb at the Toronto home of anti-Jewish mayoral candidate Don Andrews.
  • Five years later the JDL announced its members were arming themselves and engaging in target practice in farms around Toronto, reported the Globe and Mail in a story titled “Leader of JDL says members arming selves”.
  • In 1983 twenty JDL members “shouted, kicked doors and cut a television cable at the Willowdale home of Nicaragua’s Consul-General”, reported the Globe and Mail. They claimed the leftist Sandinista government was anti-Jewish.
  • In 1986 JDL members attempted to assault anti-Semitic activist Terry Long.
  • In 2001 JDL was thought to be responsible for death threats leveled against the pro-Palestinian Concordia Student Union.
  • In 2007 two JDL activists were arrested for assaulting anti-Jewish activist Paul Fromm.
  • In 2011 the RCMP launched an investigation against at least nine members of the JDL who were thought to be plotting to bomb Palestine House in Mississauga. On July 3, 2014 the JDL sparked a violent confrontation at Palestine House.
  • Three years later, a JDL member assaulted journalist Kevin Metcalf and another made death threats against him as he was photographing a demonstration at Nathan Philipps Square.
  • In the lead up to the 2019 Walk for Israel Weinstein publicly threatened to “break the legs” of anyone counterprotesting.
  • Later in 2019 Weinstein shoved a demonstrator at York University and another JDL sympathizer threatened another student “if you do that, I’ll fucking step on your face”.
  • JDL Canada maintains direct ties to extremist Jewish supremacists in Israel who have been attacking Palestinian citizens of Israel and chanting “death to the Arabs” in recent days. On a recent trip there JDL Canada’s number two, Zaza Vili, took pictures with supporters of the outlawed Kahane Chai party. For his part, Weinstein has repeatedly met Baruch Ben Yosef (Andy Green), who was jailed for plotting to blow up the Dome of the Rock in 1980 and is suspected in the 1985 murder of Palestinian American anti-discrimination activist Alex Odeh.
  • During a 2015 meeting in Montréal Weinstein rejected a question about disassociating from the organization’s violent past by comparing himself and the JDL to Menachem Begin and the Irgun, an extremist Zionist group that launched numerous deadly terrorist attacks in the 1940s. On another occasion Weinstein responded to a question about whether it was a violent organization by comparing the JDL to a martial arts club.
  • Group members are openly racist. In 2009 Weinstein joined and participated in a Facebook group called “Death to Arabs” and four years later he wrote on Facebook that violence is “in the Arabs DNA”. In 2010 Weinstein said, “if the Arabs won’t acknowledge Israel as a Jewish state, then they will have to go.” (Imagine someone saying, “if First Nations won’t recognize Canada as a white, Christian state, they will have to go.”) During a 2017 meeting Weinstein referred to Syrian refugees and other Arabs as “snakes” while a participant led the crowd in a chant of “No Arabs, No Terror” and “They Must Go, They Must Go.” At a counter protest to the 2017 Al Quds event in Toronto Weinstein claimed “these people [largely Muslim marchers] want us dead” to which someone among the JDL crowd yelled “we want them dead too.”
  • The JDL has repeatedly disparaged the Black Lives Matter movement. In February 2020 Weinstein announced that the group would travel to New York City to confront black leaders who he claimed were “anti-Semitic”.
  • Over the past decade the JDL has hosted numerous racist, far right, speakers. In 2011 they organized a support rally for the anti-Muslim English Defence League featuring known racist Tommy Robinson via Skype. JDL Canada has also hosted high-profile anti-Muslim activist Pamela Geller, as well as Robert Spencer and Andrew Bostom. In 2014 they hosted Moshe Feiglin who previously called Arabs “a gang of bandits that never produced anything and never wanted to produce anything” and whom the UK Home Secretary refused entry to Britain on the grounds he would likely “foment or justify terrorist violence”.
  • In 2015 the JDL organized a meeting with a leader of the anti-Muslim group PEGIDA UK, Paul Weston, and in 2017 they hosted the National Citizens Alliance’s Stephen Garvey who told the crowd that “[Muslims] will never be Canadians.”
  • To oppose the construction of a mosque in Newmarket, the JDL organized a town hall in the Toronto suburb in 2007. A decade later they held a demonstration against Motion 103, which they claimed was an effort by the Justin Trudeau government to introduce Islamic superiority. In 2018 the group organized an anti-Muslim rally after a mass shooting on the Danforth by a mentally unstable individual born to parents of Pakistani origin.
  • In recent years the JDL has coordinated with various racist, far right organizations and individuals on different initiatives. In 2012 they allied with Mark Vandermas and Gary McHale who actively opposed justice for the Mohawks of Six Nations of the Grand River during the high-profile land dispute in Caledonia. They’ve worked closely with anti-Muslim activist, Sandra Solomon, and allied with the white supremacist Soldiers of Odin for a 2018 rally at Nathan Philips Square. During the 2018 Toronto mayoral election the JDL endorsed racist candidate Faith Goldy and made several appearances for her.

JDL Canada’s sister organizations in the US and Israel have been responsible for even more serious violence and hate crimes. In 2001 the FBI labeled the JDL a “right-wing terrorist group” after its members were convicted in a series of acts of terror, including the killing of the regional director of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and a plot to assassinate a congressman. A member of the JDL’s sister organization in Israel, Kach, killed 29 PalestinianMuslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre in 1994. Kach was set up by Meir Kahane who also co-founded the JDL in the US.

In 1984 Weinstein tried to help Kahane enter Canada illegally after the federal government rejected the American’s admission to this country. At the end of the 1980s Weinstein sought to formally establish a Kach party in Canada.

In discussing Palestinian citizens of Israel, Kahane told a TV interviewer in 1990: “The only answer is OUT. I want them OUT. I want them out ALIVE and if not ALIVE, DEAD. But I want them out. Better a dead Arab than a dead Jew.”

After Kach member and former US JDLer, Baruch Goldstein, murdered 29 Palestinians JDL Canada refused to condemn the 1994 Hebron mosque massacre. Weinstein said, “our organization does not condemn the attack. It condemns the Israeli government for not providing adequate protection for settlers.”

Despite all this racism and violence, the JDL is tacitly or actively supported by much of the Canadian Jewish establishment and other powerful institutions. They have co-sponsored demonstrations with B’nai B’rith and provided “security” for pro-Israel rallies. The JDL participates in the annual Walk for Israel organized by United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto. In a bid to get the Toronto city council to block Al Quds Day in 2019, Weinstein coordinated with B’nai B’rith leader Michael Mostyn, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) Vice President Noah Shack and city councillor James Pasternak, as highlighted in a photo of the four together at the city’s executive committee.

JDL has been allowed to recruit in Jewish schools and for many years the former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber, gave the group political cover. The same can be said for former Canada-Israel Committee board member Warren Kinsella, who spoke at a JDL meeting in 2009. These prominent liberals were fine with the JDL intimidating Palestinian solidarity activists but oppose its alliance with other racist, far right, groups.

Canadian Jewish News coverage of the group has often been sympathetic, including publishing video of a speech by Weinstein. In 2015 Barbara Kay penned a National Post column titled “In defence of the Jewish Defence League” and Honest Reporting Canada defended the group when the CBC’s coverage of them was critical. In 2017 the Toronto Sun published an article headlined “Jewish Defence League alleges hate crime” and after they stoked violence at York in November 2019 B’nai B’rith, CIJA and much of the rest of the Israel lobby accused pro-Palestinian activists of anti-Semitism. Despite much of it being caught on camera, JDL violence and racism was ignored.

In a similar vein, CIJA couldn’t bring itself to criticize the JDL thugs who beat a 55-year-old Palestinian professor and a younger Jewish activist outside AIPAC’s conference in 2017. Despite film of the attacks, CIJA spokesperson Martin Sampson responded to a National Post inquiry by simply stating, “the approach adopted by the JDL is not reflective of the mainstream Canadian Jewish community.”

The JDL has support at the highest levels of the Conservative party. During a 2015 meeting in Montréal JDL representative Julius Suraski claimed four Conservative MPs had recently attended a Passover dinner at his home. In 2014 former Prime Minister Stephen Harper brought Suraski on his official delegation when he traveled to Israel.

Considering their influence and racist, violent, ways there’s been far too little critical scrutiny or push back against the JDL. Yes, they have been banned from Facebook and Twitter on a number of occasions and York banned Weinstein from its campus. But the police have turned a blind eye to a number of their criminal acts and major media outlets and antiracist groups have generally ignored the JDL.

It’s time for this to change. The Jewish Defence League is a violent, racist, thuggish group that deserves to be treated like the dangerous, fascistic organization it is.

On Friday, May 21 at 7pm Yves Engler will be speaking at a Canadian Foreign Policy Institute event on “The Innumerable Ways Canada Supports Israeli Apartheid”

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Filed under Israel Lobby

A prominent opponent of hate allies with B’nai Brith

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Barbara Perry at B’nai Brith/Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs event

How could a prominent opponent of racism and hate ally with B’nai Brith?

A recent Ontario Federation of Labour supplement in the Toronto Star prominently profiled Barbara Perry. The Director of the Centre on Hate, Bias and Extremism at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology has been quoted repeatedly in Rabble, This and other leftist outlets.

While Perry has challenged some elements of the far right, she has also aligned with groups that stoke anti-Muslim, anti-Palestinian and anti-left sentiment. In May Perry spoke alongside Anthony Housefather at an event dubbed “a dialogue on online hate”. The vicious anti-Palestinian MP boasted the Justin Trudeau government voted against a greater share of UN resolutions upholding Palestinian rights than Stephen Harper’s Conservatives. Housefather regularly attends events put on by the Jewish National Fund, which is the only explicitly racist registered Canadian charity.

The Perry/Housefather event was cosponsored by B’nai Brith and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs. These two groups have done as much as any organization in the country to stoke anti-Muslim sentiment.

In a bid to deter organizations from associating with the Palestinian cause or opposing Israeli belligerence in the Middle East, CIJA constantly targets Arab and Muslim community representatives, papers, organizations, etc. CIJA also regularly hypes “Islamic terror” and openly aligned with the xenophobic backlash against the term “Islamophobia in bill M-103, which called for collecting data on hate crimes and studying the issue of “eliminating systemic racism and religious discrimination including Islamophobia.” In a BuzzFeed article titled “Zionist Groups in Canada Are Jumping On The ‘Creeping Sharia’ Bandwagon” Steven Zhou detailed CIJA, B’nai Brith and other pro-Israel groups backlash to M-103 and “how Muslim Canadians define Islamophobia.”

B’nai Brith is a more aggressive hatemonger. Their bid to derail the Liberal party candidacy of Imam Hassan Guilet, who delivered a powerful sermon at the memorial for the Québec City mosque attack, riled up anti-Muslim commentary. Last October B’nai Brith sponsored an event in Vancouver with Ben Shapiro — a former Breitbart News editor. Shapiro has said the “Palestinian Arab population is rotten to the core”, “Arabs like to bomb crap and live in open sewage” and Islam is an “ideological representation of third worldism … and poverty.” Reportedly, the Quebec City mosque killer visited Shapiro’s Twitter account 93 times in the month before his attack.

Beyond aligning with B’nai Brith and CIJA, Perry has taken up their slur against some of the most active antiracists in the country. The Toronto Observer noted that Perry “agrees that the far-left can be just as guilty of hatred towards Jewish people” as the far right. The December story quoted her saying, “I think a lot of anti-Semitism on the far-left is rooted in anti-Zionism and hatred towards Israel.”

Labeling opposition to the most aggressive ongoing European colonial movement a form of prejudice is outrageous. It is also absurd to equate the far left with the far right.

In a Canadian Dimension interview last year Perry basically refused to answer a question about the Jewish Defence League and other Israeli nationalist groups’ role in the far right. I couldn’t find any criticism she’d leveled against the JDL or B’nai Brith so I asked Perry if she could point me to it. She failed to respond.

Leftists should tread carefully with liberals who fight some forms of hate but ignore Israeli nationalist groups’ role in the far right. People must ask themselves, “is it okay to be against racism, except when it is directed at Palestinians and Arabs.”

Unfortunately, many are blinded by colonialism and a desire to be accepted by the status quo. But the left should challenge both colonialism and the status quo.

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Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel

Anti-fascist except when they support Israel

 

Weinstein Pasternak Mostyn Shack

Jewish Defence League leader Meir Weinstein, Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak, Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Vice President Noah Shack and B’nai B’rith CEO Michael Mostyn

Canadian extreme right hate groups have figured out a way to gain mainstream acceptance: Support Israel.

While most of the world voted to label Zionism a form of racism in 1975, many self-declared antiracists in Canada today refuse to challenge far right extremists if they act in service of that European colonial and Jewish supremacist movement.

At the start of the month 50 to a 100 far right activists led by the Jewish Defence League protested the Al Quds Day rally in Toronto. They were joined by supporters of Wolves of Odin (a Soldiers of Odin splinter group), PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident), Riders of the Covenant, etc. The Jewish and White supremacists were even joined by a vocal Hindu supremacist who apparently shares their hatred of Muslims. They spewed a stream of anti-Arab and Islam abuse, telling Arabs to “go home” and calling individuals “Islamic garbage”.

The hate fest was egged on by a number of hard right media commentators. Toronto Sun columnist Sue Ann Levy was on hand after writing a half dozen columns attacking the annual protest’s “venom” and “vitriol”, accusing it of promoting “extremist Islam” and “terrorism”. David Menzies of the Islamophobic Rebel Media hurled insults and patrolled the crowd seeking to confirm a Muslim takeover/extremism/sharia etc.

B’nai Brith, Friends of Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies and the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs also worked assiduously to demonize the rally. “Muslim children were used as pawns to promote anti-Semitism, hate and intolerance,” said Avi Benlolo, Wiesenthal Center president. “We strongly recommend that authorities, including provincial children aid organizations, investigate the usage of minors for the purpose of incitement of hate.”

The pro-Israel Jewish organizations coordinated with Toronto City Councillor James Pasternak in a bid to have the city block Al Quds Day. In this effort they worked with the racist and violent JDL as highlighted in the above photo of JDL leader Meir Weinstein with Pasternak, B’nai B’rith leader Michael Mostyn and CIJA Vice President Noah Shack. The group was together at the city’s executive committee on May 1 in a bid to supress Al Quds Day.

Facebook has banned JDL Canada’s account, classifying it a “dangerous organization”. In 2011 the RCMP launched an investigation against a number of JDL members who were thought to be plotting to bomb Palestine House in Mississauga and in 2017 JDL Toronto members organized a mob that attacked protesters at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington DC.

In the US the FBI labeled the JDL a “right-wing terrorist group” in 2001 after its members were convicted in a series of acts of terror, including the killing of the regional director of the American Arab Anti-discrimination Committee and a plot to assassinate a congressman. A member of the JDL’s sister organization in Israel killed 29 Palestinian Muslim worshipers in the Cave of the Patriarchs Massacre 20 years ago.

The groups and individuals who claim to monitor the far right — Canadian Anti-Hate Network, Anti-Racist Canada, Evan Balgord, Bernie Farber, etc — ignored the Al Quds Day rally. Nor did they say anything about an elected official working with the JDL at city hall. (Or for that matter JDL participation at the May 20 Walk for Israel organized by United Jewish Appeal of Greater Toronto.)

Over the past decade JDL Toronto has built itself up by aggressively harassing Palestinian solidarity activists, which has won them active or passive support from much of the Jewish establishment, dominant media and the city’s broader power structure. While the JDL receives some pushback from liberals when they coordinate with other far-right groups to demonize Muslims, they are generally given a pass when it’s done in support of Zionism.

Perhaps a rewrite of the famous German Pastor Martin Niemöller’s quote sums it up best:

• First they came for the Palestinians, and I did not speak out—because I was a supporter of Israel.

• Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out—because I was supporter of Israel.

• Then they came for the anti-fascists, and I did not speak out—because I was not an anti-fascist when it came to those supporting Israel.

• Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.

• Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

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Filed under Canada and Israel, Israel

As Israel’s racism grows more Canadian Jews turn against it

Jewish Home leader Michael Ben Ari (left) speaks during a ceremony honouring the late Jewish extremist leader Meir Kahane.

The anti-Palestinianism of Canada’s establishment Jewish organizations is extreme. Fortunately, a growing number of Canadian Jews appear to be rejecting their racism and support for Israeli violence.

According to a recent Canadian Jewish News article, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and United Jewish Appeal Toronto both declined to comment on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s alliance with the Jewish Power (Otzma Yehudit) party. For their parts, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and American Jewish Committee both criticized Netanyahu’s push to merge Jewish Power and Jewish Home (Bayit Yehudi) to increase the far-right parties’ chance of garnering the minimum 3.25 per cent of the total vote needed to serve in the Knesset. Subsequently, Israel’s Supreme Court banned the leader of Jewish Power, Michael Ben-Ari, from standing in next month’s election.

Jewish Power is not operating in the Ukraine, but rather in an openly Jewish supremacist state. From the law of return to the nation state law, there are over 65 explicitly racist Israeli laws. Netanyahu recently wrote, “Israel is not  a state of all its citizens. According to the basic nationality law we passed, Israel is the nation state of the Jewish people – and only it.”

From what I can find, CIJA and UJA Toronto have failed to criticize or distance themselves from Netanyahu’s statement. In fact, they denounce any mention of Israeli apartheid. One wonders how explicit Israeli racism needs to be before CIJA recognizes/criticizes the obvious?

More generally, how many Palestinians does Israel need to kill before the established Jewish organizations back away from their staunch support? They’ve endorsed Israeli forces weekly killing of peaceful March of Return protesters in Gaza over the past year. Nearly 200 Palestinians have been killed and another 6,000 injured by live fire in these demonstrations. Not a single Israeli has died.

In a particularly disturbing comment on Israel’s supporters, aggression has been good for fundraising. Following the IDF killing of 2,200 Palestinians in Gaza in the summer of 2014, UJA Toronto launched an emergency appeal for Israel, which raised over $5.6 million. Amidst the June 1967 war, leading Canadian capitalist Samuel Bronfman initiated a $25 million campaign for Israel. Similarly, during the October 1973 war Canadians purchased over $100 million in Israel Bonds. After Israel’s summer 2006 destruction of Lebanon another $42 million was raised.

Jewish Power’s ideological allies in Canada — the Jewish Defense League — remain more influential with the established Jewish organizations than the substantially larger and more humanistic/internationalist Independent Jewish Voices. In response to pressure from the JDL, the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg recently canceled its sponsorship of an event by Lex Rofeberg because the 4th year rabbinical student is a member of the anti-occupation (though not anti-zionist) US Jewish group IfNotNow. Rofeberg wasn’t even going to speak about Israel. (The subject of his planned talks were “‘Winnipeg Jets or Winnipeg Jews,’ on the intersection of Judaism and sports, and ‘Your Podcast is My Synagogue,’ on the ever-growing world of digital Judaism.”) To explain their bowing to pressure from extremists, Jewish Federation of Winnipeg President Laurel Malkin said, “the values of the speaker are not in-line with ours.”

While most Canadian Jews, particularly the powerful and moneyed, seem to support Israeli racism and violence two recent polls suggest that a growing proportion of Jewish Canadians don’t. An Independent Jewish Voices and United Jewish People’s Order commissioned EKOS poll  found that 37 percent of a random sample of 359 Jewish Canadians surveyed have a negative opinion of the Israeli government, 31 percent oppose the military blockade of Gaza and 30 percent think Palestinians’ call for a boycott of Israel is reasonable.

The IJV/UJPO poll is in line with a more extensive Environics Institute Survey conducted in partnership with the University of Toronto, York University and the main Jewish Federations. It found that nearly 3 times more Canadian Jews believe West Bank settlements hurt Israel’s security than the opposite. Additionally, most of the respondents doubted the Israeli government’s sincerity about making peace. Generally, notes the executive summary, “younger Jews are considerably less likely than older Jews to consider caring for Israel an essential aspect of Jewishness.”

It’s long past time to directly challenge CIJA, the Jewish Federations and the politicians who embolden them. It’s time for those who believe in peace and international justice to treat CIJA and the Federations the same way they treat Palestinians, as enemies to be overcome.

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Condemning neo-fascists is anti-Semitic? Really?

Weirdly, even some self-declared “anti-fascists” who claim to be intent on “punching Nazis” get uncomfortable when you criticize the Jewish Defense League.

In an incident akin to Canadians organizing to thwart freedom riders during the US civil rights movement, the Toronto-based JDL organized a mob that attacked protesters at last month’s American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in Washington DC. Over the past decade the JDL has built itself up by aggressively harassing pro-Palestinian activists in Toronto, which has won them active or passive support from much of the Jewish establishment, dominant media and the city’s broader power structure. As I was slandered for discussing in a previous article, JDL Toronto is now seeking to export their extremist ideology to the USA and is building neo-fascist alliances focused on bashing Muslims in Toronto.

Until recently liberals largely treated JDL thuggery with kid gloves. For many years the former head of the Canadian Jewish Congress, Bernie Farber, gave the group political cover. The same can be said for former Canada-Israel Committee board member Warren Kinsella, who spoke at a JDL meeting in 2009. These prominent liberals supported JDL intimidation of Palestinian solidarity activists. But, they are now uncomfortable with the group’s racism against Canadian Muslims and ties to other more marginal white supremacist groups such as the English Defence League and Soldiers of Odin.

Incredibly, some people on the “left” also seem to share this opinion. Alex Hundert says it’s anti-Semitic to challenge the JDL if you’re not Jewish or Muslim. In response to my article on the JDL, he tweeted “If ur neither jewish nor muslim, and obsessed w@JDLCanada, ur definitely an anti-Semite.” He added that “a small group of Kahanist [JDL] extremists banding together can’t b excuse for Engler to target Jewish ‘Establishment.’” And to make sure no one was confused about his opinion of my article he slandered me directly, writing “I wish I had the energy to actually take on antisemites like Engler.”

Two weeks earlier some other self-described leftists became similarly defensive when an activist posted a picture in an anti-racist Facebook group of a man wearing a JDL jacket with their arm around somebody in a Soldiers of Odin jacket. A tag was added to the picture of the Toronto rally saying, “JDL and Soldiers of Odin: this has the making of a hilarious sitcom.”

A number of individuals in the forum criticized making light of the growing alliance between the JDL and Soldiers of Odin as a threat to Jews, not to the Muslims or People of Colour mostly targeted by those groups. One person wrote, “I feel really uncomfortable about this being made into a joke. … as a Jew this is less hilarious to me and more shameful – and scary, because it gives leftists ammunition against Jews and puts us in further danger.” Another individual on the private leftist anti-racism forum wrote, “this is exactly what i was afraid of – now in order to be considered one of the ‘good jews’ i have to repudiate the JDL loudly and vocally and make sure no one thinks i’m a zionist, or else no one on the left will protect me.”

While sympathetic to individuals working out their conflicted loyalties and testing their political positions, it is important to note no one was asked to “repudiate” anything in the Facebook group. And it should go without saying that anti-racist leftists would have no qualms denouncing an organization the FBI labeled “a right-wing terrorist group” in 2001.

Sensitivity towards criticism of the JDL undermines both Palestinian solidarity activism and work to counter the group’s role in rekindling fascism in the city.

But perhaps people are confused by their limited knowledge of history. Weren’t Jews the victims of fascism? It’s counter-intuitive that Jews – though some leading members of the JDL may not be Jewish – would play an important role in reviving white supremacist/fascist politics in Toronto.

But, historically, some Jews did support and even help build the original fascism. In A History of Fascism, 1914–1945 Stanley Payne writes:

The Fascist movement was itself disproportionately Jewish — that is, Jews made up a greater proportion of the party at all stages of its history than of the Italian population as a whole. Five of the 191 sansepolcristi who had founded the movement in 1919 had been Jewish, 230 Jewish Fascists had participated in the March on Rome, and by 1938 the party had 10,215 adult Jewish members.

Labeling Margherita Sarfatti “The Jewish Mother of Fascism”, Ha’aretzdescribed Benito Mussolini’s favoured and most influential mistress this way:

The aristocratic, intellectual and ambitious wife of wealthy Zionist lawyer Cesare Sarfatti, and mother of their three children, did not only share her bed with Il Duce. She also helped him forge and implement the fascist idea; she contributed advice — and Sullivan says, money — to help organize the 1922 March on Rome in which Mussolini seized power.

Additionally, Francisco Franco received support from many Moroccan Jews when he sought to oust Spain’s Republican government in 1936 and some prominent figures in Portugal’s small Jewish community backed António de Oliveira Salazar. Early on a small number of German Jewish fascists even backed Hitler. The Association of German National Jews, for instance, supported the Nazis.

Hitler’s efforts to eliminate European Jewry obviously discredited fascism in the eyes of most Jews. But, Israeli politics has seen a surge of supremacist neo-fascism in recent years, which has strengthened the JDL in Toronto.

Another explanation for why people don’t associate Jews with fascism/white supremacy is a perception that Jews are an “oppressed community”, as Anne Frank Center director Steven Goldstein recently put it on Democracy Now. But, Canadian Jews are widely viewed as white and the community is well integrated into Toronto’s power structures. Possibly the best placed of any in the world, the Toronto Jewish community faces little economic or political discrimination and has above average levels of education and income.

As such, a militant group ‘representing’ Toronto Jewry would tend to be “supremacist” rather than “defensive”. To understand this point it may help to consider similar types of groups/actions.

No matter one’s opinion about their tactics, it wasn’t supremacist when Montréal feminists aggressively disrupted Roosh V last year since the “pro-rape” blogger crassly reinforces patriarchy. Ditto for a Black Panther Party patrol. The English Defence League, on the other hand, is a supremacist organization because those it claims to be “defending” – white, English, people – actually dominate that country.

Considering their minority religious status, the history of anti-Jewish prejudice and continued cultural (if not structural) anti-Semitism, the “supremacist” character of the JDL isn’t as clear-cut as in the case of the EDL. But, when it comes to the Palestinian struggle the JDL is an entirely supremacist organization. On that issue the JDL acts as the thuggish tool of the Israeli nationalist Jewish establishment, which themselves operate within a decidedly pro-Israel Canadian political culture.

Despite film of JDL thugs beating a 55-year-old Palestinian professor and a younger Jewish activist, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs couldn’t bring itself to criticize the attacks. CIJA spokesperson Martin Sampson responded to a National Post inquiry by simply stating, “the approach adopted by the JDL is not reflective of the mainstream Canadian Jewish community.”

But, where does the JDL get its funds? Why has it been allowed to march in Toronto’s annual Walk with Israel? Why has it been allowed to recruit in Jewish schools? CIJA, B’nai B’rith and the other Zionist organizations that have enabled the JDL should be pressed to answer for its violence.

Palestinian solidarity activists should also exploit the tension between those who back the JDL’s anti-Palestinian posture, but oppose its alliances with fascist/white supremacist organizations. We must consistently point out that if you are against all forms of racism, including anti-Semitism, you must oppose all forms of fascism. History points to where that leads.

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