Reader Response 8: Canada, Isi Leibler, and Advocacy

This post is another response to some very interesting issues put forward by the reader, Blistering. He/she argues that the Canadian Jewish experiment in restraint regarding public statements about anti-Zionist activity has been an abject failure and that anti-Semitism has risen as a result.

Blistering directs us to an article written by Isi Leibler for the Jerusalem Post in order to defend the above assertion.

We hope to demonstrate with this post that while Blistering presents a compelling argument, the conclusions drawn are highly problematic.

Mr. Leibler is renowned for his intellect, his passionate dedication to Jewish causes, and for his particular political persuasion: right-wing Zionism. His politics inform his analysis of any event affecting Jewish communities around the world. His assessment of the situation of Canadian Jewry is therefore coloured by a perspective that believes aggressive confrontation is the only way to deal effectively with Jewish enemies.

Indeed there is a stark dichotomisation in his world view between friends and enemies of Jews. Unfortunately, he neglects the vast majority of humanity that doesn’t particularly care one way or another, until certain events – and poor Jewish handling of them – convince such bystanders that perhaps our enemies have a point.

Leibler points out a number of follies committed, in 2004, by a professional PR outfit employed by the Canadian Jewish community. Indeed, references to PR “commandments” and advocacy of complete quietude in the face of Palestinian misdeeds against Jews seems quite ridiculous.

Blistering contends that The Sensible Jew advocates a similar position. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Hopefully, the callibre of PR professional our community might employ would not be so ridiculous as to issue new “commandments” to the community regarding public statements. We think the first set of commandments suffices, and that sort of latter day dogma is a recipe for disaster.

More importantly, we do not advocate passivity or quietude. If there is an atrocity committed, it must be called for what it is. We are simply arguing for far smarter means of dealing with the media and the public, and we have demonstrated, as have a number of our readers, the shocking lack of efficacy of current practices.

Mr. Leibler’s argument falls down when he attributes a putative rise in Canadian anti-Semitism to official passivity. He provides no evidence of any causal link and is engaging in an argument designed to arouse fear in other diaspora communities.

His (and Blistering’s) emphasis on the immensity of the impact of this change in Canadian Jewish public relations is also questionable. The events Mr. Leibler describes are absent from the minutes of the meetings of The Canadian Jewish Congress from 2004.

Also absent is any sign of “sha shtill” from these minutes. There are frequent condemnations of anti-Semitism, anti-Zionism, and anything else that might endanger the community. There is no mention of any new PR strategy.

We therefore find it difficult to see any substance behind – or evidence – for accusations that a smarter media policy, in which Jews reach out to the broader community, in any way contributes to anti-Semitism. Indeed, reading the minutes of the CJC, in which many inter-communal activities and advocacies are mentioned – one might draw the conclusion that the exact opposite is true.

Blistering writes

What I am saying is that you are seeking to muzzle those who would protest and do so honourably and that would be to achieve exactly what AFP and IAJV want.

We don’t seek to, “muzzle,” anybody. But just as self appointed, “leaders” cannot go abroad and negotiate on behalf of Australians; just as Australians are able to elect the leaders who will negotiate with other leaders on their behalf (or appoint qualified proxies), we believe that Australian Jews should enjoy similar privileges.

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  3. Reader Response 5: Israel, Kangaroo Courts, Unity, Speaking Out, and Subheadings
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