By BERNIE BELLAN
If you’ve been reading our paper for a long enough time - or looking at this website, you should know by now that I don’t shy away from dealing with controversial topics. So, when I receive requests from readers to suppress the opinions of someone like Myron Love – well, it ain’t gonna happen under my watch.
And, when I’m also told that I should “fact check” Myron’s writing (or anyone else’s for that matter), I can start to understand the difficulty that Mark Zuckerberg has in attempting to defend Facebook’s position on clamping down on hate speech.
With specific reference to Myron’s comments on Black Lives Matter and whatever may have happened in the Fairfax neighbourhood of Los Angeles, the August 5 print edition of the JP&N offered three different accounts of what happened there. I wanted to demonstrate to readers how difficult it is to determine the extent to which it is to know how much anti-Semitism played a part in the vandalism that targeted Jewish businesses.
As is the case with almost every issue, there are different perspectives brought to bear when it comes to Black Lives Matter. But, when news media have been reporting a steady stream of outrageous comments about Jews coming from Black celebrities, including Nick Cannon (who, I admit I had heard of, but didn't really know who he was), a British rapper by the name of Wiley, Ice Cube, and, of course, Louis Farrakhan – among others, it does raise serious concerns how widespread anti-Semitism is among certain elements of the Black community.
Perhaps Myron did generalize too much in his opinion piece about the Black Lives Matter movement which, Lionel Steiman points out in a letter (that appears in the August 5 print edition), can hardly be boiled down to a single, identifiable group, but clearly by calling out a virulently anti-Semitic element that runs through current expressions of Black consciousness, especially when it comes to rap music, many Jews who would certainly identify themselves as liberal – and who are quite sympathetic to the Black Lives Matter movement, are now standing up to the grossly unfair characterizations of Jews as oppressors of Blacks that are certainly common within certain aspects of Black culture.
Conspiracy theories about the origins of the coronavirus have often included Jews as targets and there is a worrying convergence of hatred toward Jews emanating from both the right and left, often fomented by extremist websites such as 4chan, which seeks to play on long-held suspicions of Jews held by many Blacks.
To say that what happened in Fairfax was a “pogrom” might be inaccurate, but who knows what was going on in the minds of the individuals who were quite ready to paint anti-Semitic slogans on Jewish-owned stores and synagogues in that area of Los Angeles, on top of targeting them for looting and burning?
Yet, I’ve spoken up several times within this column and in public forums as well to argue that anti-Semitism is not nearly the problem in Winnipeg that it is in other cities – and have been roundly criticized for saying that by certain individuals within our community who want to encourage paranoia among Jews here.
That paranoia even led to the “disinviting” of a speaker by the name of Lex Rofeberg to speak at an event here last year, even though Rofeberg was a rabbinical student. His sin was that he has dared to criticize Israeli government policy on the West Bank.
Also last year activist Linda Sarsour was targeted by the same group of individuals when she was invited to speak here by the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg. In fact, had the invitation to Sarsour to appear here not become such a major issue in the media as a result of her being targeted by those self-appointed defenders of our Jewish community, the likelihood is she would have come and gone without raising a peep of interest among the media. As I’ve noted several times before, other critics of Israel, such as former British MP George Galloway, have appeared here without a scintilla of reporting about their appearances here – other than in this newspaper.
But, at a time when anyone can grab a virtual megaphone on Twitter or some other social media platform – and say the most outrageous things about Jews, we should hardly sit by and shrug those vile remarks off as the prattling of only a few lone extremists.
As the number of Jewish newspapers continues to dwindle, however – something that will undoubtedly turn into a torrent if the pandemic keeps Jewish organizations from resuming their normal patterns of activity, it is even more important for a newspaper such as this to continue to serve as a forum for all points of view.
I’ve received my share of hateful comments on social media myself– specifically from some of the right wing members of our community who consider me a traitor for daring to suggest that Israeli government policies toward the Palestinians are misguided, so it is that I take it with a grain of salt when leftist members of our community ask me why I allow Myron Love to have a forum within this newspaper. At the same time, I find it ironic that one reader asked me why I published a letter from another reader who took me to task for publishing Myron’s piece about Black Lives Matter. You know you’re doing something right when you’re ticking off individuals on both the left and the right.
I don’t necessarily invite controversy, but as anyone who knows me by now (even it it’s only through reading this paper), I don’t shy away from it either. It would be easy to let this paper follow the route taken by so many other Jewish newspapers, which is to concentrate on reporting on fund raising and stories that wouldn’t cause one whit of objection from anyone because they’re so vanilla in flavour, but then again, I’d be so bored doing that, I’d probably just fold up shop. (Of course, we do have our share of “vanilla” stories in this paper as well.)