Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Toronto Sun is now officially a propaganda sheet.

During the 1984 federal election campaign, the Globe and Mail ran a photo of Liberal leader John Turner speaking to the Empire Club or some such group. The picture was taken at such an angle, however, that the part of the backdrop that appeared behind Turner's head made it look as if the Liberal leader had devil's horns. The picture was roundly condemned even though most people who saw it probably didn't notice the offending part of the image until they'd had their attention drawn to it and despite the fact that it's quite possible the photographer and editors didn't see it until angry Liberals pointed it out. Nevertheless, the incident stained the Globe and Mail's image as an objective newspaper, at least for a short time.

Well, there's no such ambiguity or benefit of the doubt possible with the Toronto Sun's cover this morning which literally depicts mayoral candidate George Smitherman as the devil with horns, goatee and Snidely Whiplash mustache drawn on, a red background and the headline "Bedevilled" screaming above George's head. It's not that much of a surprise to find the Sun demonizing someone but do they have to do it so literally?

Now, I'm not a fan of George Smitherman and I've told him so to his face but this has to be a new low in journalism. What could the editors of the Toronto Sun possibly be thinking as they pumped out a pure, unadulterated example of propaganda the likes of which we haven't seen in Toronto since 1949 when the Toronto Daily Star attempted to smear the Tories by claiming that George Drew had secretly agreed that if he won the election, he would appoint to cabinet as his Quebec lieutenant none other than Montreal mayor Camillien Houde - whose opposition to World War II had seen him interned during the war. On the Saturday before election day 1949, the Star's campaign reached its peak with the banner front page headline:

(this third line was changed to "VOTE ST. LAURENT" in later editions)

If the Sun depicts its political target as the Devil incarnate three weeks before election day you have to wonder what they'll be doing on October 24th and 25th.
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Monday, 13 September 2010

The Sun thinks you're stupid: Tab hypocritical in Davey Affair

On the latest edition of CTV's Question Period, ex-Iggy press secretary Ian Davey responded to a question about a Sun Media report by saying the Sun "is a newspaper for people who can't read" thus betraying what most senior politicos actually think about the tabloid. The surprise is not, of course, that Davey is dismissive of the Sun but that he would be politically inastute enough to insult the paper's readership rather than its editors. While the Sun is a politically conservative newspaper and sometimes little better than a propaganda sheet I suspect that a good percentage of its readership don't share the paper's editorial line and pick it up for the sports, entertainment coverage, Sunshine Girl (or Boy) or because of its readability. Worse still, Davey's elitism reinforces the Tory narrative that Ignatieff and his circle are elitists who look down on ordinary Canadians.

Predictably, the Sun is exploiting Davey's comments, trying to stir its readers up into a state of indignation in order to both elevate their degree of identification with the paper and mobilize them against the hated Liberals (even though Davey no longer has any official capacity within the Liberal Party or Iggy's office and therefore only speaks for himself, not the party).

Here is the lede of the Sun's article on the matter - titled "Who's the dummy?" in its print edition and "Iggy's former mouthpiece takes 'cheap shot' at Sun readers" online:

Read this if you can.

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff's former chief of staff, Ian Davey, hit Sun Media readers below the belt Sunday, saying they're all illiterate.
That means you can't read.
Sun readers must be quite thankful that their paper is so quick to defend their intelligence, if only it didn't feel it necessary to insult their intelligence at the same time by explaining what illiterate means. 

Ian Davey and the Sun evidently both think that Sun readers are stupid. Davey says it outright, the Sun demonstrates it by evidently believing they have to spoonfeed their readers politically, through crude attempts at propaganda, and intellectually, by feeling they have to explain the meaning of the word illiterate. The real difference between Davey and the Sun, though, is at least Davey is honest enough to state his views while the Sun is cravenly hypocritical and cynical by complaining loudly about Davey's "elitism" while inadvertently demonstrating that they actually agree with him.
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Friday, 27 August 2010

Power struggle at the Ontario Federation of Labour

There's been a showdown building at the OFL between recently elected president Sid Ryan and five of the affiliated unions that fund the labour federation and have all cut their dues payments forcing the OFL to layoff several of its staff. It also appears that there's a power struggle between Ryan and his two deputies, Marie Kelly and Terry Downey . All in all, this amounts to an attempted coup that would either force Ryan to resign or force him to all but resign by becoming President in name only and ceding all operational authority to Secretary-Treasurer Marie Kelly and the unions that are backing her. Kelly is supported by Wayne Fraser, Director of Steelworkers District 6 (ie the leader of the Canadian Steelworkers) despite an apparent conflict of interest as Fraser and Kelly are said to be in a long term romantic relationship.

The following letter detailing the crisis has been making the rounds:

What is going on at the OFL?

By now, you may have heard rumours about affiliates cutting their per capita to the OFL, and OFL staff being laid off. Unfortunately, those rumours are true! Five unions - OPSEU, ONA, SEIU, Firefighters and the Society of Energy Professionals all cut their per capita payments tot the OFL in half over the last few months.

Why? No one is saying. But a leaked e-mail from ONA President Linda Haslam-Stroud dated April 29, 2010 shows that the per capita cuts were planned and orchestrated by a handful of OFL Executive Board members, and that OFL Secretary-Treasurer Marie Kelly and Executive Vice President Terry Downey are part of the secret "OFL Group".

What motive could they possibly have for trying to financially cripple the OFL?

Flash back to spring 2009. A majority of union leaders have agreed to back Sid Ryan to run for President of the OFL at the November convention. Then some start to get nervous about whether Sid will be too outspoken or controversial. They decide they want to run Marie Kelly as President instead of Sid, but this time Sid has made it clear that he will run no matter what. Realizing the Marie can't beat Sid on the convention floor, they decide to shift tactics. They announce that they will support Sid for President after all and run Marie for Secretary-Treasurer. All three Officers are subsequently acclaimed at the November OFL convention.

Flash forward to January 2010. Sid takes over at the OFL and brings his EA from CUPE, Antoni Shelton, with him. The majority of OFL staff are enthusiastic about Sid's leadership and activist agenda for the OFL, and embrace Antoni as part of the team. But OFL Secretary-Treasurer Marie Kelly and Executive VP Terry Downey immediately object and e-mails start flying at the Executive Board. They want Antoni fired. At the very first Board meeting, less than 2 months after Sid has assumed office, Marie and Terry spend 5 hours berating Sid and airing every minor grievance they have against him. Without even looking at the budget, Marie, Terry, Marie's "close associate", Wayne Fraser, and a few of their friends on the Board argue that the OFL doesn't have the money to employ Antoni (this despite the fact that the OFL has been employing an extra Director on contract for the past two years, and he has now left to take a job elsewhere.)

The situation escalates over the next few months. The secret "OFL Group" is formed, with Marie Kelly and Terry Downey as participants, and they work to try to convince other Board members to join them. They agree on a plan to de-fund the OFL. This is in direct violation of the Officer's oath of office. The first of the five affiliates (OPSEU and ONA) cut their per capita in half. Two OFL Directors and one support staff are given lay-off notices. Two posted positions are left unfilled. The CAW announces it will re-affiliate 15,000 members to the OFL as of June 1. The other three affiliates in the secret group proceed to cut their per capita.

The situation comes to a head at the June Executive Board meeting. As Secretary-Treasurer, Marie Kelly brings in a budget that she tries to use to prove the financial crisis is the result of mismanagement by her predecessor and long-standing un-funded liabilities, in order to shift the blame away from the de-funding by the five unions. At around 7:00 pm, after half the Board members have left, the Board votes 12 to 11 to fire Antoni Shelton without cause and pass a budget that forces the lay off [of] two more Directors and one more support staff. Marie and Terry vote in favour of the firing of Antoni and the staff lay offs. Some Board members who are part of the secret group start talking about demanding concessions from the remaining staff in order to save jobs. The decision cuts the OFL staff by over half. When the lay offs are complete, only 4 of 9 department Directors will remain, along with an office manager and 4 admin/clerical staff. And 3 full-time officers!

The reality is there was no financial mis-management at the OFL. The present financial crisis has been manufactures. The intent is to undermine Sid Ryan as President, either force him out or set the stage for Marie Kelly to run against him in 2011, and to extract concessions from the OFL staff whose collective agreements are currently expired, and downsize the organization.

This does nothing to strengthen the labour movement. This does nothing to help our members in the workplace. This does nothing to help us oppose concessions from employers and the government. This will only serve to silence the voice of organized labour in this province.

What can you do to support the workers at the OFL and the duly-elected President from this attack?

Help get the word out. Distribute this [letter] to all your contacts in the labour movement. The secret "OFL Group" wants to keep all of this under wraps. They threaten anyone who tries to speak out.

Find out where your union leadership stands. Ask the president of your union how he/she (or their designate) voted at the June OFL Board meeting.

If you are a member of one of the five unions who cut their per capita, ask the members of your Executive Board if they knew and approved of their union's role in de-funding the OFL.

If you belong to one of the small affiliates, ask your leadership if they knew that the VP Representing Small Affiliates, Rod Sheppard, is part of this secret "OFL Group" that is working to destroy the OFL and voted to lay off OFL staff.

Help put pressure on the 5 unions to restore their funding. If you belong to one of the other unions, pressure your leadership to speak to the leaders of the five unions who have cut their per capita in half to stop this nonsense and work to build our labour movement, not destroy it!
This letter is from a long-time trade union activist who asked that their name not be used for fear of reprisals.
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Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Islamophobia: The New Anti-Semitism

A fascinating article by Daniel Luban in Tablet magazine. Luban argues that Islamophobia as it is developing in North American and Europe has strong parallels to traditional anti-Semitism and examines the furor over the "9-11 mosque" as the latest and most fervent example of this. Here's an excerpt:
many of the tropes of classic anti-Semitism have been revived and given new force on the American right. Once again jingoistic politicians and commentators posit a religious conspiracy breeding within Western society, pledging allegiance to an alien power, conspiring with allies at the highest levels of government to overturn the existing order. Because the propagators of these conspiracy theories are not anti-Semitic but militantly pro-Israel, and because their targets are not Jews but Muslims, the ADL and other Jewish groups have had little to say about them. But since the election of President Barack Obama, this Islamophobic discourse has rapidly intensified.

While the political operatives behind the anti-mosque campaign speak the language of nativism and American exceptionalism, their ideology is itself something of a European import. Most of the tropes of the American “anti-jihadists,” as they call themselves, are taken from European models: a “creeping” imposition of sharia, Muslim allegiance to the ummah rather than to the nation-state, the coming demographic crisis as Muslims outbreed their Judeo-Christian counterparts. In recent years the call-to-arms about the impending Islamicization of Europe has become a well-worn genre, ranging from more sophisticated treatments like Christopher Caldwell’s Reflections on the Revolution in Europe to cruder polemics like Mark Steyn’s America Alone and Bat Ye’or’s Eurabia.

It would be a mistake to seek too precise a correspondence between the new Islamophobia and the old anti-Semitism, which differ in some key respects. Jews have never threatened to become a numerical majority, or even a sizable minority, in any European country, so anxiety about Jewish power naturally gravitated toward the myth of the shadowy elite manipulating the majority from behind the scenes. By contrast, anti-Muslim anxiety has focused on the supposed demographic threat posed by Muslims, in which the dusky hordes overwhelm the West by sheer weight of numbers. (“The sons of Allah breed like rats,” as the late Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci put it.) It may be that in many ways this Islamophobia shares more of the tropes of traditional anti-Catholicism than classic anti-Semitism.

But if the tropes do not always line up, there is some notable continuity in the players involved. One of the most striking stories of recent years has been the realignment of segments of the European far right behind a form of militant support for Israel. Much of the traditional neofascist right remains both anti-Muslim and anti-Semitic, but savvier far-right leaders have realized that by dropping the anti-Semitic elements of their platforms and doubling down on Islamophobia, they can tap into a new base of support from pro-Israel hawks across the Atlantic. Both the British National Party and the Vlaams Belang in Belgium have gone this route, although it remains questionable whether the move away from anti-Semitism is more than skin-deep. (The Vlaams Belang’s predecessor party, for instance, was disbanded after a controversy concerning Holocaust-denying statements made by one of its top officials.) Equally striking has been the rise of Geert Wilders, the controversial Dutch politician whose Islamophobia, virulent enough to draw the condemnation of even the ADL, has made him a darling of “anti-jihadists” in the United States.
 The entire essay is available here. The Atlantic Monthly's Jeffrey Goldberg makes a similar point in his response to Reverend Franklin Graham's claim that "president [Obama]'s problem is that he was born a Muslim, his father was a Muslim". Goldberg retorts, "This kind of rhetoric has a strange historical antecedent in Jewish history. In the 1400s, in Spain, a movement arose that questioned the sincerity of those Jews who had previously converted to Catholicism," and adds that "Anti-Muslim sentiment in America today has many of the hallmarks of the anti-Semitism of yesteryear."

Tablet is a "daily online magazine of Jewish news, ideas, and culture" and carries articles from across the political spectrum (for instance here's a piece against the one-state solution) as well as non-political pieces.It's refreshing to see that at a time when Jewish publications and the Jewish community is under increasing pressure to submit to groupthink, Tablet is willing to publish dissenting pieces. I doubt Luban's piece or anything like it would be published by the Canadian Jewish News, for instance.
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Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Shepherd's Grandaughter - new update

Back in March and again in April and June, I reported on efforts by Brian Henry, the B'nai Brith and Trustee Sheila Ward to have the Toronto District School Board ban the acclaimed children's book' The Shepherd's Granddaughter because it tells the story of a Palestinian girl who suffers at the hands of Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Officials of the TDSB reviewed the book and in April ruled that:
the Shepherd's Granddaughter does not cross the line into literature promoting hate or animosity towards others. On the other hand, it has the potential to engage our Grade 7 and 8 students (a critical age for the development of social consciousness about human society) in understanding the complex issues of their world. The Shepherd's Granddaughter contains several themes for creative discussions in our classrooms, such as multigenerational families and relationships, aging; experiencing loss; influences of religion and faith; gender roles, and gender stereotypes, effects of family separation through emigration, the value of education… As well, this book can certainly be used to explore issues of bias and prejudice, and that students can learn from such exploration… Having said that, we acknowledge that guidance from the teachers and teacher librarians is important in producing the desired outcomes described above.
 That decision was appealed and an 11 member committee reviewed the book and advised TDSB Director Chris Spence that the book met the Board's criteria for approval.

Spence issued his decision last week and informed the complainant, Brian Henry, that after reviewing the committee's report and reading the book himself (something Trustee Ward failed to do before vowing to "move heaven and earth" to ban the book) he agrees with the committee that the book “has the potential to engage our Grade 7 and 8 students . . . in understanding the complex issues of their world.”

You'd think that would be the end of it but school trustee James Pasternak is urging Henry to appeal to trustees to overturn Spence's decision claiming that the book "has no place in our schools." Pasternak asserts that "we'll have enough votes to overturn the decision."

This should be an election issue. Contact the school trustees at the email addresses below and tell them what you think. You can find out who your trustee is here or you can write all the trustees using the email addresses below:

irene.atkinson@tdsb.on.ca, nadia.bello@tdsb.on.ca, chris@chrisbolton.ca, john.campbell@tdsb.on.ca, sheila.cary-meagher@tdsb.on.ca, shaun.chen@tdsb.on.ca, michael.coteau@tdsb.on.ca, gary.crawford@tdsb.on.ca, cathy.dandy@tdsb.on.ca, bruce.davis@tdsb.on.ca, gerri.gershon@tdsb.on.ca, howard.goodman@tdsb.on.ca, scott.harrison@tdsb.on.ca, john.hastings@tdsb.on.ca, josh@joshmatlow.ca, james.pasternak@tdsb.on.ca, stephnie.payne@tdsb.on.ca, maria.rodrigues@tdsb.on.ca, mari.rutka@tdsb.on.ca, chris.tonks@tdsb.on.ca, sheila.ward@tdsb.on.ca, soo.wong@tdsb.on.ca, gorick.ng@tdsb.on.ca, fan.wu@tdsb.on.ca, david.tomczak@tdsb.on.ca
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"Bubble Girl" charges dropped

You may recall the story from the G20 about Courtney Winkels (above, left) who was warned by police after blowing bubbles in Parkdale. A report by the Real News on the bubble incident and her arrest posted on YouTube went viral with over 250,000 hits. (Courtney was actually arrested after her bag was searched and the police found a first aid kit she was carrying as part of her duties as a street medic. She was arrested, charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and held in the Eastern Avenue detention centre for several days before being released).

Her charges were dropped by the Crown yesterday, along with charges against approximately 100 of the 303 arrestees who appeared in court Monday. This means of the 1,090 picked up during the G20 summit, 80% have seen their charges withdrawn or "diverted". (See Krystalline Kraus' report for rabble.ca here for more on what happened for the other arrestees at the 2201 Finch court house.)

Meanwhile, Officer Bubbles has achieved his own level of infamy and is the unwilling star of a series of Flash cartoons posted on YouTube. Series available here.

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Monday, 21 June 2010

Shepherd’s Granddaughter Update

Book should stay, school board committee says

Final decision rests with education director

A special review committee has recommended that a controversial novel about the Mideast conflict remain available to grades 7 and 8 students in Toronto’s public schools.

The 11-member committee was struck in April after a parent made a formal complaint to the Toronto District School Board about The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, an award-winning book by Anne Laurel Carter that focuses on the life of a Palestinian farm girl.

The move came after B’nai Brith Canada had earlier asked the board to remove the book, which is not part of the curriculum but on the list for the Ontario Library Association’s Forest of Reading program. Staff determined the book should stay.

In a June 15 memo to education director Chris Spence, the review committee said the book met the criteria for approval. However, the committee recommends teachers should explicitly teach “critical literacy skills and encourage critical thinking,” to detect bias, point of view and explore complex and controversial issues from a variety of perspectives.

The final decision rests with Spence, and trustees are being asked to send their comments this week.

James Pasternak, Ward 5 trustee, called it “political propaganda in a novel form,” but is most concerned about violent passages including a dialogue about suicide bombing.

“We cannot afford as a school board, with impressionable kids, to have a book circulate that suggests that violence is a viable option for settling disagreements.”

Chris Spence can be reached at chris.spence@tdsb.on.ca

The entire School Board, including Director Chris Spence, can be reached at the following addresses:
irene.atkinson@tdsb.on.ca, nadia.bello@tdsb.on.ca, chris@chrisbolton.ca, john.campbell@tdsb.on.ca, sheila.cary-meagher@tdsb.on.ca, shaun.chen@tdsb.on.ca, michael.coteau@tdsb.on.ca, gary.crawford@tdsb.on.ca, cathy.dandy@tdsb.on.ca, bruce.davis@tdsb.on.ca, gerri.gershon@tdsb.on.ca, howard.goodman@tdsb.on.ca, scott.harrison@tdsb.on.ca, john.hastings@tdsb.on.ca, josh@joshmatlow.ca, james.pasternak@tdsb.on.ca, stephnie.payne@tdsb.on.ca, maria.rodrigues@tdsb.on.ca, mari.rutka@tdsb.on.ca, chris.tonks@tdsb.on.ca, sheila.ward@tdsb.on.ca, soo.wong@tdsb.on.ca, gorick.ng@tdsb.on.ca, fan.wu@tdsb.on.ca, david.tomczak@tdsb.on.ca

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Thursday, 8 April 2010

Heaven and earth unmoved

Despite Sheila Ward's promise to "move heaven and earth to have The Shepherd’s Granddaughter taken off the school library shelves" the Toronto District School Board announced yesterday that they have rejected the demand by Brian Henry and B'nai Brith that the book be withdrawn. According to TDSB official Lloyd McKell:
We believe as staff, that the Shepherd's Granddaughter does not cross the line into literature promoting hate or animosity towards others. On the other hand, it has the potential to engage our Grade 7 and 8 students (a critical age for the development of social consciousness about human society) in understanding the complex issues of their world. The Shepherd's Granddaughter contains several themes for creative discussions in our classrooms, such as multigenerational families and relationships, aging; experiencing loss; influences of religion and faith; gender roles, and gender stereotypes, effects of family separation through emigration, the value of education… As well, this book can certainly be used to explore issues of bias and prejudice, and that students can learn from such exploration… Having said that, we acknowledge that guidance from the teachers and teacher librarians is important in producing the desired outcomes described above.
The wholesale rejection of B'nai Brith's position is another nail in the coffin of the lobby group's credibility. B'nai Brith used to have a reputation as a legitimate human rights organization whose statements on discrimination  were taken seriously by public officials. However, with the growing dominance of Frank Dimant, the group has increasingly become little more than a shill for hardline rejectionist Zionism. Where once, public officials would tread carefully when it came to rejecting or opposing B'nai Brith's positions, now they are seen as just another lobby group whose positions can be dismissed without any negative consequences.

Hopefully, MPPs at Queen's Park will remember this the next time B'nai Brith or its frenemy, the Canadian Jewish Congress, try to push propaganda as public policy and insist, for instance, that criticism of Israel be condemned by government as being anti-Semitic.
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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Trustee Sheila Ward wants to ban a book she hasn't read

Toronto District School Board Trustee Sheila Ward (Toronto Centre) told the Jewish Tribune this week that she will "move heaven and earth to have The Shepherd’s Granddaughter taken off the school library shelves" in response to a demand by B'nai Brith Canada and parent Brian Henry that the book be removed from school reading lists. Upon a closer reading of her words it's evident that Ward is rushing to judgement to not only condemn a book she hasn't read but condemn also the professional organization of librarians that is promoting the book in its reading programme.

The Shepherd's Granddaughter was written by Toronto author and teacher-librarian Anne Laurel Carter According to the Toronto Star it "is currently being read by thousands of Grade 7 and 8 students across the province as part of the Ontario Library Association’s massive Forest of Reading program, meant to highlight the best examples of Canadian literature" 

Peggy Thomas of the Ontario Library Association describes the book as being of "literary quality; it is written for a group of students who are at that time exploring the world around them and grappling with ideas larger than themselves." The B'nai Brith however sees it as propaganda because its narrative is from the point of view of a Palestinian who has lost her land.

Ms Ward condemns the book in no uncertain terms. However, it's evident from her own statements that she hasn't read it. Ward is quoted by the Jewish Tribune saying "This book, on the basis of what Mr. Henry has sent to me, is so blatantly biased that it is intolerable," and "Provided Mr. Henry presented it correctly, and he’s given quite a number of examples, I’m extremely concerned and upset. It is completely unacceptable to have this kind of hatemongering and enormously biased, inaccurate portrayal of Israelis."

Ward's minor disclaimer does not prevent her from trusting her informant's information enough to condemn the book sight unseen, despite the fact that the respected Ontario Library Association has endorsed the book.

Ward goes further. Instead of reserving judgement until she's read the book herself or at least talking to the Ontario Library Association and finding out why they disagree with Henry, Ward, despite not having actually read the book, condemns the OLA saying "I’d like an investigation. Until I have some really hard answers, I’d like to suspend our involvement with the OLA.”

So let's recap. Sheila Ward has not read the book. However, on the basis of a complaint by a parent, Brian Henry, and B'nai Brith Canada she is willing to "move heaven and earth" to remove the book from TDSB libraries and suspend the TDSB's involvement with the Ontario Library Association.

Ward is a public official and a former school board chair. While, as a school trustee, she may be tempted to agree with every parent who comes to her with a complaint she has an obligation and a public official to actually investigate before coming to a conclusion. Instead, Ward has rushed to judgement based on hearing only one opinion and committed herself to not only removing the book from our schools but suspending the TDSB's association with the Ontario Library Association. Worse, she does so without having even read the book at issue and is willing to cut off the OLA which, presumably, actually has read the book and as a professional association of librarians has a certain expertise in assessing the quality and educational value of chidlren's literature.

Interestingly, the lead headline in the B'nai Brith published Jewish Tribune concerning this book is:  Could this book turn your child against Israel? Is B'nai Brith's real concern that this book, by presenting a narrative from the perspective of "the other" might lead to critical thinking in children? Now when I was growing up we were told that was what distinguished quality children's literature from the rest. If The Shepherd's Granddaughter truly was anti-Semitic the fear would not be that it might make Jewish children think differently about Israel. No, B'nai Brith recognizes that the book might actually do what education is supposed to do, treat children to think critically and question their assumptions. Evidently, critical thinking is discouraged when it comes to Israel and the last thing B'nai Brith wants Jewish children to do is to question the preconceptions and assumptions they might have about Israel and the Palestinians. The real issue therefore is not whether or not this book is propaganda but whether or not it interferes with the pro-Israel propaganda that have been fed to children, Jewish children in particular.

Ward is acting recklessly and engaging in shameless political pandering. Voters in her ward should remember this at the October election.

Ward can be contacted at sheila.ward@tdsb.on.ca

The entire School Board, plus director Chris Spence, can be reached at the following addresses:
irene.atkinson@tdsb.on.ca, nadia.bello@tdsb.on.ca, chris@chrisbolton.ca, john.campbell@tdsb.on.ca, sheila.cary-meagher@tdsb.on.ca, shaun.chen@tdsb.on.ca, michael.coteau@tdsb.on.ca, gary.crawford@tdsb.on.ca, cathy.dandy@tdsb.on.ca, bruce.davis@tdsb.on.ca, gerri.gershon@tdsb.on.ca, howard.goodman@tdsb.on.ca, scott.harrison@tdsb.on.ca, john.hastings@tdsb.on.ca, josh@joshmatlow.ca, james.pasternak@tdsb.on.ca, stephnie.payne@tdsb.on.ca, maria.rodrigues@tdsb.on.ca, mari.rutka@tdsb.on.ca, chris.tonks@tdsb.on.ca, sheila.ward@tdsb.on.ca, soo.wong@tdsb.on.ca, gorick.ng@tdsb.on.ca, fan.wu@tdsb.on.ca, chris.spence@tdsb.on.ca, david.tomczak@tdsb.on.ca

h/t Michelle

UPDATE:  The TDSB has rejected Henry's complaint.
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Thursday, 11 March 2010

Tim Uppal's anti-Israeli Apartheid Week motion has been defeated!

Finally, some politicians are starting to stand up to the attempts by Israel's supporters to limit discussion through intimidation.

This letter comes from MP Libby Davies:

Dear Friends,

Thank you so much for taking the time to write and express your views about the motion proposed by a Conservative MP, about Israeli Apartheid Week. I have heard from many people on this issue.

The motion came forward on March 11th, and did not receive unanimous consent, and so was not approved by Parliament. A second motion from the Bloc Québécois also failed to receive unanimous consent.

The Conservative motion was designed to be divisive and to censure legitimate debate on the issue of Israel's policies as well as to specifically target activists who are engaged in debate and other activities on various campuses across the country.

I didn't support either motion, and whatever one thinks about the term "apartheid" in reference to Israel, I don't believe that Members of Parliament should have any role or influence in stifling open discussion and education on this issue. As someone who has visited the West Bank and Gaza twice (most recently in August of 2009), I know first-hand the impact and destruction caused by Israeli policies towards Palestinians.

Copies of the report from my trip can be found at:

I really appreciate that so many people have taken the time to support freedom of speech and the rights of the Palestinian people. I will continue to do the same.

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Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Ignatieff and Israel

Which federal party leader said this about Israel back in 2002?

When I looked down at the West Bank, at the settlements like Crusader forts occupying the high ground, at the Israeli security cordon along the Jordan river closing off the Palestinian lands from Jordan, I knew I was not looking down at a state or the beginnings of one, but at a Bantustan, one of those pseudo-states created in the dying years of apartheid to keep the African population under control.
Could it be the same leader who now says:

On university campuses across the country this week, Israeli Apartheid Week will once again attempt to demonize and undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish state. It is part of a global campaign of calls for divestment, boycotts and proclamations, and it should be condemned unequivocally and absolutely.
Apartheid is defined, in international law, as a crime against humanity. Israeli Apartheid Week is a deliberate attempt to portray the Jewish state as criminal.

Why, yes it is! Now to be fair to Iggy, a lot has happened in the intervening eight years. On the one hand, the "Crusader fort" like settlements that reminded the then public intellectual of apartheid-era Bantustans have grown in size, a wall has been built which not only surrounds the Palestinians of the West Bank but because of its fjord like route, actually cuts off many people in the West Bank from others in the West Bank and, oh yes, there was that war in Gaza. So can Iggy honestly say the situation that existed in 2002 that reminded him of apartheid no longer exists? No. What has changed is not the situation on the ground for Palestinians but the self-interest of Michael Ignatieff. As a Liberal leader Iggy feels the need to prove his pro-Israel credentials in light of his previous criticism of the regime. But don't worry, I'm sure that after Iggy has ended his adventure in electoral politics he will rediscover the plight of the Palestinians and wring his hands appropriately.

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Friday, 19 February 2010

Gerry Caplan satirises the Rights & Democracy affair

Gerry Caplan's column in the Globe and Mail has taken on the Harper government's patronizing attempt to pander to the Jewish community for several months now.

Stephen Harper and the Jewish question published in December examined the irony of Jewish neoconservatives cozying up to evangelical anti-Semites, the Tory 10%ers accusing opposition parties of anti-Semitism and the cancellation of Kairos' grant.

His followup, Is the Harper government playing the anti-Semitic card? hammered the point home:

Real enemies of anti-Semitism do not throw the term around recklessly.

In the United States, the leading Jewish neoconservatives made an unholy alliance with evangelical Protestants whose ultimate vision was a Jew-free world–-Hitler's demented goal finally realized. What they had in common was support for the state of Israel–at least for the moment.

Are Canadian Jews now going to be seduced by a government that uses anti-Semitism for political reasons? That maliciously accuses decent men and women of being anti-Semitic? That identifies legitimate, democratic criticism of Israeli governments with anti-Semitism?
Caplan's latest piece, What every office needs to succeed in Harper's Canada is a biting satirical look at the attack on Rights & Democracy "because it thought Palestinians should have the same rights as all other people" and the bizarre inquisition by Haperite appointee Jacques Gauthier into the religious proclivities of R&D staff.

In a confidential evaluation of the organization's late executive director, Mr. Gauthier pointedly noted the perhaps telltale absence of Jews on staff, apparently a serious dereliction of duty.

How Mr. Gauthier learned that no Jew was employed by R & D is not yet clear. Suspiciously enough, R & D does not ask the religion of its employees. Often in the past Jewishness has been established by what's discreetly called the urinal test, although this technique doesn't really apply to women while also failing to distinguish telltale characteristics among Muslims, Jews and certain African ethnic groups. Mr. Gauthier brought a private investigator into the R & D office last year, although he was introduced as "a business associate" and his function wasn't explained. Bitter R & D staff, believe the stranger was expected to lead the urinal patrol in order to determine Jewishness. Isn't that what a private eye is for?

Businesses, NGOs and other institutions that are now frantically beating the bushes for unemployed Jews have a major challenge ahead of them. The first problem is that the Jewish employment rate is notoriously high. Many complain that you can never find a Jew when you need one. Then there's the vexing question of whether one is enough, a question that has befuddled Canadians for many decades.

It is understood that the Harper government is about to set up a special Number of Jews Bureau, to be known as the NUJ. It will report to Jason Kenney, the minister responsible for smearing anyone who disagrees with his cheerleading support of the Israeli government. The new bureau will be tasked with devising a formula to determine the necessary number of Jews each group needs on staff to meet the new criteria, and will house the inspectors who will be going from organization to organization across the land counting the number of Jewish employees. It is anticipated that synagogues will be exempt from inspection.

Among the trickier issue the NUJ must quickly deal with is whether the Jewish quota applies to the government. Believe it or not, it seems that no one knows for certain how many Jews sit in the government caucus or the cabinet, and there are too few urinals to do a test.

Mr. Kenney is not only responsible for the electoral seduction of Canada's credulous Jews. He is also Mr. Harper's main weapon in the wooing of Hindus, Sikhs, Persians, Koreans, Eastern Orthodox Christians, carefully selected Muslims, and countless other minorities. Here is where the new system faces certain tricky issues. How many Jews must your average mosque or Hindu temple or church employ to meet the government's new Jewish criteria?

And what will Punjabis, Armenians, Buddhists, Chinese and certain carefully selected Muslims think if they must hire Jews but other organizations need not hire, say, Punjabis, Armenians, Buddhists, Chinese and certain carefully selected Muslims? After all, they might reasonably ask, how many Punjabis etc. etc. etc. does the B’nai Brith, for example, employ? Mr. Harper's entire ethnic strategy might be jeopardized if this sensitive issue is not handled delicately.

The obvious answer, of course, is perfectly consonant with one of Canada's great conceits – our multicultural character. Yet in truth, outside public transportation and some malls, our many communities remain substantially segregated. Here is the means to make mythology reality. Every Canadian organization would have to have at least a certain number of employees from each of our ethnic/racial/religious/cultural groups. It's a magical solution for Canada's serious unemployment problem, since a good number of the unemployed happen to be members of these groups.

One downside of this solution is that Jewish organizations are expected to complain bitterly that the government has begun listening to other interests. Mr. Harper and Mr. Kenney are expected to discuss this conundrum later this week.
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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Adam's fall

So this is what I can piece together.

NOW magazine writes a glowing article on Giambrone and erroneously claims he's gay.

Giambrone "laughs over" the story, light-heartedly corrects the record but then goes a step further and makes public the fact that he's in a relationship with a woman named Sarah. Until this point no one had known, or particularly cared, who if anyone Giambrone was seeing.

Days later, Giambrone stages romantic dinner with Sarah at a restaurant and arranges for a Toronto Sun photographer to take their picture for the next day's paper. In doing so, he misses his date with his other girlfriend and messages her to check out the Sun the next day.

At his campaign launch Giambrone stereotypically announces his candidacy with his "life partner" Sarah at his side. Hurt and humiliated his other girlfriend eventually goes to the Star.

This is Giambrone's own fault for cynically trying to use his relationship with Sarah McQuarrie (contrived or not) for image purposes... or as he told Lucas in a *text message* on Dec 27, "You know I will be announcing I have a partner... It is someone named Sarah, who I've been involved with in the past. It is important for the campaign."

Really? Why exactly was it "important for the campaign"? Either Giambrone felt so insecure about being called gay that he needed to put the spotlight on the fact that he has a girlfriend (or pretend McQuarrie was his girlfriend, whether he was lying when he told Lucas that her relationship with McQuarrie was pretend or lying when he says it's real, I don't know and don't particularly care) or he saw some sort of political advantage in contrasting his relationship with a woman against Smitherman's relationship with a man. Either way, fairly sorry stuff. (And really, what classier way is there to announce to one girlfriend that you're going to be telling the world that you're seeing someone else than through a text message?)

And of course had Giambrone not been driven either by insecurity or cynicism to create a public image of himself as a guy in a committed relationship with a female "life partner" then his second girlfriend wouldn't have found out about his first and Giambrone's sleaziness towards women would have remained a private matter.

While I still don't really see why this is a news story I can't muster any sympathy for Giambrone. He's brought this onto himself.

ADDITION: A friend of mine thinks Giambrone decided it was important for his campaign to be seen in coupledom with Sarah McQuarrie so that people would view him as a grown-up. If that's the case his high school style relationship and breakup with a 19 year old has put to rest any lingering doubts about Giambrone's maturity level. 
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Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Hypocrisy from the Canadian Jewish Congress' Marilyn Shapiro

The letters page of today's National Post includes a submission by one Marilyn Shapiro of Thornhill. She responds to a previous letter by Professor Yakov Rabkin which defends Independent Jewish Voices against attack by the Canadian Jewish Congress. After falsely describing IJV as made up of "anti-Israel Jews and non-Jews" she goes after Rabkin claiming that he failed to mention what she calls his "deep connection to IJV" and goes on at length to detail an internet search she conducted which reveals that Rabkin is a member of the group.

Hypocritically, while she herself defends the CJC and attacks Rabkin for his omission, Shapiro fails to mention her own affiliation which is easily uncoverable through a quick internet search. 


Here is a picture taken from the November 2009 edition of CJC's online newsletter Congress Amcha appearing under the heading "Queen's Park reception". From left to right are Marilyn Shapiro; Wendy Lampert, CJC Director of Community Relations; Len Rudner, CJC Ontario Regional Director; Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty; Igor Ellyn, CJC Board of Directors; David Katz, Chair CJC Charities Committee. Obviously Shaprio has what she would call a "deep connection" to the Canadian Jewish Congress. 

To paraphrase Ms Shapiro's letter, why did she not disclose her obvious association with this Zionist group? I guess she must be ashamed of her association. Or does she have something to hide?

Perhaps it's that, according to page 12 of the CJC's January 2009 newsletter, Shapiro was a Canadian delegate to last year's meeting of the CJC's parent body, the World Jewish Congress? A "deep connection" indeed.
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Sunday, 31 January 2010

The Canadian Jewish Congress and the National Post's double standard on Independent Jewish Voices

Last week, the National Post published a screed yet again attacking Independent Jewish Voices and its former chair, Diana Ralph. Several years ago, prior to joining Independent Jewish Voices, Ralph wrote a chapter for a book called Hidden History of 9-11 in which her thesis was that the Bush Administration was using 9-11 as a pretext for an imperialist adventure in the Middle East and for Islamophobic measures at home. Unfortunately, Ralph also made a few statements in passing that seemed to lend credibility to 9-11 conspiracy theories. The Post and the CJC have deliberately overstated this element of her writings in order to imply that Ralph herself is a conspiracy theorist and then tar Independent Jewish Voices by association despite the fact that IJV has never issued a single statement on 9-11 and despite the fact that an IJV spokesperson clearly told the Post that “The positions of Diana Ralph stated in those articles do not represent the positions of the IJV.”

By challenging the monopoly uncritically Zionist groups such as the Canadian Jewish Congress and B'nai Brith Canada have claimed over Jewish opinion in this country IJV has undermined both the myth that Canadian Jews are of one voice when it comes to Israel and challenged the slur that criticism of Israel is tantamount to anti-Semitism. As a result, the CJC in particular has pulled out the stops in its attempt to isolate, vilify and marginalize IJV and harass any organization, such as the United Church of Canada, that has dealings with the organization.

The National Post, accordingly, when referring to IJV makes sure to also refer to it as having been "recently chaired by 9/11 conspiracy theorist Diana Ralph." The Post also takes issue with the fact that as past-co-chair, Ralph remains on IJV's executive.

There is a searing double standard here. The co-president of the Canadian Jewish Congress from 2007 to 2009 was a man named Reuven Bulka. He remains a member of the CJC's Board of Directors as "immediate past president." Now, prior to becoming co-president of the CJC, Bulka wrote a book called One Man, One Woman, One Lifetime in which he described homosexuality as "abnormal" and called on lesbian and gay Jews to seek "the help of mental health professionals and spiritual advisors". Not only that but Bulka served for years on the "scientific advisory committee" of a group called the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality which views homosexuality as a "psychological condition" and "developmental disorder" and offers "conversion therapy" which it claims will "cure" homosexuality. Despite Bulka's clear and longstanding association with a crackpot, pseudoscientific homophobic organization the good people of the National Post never follow references to the Canadian Jewish Congress with a statement such as "recently led by homophobic pseudoscience advocate Reuven Bulka" or write anything that implies that the CJC shares Bulka's views.

Of course, the reason for the Post's inconsistent treatment of two Jewish groups has everything with ideology and nothing to do with journalistic ethics. Jonathan Kay has gone to great lengths sifting through the writings of IJV's former leader in hopes of finding something he can trump up into scandal but he's never given Rabbi Bulka's writings a second glance. If the Post had decided it's worthwhile to put so much effort into excavating the past writings of IJV's former leader why does it not expend the same effort in regards to the CJC and Reuven Bulka's controversial views?
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Thursday, 21 January 2010

Merry Christmas!

Here's a rather delightful communist Christmas carol from the comrades at rathergood.com

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