Wednesday, January 27, 2016

York University mural pro-Palestinian but not anti-Semitic

I seem to make an inordinate number of posts about Israel in these pages. I'm not in any way anti-Jewish, or even particularly pro-Palestinian for that matter. It's just that, on a reasonably regular basis, the state of Israel and Israeli politicians have a tendency to make these sweeping claims about how everyone else is being so anti-Semitic and unfair to them, and then they go right ahead and continue their indefensible crusade against Palestine and the Palestinian people. And don't get me started on the use of the label "anti-Semitic", which I have covered before.
Anyway, this time it is a Canadian, not an Israeli, making the sweeping statements. Paul Bronfman, film and TV producer and member of the outspoken Bronfman dynasty which made its billions in the alcohol business, is objecting to a painting displayed in the student centre of Toronto's York University. The painting is one of about 20 murals adorning the student centre, which were picked by a jury of students and faculty, and which have been there for some time now. Legally, the mural falls under the jurisdiction of the York Federation of Students, and the university itself cannot force its removal.
Bronfman says he is "outraged" by the painting, which depicts Palestinian resistance to the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory, and he has withdrawn his support from the university (one of his companies used to provide free filmmaking equipment to York students, and also invited them to training seminars).
The York Federation of Students has responded to Bronfman, saying that, “This painting is not anti-Semitic, as it is merely critical of the state of Israel and its continued occupation of Palestine.” But Bronfman dismissed this as “a bunch of political rhetoric … a bunch of political nonsense.” He blusters, “This mural has nothing to do with criticizing Israel. It’s purely anti-Semitic, hate propaganda. It not only infuriates me as a Jew but mostly as a Canadian. It should outrage Canadians.”
This seems to me to be just another attempt by a prominent Jew to deflect and distort anti-Israeli sentiment by recourse to the use of the epithet "anti-Semitic", which is often seen as a safe way of trumping all other concerns. You could almost call it a deliberate abuse of the collective guilt over of the Holocaust. It is a deliberate and disingenuous conflation of Israeli politics with issues of race and religion.
I think the best rebuttal of Mr. Bronfman's outrage comes from Lorne Sossin, the dean of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School and himself a Jew, who has strongly criticized “the idea that any group … should be able to unilaterally declare the views of others in our community as ‘hate’ and call on the university to censor them.”

No comments: