Earlier this week, the podcast Canadaland did a show featuring both Yoni Goldstein, editor of the Canadian Jewish News (CJN), and Sam Bick and David Zinman of Treyf podcast. Since Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) was mentioned several times during the show, which discussed Jewish media in Canada, IJV would like to respond to some of the points made by Goldstein.
Of most serious concern is the fact that Goldstein drew an equivalency between IJV and the far-right segment of the Jewish community in his reasons for barring IJV from having its views expressed in the CJN. In response to concerns raised about progressive Jewish voices being excluded from Canadian Jewish media, he states: “I don’t think this is just a Left issue alone. There’s a far-right movement in Jewish circles that is growing, and that has very much the same complaints. So I often hear people from the Left saying the CJN isn’t doing enough to accommodate those voices, and one of these responses is … yeah, I hear the same thing from the Right, and if you want me to start accommodating you, I’m going to have to start accommodating them, too, and I guarantee you won’t like what you hear coming from them.”
As Zinman accurately responds in the show, in reality the CJN has been giving favourable coverage to the Right of the Jewish community for years, and in fact, most of the mainstream Jewish institutional structures have gradually shifted far to the right. Not only did the CJN publish a video of a speech by the Jewish Defense League’s (JDL) Meir Weinstein, the editorial position of the paper is staunchly pro-Israel, giving vastly disproportionate space to voices that express unqualified support for the Israeli government. JDL members, including at least one from Canada, were recently charged with a hate crime for physically assaulting a 55-year-old Palestinian man in Washington, D.C. The Canadian branch of the JDL openly incites hatred and idolizes the late American Rabbi Meir Kahane, a notorious terrorist who advocated for the complete expulsion of Palestinians from the biblical land of Israel.
While IJV certainly appreciates Goldstein’s accepting the occasional mention of our organization in the CJN, we feel that his characterizations of our organization fall seriously short of reality. Drawing false equivalencies between IJV’s views and the views of fascist groups is, at best, disingenuous. We have certainly never engaged in the violence or extreme hatred exemplified by the far-right of the Jewish community.
In the podcast, Goldstein also states: “In a way, I’m glad that a group like that [IJV] exists in the sense that there should be some gathering ground for people who believe in anti-Zionism or who believe in other forms of discussing Zionism. I’m glad that group exists in the same way I’m glad that the Treyf podcast exists. But I don’t really see any movement from these groups on the Left or on the Right to try and build some sort of community or consensus with the middle.” IJV finds this surprising, given that we have a lengthy and well-documented record of reaching out to groups situated to our right on the political spectrum within the Jewish community.
Goldstein ignores the many overtures over the years that IJV has made to publicly discuss or debate issues of interest to the Jewish community with the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs, the Jewish National Fund of Canada, B’nai Brith Canada, and others. IJV has reached out to Canadian Friends of Peace Now as well, but they refuse to engage with us because of our critiques of political Zionism. Despite these refusals to engage, IJV has independently organized public debates with voices from the community closer to “the middle,” such as Mira Sucharov. IJV has also organized panels that include more mainstream voices, such as this upcoming event, and this past event.
If the CJN were to change its editorial policy by allowing IJV’s positions to be expressed in its paper — with which, it should be noted, a recent survey indicated that a majority of Canadians sympathize — then perhaps we could all work towards, in Goldstein’s words, “…building some sort of community or consensus with the middle.” Goldstein’s accusation against IJV of failing to do this outreach, while simultaneously barring us from expressing our viewpoints in the only national Jewish newspaper in the country, can be summed up best with one word: chutzpah.