Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is disturbed but not surprised by the recent Canadian Jewish News (CJN) article “PEN Canada questioned over anti-Israel speaker.” The article smears award-winning journalist Max Blumenthal in a desperate effort to discredit Blumenthal’s work, and deflect attention from uncomfortable truths about Israel. An upcoming event, sponsored by PEN Canada and co-sponsored by IJV, triggers the character assassination.
The CJN attempts to discredit Blumenthal’s work because anti-Semites have cited it — a form of guilt by association. This fallacious and highly unprofessional argument is found throughout the article. The article presents itself as a piece of journalism, yet the writer failed to call either Blumenthal or co-sponsor IJV for comment. The article also failed to substantiate the claims that Blumenthal is on “the fringe of the anti-Israel movement” or that his views are “extreme” or even “anti-Semitic.”
The article appears to be aimed at airing the views of spokespersons Martin Sampson and Avi Benlolo from the Israel lobby organizations Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) and Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies (FSW), respectively, both of whom attack PEN Canada for hosting Blumenthal and smear him as a rabid promoter of Jew-hatred.
Israel lobby organizations in Canada, which purport to speak on behalf of Canadian Jews, provide unqualified support for the Netanyahu government. Rather than welcoming an honest exchange of opinion on Israel both within and outside the Canadian Jewish community, these organizations try to silence such criticisms by defaming and bullying those who dare to challenge the status quo in Israel-Palestine.
Benlolo suggests that PEN Canada, which does vital work in defence of freedom of expression, may be hosting Blumenthal with the goal of promoting anti-Semitism in Canada. Benlolo’s automatic assumption that criticism of Israel—a modern state—equals promotion of anti-Semitism cheapens the suffering of those who have suffered under real anti-Semitism, by exploiting it for political gain.
Sampson claims that Blumenthal’s views are irrational and “extreme.” Yet Blumenthal’s recent book The 51 Day War: Ruin and Resistance in Gaza was promoted by none other than Avraham Burg, a former speaker of the Israeli Knesset, who declared that it should be “one of the foundations of any future discourse on Israel-Palestine.” Blumenthal’s earlier book, Goliath: Fear and Loathing in Greater Israel, which laid bare the rampant racism engulfing Israeli society, has been praised by prominent journalists, including Akiva Eldar, Charles Glass and Glenn Greenwald.
IJV is honoured to take part in this event with PEN Canada, and we look forward to an insightful presentation by Blumenthal. We deplore the pitiful, immoral and increasingly desperate attempts of Israel lobby groups to silence these crucial discussions, and the complicity of the CJN in these efforts.
Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV) is a national human rights organization whose mandate is to promote a just resolution to the conflict in Israel and Palestine through the application of international law and respect for the human rights of all parties. There are currently ten chapters of IJV in cities across the country, in addition to a growing number of student chapters on major university campuses. IJV is the only national Jewish organization in Canada endorsing equal rights for both Jewish-Israelis and Palestinians, in addition to supporting the right of Canadians to criticize and challenge the current laws and policies of the State of Israel.