December 22, 2010

Club of Anti-Semitism Wielded in Ontario Legislature Against Jew

By Diane V. McLoughlin, December 22, 2010

main website:

Masters thesis examining the role of Holocaust education and Zionism
is denounced by Canadian lawmakers as hateful and 'shockingly anti-Semitic.'

A letter to: The honorable members of the Ontario Legislature

From: Diane V. McLoughlin, writer

Re: The December 7, 2010 denouncement in the Ontario Legislature,
by certain members, of student Jennifer Peto's 2010 University of Toronto thesis:

'The Victimhood of the Powerful:
White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education' [1]

Requesting: That the Honorable Members of the Ontario Legislature uphold the cherished value of academic free enquiry as well as free speech; that the Honorable Members cut all official ties to the State of Israel until that country is in compliance with international law.

Dear Honorable Members,

An invitation recently went out, to any so interested, to come to the defense of the above-noted thesis by Jennifer Peto, who has been smeared with the charge of anti-Semitism, as well as of poor scholarship, generally.  Being an independent writer particularly interested in the Israel-Palestine conflict, this was interesting to me.

I should point out at this juncture that I do not know Ms. Peto, I do not have friends in common with
Ms. Peto, and I had not read the thesis in question. If I were to form an opinion one way or the other on the
112-page thesis, I was going to have to read it.

I found the thesis on-line and read it from beginning to end.

I also read the comments that were made about the thesis by legislative members Steve Clark, Eric Hoskins and Peter Shurman, as found in the Official Legislative Record for December 7th, 2010.

So, to the question:

Is Ms. Peto's thesis, as pronounced in the legislature by the above members, anti-Semitic against Jews?

This is not going to be an exhaustive point-by-point dissertation, by the way.

Right up front, I would concede this point:

If the members had stated for the record that the thesis is an uncomfortable read, I would have to agree. For one thing, there are a number of arguments that are unfamiliar to my own ear. Some of them are like nails on a chalkboard.

I don't think of myself, for example, as 'White' - being of Celtic heritage - but there is no getting around the fact that, for the purposes of Peto's thesis, I would fall into the category of 'White' 'privileged' class.
I can't argue with it but it's aggravating; grating.

The honorable members of the Ontario Legislature should note that Ms. Peto is, in point of fact, a Jew, as well as a grandchild of Holocaust survivors.

In the beginning of her thesis, as she lays out the framework for her arguments, she shares in a touching way some of the things that inspire her to tackle the - I think it fair to say, particularly thorny issue - of racism within some circles of Jewish society.

Ms. Peto shares Jewish-Canadian experiences of her early life, into young womanhood. It is only logical that she begin there, and from there move outward to speak to the heart of her thesis, encompassing Zionism as well as the particular ways in which the Holocaust can, and in many cases is, co-opted to support the racist aims of the ethnic cleansing of Palestine.

It was a formative experience for Ms. Peto when she got in trouble for questioning the celebratory way in which terrorist Baruch Goldstein was venerated by a teacher - who is also a settler - at her school. In fact, this is how she begins the introduction to her thesis:

'My first memory of questioning my loyalty to the Israeli state is from the 9th grade.
It was 1995 and I was almost 15 years old, attending a private Jewish high school in
Toronto. One day, during a Jewish History class, our teacher was giving a lesson
on the city of Hebron. During the class, he mentioned Baruch Goldstein – the Jewish
settler who, in February 1994, had massacred over 50 Palestinians while they were
praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. When my teacher said Goldstein’s name,
he followed it with ‘zichrono livracha’ which is Hebrew for ‘may his memory be blessed’.
This is a common practice among Orthodox Jewish people when mentioning the name of
someone who is deceased. I remember being completely shocked that he would bless the
name of a man who had committed such a horrible act of violence. I raised my hand and
asked him why he had blessed Goldstein and not said ‘yemach shmo’ which, in Hebrew,
means ‘may his name be erased from history’ and is commonly said after mentioning the
name of an evil-doer that has died. My teacher, who himself was an Israeli settler,
became enraged, refused to engage in this debate with me and sent me to the principal’s office.' [3] [4] [5]

As I say, this was a watershed moment for Jennifer Peto, a Canadian Jew who, as an inquisitive and intuitively astute young girl of fifteen, is not praised for her strong sense of our common humanity, but is, rather, soundly criticized for it.

This goes straight to the heart of the extremely painful paradox that Jews and others become faced with. Many are raised to view Israel as a Jewish 'shining city on the hill;' built upon only the highest of ethical and moral values; a haven. Yet there are pieces of the puzzle that just will not fit with this alternate image that grows ever more clear through the efforts by those such as Ms. Peto: Of occupation and oppression; of murder and the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people.

That 'never again' should become 'over again - this time by us' - is painful to Jews of goodwill and good faith - to just a profound, no doubt at times inexpressible degree.

The honorable member Mr. Clark, under agenda item, 'ANTI-SEMITISM' [1a], on December 7, 2010, is recorded as stating:

"Jewish groups are criticizing the University of Toronto for accepting a shockingly anti-Semitic master’s thesis."

That the thesis is shocking, I freely grant you. When truth finally butts up against that which is not true, particularly after truth has been unrecognized or absent for too long a time - the shock of it can be absolutely profound.  However. That the truth can be shocking, in no way makes that which is not true the preferable state of knowing; we do not, we must not, prefer to remain in the dark because the light of truth shines too bright.

Mr. Clark continues, asserting, inaccurately, that the "disgusting" paper, "attacks educational programs working to ensure [that the Holocaust] is never repeated."

No it doesn't. Ms. Peto's thesis analyses particular educational programs that the thesis writer examines with a very clear eye. Is the intent of the thesis to opine and prevent the oppression of Jews and others? I would argue that the answer is yes.

She states in the thesis abstract that her goal is to prove that:

'...Jewish victimhood is instrumentalized in ways that obscure Jewish privilege, den[ies] Jewish racism and promote[s] the interests of the Israeli nation-state.'

What is the true message imparted by the Holocaust programs that Ms. Peto evaluates? How do Israel and the Palestinian people fit into the philosophy or world view of the programs that Ms. Peto examines?
It is to this that Ms. Peto sets herself to ferret out.

Mr. Clark is shown to refer back in recent time to when the legislature was (wrongly) encouraged to equate anti-Semitism with Israeli Apartheid Week. But could it be that Israel is guilty as charged?

Israel is likened to an apartheid regime by survivors of South Africa's own apartheid regime of the past. Willie Madisha, President of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, in a letter, dated 2006:

'As someone who lived in apartheid South Africa and who has visited Palestine I say with confidence that Israel is an apartheid state. In fact, I believe that some of the atrocities committed against the South Africans by the erstwhile apartheid regime in South Africa pale in comparison to those committed against the Palestinians.' [2]

Mr. Eric Hoskins is recorded in the Ontario legislative record of December 7, 2010, on the topic of Ms. Peto's thesis, thus:

"...greatly disturbed and, in fact, disgusted when I read the media reports."

One is embarrassed for Mr. Hoskins that he so publicly declares himself disgusted by Ms. Peto's thesis when it is clear from reading her thesis that she fights for justice and truth - at tremendous potential cost to herself personally as well as professionally by so doing. She is a heroic figure.

Mr. Peter Shurman chooses to go on record denouncing her thesis in various ways, declaring that it is:

"...hateful...poorly researched." Asking the Speaker: "...Minister, will you today speak up on behalf of
Jewish groups who have been so deeply hurt by this piece of garbage and condemn it, not as an academic paper but for the hate it actually is?"

The painful irony here is that the words that are hateful and poorly researched are Mr. Shurman's.

Mr. Hoskins condemns the thesis with enthusiasm, adding:

"...that the state of Israel is a very good friend of the province of Ontario. I had the privilege of visiting Israel earlier this year with the Premier and a number of members of the Liberal caucus and of this government to improve our ties."

Regarding the wrong road that Israel is on, American congressional rep. Barney Frank put it most succinctly:

'Friends don't let friends drive drunk.'

In her closing paragraphs Ms. Peto wrote, in part, that as Jews:

'We need to fight for and defend the rights of Palestinians and their allies to speak without fear of spurious
accusations of hatred and anti-Semitism.'

And again:

'It is time to end memorials that are meant to traumatize and re-traumatize
by forcing generations of Jewish people to try to recreate and relive the horrors.
We must force the Ashkenazi Jewish community to face the trauma of our past
and admit to the ways in which we have chosen to align ourselves with power in
an attempt to ensure that we are not victimized again. We must focus on healing
from the trauma of the past so that we can move forward because this morbid
focus on victimization and the Holocaust prevents us from understanding the
wrongs we commit within the community and against others that are
less powerful than we are.'

Jennifer Peto is on the right side of both justice and history. Israel continues to wander lost in the desert.
Jews such as Jennifer would seemingly give everything that they have to lead her safely home.

Most respectfully,

Diane V. McLoughlin



[1] 'The Victimhood of the Powerful:
White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic
Holocaust Education;' by Jennifer Peto; A thesis
submitted in conformity with the requirements
for the degree of Master of Arts
Graduate Department of Sociology and
Equity Studies in Education
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education
University of Toronto; copyright 2010;

[1a] Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Debates and Proceedings
Debates (Hansard)
Official Records for
7 December 2010 ; ;

[2] Wikipedia: Israel and the apartheid analogy ;

[3] Youtube clip (short) 1994 Baruch Goldstein; various news reports

[4] Youtube clip (short) of Jewish settlers celebrating the anniversary of
Goldstein's deed (quality: amateur/poor)

[5] BBC article, 'Graveside party celebrates Hebron Massacre'; (Mar. 21, 2000):
'Israeli extremists continue to pay homage at his grave in the nearby Jewish settlement
of Kiryat Arba, where a marble plaque reads: "To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave
his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel."

Copyright 2010, Diane V. McLoughlin

All Rights Reserved.

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