Jews and censorship
You would think that a religion also known as The People of the Book wouldn't be much into book burning. Oh, I know that in 2008 our human rights commissions, and the Official Jews who support them -- the Canadian Jewish Congress, the B'nai Brith, the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- don't actually burn books. That's too 20th century. Now we order political deviants to to shut down their websites. And if the deviant is a Christian pastor, we order him never to send an e-mail or give a sermon.
I'm giving a talk today to the Canadian Jewish Civil Rights Association on the subject of free speech. I'm glad to learn from the organizer that the event is standing room only. To me that is a sign that grassroots Jews, normal Jews, Jews who aren't Official Jews, are increasingly offended by the pro-censorship line taken by our self-appointed betters. But, as I've said before, pretending that Bernie Farber of the CJC represents Canadian Jews is like pretending that Mohamed Elmasry of the Canadian Islamic Congress represents Canadian Muslims. More and more Jews look upon the likes of profesional race-hustlers like Farber the same way Clarence Thomas looks at Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton: Get a real job and stop embarrassing the rest of us. Or as we Jews would say, Stop being a shanda for the goyim.
Just tonight, a friend gave me a report about a major Simon Wiesenthal fundraiser, held in Toronto a few weeks ago -- their "Spirit of Hope" event, featuring former U.S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, former U.S. House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt, and CNN's Glenn Beck. Those are pretty big names, and other than Beck (on whose show I've appeared a couple of times) I wouldn't think they'd be following Canada's human rights commissions and their censorship laws.
My correspondent writes:
Glenn Beck said sarcastically "maybe I'll move up here to Canada" and Gingrich retorted "watch out, Glenn, if you do that the human rights commission up here will probably shut down your program and throw you in jail." (Paraphrase).
About half the audience exploded in spontaneous cheering, laughing and applause. No one looked angry or booed - I got the impression that the other half of the audience didn't understand the reference.
That confirms another report of the event, here.
What does it mean? It means that many Jews, even fancy society Jews, understand that freedom of speech is an essential Jewish value, and that censorship is an essentially violent and barbaric substitute. Censorship says: "I can't convince you, or I'm too lazy or worried to try, so I'll silence you by force." How un-Jewish.
As I've written before, disagreement and debate are woven into Judaism itself. The entire Jewish Talmud is an argument between two "houses" of thought. As Israel's first prime minister, David Ben Gurion, said, "the test of democracy is freedom of criticism." I can think of a half-dozen Jewish cliches and jokes that go to the Jewish love for disagreement and noisiness, and even offensiveness. "Two Jews, three opinions". Or, as the rabbi who introduced Mark Steyn at the Vancouver Hillel fundraiser two weeks ago said, "after Mark's speech, we'll have an answer and answer session".
The second thing to learn from that Wiesenthal dinner incident is that very serious people in other countries -- on both the left and the right -- are watching what is going on in Canada, and they are deeply unimpressed.
The third thing -- and this is my point, actually -- is that the Simon Wiesenthal Center, whose high-powered guest speakers trashed Canada's human rights commissions and whose well-heeled dinner guests applauded that trashing, is one of the most vicious interveners in Canadian Human Rights Commission censorship trials.
In other words, the SWC's boss, Leo Adler, is utterly disconnected from his own membership on the essential matter of free speech. Adler raises money from opponents of censorship to spend in the pursuit of censorship.
Surely, of all the Jewish groups intervening for censorship, Adler, with his focus on the Holocaust, should be the most sensitive to book burnings. But he's not. Perhaps it's some weird vengeance, some psychological therapy, some turn-around, where the Jews get to burn the Nazi books now. That's precisely the kind of immoral, unprincipled vengeance that some self-appointed gay activists are now indulging in, too, when they persecute Christians using the HRCs.