Robert Fisk: How on earth can Israel tolerate this filth from B’nai Brith Canada?

Four million Canadians carrying the anti-Semitic ‘disease’? We’ve heard this kind of despicable propaganda before

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Not long ago, I was handed the most outrageous, vile, dishonest and slanderous calumny uttered against the people of Canada. It was contained in a full-page advertisement in the National Post (founder, Conrad Black), a newspaper handed out – free, I’m happy to say – on my Air France flight out of Toronto. Here is the headline: “Almost 4 million Canadians are afflicted by this disease.”

Beneath this title is a half-page, very blurred and uncaptioned colour photo of a large crowd – they could be football supporters, rush-hour commuters in Vancouver, you name it; they are mostly white males but include women and with at least one dark-skinned man close to the camera. Beneath the picture, this incredible ad continues: “Left unchecked, it [the disease] can result in violence tendencies. Many times, those infected haven’t been diagnosed and may pass it on to their children, grandchildren, colleagues or friends. Please help stop the spread of this disease before it contaminates your community.”

This is frightening stuff, of course. Could this refer to some of the six million Canadians who may be living with HIV/Aids? Or the 4.5 million Canadians affected by arthritis? Or the 2.5 million Canadians believed to have diabetes? Or even some of the estimated 7.8 million Canadians treated for depression each year? Nope. This is far more serious. For the “disease” afflicting “almost 4 million Canadians” is “anti-Semitism” and this disgusting advertisement – published without comment by one of Canada’s leading right-wing newspapers – was produced by B’nai Brith Canada and the “Jewish Christian Alliance”.

“At the first sign of anti-Semitism,” this appalling ad concludes, “call the B’nai Brith Canada Anti-Hate Hotline…” In other words, this pro-Israeli Jewish group – whose exaggerations and hateful propaganda have been rightly condemned by Jewish Canadians – claims that four million of their fellow-countrymen and women are sick, racist neo-Nazis. What other conclusion are we supposed to draw if almost 9 per cent of the Canadian population is “diseased”, “infected” and “contaminated”.

Now let’s forget that B’nai Brith regards any criticism of the state of Israel – however justified, however mild, made by Jews and non-Jews alike – as anti-Semitic. Let’s forget previous protests by Jewish Americans against the organisation’s grotesque exaggerations. Let’s even ignore its equation of Palestinians with Nazis, a comparison that led it to publish a bowdlerised version of the infamous photograph of the wartime Grand Mufti of Jerusalem meeting with Hitler – the Nazi dictator was “moved” in the B’nai Brith version of the snapshot about three feet closer to the Palestinian so that Hitler appears to be almost sitting on his visitor’s lap.

And let’s not ask why the Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, did not immediately leap to the defence of his own Canadian people when confronted by this disgusting statement of “disease”. For alas, Harper told the Israeli Knesset last January – while archly claiming “criticism of Israeli policy is not in and of itself necessarily (sic) anti-Semitic” – that condemnation of Israeli policies amounted to anti-Semitism. This included those who supported the boycott campaign against Israel or referred to it as an apartheid state. “On some campuses,” said Harper, “intellectualised (sic) arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students.”

“Sickening,” Harper called this. Yes, the Canadian Prime Minister himself was using the “disease” metaphor employed by B’nai Brith. And why not? Because there’s another reason Canadians can expect no protection from their own Prime Minister, who in his speech might have been a member of the Knesset rather than a guest of its members: Stephen Harper was awarded the “International Presidential Gold Medal” for “his commitment to the Jewish people and the State of Israel” in 2008 – by B’nai Brith.

But what, we have to ask, possesses Israel’s “friends” to publish this pernicious material about 4 million “diseased” Canadians? Does B’nai Brith Canada not realise that these very same despicable lies were used by the Nazis in their hate propaganda against the Jews of Europe? In Hitler’s Germany, Jews were described as microbes. Jews, according to Julius Streicher, were “the carriers of disease and vermin among men”. In August 1941, Goebbels called Jews “the carriers of infectious diseases” and two weeks later referred to Jews as “parasites”. By November, he was calling them “lice”.

But now, 4 million Canadians carry “disease”. Undiagnosed “infections” will be passed on to children and grandchildren. The “community” is in danger of being “contaminated”. If this stuff was not so revolting, it could be laughed off. It’s not just a question of how Stephen Harper can tolerate this garbage. How can Canadians? And – here I draw only on my own experience of visiting Israel itself dozens of times – how on earth can Israel tolerate this filth from B’nai Brith Canada? Disgrace is the word that comes to mind. And it prompts two grim thoughts. If this dangerous material is really supposed to defend Israel, then Israel must be in much greater danger than it believes. And with a Canadian outfit such as B’nai Brith and the National Post as its “friends”, Israel doesn’t need Arab enemies.

So, that’s what Isis has been up to

While the Iraqi army supposedly fights back against Isis, it’s worth remembering that the cities at either end of the Islamists’ new self-proclaimed caliphate – Aleppo in Syria and Mosul in Iraq – have historic links which precede the post-First World War Anglo-French Mandates that divided them with a Syrian-Iraqi frontier. I’m indebted to a short but enlightening monograph by John McHugo (chair of the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine) which points out that “in 1919-20… the separation of Iraq from Greater Syria was still only a division between occupation zones. Aleppo had stronger links and greater fellow feeling with Mosul than with Damascus.”

Both, says McHugo, were cosmopolitan, merchant cities “which had been trading partners for hundreds of years, if not for millennia, along the Silk Road, and there was no natural frontier between them.”

It gets better. According to McHugo – a lawyer by trade, as well as an Arabist – Aleppo, “still at the time probably Syria’s largest city and certainly the country’s commercial hub, had retained its links with Mosul and Baghdad throughout the Mandate years. Many politicians from the city favoured Syria joining Iraq in a federation, or even a full union…” So there you have it. The Silk Road reconnected. Now we know why the Isis lads have been bulldozing the border ramparts between Iraq and Syria.

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