In his weekly Canadian Jewish News media analysis column "According to Reports," Paul Michaels, CIC Director of Communications, comments on reaction to the Israeli rabbis who warned Jews not to rent to Arabs, and an egregious statement by Noam Chomsky.
Under the title, "A disturbing desecration of Jewish values" (Jerusalem Post, Dec. 12), Rabbi David Rosen, the Jerusalem-based director of interreligious affairs for the American Jewish Committee, wrote a scathing rebuke to the effort of a number of rabbis in Israel to prohibit Jews from renting or selling property to non-Jews. This effort, initiated by Rabbi Shmuel Eliahu of Safed in the form of a statement to be signed by other religious figures, was the subject of several prominent stories last week in the Canadian media. It was also the focus of an excellent editorial in last week's CJN.
"It is some small comfort that the majority of rabbis approached by Eliahu refused to support his initiative, that the chief rabbis have disassociated themselves from it, and that many notable rabbinic figures have publicly condemned it," Rosen wrote. But he went on to raise concern that "this deplorable letter" reflects the "degree to which fear and paranoia prevail in segments of our society."
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was quick to condemn the "no rent" rabbis' ruling, as were other senior political figures. Benny Begin, a Likud cabinet minister prominent for his very conservative political views, is less well known for his principled defense of the protection of Israel's minorities under the rule of law. He has been in the forefront of those arguing that not only is Israel's Jewish character compatible with its liberal democratic commitments (as enshrined in its Declaration of Independence) but that the latter in particular must be protected.
"We must respond, publicly, to indicate to the public, to the Arab sector, that we do not agree with the letter,” Begin urged.
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It's interesting that many on the far left who would correctly denounce the actions of the "no rent" rabbis are also among those who lead the campaign against recognizing Israel as the homeland of the Jewish people.
In their view, while it's racist to refuse to rent or sell property to Arabs, it's not racist to refuse to recognize Jewish "ownership" to a part of their ancestral homeland. This despite the fact that such "ownership" was recommended by the UN itself in 1947.
Ironically, leftist radicals misapprehend their own intolerance towards Jewish claims as "progressive." They fail to acknowledge that one cannot denounce the former as a form of bigotry, without also condemning the latter for the same offence. But this is precisely what many on the radical left – and radical right – do all the time, with impunity.
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Noam Chomsky is praised in some circles for being designated the world's No. 1 public intellectual. That title has never inhibited him from saying outrageous things. In fact, it's probably part of his wide appeal.
Still, it's one thing to be provocative, and another to be blatantly and factually wrong, even to the point of uttering sheer nonsense.
But that's precisely what Chomsky did when, on TVO's Dec. 6 The Agenda with Steve Paikin, he insisted that Hamas's refusal to recognize Israel's legitimacy is no different from Mexico's refusal to recognize America's.
Yes, that's what he said. According to Chomsky, while Mexico recognizes the United States as a fact, it doesn't recognize the legitimacy, for instance, of U.S. sovereignty over former Mexican territory like Texas.
Paikin immediately jumped in to note that Mexicans aren't crossing the border to blow themselves up in U.S. cities to air their grievances. That observation seemed lost on Chomsky, as did the obvious fact that Mexico has not declared its intent to destroy the United States and replace it with a Mexican state, even in part.
More to the point, Mexico's relations with the U.S. are not based on its temporary acceptance of the "fact" of America's existence, but upon genuine co-existence and mutual recognition.
Chomsky's remarks are breathtakingly absurd, and the absurdities of his analogy with Hamas keep mounting the more one thinks about it.