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Dr. Catherine Chatterley



Reply by Michael Keefer,Nov. 23, 2010, and rebuttal by Catherine Chatterley, Nov.25,2010

[Editor’s Note: Prof Keefer is responding to  Dr.. Catherine Chatterley’s article currently running as a Feature article which can be read by clicking here..  Prof Keefer's  response was published on  November 23, 2010.  Following that, Dr. Chatterly wrote in with a Rebuttal to  Keffer. Both Keefer's response and  Chatterley's rebuttal are printed below]


 by Michael Keefer, Professor, School of English and Theatre Studies, University of Guelph, November 23, 2010

I applaud Dr. Catherine Chatterley’s statement (in her November 15 article on “Campus Antisemitism” currently running as a Feature article) that debates over subjects like antisemitism, Israel, and Palestine “must be self-reflexive, reasoned, and accurate,” and that we need to avoid ad hominem attacks, so as to “encourage intelligent discussion and debate that employs meaningful, ethical, and accurate language”—the italics are Dr. Chatterley’s—“to describe what are truly difficult, complex, and contested histories.”

But Dr. Chatterley abandons her own standards of ethics and accuracy when she refers to me as exemplifying what she calls “Antisemitism Denial.” It is not unduly sensitive to hear in these words a deliberate echo of “Holocaust Denial”—and therefore a vicious ad hominem attack. Dr. Chatterley’s claim that I “have gone on the assault against antisemitism as a contemporary problem, arguing that there is no such thing and comparing this so-called phantom to the ‘real’ antisemitism of the past,” goes beyond mere inaccuracy: it is a flagrant falsehood.

In addition to my work in other fields, I am the editor and part-author of Antisemitism Real and Imagined: Responses to the Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism (Waterloo: The Canadian Charger, 2010).  This book includes texts by eleven Canadian scholars and human rights activists (a majority of whom, as it happens, are Jewish), and by the leaders of seven human rights organizations. Far from minimizing the reality of contemporary antisemitism, these texts recurrently express concern that uncritical support for the state of Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights could feed a renewal of antisemitic prejudice and hatred in this country.

My own contributions, which make up just over half of the book, include an extended analysis of the statistical evidence relating to antisemitic incidents and hate crimes. My study of UK government figures, Statistics Canada data, the annual incident-report tallies published by the Community Security Trust (CST) in Britain, and B’nai Brith Canada’s annual audits of antisemitic incidents, led me to conclude that the CPCCA’s claims of an alarming resurgence of antisemitism in Canada are untrue, and B’nai Brith’s figures seriously inflated. But after noting that police statistics show a declining trend in hate crimes, I wrote that “I am not suggesting that we should find anything very reassuring about the data analyzed in this chapter: Jews are indeed being disproportionately targeted by hatemongers” (p. 191).

Readers of my contributions to the book will find many further examples of a lively concern over real present-day antisemitism—together with a strong critique of the deceptions practiced by those who imagine that they can get away with smearing advocates of international human rights law by labeling their criticisms of Israeli policies as instances of a “new antisemitism.” 

As for Dr. Chatterley: If she genuinely wishes to earn a reputation for responsible, accurate, and ethical scholarship, she will have to begin by making some effort to live up to her own ideals.



 November 25, 2010
Dear Professor Keefer,
Re: Your book, Antisemitism: Real and Imagined, published in 2010 by a website based in Waterloo,
In your public discussions about this book you make a distinction between what you view as real antisemitism and the new antisemitism, which you call a “rhetorical shell game” and “rhetorical trickery.” You say that real antisemitism is a “toxic prejudice,” now largely on the wane in Canada, and that the new antisemitism is “not new and it’s not really antisemitism” but it makes “use of this history of suffering, this history of martyrdom, in a way that is at the service of unacceptable political positions.” You argue that in 1973, when “real antisemitism was in rapid decline . . . leading figures in the Anti-Defamation League [tried to] redefine antisemitism to incorporate criticism of the State of Israel, and to use that as a way for providing public support . . . to hold onto the conquered territories, the occupied territories.”
Sources: youtube wide eye cinema
(The two public comments below your discussion on the last site clearly illustrate the consistencies between old and new, or classic and contemporary, antisemitism.)
The CPCCA (Canadian Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Antisemitism), you argue, is the 2002 creation of “Irwin Cotler in collaboration with the Israeli Foreign Ministry.” You claim that “the first iteration of this project fell through because groups like the Anti-Defamation League in the United States says ‘it has Israel’s fingerprints too obviously all over it . . . be more subtle, be clever.’” You say that the intention of the CPCCA is to “activate Canadian public opinion in support of this completely illegitimate equation of antisemitism, or identification of criticism of the State of Israel as antisemitism.” The larger intention, you say, is “to alter the orientation of, for example, our police forces when they are enforcing our hate crime laws, to alter the ways in which courts might look at this issue,” and you speculate that there may be changes made to the Canadian Criminal Code.
The cross-country book tour you led this year across our campuses was provocatively titled: “Criticize Israel—Go to Jail?” Many parents are concerned by what they see as growing anti-Israel hostility on campus and its misdirection toward their children. In relation to campus, you state: “Let’s be honest, you know, there are occasional episodes where students on university campuses get too excited and are rude to each other.” Many people associated with York University (and Concordia University) would, I imagine, beg to differ with this interpretation of current conditions on campus.
The work of the Interparliamentary Coalition for Combating Antisemitism (ICCA), and the Ottawa Conference it hosted from November 7-9, 2010, did not focus on Canada, but was an international conference with participants from 50 countries. The discussions focused on the global resurgence of antisemitism, which is in fact a very serious problem. The most obvious example is the leader of Iran, who routinely threatens the nuclear destruction of the Jewish State, which constitutes incitement to genocide and is a clear violation of international law. In my three days in Ottawa, I did not once hear anyone mention changing the Canadian Criminal Code to restrict criticism of Israel, to criminalize free speech, or to ban it from campuses. And far from creating a Canadian panic, Professor Cotler admitted in his coverage of the recent conference, “the situation in Canada compares favourably with what is transpiring elsewhere. If one were to look only at Canada, one might be hard put to speak of a pandemic of anti-Semitism, as it has been called.” National Post

The new antisemitism is, in fact, a concept central to the scholarly study of antisemitism and the phenomenon is recognized as a serious, complex, global problem by leading scholars in the field (and now obviously by many parliamentarians). Scholars of antisemitism do not place this phenomenon in quotation marks, or understand it as an invention of the ADL in 1973. We are currently in the process of debating just how new this phenomenon actually is; some of us (myself included) do not use the term new but prefer the term contemporary (as opposed to classic). The millennial history of antisemitism clearly demonstrates that it is a protean phenomenon, and the contemporary forms we see today recycle and reformulate the themes and tropes—better known as lies and myths about the Jewish people—of classic antisemitism.
Your letter suggests, “that uncritical support for the state of Israel’s systematic violations of Palestinian human rights could feed a renewal of antisemitic prejudice and hatred in this country.” First, I do not know anyone who actually supports human rights violations in the Palestinian territories or anywhere else. Second, antisemitism is not a form of normal human hostility or even a function of normal human outrage, both of which are inevitable human reactions to war and conflict. This is precisely why criticism of Israel is not by definition antisemitic.
Antisemitism is never a legitimate reaction to the behavior of Jews, either as a collective or as individuals. Antisemitism is the product of a conspiratorial ideological way of thinking about Jews that relies upon a belief in the actual existence of “Jewish power and its evil machinations for control.” To understand the nature and motives of antisemitism one does not study Jews or their behavior but those who manifest this antisemitic mindset.
Dr. Catherine Chatterley
Founding Director, Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism (CISA)
SSHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Manitoba, Department of History
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