Provocation Within a Provocation
State-Organized Racist Attacks Over the CBC

News Commentary by GARY ZATZMAN*

HALIFAX (15 April, 2004) -- There is a wave of provocations under way against the unity of the Canadian people, against what tends to draw them together. The latest occasion has been the recent wave of incidents against both Jewish and Muslim communities. A number of vandalising desecrations -- of gravesites, private religious schools and community centres in both communities -- began in the greater Toronto area two weekends ago. The timing coincided with Jewish community's commemoration of the deportation of more than 800 000 Jewish residents of Hungary to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz 60 years ago. Last weekend, just before the start of the Jewish Passover, the second most sacred period in that religion's calendar, a United Talmud Torah school in Montreal, one of the oldest Jewish religious schools in Canada, was firebombed.

Prime Minister Paul Martin, Quebec Premier Jean Charest, Montreal-area MP and federal Justice Minister Irwin Cotler and numerous community and national organizations from the Jewish, Arab and Muslim communities in various parts of Canada joined in denouncing both the latest firebombing as well as the earlier incidents in the Toronto area. Everyone acknowledged the undeniably provocative character of these actions and urged expeditious action by the proper authorities to detect, arrest, try and convict the person(s) responsible.

But it turns out there is provocation within the provocation. Rex Murphy's egregious commentary on April 6, on national television, truly exemplifies this situation of "provocation squared." Denouncing the latest fire-bombing by singling out the pain of Jewish community, and going so far as to assert that Prime Minister Paul Martin's remark that this pain was shared by all Canadians amounted to devaluing and minimizing that community's particular pain (!), the CBC's star national commentator acknowledged expressions of sympathy from Muslim and Arab community groups, but only for the purpose of carrying out his own drive-by shooting of the truth. Somehow, he failed to mention that similar hate crimes had been carried out in the same period against Muslim community property in Toronto. Somehow also he did not fail to connect the anti-semitic messages and graffiti found at the Jewish targets with those who -- according to him -- use the Israel-Palestine conflict and U.S. conflict with the Muslim world as a "cover" for committing hate crimes.

Of course the unstated implication of such "logic" is that if the Arab and Muslim communities suffer similar indignities, it will only be payback, just desserts, etc.

Giving such thinking a national platform amounts to an open provocation against the basic unity of the Canadian people, who have never accepted and will never accept such outrages as either natural, tolerable or acceptable under any circumstances. The CBC should be condemned for permitting such a provocation to proceed under the guise of freedom of speech. Regardless of how ignorant, narrow, bigoted, eloquent or well-paid the speaker, freedom of speech does not and can never include freedom to yell "Fire!" in a country of more than 170 different nationalities and literally dozens of religious faiths.

Even if operating at so-called arm's length from government authority, the CBC is a conscious organization and part of the Canadian state. The experience here reconfirms the Canadian people's rich experience time and time again: racist and fascist attacks are indeed state-organized. Some of these acts may turn out to be committed by gangs of backward hooligans, but they neither originate in, stem from, nor begin and end with such groups. Whatever form it takes, the essence of the method of these state-organized attacks is always the same. There is the method of throwing the stone but hiding the hand that threw it. There is the method of exposing whomever threw the stone to police scrutiny and the courts while hiding who financed the activity. And there is the method of using the occasion of denouncing what everyone is already condemning as hate crime in order to single out the suffering of a particular immediate victim in such a way that the effort to strengthen of the unity of the people -- so that the spread of such activities can actually be checked -- is completely obstructed. Then, the attacks can escalate against the most vulnerable sections of the working people and the oppressed, particularly among the national minorities.

Those who would exploit these recent incidents for the purpose of launching a provocation within a provocation are like the man who lifted a rock only to drop it on his own feet. The necessity to build the united front of the Canadian people has never been clearer. It is the only path on which the ethnic, national and religious minorities can isolate the politics of elite accommodation carried on behind their back and affirm their collective right-to-be.

* Gary Zatzman is the co-editor of Dossier on Palestine.

Comments to : Copyright 2004 New Media Services Inc. The views expressed herein are the writers' own and do not necessarily reflect those of shunpiking magazine or New Media Publications. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content. Copyright of written and photographic and art work remains with the creators.