it didn't take b'nai brith very long on Tuesday, mere hours after the horror struck New York, to oil its spin machine. The group, whose timing is shameless, issued "an urgent alert" to security officials, warning them about possible terrorist supporters making their way to Canada for a pro-Palestinian demonstration taking place Saturday (September 15) in Montreal."Today's terrorist attacks have emphasized the vulnerability of all democratic states in the face of the ruthless agenda of terrorist groups, those who fund them and those who provide them with logistic and moral support," says the press release, neatly tying mass murder at the World Trade Centre to protest against the Israeli occupation.
Talk about guilt by association. The idea that thousands of terrorist symps were rushing across the border to carry placards at Concordia University was certainly news to Jewish and Arab peace activists who have worked together on the demo for a month now and have diligently outlawed the burning of the Israeli flag and speeches that incite hatred.
I chanced to meet a tableful of them sharing noodles at the Thai Express on St. Laurent in Montreal last week -- so long ago, before those towers fell, when we were still innocents. It was one of their semi-regular communions and I couldn't help but be touched by the tiny miracle of these struggling connections as I downed my green tea.
But B'nai Brith's Rochelle Wilner isn't impressed by this kind of Semitic solidarity. And she's quite sure our borders are at risk. How does she know? Well, she tells me, Palestinians were dancing in the streets during the New York horror, and they have no "culture of peace. Children are taught to hate from the moment they're born."
Aren't you worried, I ask, about typecasting an entire people (don't we use the "r" word for that?) and casting a chill on a legal, peaceful demo? "Look, if we're going to have 10,000 people demonstrating, maybe 9,500 are right-minded," she allows, "but maybe 500 have ties to terrorist organizations. Do you want them here? Maybe the fair-minded have to be shut out because we don't have security to handle the others."
You can't blame protestors for believing the real message here is that those who head to Concordia on Saturday are security risks (translation, a pain in the ass for B'nai Brith's propaganda efforts). Montreal peace types find this logic spectacularly self-serving.
Robert Silverman, a member of Jews Against the Occupation and organizer of the friendship suppers, declares B'nai Brith's statement "full of falsehoods. It's finger-pointing without the slightest evidence. B'nai Brith is fomenting racial tension and anti-Semitism," he says. "Even the Americans aren't saying the Palestinians did it.'
And you can imagine why Ahmed Abu Safia from the student-based Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights assumes B'nai Brith is actually trying to force the cancellation of their event. "They will use any excuse. Believe me, we have nothing to do with any terrorist action. Of course, after what has happened in New York -- whatever freak did that -- I don't know how many people will even show up to our demonstration," he says sadly.
Some months back, I happened to be in a meeting hall on Marlee where Meir Kahane's son (murdered on the West Bank a few days later) was fundraising for a terrorist holy war to expel all Arabs from Israel. I don't remember B'nai Brith siccing their friends in high places on him.