Letters to the Editor, Opinion

Letter to the Editor: The Tribune flirts with anti-Semitism

Dear Tribune,

It’s a frightening time to be a North American Jew. Kanye West’s rants are only the most visible example of the shocking re-entry of anti-Semitism into the American public sphere. Last week, I exchanged worried messages with friends after the Newark FBI warned of a “broad threat to synagogues” in New Jersey (thankfully, the threat was mitigated).

The spontaneity and indiscretion of Kanye West or Marjorie Taylor Greene risks distracting from what has been a strategic decision by the top minds of American conservatism. They adopt their model from Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, whose racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-democratic movement was propelled through propaganda casting George Soros, a Hungarian-born Jewish philanthropist, as a nefarious manipulator of Hungarian institutions and politics. One term remains inescapable in descriptions of both American and Hungarian anti-Soros dogwhistles: The “puppet master,” an anti-Semitic trope dating from the late 18th century that has since become a central image of anti-Semitic ideology.

The trope has distinctly ethnonationalist implications—right-wing American politicians can therefore threaten Jews in their own society in the same breath as they admire far-right currents in Israeli society. For many on the left, the association between pro-Israel politics and the attacks on Soros demonstrate that modern anti-Semitism is exclusively a problem of the right. But the pro-Israel shell of right-wing anti-Semitism has begun to crack. Kanye West took aim at Jewish Zionists” in one of his rants. Candace Owens, a pundit at the far-right Daily Wire and defender of West’s comments on Jews, recently shared a tweet from hard-left anti-Zionist Max Blumenthal dismissing criticism of Kanye West as a ploy of the “Zionist enterprise.” 

Here we see the overlapping connotations of “Zionist”: On the one hand, a word for a particular ideology and movement, on the other, a code denoting unwanted Jewish influence. Indeed, the infamous anti-Semitic forgery, Protocols of the Elders of Zion, is purported to describe Jewish plans for world domination as discussed at the first Zionist congress. Playing on this double meaning, antisemites with varying perspectives on Israel will often target Jews by condemning “Zionist” influence. Labelling all opposition to Zionism as anti-Semitism is a transparent and unjustifiable effort to suppress Palestinian advocacy. Nevertheless, where the term “Zionist” is today abused or attached to common anti-Semitic tropes, it becomes apparent that the left and right have both contributed to the construction of a language of anti-Semitic dogwhistles.

Look no further than the recent article in The McGill Tribune on a donation to McGill by Jewish philanthropist Charles Bronfman! I struggle to find daylight between anti-Soros canards and Students for Palestinian Human Rights’ (SPHR) unchallenged assertion, quoted in the Tribune, that McGill administrators are “puppets to their Zionist donors.”

This dangerous rhetoric has no place in student life. The Tribune owes its Jewish readers an apology and the promise that the next time we open the paper, we won’t be confronted with the same language disrupting Jewish life across North America.

When Tucker Carlson interviewed Kanye West a few weeks ago, he did not challenge West’s hateful rantingFox News just cut out the most overt anti-Semitism in favour of coded anti-Semitism that matched Carlson’s rhetoric. The example of Carlson and West demonstrates the insufficiency—and dishonesty—of merely scanning for blatant bigotry. The invocation of these tropes and their approval by editors across the Tribune hierarchy reflect systemic problems.

This week’s incident should be taken as a signal to revisit the Tribune’s uncritical relationship to politically-aligned student groups like SPHR. Among other things, what institutional atrophy brings us to the point where a News article will adopt SPHR’s prejudicial framing based on a written statement—without so much as an interview?

With frustration,

Benjamin Wexler, U2 Arts

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One Comment

  1. The SPHR is a dreadful organization and the Tribune demeans itself by parroting the SPHR. As an ex McGillian I am ashamed to see such “woke” antisemitism published in what I always considered an honorable publication.

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