Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Did Jew See That?

The other day I was reading about the recapitalization of Canwest Global Communications in Yahoo news. I skimmed the comments that other people were making and was shocked to see a number of overt anti-Semitic remarks, such as: "That's what Jews do. They borrow from other people and don't pay back."

It reminded me of a social occasion several years ago when I was having dinner with my mother and we had invited a friend of hers over. This woman, whom I will call Cassandra, talked at length about how the Jews were "taking over" the Queensway Carleton Hospital in my hometown of Ottawa (or Nepean, actually). She proceeded to declare that the Jews were trying to run the world, starting with the international banking system. That's because they were so smart, ambitious and greedy. That's not the first time that I had heard that or even the conspiracy theory that Jews were behind 9/11.

Normally, I try to abide by the old maxim, don't talk politics, sex or religion over Sunday dinner (My brother would disagree because I ruined his anniversary one year by coaxing him into a rabid political debate over cocktails. My justification is that that was not a Sunday.) And I also attempt to be fair. I was talking to an octogenarian. She grew up in a different time and place, rife with prejudice. But in this case I made an exception. I strongly opposed what our guest said and I continue to do so when I hear anybody disparaging Jews or any other ethnic group.

Just imagine substituting the word “blacks” or “women” – “Blacks live off welfare because they're too lazy to work.” “Women run up their credit cards and expect their husbands to pay them off.” When we see gross stereotypes like that, we flinch, as we should.

If people want to talk about Canwest filing for bankruptcy protection, fine. Stick to the topic! No need for ad hominem attacks. The fact that the owners are Jewish has nothing to do with anything.

I've never been big on Internet regulation, partly because I'm philosophically opposed and largely because it's so impractical and unenforceable. But there is a way to allow the Internet to self regulate: when you read an anti-Semitic comment, respond back. Be polite, be firm and be clear that it never was and never will be acceptable, online or off.

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