Last Wednesday I had the misfortune of attending a presentation by the notorious American journalist Max Blumenthal. Hosted and organized by the Toronto Public Library, together with PEN Canada and a shady anti-Israeli organization called Independent Jewish Voices, the event was supposed to promote free speech and understanding of different points of view. In his introduction, the president of PEN even mentioned by name two Bangladeshi secular bloggers who received numerous threats and eventually were hacked to death by Muslim extremists.
However, the presentation itself had more to do with defending the views of the Muslim murderers. It was puzzling that of all authors in the world the organizers picked as a keynote speaker Max Blumenthal, a man whose views hardly advance free speech. To add insult to the injury, the organizers and especially the representative of the library, stated in the beginning that no photography and recording were allowed during the event, which defied its purpose. They obviously couldn’t grasp the irony of having a free speech event that must be kept secret. But when you consider the views of Blumenthal and the fact that the format was a conversation with Olivia Ward from the Toronto Star, Canada’s most biased lefty newspaper, it wasn’t surprising that they tried to prevent the public from learning more about the discussion.
That attempt had no chance of succeeding. Had PEN organized the presentation in a closed hall, the ban could have had an effect, but it was held in the middle of the atrium of the Toronto Reference Library, a wide-open space in which everybody could hear and record the talk from powerful speakers reaching the whole library. The fiery exchanges between Blumenthal and members of the audience soon attracted visitors who were not registered for the event and there was no way to stop them from surrounding the stage or taking pictures from the upper floors. Another factor that increased the interest was the heavy police presence, courtesy of the organizers. There were more than ten police officers. I have attended many similar events at the library over the years, but I have never seen police. Even at the event promoting Justin Trudeau’s “memoirs” last year there were only security guards, though Trudeau himself was present.
So it wasn’t difficult to obtain a recording of the event that the “free speech advocates” tried so hard to suppress:
Why that fear of the audience when PEN is promoting noble free speech values? Blumenthal has some odd views about Israel and the Jews that may trigger an emotional response from his opponents. In a nutshell, his points in the presentation and in his books are:
In a mythical country called “Israel-Palestine” evil Zionist Jews call all the shots. They got there by colonizing the territory in the 1940’s. Once they were in charge, they kicked out the angelic peaceful Arabs and locked them up in a concentration camp called Gaza. The Zionists can’t understand how beneficial would be to open the borders of “Israel-Palestine” to let all Arabs in and be vastly outnumbered by the newcomers. Instead, they cling to the odd idea that Israel should be a national state of the Jews. In those conditions any violence perpetrated by the Arabs is a noble struggle for freedom and the attempts of the Jews to defend themselves are a vile demonstration of oppression. The Zionists in “Israel-Palestine” are more powerful than the Elders of Zion. Somehow they managed to assemble a vast international conspiracy (called by Blumenthal “Israel lobby”) that manages to control the Obama administration, Justin Trudeau’s government in Canada, the Anti-Defamation League, the new atheism of Richard Dawkins, the New York Times, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the Palestinian Authority and even little bit of Hamas. That powerful cabal is even engaged in virulent Islamophobia against the peaceful Islam and only lonely Quixotic figures like Max Blumenthal have summoned the courage to oppose the conspiracy.
That is an odd and crazy view that falls apart as soon as one gets the facts, but it doesn’t matter. Blumenthal’s target audience are the average urban leftists who see everything through the prism of their dogmas. Reality and facts mean nothing to them.
We could ignore such views if the fight was about “trans” washrooms, but in this case Max Blumenthal’s “prescriptions,” would affect in the most negative way the lives of over 6,000,000 Jews living in Israel. It looks like this is a trend in the Blumenthal family. His father Sidney Blumenthal is a close friend of the corrupt Clinton family. The released e-mails from Hillary Clinton’s illegal private server showed that Blumenthal Senior advised her when she was a Secretary of State and especially during the Libyan crisis. I don’t need to remind you about the tragedy that followed. “But what difference does it make now?”
Olivia Ward, who was asking the questions, made sure that she didn’t ask anything that could challenge Blumenthal’s views. The organizers even made it clear in the beginning that anybody who disrupted the event with inconvenient questions would be kicked out by the police (and they kept their promise).
Blumenthal stated in the beginning that the Gaza situation has not been covered adequately and is even misrepresented in the Western media. He has been attacked for his positions and accused of lack of objectivity. He can’t be objective when Gaza is presented as a place of terrorism and Israel is fighting it with the excuse that it is trying to preserve itself. About 80% of the Gazan people are refugees, forcefully expelled by Israel in 1940’s. If they come back, they will violate the purity of the Israeli state, which is a state based on demographic engineering. Violence in Gaza – is it just terror and hatred of Jews? Or something like the apartheid that we have seen in South Africa? The factions there fight for an end to the siege and end of the engineered demographics.
(Well, Mr. Blumenthal must have picked up Bill Clinton’s ability to distort facts. It is not hard to see that the Jews in the Holy Land had been for centuries the targets of massacres and pogroms perpetrated by their Muslim neighbours, long before the “Zionist Entity” was established. Even after that Israel had been forced to fight wars after the Arab states ganged up several times to destroy it. And “demographic engineering” becomes a necessity when Hamas and Fatah, the major faction of the Palestinian Authority, openly state that they will obliterate the Jewish state.)
Then Ms. Ward asked about the lack of diversity in the reporting about Gaza. Blumenthal agreed that the media political views lack diversity. There is blackout on reporting from Gaza. He gave as an example the Jerusalem bureau of the New York Times – they are located in West Jerusalem and cover the events from a Jewish point of view. They occupy a house confiscated decades ago from a Palestinian broadcaster. Some of the NYT staff have sons in the Israeli army, which is a conflict of interest they don’t reveal. What would happen if they had a correspondent in Gaza whose son was a member of the Al-Qassam Brigades? It will be a major scandal. It’s a double standard and a cultural issue.
(Another pearl of wisdom – in Blumenthal’s twisted world of cultural relativism membership in the terrorist Al-Qassam Brigades is the same as serving in the Israel Defense Forces.)
After he was asked by Ms. Ward about how he covers his expenses as a reporter, Blumenthal did his best to present himself as martyr of the Zionist conspiracy. First, he joked that the Clinton Foundation was paying for it, then he claimed that he was financing everything himself on a shoestring. A photographer he worked with made money in New York as a construction worker, then moved to a Palestinian refugee camp. He complained that many journalists didn’t take Gaza seriously. Example – after the Gaza assault by Israel in 2014, there were many journalists in the area, but as soon as James Foley was beheaded, all of them left for Syria and nobody was interested in Gaza anymore.
One of the major problems with his work, according to him, is that he is a successful upper middle class person from an influential family and the “Israel lobby” doesn’t want to see other like him to spread the truth. He has been declared anti-Semite and featured in a high position on the Simon Wiesenthal list. This is not fair, he said – it distracts the attention from actual anti-Semites, the Israel lobby cheapens the meaning of the term. Conflating Israel with Judaism is something that the anti-Semites do. Palestinians who do something similar, could be branded terrorists or fanatics and to challenge that narrative that belittles Muslims we must fight Islamophobia. Palestinians are dehumanized.
At this point somebody from the audience yelled if Ward was going to ask some real questions. The interruption knocked Blumenthal off balance – he yelled back. Nevertheless, he continued with the talk and turned to the unfair way the supporters of the movement to boycott Israel (BDS) were treated around the world. Even the Canadian Parliament overwhelmingly voted for a motion condemning the movement, that was a move “to restrict the free speech of those who support Palestinian rights.” Blumenthal saw that criticism as a campaign of the Israel lobby, which is the worst threat for free speech in the world.
At this point a few people of the audience, some from JDL-Canada, raises protest signs, which was followed by more noise and interruptions from both sides. The MC from PEN Canada warned the protesters that they will be evicted and that’s what happened – the police kicked out several of Blumenthal’s critics.
In the final segment of his presentation Blumenthal talked about the social media coverage of the Gaza conflict. He mentioned the Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon who said recently that the Palestinians desire death. Then Blumenthal tried to refute the statement with an example of a person in Gaza, supposedly killed by the IDF, whose death was caught on video – he met the family, who received the video by e-mail. Their children wanted to become members of the Al-Qassam Brigades, that is how they acquire their members, it’s all Israel’s fault. Many Palestinians were killed at home. Blumenthal was interrupted again by someone who yelled that it’s because Hamas shoots from houses and schools. (The observation was correct – Hamas launched rockets from homes, UN facilities and even the front yard of a hotel hosting foreign correspondents from India, who documented that and were kicked out by Hamas).
That ended the presentation and during the Q&A session the truly inconvenient questions started to pile up. The MC warned the audience again that anybody who misbehaves will be evicted.
A lady named Rachel questioned Blumenthal’s point about the logic of the Al-Qassam Brigades – that’s not a matter of life or death but a desire to destroy Israel. Urged by Blumenthal to give an example, she mentioned how Abu Mazen (a.k.a. Mahmoud Abbas) went on live TV to defend the stabbing terrorists saying that they fight a holy war and it is good to spill Jewish blood. She questioned his point that the terrorism was caused by mistakes and not anti-Semitism. She had another question – in this talk about free speech he didn’t mention even once the torture of a Gazan journalist who criticized Hamas. People should have the right to criticize their government.
Blumenthal’s response was ridiculous. He remarked sarcastically that it was strange to accuse Mahmoud Abbas, who is the most complicit leader that Israel has ever had at its disposal. His security forces arrest Palestinians and she is not happy even with that. Incitement is a problem – but Israeli politicians do it. They call for extermination of Palestinian mothers, Netanyahu called the Palestinians beasts and called for building a wall around Israel, this happens every day.
Another young man was puzzled with the claim that the Western media suppressed the Palestinian points of view. Why haven’t hundreds of attacks by Palestinians been covered by that media? Instead of answering, Blumenthal decided to take a personal shot – the young man was wearing a JDL-Canada shirt.
He asked: “Are you a member of JDL? I want to mention that the JDL is classified by the FBI as a violent extremist organization.” (Somebody yelled: “Hamas too!”). Then he added that JDL has been involved in terrorist attacks against Palestinians. The presence of JDL at this event is a result of incitement from mainstream media. His opponent tried to respond that the JDL exists as a reaction to anti-Semitism but was quickly silenced.
(Blumenthal has a poor understanding of the Canadian reality. JDL-Canada often is the only organization that confronts anti-Semitic rallies and groups. A couple of years ago the CBC had to apologize publicly for calling JDL-Canada “terrorist group”.)
In the next series of questions (three questions from three people) somebody asked how Blumenthal was going to explain the presence of Arab political parties in the Israeli Knesset and the total lack of Jews in Gaza. The second one asked why Blumenthal was about free speech – if the “Israel lobby” is such a major threat, how could Blumenthal explain that 12 Charlie Hebdo cartoonists were killed by Muslims over cartoons.
The third who approached the microphone, a guy with a long hair, carried a Koran. His first words were that Mohammed was a terrorist and they were his last – the progressive crowd started jeering, Blumenthal got mad and the police surrounded the guy and took him away. That’s for you free speech in Toronto.
After the commotion, Blumenthal responded. It’s true that there are members of the Knesset who are Palestinians representing 20% of the Israeli population and most of them belong to the Balad party, but they are mistreated. There was a bill proposed that would suspend MK Zoabi and others from Balad party for unpatriotic statements. They say that Israel should be country for all citizens, which is modest and reflects Blumenthal’s views. (Here he took advantage of the ignorance of the audience. Many of the Arab MK’s are much more radical than he claims. I had the opportunity to learn more about their views when I met the Balad MK Jamal Zahalka in Toronto couple of years ago).
As of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, Blumenthal assured us that there was no excuse for violence, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t criticize the magazine, especially the cartoons mocking Muslims and the Koran. The magazine is Islamophobic. Its agenda is about partisanship and not higher values. The question about Mohammed being a terrorist reveals the incitement that the Israeli lobby spreads in Canada – it doesn’t reflect the true opinions of the mainstream Jewish and Christian society in Canada or the true atheism. Even the atheist traditions are being perverted by the new atheist movement represented by Richard Dawkins and others who speak against Islam.
Blumenthal ended with a statement that he fully supported the BDS movement – there will be no change in Israel’s status quo, unless there is a strong pressure from the outside. Obama’s administration is not doing anything about that. They only provide more weapons, which encourages Israel to attack Palestinians. Very few young Jews see Israel as a democracy. (Blumenthal must have a very narrow social circle.) The BDS is the only path to make indigenous Palestinians live peacefully with the Jewish settlers. The Palestinian Authority is an enabler of that oppression, it tortures Palestinians and collaborates with Shin Bet. Hamas is even worse, but it exists because of Gaza’s blockade.
After the end of the talk, Blumenthal signed books for his leftist and Muslim fans in Toronto. A friend of mine, who grew up in Israel, was planning to be there and argue with him, but she didn’t show up. Later she told me that she couldn’t force herself to face somebody like him. I totally understand her – Blumenthal is a person who has mobilized all of his abilities to contribute to the destruction of the State of Israel. And that’s the state where most of the European Jewry will have to seek refuge after the mass Muslim invasion that is underway in Europe. A person with such a goal is not a passionate journalist or researcher – he is one of the most outrageous anti-Semites that I have ever met.
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