Sunday 6 February 2011

Jenny Peto and Baruch Goldstein

Readers may not know these two names. Both are Jews. One is an advocate for the Palestinians. One is a killer of Palestinians. Both, we could say represent a degree of extremism however I will leave it to others to determine where advocacy and murder lie on the spectrum.

Jenny Peto: Recap
In 2010, Ms. Peto received in Toronto a master's degree from OISE's department of Sociology and Equity Studies in Education. Her thesis, entitled “The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education.”, looks at Jewish identity and Israeli politics within the context of the Holocaust by studying the promotion material of two Holocaust memorial trips. She argues that these trips emphasize the Jew as a victim while ignoring the privilege in society many Jews have and the racial promotion of the Israeli nation-state.

This master's thesis which more than likely would have remained in obscurity, was picked up by the media, specifically the National Post after the thesis was criticised by a political blog in November 2010 then mentioned by one professor emeritus Werner Cohn. The next thing anyone knew, the thesis went viral going so far as to be rebuked in the Ontario legislature. Even the author's own brother published a letter to the editor of the National Post criticising his sister.

Jonathan Kay of the National Post was very critical of Ms. Peto in "The New Breed of Self-hating Jews" (Dec 8/2010) and "The Jenny Peto scandal shows that it’s time to clean house at OISE" (Dec 12/2010). In fact everyone seemed to be weighing into this one with all sorts of opinions pro and con. Is OISE out of line for granting a master's degree based on this thesis? Is everyone failing to recognise and support freedom of speech?

Ms. Peto's own brother David was critical of his sister in an open letter to the National Post. However, he did start his letter by making an important point:

It is not my desire to get involved with the details of my sister Jenny Peto's thesis, which has recently generated tremendous controversy. There are people far more qualified than I to debate the merits of the thesis, or lack thereof.

I would be curious to know exactly how many people took the time to read her thesis. I have chuckled numerous times over the past while in reading criticisms of various things only to discover that the person doing the criticising hasn't actually read the materials in question.

Baruch Goldstein: Recap
This American-born Jewish physician (1956-1994) from Brooklyn, New York was a member of the Jewish Defense League (JDL), a militant organisation founded by Rabbi Meir Kane. He immigrated to Israel in 1983 serving as a physician in the IDF, Israeli Defense Force. At the end of his active duty, he continued to work as a doctor however it was reported that he refused to treat Arabs, even those Arabs serving in the IDF.

On February 25, 1994, Goldstein, dressed in his army uniform, entered the Cave of the Patriarchs serving as a mosque and opened fire, killing 29 Muslims and wounding more than 125. Goldstein was attacked and killed by the worshippers.

The attack set off riots in the West Bank and another 19 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli Defense Forces.

Wikipedia's article describes the veneration in which Goldstein is held:

The gravesite has become a pilgrimage site for "Israeli extremists"; a plaque near the grave reads "To the holy Baruch Goldstein, who gave his life for the Jewish people, the Torah and the nation of Israel."
At Goldstein's funeral, Rabbi Yaacov Perrin claimed that even one million Arabs are "not worth a Jewish fingernail."
Samuel Hacohen, a teacher at a Jerusalem college, declared Goldstein the "greatest Jew alive, not in one way but in every way" and said that he was "the only one who could do it, the only one who was 100 percent perfect."
In the weeks following the massacre, hundreds of Israelis traveled to Goldstein's grave to celebrate Goldstein's actions. Some Hasidim danced and sang around his grave.
Some visitors kissed and hugged the gravestone, or even kissed the earth under which Goldstein was buried, declaring him a "saint" and "hero of Israel."

The link between these two people
In the introduction to her thesis, Jenny Peto recounts an incident from her teenage years:

It was 1995 and I was almost 15 years old, attending a private Jewish high school in Toronto. One day, during a Jewish History class, our teacher was giving a lesson on the city of Hebron. During the class, he mentioned Baruch Goldstein – the Jewish settler who, in February 1994, had massacred over 50 Palestinians while they were praying at the Ibrahimi Mosque in Hebron. When my teacher said Goldstein’s name, he followed it with ‘zichrono livracha’ which is Hebrew for ‘may his memory be blessed’. This is a common practice among Orthodox Jewish people when mentioning the name of someone who is deceased. I remember being completely shocked that he would bless the name of a man who had committed such a horrible act of violence. I raised my hand and asked him why he had blessed Goldstein and not said ‘yemach shmo’ which, in Hebrew, means ‘may his name be erased from history’ and is commonly said after mentioning the name of an evil-doer that has died. My teacher, who himself was an Israeli settler, became enraged, refused to engage in this debate with me and sent me to the principal’s office where I was reprimanded for being disruptive in class.

Final Word
Many have strongly criticised Jenny Peto. Many have condemned her thesis, her ideas and her pro-Palestinian stance. I have heard no one discuss the antecedents of her views.

I have heard the pro-Israeli position; I have heard the pro-Palestinian position. I have heard about the Holocaust; I have heard that it didn't happen. I have heard pro-Zionism and anti-Zionism.

At the end of the day, I have realised that extremism is everywhere, in all camps, in all religions, in all politics. I have realised that at some point, the line is crossed and that line is that the end justifies the means; the goal is worth is any cost. When a suicide bomber walks into a crowd and detonates themselves, when somebody picks up a gun and randomly starts shooting people, the end justifies the means. What is so sad is that in the long run, the means does little to achieve that end.

In my other blog posts, Extremism: I'm right and you're wrong and Freedom of Speech: The freedom to say anything?, I discuss the radicalisation of a point of view to the point where the person in question literally foregoes their humanity for the supposed "greater good". Unfortunately, that so-called greater good turns out to be very much a subjective concept and what's good for one is not necessarily good in the eyes of all.

Where will it all end? Last July, my post Hate! Hate! Hate! Kill! Kill! Kill! ended with:

It may be corny; it may be a Utopian ideal but John did have a vision:

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...


Wikipeda: Baruch Goldstein

Jenny Peto's thesis

con- December 8, 2010
Jonathan Kay on Jennifer Peto and the new breed of self-hating Jews
by Jonathan Kay - Dec 8/2010

for - December 9, 2010
Jewish Group Commends Cheryl Misak for Supporting Jenny Peto
by Sid Shniad - December 9, 2010

for - December 10, 2010
Unprecedented: master’s thesis on Jewish white privilege and Israel attacked in Canadian legislature
by Cecilie Surasky - December 10 2010

con - December 12, 2010
The Jenny Peto scandal shows that it’s time to clean house at OISE
by Jonathan Kay - Dec 12/2010

con - January 11, 2011
Defending her Holocaust education is racist thesis
By Robyn Urback - January 11th, 2011

The Varsity - Jan 10/2011
Who is Jenny Peto? (interview)


Site Map - William Quincy BelleFollow me on Twitter

No comments: