Thursday, November 26, 2009

Ezra Levant in Vancouver

Ezra came into town for a whirlwind stop at Vancouver's Cherie Smith Jewish Book Festival Wednesday night. Someone won a book for knowing the four Canadian cities in which Ezra would find himself over twenty-four hours today/tomorrow. Ezra was introduced by bee man, Mark Winston, who admitted to growing up in Cleveland, where all the Jews were Democrats and all the WASPs Republicans. Winston hadn't met a Republican 'till he was about twenty-five, and thought it novel that we could now be blessed with the company of conservative Jews.

Ezra recounted his story, which I assume is well-known to readers of this blog, of his 900-day Orwellian dance with the Alberta "Human Rights" Commission. He also gave us a brief history lesson on the 1960s-70s campaign to silence an elderly Nazi kook, John Ross Taylor, and his antisemitic telephone answering machine, that led to the provisions in Canada's "human rights" act that allow for the prosecution of telecommunications "likely" to expose someone to hatred or contempt. In doing so, Ezra condemned the Jewish lineage of Canada's "hate speech" censorship laws. "The Jews," he despaired, "so smart as individuals, so dumb as a group". Now, if only someone took that to the Human Rights Commission, how many days of investigations...?

Ezra has mastered the telling of his story and figured out the considerable joke potential in its absurdities, yet like a great jazz musician each time you give him the floor he makes the standard into something fresh and newly embodied; his every gesture and word spins forth in sarcasm and anger that this is how he has come to his public moment in a country whose greatness is/was its freedom. But at the end of the day, Ezra seems to truly believe that the "hate speech" mandate of the "human rights" commissions will in future be abolished.

But I wonder if his attraction to the argument that "censorship is not a Jewish thing", that the Jewish intelligentsia does not support it (except for neurotic Woody Allen types, and the hate law-invested Canadian Jewish Congress) is not really as much an unspoken campaign to change ordinary Jewish minds as it is a confident description or present Canadian reality.

When I asked Ezra where the political opposition to abolishing Section 13 of the Canadian Human Rights Act was really coming from, he suggested there is a fear within the Harper government (and perhaps the Liberals?), of the damage that sundry demagogues of the left might do, given their taste for self-righteous caricatures of PM Harper as some kind of dangerous man with a semi-secret agenda that threatens our rights. Indeed, since the left has few other kinds of arguments today, one can appreciate that they must be desperate for new material. And, in the present political environment, a few votes in a few ridings could make the difference in an election outcome.

Furthermore, as the recent news makes clear, the Conservative Party has its eye on winning a lot of the Jewish vote away from the Liberal Party of Canada, especially in certain swing ridings. And so I wonder if this is not a good part of the source of politician fears of being condemned for putting "Nazi" hunters out of business. Ezra made fun of Jews who wanted to get even with the Nazis in the 1960s by lobbying for "hate speech" laws, thus empowering themselves with government sticks to have a few whacks at some pathetic representative of the enemy. The real Jew, he suggested, has confidence and fights off his indolence so that he can publicly debate and call out the hateful for all to see and shun, while working at the never-ending task of telling the truth of the Holocaust to each new generation of confused Canadian youth.

I overheard two things of interest as the crowd left the talk: 1) A man said to his apparent wife, in mid-conversation, that something had to have been done about Jim Keegstra teaching hate to the schoolchildren in Alberta. She replied, well maybe we don't need the "human rights" act, but just the criminal code. (While Keegstra was tried under the criminal code, I nonetheless took this as a sign that Ezra had an effect on challenging someone's fear that "Nazis" must be suppressed by bureaucratic censors.) 2) A couple of middle-aged women were made a little gaga by the super-charged talk/performance: "he must have an IQ of... 145!"

The more I think about it, maybe the path to getting rid of Section 13 is to keep Ezra talking and to have the CJC taken over by Jewish mothers...

It must be hell being a public speaker with cameras constantly flashing at you. So I only took one shot of Ezra, not the best I'm afraid (pre-talk, before the arms were flailing).


Walker Morrow said...

Good one, Truepeers!

By the way - would it be OK if I cross-posted this blogpost to my other blog, the Lynch Mob (

All credit would go to you, of course, with links back to CZ.

Anyway, I just thought I'd ask.

g333b said...

Great summary. I was the late-comer sneaking in to the room to a front row seat after Ezra already started his talk. I thoroughly enjoyed the talk and admire the man greatly.

I have posted a video of the talk to YouTube for those interested in viewing the speech. It isn't complete, but covers the last 15 minutes.

You can view it at :

As Ezra wrote when he signed my copy of the book, "We can reclaim our liberty!"

truepeers said...

Of course, Walker, but thanks for asking.

Thanks g333b, I'm not sure I saw you sneak in; i was on the other side of the room, second or third row back. Ezra is an impressive speaker, and a courageous fighter, as your video shows.

Blazing Cat Fur said...

Excellent piece Tru.

Anonymous said...

I did find it interesting that Ezra didn't speak about either Frank Dimant of B'nai Brith or Bernie Farber of CJC directly. Certainly not like him.

For me his talk was much flash and no substance. His belief that neo-Nazi types are really yesterday's news and not to feared seems to fly in the face of the incidents in Calgary where 2 neo-Nazis are wanted for attempt murder and the ugly attack on Calgary's jewish community which included the home of Ezra's father.

Not saying t5hat s13 would make a diff, but his argument that we ought not to worry about these neo-Nazis has lost all credibility. On this Farber has been right.

truepeers said...


When we buy our ticket to see Ezra, I think we should know we are paying to see a political performance, and should judge his "substance" accordingly. We have to imagine his talk as one side in a public debate with, say, Bernie Farber or Ujjal Dosanjh, even if doesn't make his short speech into an explicit attack on them.

I don't think you're right to say Ezra says we shouldn't worry about "neo-Nazis" or white supremacists. What he clearly said at the talk was that we should not think we are dealing with them when we become dependent on a law like Section 13. He said, for example, that HOlocaust Denial is something we have to publicly combat by talking with young people, forever: there will never be a time when sixteen year-olds are immune to being told hateful lies, or nothing, about the Nazis and the Jews.

As for the bombers in Calgary, well that's a real crime and no one would suggest we ignore it or not charge the people with appropriate criminal charges. The question is, what makes such instances more likely, a Canada of Bernie Farbers trying to shut up every internet hate group, of which there are many of which most people know nothing because they are not part of any mainstream Canadian discussion - Nazi type antisemitism is not mainstream, unlike the anti-Zionist type which Berne does little about - or word-brandishing Ezra Levants who challenge kids to choose freedom? Which is more likely to make some angry Calgary youth feel they are the target of a Jewish conspiracy that they have to fight with violence? Having said that, there is no Utopian solution to the problem of hate.

At a time when MPs from the Liberal Party of Canada attend events like this, when Jack Layton is sucking up to Islamists, when my NDP MP who wants to expand Section 13 won't take seriously my claims that the "anti-Zionist" "peace" groups with which he associates could, in some imaginable world, be charged under Section 13 with words likely to promote hate or contempt of an identifiable group, Ezra is right to ask why is it that the CJC are justifying their stand in terms of "Nazis" and not the antisemitic threat posed by a left-Islamic alliance.

White Supremacist youth do pose some threat to Jews, but i think Ezra's right that it is hardly our greatest threat today in Canada. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these swastika graffiti acts turn out to be by people who think they are calling the Jews "Nazis". In any case, the argument that the Holocaust could have been prevented by hate speech laws doesnt' wash, not simply because Weimar Germany had hate speech laws, but because a Holocaust can only occur in the context of a state (at war) with maximum powers and minimimal individual rights. All things considered, I think Ezra is right that Jews are safer in a society that values individual freedom above all else than in one that focusses its intellectual energies on making excuses for exceptions to the rule of freedom.


truepeers said...

The thing is, there will always be antisemitism, in some shape or form. Jews either have to live with this burden or give up being Jews; but even if one day there are no Jews there will still be some equivalent of antisemitism. As the other side says, "Death to Israel, Death to America... Death to Freedom, i.e. Dath to whatever symbol of firstness the future may have!" The only way we can minimize antisemitism is by showing why it exists, why it is ultimately a human, anthropological, problem and not simply a Jewish question, why it is a form of resentment against the freedom necessary for somebody or some group to go first in making discoveries (like that of the One God) that advance the ethical or economic progress of humanity. I don't think we well fight the resentment, of those who are reacting to our firstness, by trying to write or enforce laws against resentment. Resentment of those we think are alientating us from what should be sacred is an inevitable human reality. Rather we have to encourage people to transcend their resentments by overcoming them through the exercise of their own freedom to transcend, to renew their relationship to the sacred by re-presenting it in some historically more viable form.

winnifred martin said...

Well Im not sure that either CJC or B'nai Brith claim that Islamists are not a great threat. There seems too much made up about where "official Jews" really stand and frankly given Ezra's track record on fiddling with the truth I won't take his word for it.

Lucky for you truepeers, I understand from my Vancouver niece that Mark Freiman president of CJC and Bernie Farber will be presenting an address at a townhall meeting in Vancouver on Dec 1st at a Temple...sorry don't have more details but what an opportunity for you to get the truth.

covenant said...

Thanks WInnifred,

I'll keep an eye out for the details and try to be there.

Andre (Canada) said...

To all those waiting for baited breath to hear what Bernie Farber and the CJC have to say about s13, just remember one thing: Bernie pretends to be the "voice of the Canadian Jewish community". He is NOT. Bernie has NEVER beeen democratically elected. The CJC has self-proclaimed to be what it is not. His views, as well as the views of the "official Jews" as Ezra refers to them, simply are the views of the very wealthy and influential mostly die-hard liberal Jews. They do not represent the very fast-growing more conservative and Orthodox crowd which squarely rejects the policies of appeasement and political correctness adopted by the CJC.
There is an increasingly powerful movement going on in Canada where Jews are boycotting "offical Jewish charities" such as the United Jewish Appeal because they fund the CJC. It will take time, but I am confident that at some point, the CJC will fade away and will be replaced with a more representative organization which more closely defends the very fundamental values of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, 2 values which seem to be foreign to Bernie and Co.

Mitka said...

Andre, such foolishmess. Mark Freiman, the President of CJC outdraws Ezra in a Vancouver appearance by almost 4-1 in audience attendance. The CJC draws every political leader from Harper to Ignatieff and from Layton to May at their recent anmnual conference. Whenever the media wants a "Jewish voice" it goes to CJC. Bernie Farber is one of the Jewish community's most prolific writers having been continually published to this day in every major newspaper in Canada.

Sorry to burst your myopic bubble Andre but CJC is stronger than it has ever been and given the huge crowds that still come to all its functions heavily supported by the community.

When Ezra or any other group or individual out there can command the numbers and respect as does CJC then we will talk. Keep on dreamin buddy.

truepeers said...


It strike me as almost pathetic to reduce yourself to the "argument" that the value of ideas is to be judged primarily in terms of their popularity. The CJC has been around since when, 1919 i think. If it isn't sufficiently organized yet to get out its supporters or to have politicians suck up to it, then it really is in trouble.

Ezra Levant, on the other hand, is a solitary individual who, I am happy to say, exemplifies certain Jewish traits that some Jews, who implicity wish to appease antisemitism, find distasteful. For such a man to bring out any sized crowd, to write what is a bestseller in Canada, must have the force of reason on his side.

In any case, to respond to Andre as if Ezra were the representative of Conservative or Orthodox Judaism strikes me as unfounded. Since when is Ezra their representative? Is he even very religious himself?

If the CJC is losing support among Orthodox or Conservative Jews, I would guess it has rather little to do with Ezra. If Ezra nonetheless gives us some accounting of some of the reasons for any such loss of support, attacking the messenger is not a serious contribution to the discussion.