By MORTON WEINFELD
n recent weeks, Jews in the United States and Canada have been wrestling with the possibility that a major political leader might, in some way, be an anti-Semite.
In the United States, the politician was none other than Hillary Clinton. According to a recent tell-all book, in 1974 she called her husband's Arkansas campaign manager a "f...ing Jew bastard." Bill had just lost an election, tempers were very short, and she allegedly snapped. The fact that the campaign manager in fact had only very distant Jewish relatives and was raised as a Baptist, is an amusing sidebar.
All sorts of FoBs and FoHs (friends of Bill and Hillary) as well as Jewish leaders rallied to her defence. There was a concerted effort to impugn the integrity of the campaign manager and other witnesses. Certainly that kind of ethnic slur is not expected from the hyper-politically correct Hillary.
But for a minute, let us suppose that she said it. We all say things in the heat of the moment. So what? How important is an ethnic slur as an indicator of anti-Semitism? Jews use ethnic slurs about non-Jews all the time. During heated arguments Jews have uttered the term "f...ing goy," I am sure.
Hugo Black was a youthful member of the Ku Klux Klan before he became a liberal Supreme Court justice. Richard Nixon was a consistent verbal anti-Semite, as revealed on the Nixon tapes. But he also was the patron of Henry Kissinger, and had other Jewish advisers. Actions - and recent actions - always speak louder than words. A single epithet blurted in anger does not, in my book, make one a serious anti-Semite. Anti-Semites are people who actually harm Jews or deliberately hurt Jewish interests. Hillary may have many character flaws, but anti-Semitism is not one of them.
Well how about Stockwell Day? At the time of his victory over Preston Manning,
newspapers were full of accounts linking him to the phrase, "Jews were the children of the devil," or some version thereof. Well, it turns out he did not actually say that. But parts of an evangelical Christian curriculum used in Alberta schools he directed included, apparently, some sentiments along those lines.
Does that make him an anti-Semite? In a sense, any fundamentalist or evangelical Christian might be considered an anti-Semite. For some of these types of devout Christians, the only route to salvation is accepting Jesus Christ. A Nazi war criminal who does so goes to heaven; a Jew, no matter how nice a person, goes to hell - where they hang around with the devil.
People are entitled to their private religious views. What matters in the Day case would be any spillover from those private views into the realm of governance or policy. Certainly there are some who move in rural Alberta evangelical circles whose views on all manner of social issues - à la Keegstra - are unacceptable, and would be harmful if ever turned into law. Day has had very little contact with Jews or other minorities over the past few years. Urban Canada is not rural Alberta.
So Day will be watched closely, and rightly so. But politics makes strange bedfellows. Day supports government funding for religious schools, and a few ultra-Orthodox Jews in Ontario might be prepared to ignore the allegations of anti-Semitism and support the Alliance, to help get funding for Jewish day schools.
The gratifying thing is that there is almost no constituency for political anti-Semitism in Canada or the United States. While polls show that some Canadians - usually in single digits - say they would not vote for Jews, the reality has been different. Jewish politicians like Herb Gray from Windsor or Dave Barrett in British Columbia built successful careers with very few Jewish votes. On the issue of political anti-Semitism, North America is not the Old Country, it is the New World.