The strange, enduring rage of Naomi Klein

National Post (Canada), ISSUES & IDEAS; Pg. A19
September 15, 2009 Tuesday

The strange, enduring rage of Naomi Klein
When it comes to Israel, she has always acted out of intense emotion, hysteria and anger

By Hillel Neuer

Supporters of liberal democratic values may have a hard time understanding why anti-globalization activist Naomi Klein has recruited Jane Fonda and other stars to boycott the Toronto International Film Festival for the crime of showing films from Tel Aviv, a symbol of tolerance in a region of tyranny.

Klein has never called for a boycott of films or any other products from the dozens of Arab and Islamic countries that systematically subjugate their women, torture dissidents and persecute religious and ethnic minorities.

She was not moved to protest when the city of Toronto twinned with Chongqing, nor when it established a “friendship relationship” with Ho Chi Minh City, despite the widespread human rights abuses in both China and Vietnam.

Nor has she ever called for the boycotting of films from the many Western democracies, including Canada, whose soldiers are fighting Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan or Iraq.

Klein’s singling out of Israel — particularly its most liberal city and cultural sector — has no rational basis.

This should come as no surprise. For while Klein’s statements and writings on Israel pose as sober analysis, the truth is that she has always acted on this subject out of intense emotion, hysteria and anger, rather than rational thought, facts or logic.

“This is, I think, the most emotional event I have ever done,” she recently told an audience of 500 Palestinians in Ramallah. “I have never had this feeling before, this feeling of overwhelming emotion.” This was how she opened her speech that accused Israel of committing “apartheid,” and Jews, except the tolerant few like her, of using the Holocaust as “a kind of get-one-genocide-free card.” The crowd, according to reporter Patrick Martin, responded with “one of the longest and loudest rounds of applause I have ever heard.”

At first glance, Klein’s targeting of Israel seems a newfound passion. The subject was absent from her first two books, as well as from her columns in the 1990s.

In 2007, however, Klein devoted a chapter of The Shock Doctrine to her theory that Israel seeks war for financial gain. In January, when Israel fought to end Hamas rocket attacks, Klein called for a global boycott –against Israel, not Hamas.

And now, in a cover story for this month’s issue of Harper’s Magazine, Klein offers a revisionist whitewash of the anti-Semitic Durban conference of 2001, laments the collapse of this year’s Durban II conference and portrays Jewish organizations as lying profiteers who sabotaged this UN cure-all for racism. As she did in Ramallah, Klein accuses my organization, UN Watch, of “misinformation,” yet fails to name a single example.

Ignoring the mass “Kill the Jews” marches during the 2001 conference, Klein accuses the late Congressman Tom Lantos and other Jewish delegates of creating a false memory, belatedly conflating a harmless gathering with the 9/11 attacks that followed days later. In fact, the hate-fest was documented in numerous statements, news reports and editorials published during the event itself. She cites cherry-picked quotes from Shimon Peres to support her arguments, without mentioning that he instructed his delegates to walk out of the Durban conference, describing it as “a farce” where “human rights were defeated,” and as a “court of mockery of justice.”

As to Durban II, Klein’s fictionalized account imagines that a newly hired UN bureaucrat was the organizing force, but avoids any mention of Najat Al-Hajjaji, the representative of Libya’s Colonel Qaddafiwho actually headed the two-year Durban II planning process, as well as the final conference’s main committee. The essay has gone completely ignored.

But Klein has certainly succeeded in becoming today’s leading opponent of Israel in the Western world. While this is a new role for someone famous as an anti-capitalist crusader, the truth is that Klein has nurtured a strange rage against her own people, faith and national cause, from a remarkably young age.

At 12, as Klein has proudly recounted, she wrote her Bat Mitzvah speech “about Jews being racist.” Her target then was attitudes supposedly held by her sixth-grade classmates in Montreal’s well-respected Jewish People’s School.

This was only prelude to a central episode in the Klein mythology, about which she boasts in biographical interviews.

As a college student in 1990, Klein wrote an editorial (see http://www.unwatch.org/naomiklein) the University of Toronto’s student newspaper The Varsity, entitled “Victim to victimizer.” In her various accounts, Klein describes a simple op-ed that urged Israel to “end the occupation not only for the Palestinians, but also for its own people, especially its women.” To organize a response, she claims, no less than 500 Jewish students gathered for a “lynch mob” meeting. However, she showed up herself, unrecognized, and stood up and told them off. “I was 19,” Klein told the Guardian, “and it made me tough.” The experience “prepared me for controversy,” empowering her to take on multinationals and the World Bank. Heroic stuff.

The facts, though, tell a very different story.

Klein’s article was anything but normal. Its thesis sentence and blaring headline: “What Israel has become: Racism and misogyny at the core of its being.”

“Israeli men,” she said, “reach maturity by brutalizing and degrading Palestinians.” Then there was “Israeli men’s misogyny toward Israeli women.”

Most disturbing, said Klein, “is something known to Israeli women as ‘Holocaust pornography,’ where images of emaciated women near ovens, shower heads, cattle cars and the like are used to sell clothing and other products.” Jewish women, she informed her readers, “are sexualized as Holocaust victims for Israeli men to masturbate over … the themes are fire, gas, trains, emaciation and death.”

If such aberrant ads or magazines ever existed, they were well hidden. But Klein was looking to demonize — not only Israel, but Judaism, and Jews.

“A Jewish education is an education of fear,” continued Klein. “Jews made the shift from victims to victimizers with terrifying ease.”

“I wish to be saved from Israel,” she concluded. “I am a Jew against Israel — just as Israel repeatedly proves itself to be against me.”

Interestingly, all this Goebbelslike venom — Israel as wicked, racist and depraved in its essence — as well as the article’s hysteria, rage and paranoia, are erased from Klein’s later accounts.

As to her alleged confrontation of a lynch mob, the Canadian Jewish News reported a meeting between 50 Jewish students and the Varsity editors, noting Klein’s attendance. It says nothing about her supposed dramatic intervention. Others present don’t recall any. Either way, Klein claims the community’s outrage changed her life, scaring her into silence on Israel for over 10 years. Now she’s back, and with a vengeance.

Two decades ago–in the “Victim to victimizer” article that she continues to revere, even as she has been hiding its true contents — Klein asked Toronto to hate Israel on the grounds that “racism and misogyny” were “at the core of its being,” a society sick on “Holocaust pornography.”

In her recent op-ed calling on Toronto to boycott Israeli films, Klein attacks the Jewish state for objecting to the Goldstone inquiry on Gaza created by the UN Human Rights Council — in which the Arab-controlled body declared Israel guilty in advance.

The path to Middle East peace requires mutual dialogue, recognition and compromise — not irrational boycotts motivated by selective morality, anger and rage.

Hillel Neuer is executive director of UN Watch in Geneva ( http://www.unwatch.org/).

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