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Hey Quebec! Ca Suffit, The Quebec Media and Barbara Kay

They doth protest too much

By Beryl Wajsman

Monday, August 21, 2006

The cacophony of attacks against Barbara Kay's National Post column on the "Rise of Quebecistan" by Quebec's francophone media elites is not only a case of "they doth protest too much", but demonstrates a lack of intellectual rigour substituting in its stead the whiny, apologist tone that raises its head in this province whenever its political elites manifest the latent prejudices that remain the thick, sickly-scented legacy of "la grand noirceur". Barbara Kay was right. Her critics are wrong. And here's why.

Her contention that an independent Quebec might recognize Hezbollah as a legitimate organization rather than the illegal terrorist gang that Canada affirms it to be is perfectly reasonable when Montreal's "peace" rally of Aug. 6th was the only such manifestation of the six held around the world that day that had major political leaders at its head. Moreover, they allowed their names to be used in the original call for the demonstration which specifically excluded peace for Israel and labeled itself a march for "Lebanon and Palestine".

That release had at its lead the names of Bloc Québecois leader Gilles Duceppe, Parti Québecois leader André Boisclair, federal Liberal MP Dénis Coderre and Henri Massé the President of Quebec's largest labour federation. It included within it the calumny of the "severed heads of the children at Qana" as "proof" of Israel's "aggression" when it was already widely known that Israel's bombing stopped eight hours before the Qana building collapsed and the UN's own investigation had pointed out the curious fact that not only were there no "severed heads", there was virtually no blood on the final body count of 28 down from the original ravings of 60. But facts rarely get in the way of public officials looking for votes and members.

On Aug. 3rd, the day the original release was sent out, Coderre and Massé used the vilest tones in a press conference, attended also by Duceppe and Boisclair, to denounce the "savage massacre of the Lebanese people by the Israelis". To paraphrase the Mad Hatter in "Alice in Wonderland", judgment first, facts later. The pandering was pathetically transparent.

Exception was taken by francophone editors, writers and commentators to Ms. Kay's suggestion that the actions and words of these leaders were marbled with "a fat streak of anti-Semitism". Yet none of these media luminaries, so quick to condemn Kay, bothered to question these leaders as to what sparked their rush to judgment and led them to determine that one-million displaced Israelis who had suffered through 2000 rocket attacks from Lebanon and Gaza were not entitled to the same compassion. Were they afraid of the answer and chose instead to pre-emptively attack Kay and protect Quebec's political "patrimoine"?

These same media "stars" went on to defend the participation of Quebec's political and labour elites in a march that was bound to attract Hezbollah supporters by stating that it was impossible to determine who would attend any manifestation. They're right. You can't know. But when you see Hezbollah… you leave. These leaders stayed.

The very words of the initial call for this demonstration guaranteed a serious pro-Hezbollah presence. And that presence was there in force to the point that Boisclair, Massé and newly elected Parti Québecois MNA and former party President Marie Malavoy got their smiling faces caught in a picture in front of a desecrated Jewish prayer shawl.  Yet none of the media questioned why these leaders stayed and instead acted almost in concert as blocking guards defending them because they finally, belatedly called for the disarming of Hezbollah toward the end of some of their comments. Well, that was too little, too late.

Another line of attack against Kay was that Quebec was not any more prejudiced than any other part of Canada and that it had many less anti-Semitic acts committed in 2005 than Ontario did according to a B'nai B'rith survey. But the critics miss the point. No other political jurisdiction in North America has seen such a consistent pattern of politics by division and exclusion in recent times as Quebec has. Not only against Israel and Jews, but against anyone considered "les autres". And in no other political jurisdiction in North America has the media so consistently proffered up apology after apology.

It is time to say to Quebec, "ça suffit"! It's enough!

Enough that Aug 6th saw 5,000 acts of anti-Semitism which so much of the francophone media insisted on masking under the guise of anti-Zionism. What is anti-Zionism? As the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "It is the denial to the Jewish people of a fundamental right that we justly claim for the people of Africa and freely accord all other nations of the Globe. It is discrimination against Jews, my friends, because they are Jews. In short, it is anti-Semitism."

It is time to say to Quebec, "ça suffit"! It's enough!

Enough of those talk-show hosts who never say "les Israeliennes" but instead screech

"les Juifs". Enough apologizing for the Parizeaus and their "ethnics and money" attitudes. Enough trying to rationalize the Yves Michauds' marginalization of the Holocaust. Enough of the demonization of the Esther Delisles whenever academics examine the fascist and anti-Semitic strains in Quebec history. Enough of the apologias for the poor oppressed francophones whose own Church sold them out to the British as explanations for the long line of Quebec infamies from the Abbé Groulxs, to the blueshirts of Adrien Arcand, to the anti-conscription riots against the "Jews' war", to the Bloc Populaire, to Duplessis' Padlock Law and attacks on Jehovah's Witnesses.

It is time to say to Quebec, "ça suffit"! It's enough!

It is time to end the charade. If the francophone media wants to keep any credibility it better get its act together and stop its reflexive, knee-jerk protectionism that is reminiscent of nothing so much as Huey Long's Louisiana. Minorities' security within a society rests on the purpose and principles enunciated by its leaders. It's a top down process not bottom up. That's why Quebec is so scary. So sunk in its quagmire of self-doubt driven by a jealousy of others self-belief. Anything can happen here.

I have been involved in many "progressive" causes in Montreal. I have marched with the unions. I have organized vital assets into the Quebec food bank network. I have helped soup kitchens in east-end Montreal and aided the development of social housing projects in the north-end of Montreal. I have been, in André Malraux's words, "un citoyen engagé". And I feel betrayed by the hypocrisy of August 6th and its aftermath. If Quebec loses the engagement, the passion and the understanding of non-francophones like me, it will become nothing more than a forgotten backwater on a continent progressing ever forward in mankind's transcendent yearning for redemptive change.

A francophone Quebec Senator once told me that the real "two solitudes" in this province are not between anglophones and francophones, but between those francophones who remember that they are the heirs of a great liberal political tradition that started with Louis-Joseph Papineau's emancipation of Quebec's minorities twenty years before England, and those francophones who remain loyal to the patrimony of

"la grand noirceur" and the warped history they were taught of a past that never really existed. The battle between these forces, he said, would determine the conscience and character of Quebec. That conscience and character have rarely been as vulnerable to perversion as they are today.

It's time for Quebec's francophone media elites to grow up. It's time for them to suck up the sad realities of the present and stop being so defensive about the past. It's time for them to speak truth to power in their own backyard and not just lecture everybody else on what Quebec wants. Here's the memo: NOBODY CARES ANYMORE. And if you want to know why, I'll paraphrase again but this time from the Queen in "Hamlet". "Methinks they doth protest too much!"

Beryl Wajsman is president of theInstitute for Public Affairs of Montreal; publisher of BARRICADES Magazine; and host of 940AM’s "The Last Angry Man". Beryl can be reached at: letters@canadafreepress.com

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