February 23, 2005
Dear HonestReporting Canada subscriber:
Many Canadians remember a tongue-in-cheek song from the South Park movie, urging Americans to “Blame Canada” for America’s problems. As comical as “Blame Canada” seems, here in Canada a chorus of voices is urging Canadians to “Blame Israel” for everything from the Arab-Israeli conflict to Arab and Muslim hostility toward the West.
A central theme of the “Blame Israel” camp is that Israel and its Jewish lobby control American foreign policy in the Middle East. This claim — often alleged but never supported by evidence — ignores the basic reasons for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship: shared values and common strategic interests. Of 22 Middle Eastern countries, only Israel has a democratically elected parliament, independent justice system and free press. Both countries have experienced fundamentalist terror emanating from the Middle East. And American support for Israel runs much deeper than politicians: public opinion polls consistently show that Americans consider Israel one of their country’s closest allies.
Yet in the eyes of Canada’s “Blame Israel” camp, something more sinister must be at work. For example:
In April 2004, the monthly Canadian magazine Adbusters published a column entitled “Why Won’t Anyone Say They Are Jewish?” Noting that American neoconservatives “have a special affinity for Israel that influences… American foreign policy in the Middle East,” Adbusters pointed out that “half of them are Jewish,” then listed 50 leading neoconservatives and placed a mark next to each Jew’s name. (“Neoconservative” is a political label used to identify some conservative American thinkers.)
In September 2004, the Globe and Mail published an opinion piece by Naomi Klein entitled “The Likudization of the World.” Klein wrote:
“On Sept. 11, George W. Bush went looking for a political philosophy to guide him in his new role as ‘war president.’ He found that philosophy in the Likud doctrine, conveniently handed to him ready-made by the ardent Likudniks already ensconced in the White House.”
In October 2004, the Toronto Star published an op-ed by Gwynne Dyer entitled “Israeli Tail Wags American Dog.” Dyer claimed American politicians support Israel because they fear religious groups, especially “American Jews, most of whom reflexively support any Israeli government, regardless of its policies.” Dyer also claimed that supporting Israel prevents America from “extricating American troops from the mess in Iraq.”
Eric Margolis, a Toronto Sun columnist often interviewed on Canadian TV, also promotes the idea that Israel and its American cronies control U.S. foreign policy. In January 2003, Margolis wrote:
“Bush and his hawkish entourage… have made plain they don’t care what the rest of the world thinks so long as America and Israel get their way… [Bush is] listening only to exhortations of Israel’s far right wing, whose American supporters now dominate the Pentagon and National Security Council.”
But Margolis (in photo at left) stands out among his colleagues by presenting outlandish conspiracy theories that have no basis in reality.
For example, in a 1998 column, Margolis repeated allegations from a Times of London article that Israeli scientists were working on an “ethnic bomb” that would kill Arabs but spare Jews. Western scientists dismissed this claim — embraced by Arab media, anti-Israel propagandists and conspiracy theorists — as unscientific nonsense. Yet Margolis’s column, which appeared in the Edmonton Sun and Ottawa Sun, quoted “numerous reliable sources” who claimed, “Israeli scientists are attempting to engineer deadly micro-organisms that only attack DNA within the cells of victims with distinctive Arab genes.” In the same column, Margolis also re-hashed the urban legend that “an Israeli cargo plane that crashed in Amsterdam in 1992 was carrying precursor chemicals for the deadly nerve gas, Sarin.”
And now Margolis is at it again. Last week (Feb. 13), without presenting evidence, Margolis suggested in the Toronto Sun that Israel killed Yasser Arafat:
“Arafat’s convenient death removed a major obstacle to U.S.-Israeli plans. This writer continues to suspect Arafat was murdered by an untraceable nerve or blood toxin. He was being held prisoner by Israel in his Ramallah compound.”
(Perhaps Margolis believes Israel used its “ethnic bomb” to kill Arafat.)
And this week (Feb. 20), Margolis implied that Israel might also have killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri:
“Israel is determined to get revenge on Hezbollah, which defeated its attempts to turn Lebanon into an Israeli protectorate and drove Israeli occupation forces from Lebanon — a small but vicious war this writer saw firsthand. Israeli PM Ariel Sharon’s rightist Likud Party may be renewing previous efforts to bring Lebanon back into Israel’s sphere of influence.”
Observing that “the professional expertise of the bombing strongly suggests a state intelligence agency,” Margolis named only one state intelligence agency in his column: “Israel’s Mossad.” Lebanese protesters (AP photo at right) seem to disagree.
Like all conspiracy theorists, Margolis overlooks the plain facts:
The U.S. government makes foreign policy based on American interests and objectives. American objectives often coincide with those of Israel and other Western-style democracies without being driven by them.
Arafat was in declining health for a decade. If there was any foul play involved in Arafat’s death, it was at the hands of his own people who, unlike Israel, had daily access to him.
Syria’s brutal regime is notorious for massacring 20,000 Syrians at Hama and paving over the city as a warning to its opponents (1982), and over-running a Beirut neighborhood leaving 700 dead (1990). As the people of Lebanon have made clear, Syria is the likeliest suspect in murdering Rafik Hariri, as a warning to others who might similarly oppose Syria’s occupation of Lebanon.
Margolis and his colleagues are generally decent enough to avoid blaming world events on one country or ethnic group unless they have convincing evidence. So why do they apply a different standard to Israel and its supporters?
How You Can Make a Difference
- Demand professionalism from your news media. If a reporter or columnist inappropriately “blames Israel,” contact the editor and ask to see the evidence. Our comprehensive list of Canadian news media is here.
- Tell the Toronto Sun that it is unacceptable for Eric Margolis to use his weekly column to promote baseless conspiracy theories against Israel. Send Letters to the Editor to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you for your ongoing commitment to fair and accurate
media coverage of Israel and the Middle East.