The Walrus Gives Extended Platform To Anti-Israel Radicals

June 20, 2024

On June 11, The Walrus published an article chronicling the protest (and subsequent arrest of the protestors) at the Scotiabank Giller Prize ceremony in November 2023, and the cascade of fallout from the Giller committee’s reaction to that night. Predictably, the author parroted the same, tired talking points and accusations without any analysis or attempt to determine if any of it is even true.

The piece entitled: “How the Giller Prize Became Associated with Genocide,” written by Josiah Neufeld, opened with a discussion of that evening, relating that the protestors used fake credentials to gain access to the awards, and that the Giller committee allegedly badgered police until they agreed to lay charges. The author went on to relate that Sarah Bernstein, the winner of the night’s top prize, dropped out of an online Giller book club talk in protest over the handling of the incident. As the days went by, more “writers and publishers” signed an open letter directed at the Giller organizers, “expressing support for the protesters, calling for the charges against them to be dropped, and condemning the unfolding genocide happening in Gaza and Palestine.”

This ridiculous charge of genocide continues to circulate, regardless of the fact that it not only doesn’t apply, but indeed Israel’s response is in direct defense of an attempted genocide committed against them. The absolute absurdity of accusing a country acting in self defence against a terrorist organization whose stated aim is the total elimination of Israel (and then subsequently all the Jews, worldwide) would be laughable if it wasn’t actually happening in real time. The rhetoric of human rights and freedom from oppression being applied in complete inversion of the truth is particularly troubling coming from a group of people who evidently make their living through the use of words and language. How they manage to get it so completely wrong in this case, ignoring the definition of words so completely, is mind boggling.

The author continued with a throw-away straw man argument, citing another Giller winner ​​Omar El Akkad as saying that “the silence we’ve gotten from the Giller, Hot Docs, and the slew of cultural organizations that have decided that it’s only worth being brave when there are no consequences attached” speaks louder than any statement.

Of course, the option to put out a statement affirming Israel’s right to exist and defend themselves against an attack by a terrorist entity bent on genocide isn’t an option in his mind. For these people, the idea that Jews might not deserve to be slaughtered, and have the right to live in peace is not even worthy of consideration, apparently. The only option is pro-slaughter of Palestinian Arabs, or against it. There is no option for meaningful peace where everyone lives in safety and freedom from Hamas. It’s hardly a slaughter or a genocide if one can stop it simply by putting down one’s weapons and agreeing to live in peace.

The piece went on to list the many authors and creators who have since come out of the woodwork to demand Scotiabank divest from any companies which might contribute to the production of Israeli arms manufacturing. One such author claimed that “he couldn’t countenance his art being used to burnish the reputation of a financial institution that was profiting from war.” An interesting take, given the fact that no one seems upset about the other 37 current and ongoing armed conflicts taking place around the world at the time of this writing, and it’s doubtful that besides the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, these protestors could even name another conflict currently underway. One is left to wonder why Israel, and Israel alone, is worthy of such hyper-focus.

The author wrapped up by stating that “the writers I spoke to for this piece, however, told me that a literary organization more afraid of losing corporate sponsors than of losing authors has failed to understand something fundamental about what it means to write.”

Maybe, however, their refusal to sign on to support the anti-Israel mob has nothing to do with corporate sponsorship and everything to do with the fact that the people making the decisions at Giller (and at Scotiabank) have more of an education on the topic of Israel than one gets from spending 10 minutes on social media. Maybe they are not choosing to support the ridiculous anti-Israel rhetoric not for financial reasons, but for factual, moral and logical ones. 

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