Avi Lewis, who was considered something of a tiger in his CBC years, turned into a kitten when, as an Al Jazeera regular, he recently interviewed Cornel West, a professor of African American Studies, in his office at Princeton.
Their 23-minute love-in began, astonishingly, when Avi hugged Cornel (such a chummy performance hardly justifies surnames). With Avi’s encouragement, Cornel criticized Barack Obama for his “technocratic policies tied to elite power” and continuing American imperialism.
Cornel believes Obama unfairly favours Israel (not an opinion you’ll likely hear in Jerusalem) and claims that Obama didn’t speak up for the people killed during Israeli bombing in Gaza; whereas, Cornel said, Obama would have been quick to mourn them had they been Jews.
Avi asked a potentially difficult question: “You are an Ivy League anti-imperialist. Why do you stay in these environments, uh, apart from the great salary and other perks?” Cornel was ready. He said he believes Princeton, with its facilities, is in his view the best place to work for real democracy and be “faithful till I die to the struggle for poor people.” Avi smiled with satisfied pleasure.
What happened to "tiger" Avi? What made him go all soft and kittenish? I think I can explain. While the CBC was certainly simpatico with Lewis's anti-Israel, anti-U.S. worldview, as Canada's national broadcaster, paid for by the taxpayer, it did, on occasion, have to answer to Gord and Gail Hoser from Sticksville, Alberta who didn't think much of the liberal guilt and masochistic self-loathing on regular display.
Al-Jazeera, on the other hand, is owned and operated by an oily Emirates sheik, who has oodles of lucre, and who doesn't give a crap about nor have to answer to a single Canadian taxpayer, not even the ones he happens to employ. Lewis can therefore schmooze to his heart's content with the likes of kooky Princeton Professor Cornel West, knowing full well that no "Zionist" from, say, Thornhill, will complain to an ombudsman about the manifold bald-faced lies and egregious one-sidedness of the anti-Israel spin. (Not that the ombudsman is ever likely to see things the Zionists' way, but still...) And for tiger-turned-pussycat Lewis, that must be sheer, intoxicating catnip.
I happen to think that, in view of Avi's makeover, we Zionist Canadians are in Al-Jazeera's debt. The Arabs have "declawed" Lewis such that he's no longer fit for infidel broadcasting, and it's a pretty safe bet that that cat ain't never coming back.