Wednesday, November 21, 2012

The Sad Spectacle of Tarek Fatah's Meltdown

So I attended the Canadian Institute for Jewish Research's conference on "the delegitimation of Israel" this past Sunday at Toronto's Beth Tzedec synagogue. Tarek Fatah was there, both as an "expert" speaker on one of the panels, and to receive the CIJR's "Lion of Judah Award." He earned it, we were told, for his service to Jewry, including his book The Jew Is Not My Enemy. Since the book is not a bridge-building exercise so much as it is an attempt by a "secular" Muslim (which, in Fatah's case, means a practising Muslim who doesn't like and doesn't want to live under sharia law) to whitewash the Koran by insisting it doesn't contain so much as a shred of Jew-hate (an outrageous falsehood), I didn't really understand why he had been singled out for the honour; surely someone like, say, Salim Mansur, was far more deserving. And since I was aware of that, ahem, unfortunate incident at another Toronto synagogue involving Fatah, I thought it was dicey inviting this loose canon, despite his willingness to tackle the crazies within his own community, to another Jewish do.

My fears were borne out when it came time for Fatah to speak. He launched into a blistering--and, frankly, somewhat unhinged--tirade, patting himself furiously on the back for his own bravery in coming to speak to Jews (he was warned not to, he told us), and advising Jewry, among other helpful suggestions, to:
  • not send their kids to Jewish schools;
  • vote for the NDP;
  • not worry about Iran, because it poses no threat whatsoever;
  • worry about Pakistan, which presents the gravest and most palpable danger;
  • flee from Republicans and other "right wing Nazis"--yes, those were his words, and to a Jewish crowd, yet--like the plague.
Blogger Blogwrath was at the conference, and has a more complete account of Fatah's addled remarks, including his mano a mano with Mark Vandermaas. You can read it here.

I must say the entire incident left me feeling embarrassed, both for Fatah, who seemed ill and off his game (has his cancer returned, perhaps?), and for conference organizers, whose heads and hearts are in the right place, but who erred--big time--in their choice of honoree and panelist.

Update: I received this via e-mail from Mark Vandermaas:
re: Tarek Fatah incident
Thank you to Scaramouche for covering this issue.
Last evening I sent out an email to my mailing list saying this in part:
I have received a number of (very supportive) emails from people who were present and Mr. Marinov's post is being re-posted on other sites, so I think it necessary to post my own response at because, not only do I think the incident raises some important issues that go to the heart of what I hope to achieve with ITW, I would like to make sure you know that the CIJR people (and many others) were very kind to me before, during and after the event and it would be a shame if their great work was overshadowed by Mr. Tarek's odd behaviour. I hope to have that response posted sometime tomorrow or the following day since I have a busy day ahead, including making a 4 hr round trip to the Israel consulate to rally for Israel at 6pm. (Please do consider joining me/us.)
I would also like to thank Miroslav Marinov at for his very factual, well-argued article and for taking the time to transcribe the audio.
Controversies like this are never easy to deal with and I appreciate the even-handed, insightful manner he has approached this.

Mark Vandermaas

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