Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Author at VPL "Freedom to Read Week" Denies being "Jew Hater"


Greg Felton says he doesn’t hate Jews. But at the Vancouver Public Library last night, City Librarian Paul Whitney went into damage control mode over the decision to feature Felton and his book, “The Host and the Parasite: How Israel's Fifth Column Consumed America”, during Freedom to Read Week. Whitney explained that the library “must stand by the principal of freedom of expression” and therefore decided not to cancel Felton’s appearance, despite pressure from the public, including many Jews. "Intellectual freedom is not always an easy principal to uphold.”

There was tension in the crowd. One middle-aged man showed me the steel-toed, beige and white, alligator-skin cowboy boots he had worn in case a fight broke out. I sat at the back row near the exit door, just in case.

“The United States has been under Israeli occupation,” Felton stated as he spoke about his book. “Oh f--k off”, a woman in the audience blurted out. She later identified herself as a dosent at the Vancouver Holocaust Education Center, when she took the microphone to call Felton “an anti-Semite, a Jew baiter, a Jew hater.”

Felton stayed calm.

He explained that he sees a “fundamental distinction” between Jews and Israel. “I have never spoken ill of the people who died under Hitler,” Felton said. “I have never spoken ill of Jews. It is possible to speak honestly without being anti-Jewish.”

Truepeers, an audience member and writer at Covenant Zone blogspot, was not buying it. When he got home, he wrote, "[I]t was like a parody of a classic libel of the 'enemy within', which Felton now dressed up, most carefully, as "anti-Zionism": here is a man who obviously knows from experience that he must distinguish "Zionists" from "Jews" and profess sympathy for ordinary Jews in order to appear 'respectable'."

Felton was not without supporters though. That was clear from the clapping that drowned out the groans when he said, “Israel was actually created quite illegally in 1948.”

A man who was clearly not a supporter took the microphone and identified himself as having been a professor of American history for 30 years. The VPL’s Freedom to Read Week appeared to have become “an excuse for an attack on Israel”, he said, noting that he was not Jewish. “Just when will you use Freedom to Read Week to mount an attack on Arabs or gays?” Whitney responded that there was “no systemic bias” at the VPL. He also mentioned that he had not been personally involved in the selection of Felton as a featured speaker. The professor shot back, “Do you have an anti-semite working for you?”

A woman took the microphone to talk about how difficult it has become to talk about this issue. Speaking with an accent that sounded East Indian, she said people can criticize India without being called “anti-Hindi”. “You can’t say one thing critical about Israel without them getting defensive.” She was sensitive to the fact, she explained, that Jews had been “persecuted”. A woman called out from the audience: “I think the word is 'killed'." It was the Holocaust Education Center woman again.

A middle-aged man took the floor to say “Jews aren’t perfect”, he had “worked in Jewish sweatshops.” “But why not give them a homeland?, he asked. Felton responded that “Jews from Europe had no business going to Israel displacing 800,000 Arabs.” More clapping.

A woman took her turn at the microphone to suggest that this event be balanced by inviting other speakers such as Irshad Manji. Manji is a woman raised Muslim who has written the book, “The Trouble with Islam Today.” But such a level of freedom of expression was not going to be tolerated by a man with a Middle Eastern accent who had earlier taken the microphone to defend Felton's right to freedom of expression, even though he disagreed with some of his positions. The man began shouting that Manji is a “hate monger”. “She’s your daughter! We don’t want her! We hate her!”

Turned out Felton wasn't crazy about her either: “I have a problem with a Muslim woman who is funded by Zionists.”

A member of the audience pointed out that Manji had previously spoken at the library. Whitney agreed. Whew!

Whitney closed the event as defensively as he had opened it: “The library is not endorsing the views presented by individual speakers.”

Felton got the last word. He thanked “the library for having the courage to stand up to the barrage of insults and intimidation”, adding that the "Israel Lobby" -- a phrase he used repeatedly throughout the evening -- "came here and hurled insults at me.”

5 comments:

Vancouvrite said...

Israeli lobby? I didn't know we had one of those in Vancouver. I thought they were all busy plotting the follow up to 9/11.

There was nothing illegal about Jews moving to and forming the state of Israel. When the world was created/evolved (whatever you believe) there were no "countries". Every border is artificial. Israel is as legitimate as any other country on the planet. Plain and simple. And contrary to what Felton or other anti-Semites would have you believe, Israel got far less blood on its hands during formation than most other countries. (Canada? America?)

I would even go so far as to argue that the so called "occupied territories" are legally Israel's too. How many other countries conquered land in battle and legally got to keep it? Israel's land victory was "morally superior," if you will, as it conquered the land in a defensive, as opposed to an offensive one. Giving these lands back might in an effort to help peace might be negotiable, but it is not an entitlement. Of course it is a huge thorn in the side of Arab countries (and anti-Semites like Felton). They attack Israel in an attempt to destroy it, and wind up not only getting their asses kicked but also losing land.

“You can’t say one thing critical about Israel without them getting defensive.” Sure you can. Even Zionists are sometimes critical of their own history. Hind-sight being 20/20, a reasonable person should always look back and be critical of history, and learn from it. One can be "critical" but still remain grounded in reality. But denying facts and rewriting history is not "critical" thinking. In this case it is bigotry.

While on the topic of displacing people, did Felton comment at all on the 900,000 Jews who were displaced from Arab countries in recent history?

I didn't think so.

Dag said...

Fairly often, Felton had a number of people laughing at him. He got some going by first claiming that Iraq was not a military threat to anyone, and then he followed up by saying Iraq got into a war with Iran and invaded Kuwait. Mostly he was laughable. The question isn't whether he should or shouldn't be allowed to speak in public, which few of us would care about, but why it is that with limited resources the library decided this particular author should be the one to represent "freedom to read." He wasn't "controversial" in any legitimate sense, no more so than the muttering guy going through the garbage cans looking for empty soda cans. Why, the question then becomes, do library people here think he's worthy of our time and money when we could have had genuinely interesting people discuss important topics and issues? Why haul in a low-rent anti-Semite? He's the usual suspect, and not interesting at all. Last year, unbeknownst to the chief librarian, they had another of Felton's ilk speaking. It wears thin. The intelligentsia of the city seem to think in limited circles, not being in touch with reality enough to realize there are others outside their mental confines. They think themselves cool because they hear it from each other. What a joke they are.

For more on the evening's events, please turn to today's post at Covenant Zone.

reliable sources said...

Vancouvrite,

I used to go to lectures at the Carnegie Center which featured guests -- even a group from Israel -- who were anti-Israel and pro-Palestinian. But I now see Israel as a legitimate country, after being influenced by blogs such as Covenant Zone and No Dhimmitude.

You write,
"Israeli lobby? I didn't know we had one of those in Vancouver. I thought they were all busy plotting the follow up to 9/11."

I edited my post and put "Israeli lobby" in quotes because it was Felton's phrase, not mine. It was a phrase he used repeatedly throughout the evening.

Felton did mention the 9/11 issue in his lecture. He claimed the BF Goodrich building had "burned hotter" than the WTC and had not fallen down, and that there was "not a logical explanation for the falling of those buildings on Sept. 11th."

Dag, you're right, the post at Covenant Zone on Felton's lecture is good. I'm going to print it out so that I can read it again.

vancouverite said...

Hey Reliable Sources,

I understood "Israeli lobby"as being Feltons words, not yours. Just goes to show what a bozo he is. As if any reasonable person would think there is some lobby at work here sending people out to show opposition to losers like Felton at VPL. What does he mean to imply, that anyone who would support Israel must be part of a lobby? No independant thinker could possibly support Israel? Whatever...

I didn't even bother going to this event as I have heard it all before. Lies lies and more lies. My time is too valuable.

Let us all pray for peace in the world. Despite jerks like Felton who fuel conflict with their BS.

Dag said...

Vancouverite, I wish you had come to endure Felton for an hour or so in order to meet the group of us who went simply to meet fellow anti-Nazis. The anti-"Zionists" met to exchange ideas and platitudes and the latest conspiracy theories, and we met to make friends too, to make friends with those who are disgusted by this kind of rubbish and are willing to work to make things somewhat better in incremental ways simply by voicing our objections to the unquestioned, unchallenged Left dhimmi fascism that is the norm here and now.

Not to distract from R.S's copy, but drop in at Covenant Zone to look over Truepeers' piece and the comments after. Leave a note and we'll see what's up.