by David Solway
Driving past the University of Toronto recently, I noticed a lone protestor on the perimeter of the campus carrying a sign objecting to Israel Apartheid Week. I was reminded that the University of Toronto was the first academic institution to host and promote the scandal of this event. Beginning in 2004 under the interim presidency of Frank Iacobucci, who does not seem to have realized the ignominy he had countenanced, the contagion spread to many other academic cesspools across Canada, the U.S. and Europe. The University of Toronto, however, is the revered patriarch of the movement. Iacobucci was succeeded in November 2005 by the current president, David Naylor, under whose administration this academic canard has persisted into the present moment—the festival of anti-Semitic hatred and anti-Zionist calumny will unfurl the Palestinian flag and welcome a contingent of bigoted speakers on March 4.
When questioned by the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center for Holocaust Studies about his university’s compliance with so evidently corrupt and defamatory a spectacle, Naylor declared that “We do, in fact, recognize that the term Israeli Apartheid is upsetting to many people, [but] we also recognize that, in every society, universities have a unique role to provide a safe venue for highly charged discourse.” Naylor’s recognition that the term is “upsetting” is entirely frivolous, unbefitting a university president. The fact is that the term is totally false—a given that appears to have escaped Naylor’s attention rather conveniently, thus sparing him the moral duty to confront so spurious a conviction. Further, universities are not always—or even primarily—known for furnishing such “safe venues,” especially when the speakers are unpopular conservative figures.
A few typical episodes will suffice to corroborate the point. A riot incited by pro-Palestinian activists erupted when Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu was invited to speak at Concordia University in Montreal, causing extensive damage and injury and forcing cancelation of the event. Jewish students at York University in Toronto required police protection when threatened by a swarm of Muslim students. Ann Coulter’s talk at the University of Ottawa was shut down by a horde of howling students and a craven administration. Author Warren Farrell’s address on behalf of a men’s rights organization, the Canadian Association for Equality (CAFE), held at Naylor’s own university, proceeded amidst obscene verbal abuse and palpable menace while police stood idly around. Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Michael Oren, was disrupted and shouted down by unruly Muslim and left-wing students at the University of California at Irvine. David Horowitz, founder of the Freedom Center, is accompanied by a bodyguard when he lectures at American universities. The beat—and the beating—goes on.
The disingenuousness of Naylor’s claim regarding “every society” is revealed if we glance at the Arab world, where no “safe venue” is remotely in evidence. Consider inviting a politically controversial or Jewish speaker to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, or Umm Al-Qura University in Mecca, or the Islamic University of Lebanon where the Academy’s “unique role to provide a safe venue for highly charged discourse” is about as viable as, well, a Canadian or American university president showing a sliver of moral courage or cerebral acuity.
One does not like to cast disparaging phrases and sentiments around indiscriminately, but I cannot refrain from viewing David Naylor (no differently from his likeminded peers, as it should go without saying) as a disgrace to his calling. Nor can I help speculating that the refusal to intervene, or what amounts to the de facto advocacy we remark in the U of T president, runs in the family. His brother, R.T. Naylor, a professor at McGill University in Montreal, is the former director of the piquantly named American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee and the author of many tendentious books on political and economic subjects. The Naylors’ partiality to Islamic causes may be fractionally explained by a Middle Eastern genealogy, as M.J. Stone implies in a favorable review of the Montreal Naylor’s work in the pro-Nazi Vanguard News Network Forum, in which he does not fail to mention the Naylor “family roots in Lebanon.”
R. T. Naylor intrigues me not least because we shared a publisher for a time, McGill-Queen’s University Press, for which I no longer write. Naylor, I must confess, is one of the most turgid and clottingly indigestible writers I have ever suffered reading, but one book in particular merits investigating for the kind of anti-American, anti-Israeli, pro-Muslim bafflegab littering the Left/Islamic scene today, an illustration of what David Horowitz has aptly called “the unholy alliance” busy at its insidious work. I refer to Naylor’s Satanic Purses, a screed filled with reams of presumably hard economic data arguing that the war on terror is largely deceptive and feeds off a hoodwinked public in order to advance various entrenched interests. The atrocious titular pun on Salman Rushdie’s major novel, The Satanic Verses, is enough to extradite the author’s intellectual repute. Not only does the title betoken an adolescent attempt to seem clever and with-it, but ironically also recalls the fatwa on Rushdie issuing from the very Islamic world that Naylor extols and justifies.
Once inured to the battery of putative “information,” it requires only a few pages for the reader to recognize that the writing is vitiated by a sophomoric snideness, operating in the vein of pseudo-mockery and alluding tongue-in-cheek, to take just a couple of examples, to the presumed “regime of brooding Islamic fanatics” in Sudan or the “gang of misanthropic miscreants” in Taliban Afghanistan. These groups are meant to be understood as the inventions of unscrupulous neoconservative agents like George W. Bush and his Republican backers or of the “machinations of the pro-Israel lobby.” It is the latter, we are given to understand, who comprise the brooding fanatics and misanthropic miscreants.
But when Naylor goes on to define al-Qaeda as “largely a law-enforcement fable akin to the Mafia myth,” we know we are witnessing a slick polemical shell game, for the Mafia is no myth and its global reach has been amply documented. For Naylor, the United States is the real Evil Empire, Israel and its American-Jewish supporters are the devil’s deputies, Hamas is a world-class charity, the Oslo Accords were sabotaged by the Israelis, radical Islam is basically innocent and is only reacting to “Western meddling in the Islamic world,” jihad does not mean Holy War (shades of John Brennan), the American government seeks “to demonize Muslims worldwide,” (utter nonsense under Obama, but also under Bush), the international banking infrastructure is “a global espionage apparatus,” and so on ad vomitatum.
When, in an interview with Counterpunch, Naylor speaks of Jewish fundamentalist “charities” sponsoring terrorist groups and of Christian fundamentalist proselytizing which “may well provoke further acts of terrorism,” asserts that Israel is engaged in a “policy of mass murder,” torture and theft, and contends that the main resource of Middle Eastern countries “is not oil [but] their émigré population, well-educated and for the most part anxious to go home,” there can be little doubt that we are observing a polemical farce of histrionic proportions, turning reality upside-down, accusing a straw man of the crimes and transgressions committed by one’s own fraternal constituency, and whitewashing a frankly violent, parasitic and Caliphate-aspiring Islamic world.
As Stone put it in the above-cited puff job, “A culmination of thirty years’ work as a historian, criminologist and expert in international political economy, Naylor described Satanic Purses as counterpoint to post 9/11 propaganda. ‘It brings together my expertise in finance, politics, and both Middle Eastern and North American history as it relates to the deeply embedded prejudices against Muslims and Arabs that have existed in the West since the time of the crusades.’” Shades of the increasingly discredited Edward Said. Naylor then goes to bat for Hamas and Hezbollah, describing both terrorist organizations, according to Stone, as “having important social and humanitarian mandates” and being compelled to react “to Israeli atrocities.”
The brothers are therefore influential in different but kindred fashions, one through the latent concession of misconstrued authority and the other through the manifest thrust of false argumentation. Moreover, it clearly signals how academic elitism and ostensible intellectual sophistication have succeeded in skewing the genuine terms of debate and have reconditioned violent aggressors as plaintive belligerents. There is not much to choose between wrong thinking and abject pusillanimity.
The placard borne by the lone protestor on the University of Toronto campus read: Israeli Jihad Apartheid Week. No balls to flog. The second statement may be a trifle bizarre and ambiguous, but it is more easily understandable than the pliant and accommodationist positions adopted by the representative Naylors.
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