Unprecedented: master’s thesis on Jewish white privilege and Israel attacked in Canadian legislature
Canadian grad student, Jewish anti-Zionist activist, and descendant of Holocaust survivors Jenny Peto is breaking new ground with her University of Toronto master’s thesis The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education, though perhaps not in the way she intended.
The Canadian National Post reports:
It has provoked intense debate online, in academia and even the political realm. Progressive Conservative MPP Steve Clark raised it in the legislature Tuesday in response to sharp criticism in the Jewish community, calling it “shockingly anti-Semitic.” Citizenship and immigration minister Eric Hoskins likewise condemned the thesis in the legislature saying he was “greatly disturbed and, in fact, disgusted,” when he read media coverage about it.
These attacks (by some if not many who haven’t actually read it) on a master’s thesis, one that has already been through an academic review no less, are unprecedented. Also from The National Post:
Michiel Horn, a York University history professor and author of Academic Freedom in Canada: A History: “I know not of a single case where a master’s or a phD paper has been subject of discussion in the legislature of any province in Canada,” he said.
You can read Jenny Peto’s thesis yourself by downloading it here. Her abstract states:
This paper focuses on issues of Jewish identity, whiteness and victimhood within hegemonic Holocaust education. I argue that today, Jewish people of European descent enjoy white privilege and are among the most socio-economically advantaged groups in the West. Despite this privilege, the organized Jewish community makes claims about Jewish victimhood that are widely accepted within that community and within popular discourse in the West. I propose that these claims to victimhood are no longer based in a reality of oppression, but continue to be propagated because a victimized Jewish identity can produce certain effects that are beneficial to the organized Jewish community and the Israeli nation-state. I focus on two related Holocaust education projects – the March of the Living and the March of Remembrance and Hope – to show how Jewish victimhood is instrumentalized in ways that obscure Jewish privilege, deny Jewish racism and promote the interests of the Israeli nation-state.
I myself can’t wait to read it. There’s not a lot here that those seriously familiar with these Jewish institutions and Israeli history and politics could really argue with. For too long, the central organizing principle of much of institutional Jewry has been fear, which has been essential in, among other things, enabling an unaccountable Israel. And few programs more dramatically reflect this than the March of the Living which inflicts a proxy Holocaust trauma on Jewish teenagers (without proper context and support, so I hear from friends who have gone) as an essential right of passage into Jewishness.
To the young N. American Ashkenazi Jews especially who can’t help but notice that Jews as a whole occupy places of real economic and racial privilege in their communities, the messages of perpetual victimhood (and the implied privileges that might go with it, as in the case with the free pass that Israel tends to get) just don’t compute.
I’d imagine that in addition to her own experience, Peto had plenty to draw on from work and discussions happening in academic environments these days regarding Holocaust studies, Israeli politics, white privilege and so on. Is it possible that Peto’s crime is to have thought too complexly –in an academic setting.
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From the Arhives
By Mercedes Melon | Badil Resource Center | Spring-Summer 2012
Forcible transfer and deportation are terms that commonly evoke images of people being loaded onto trucks or trains or violently driven away.1 Forcible transfer, however, may also take the form of involuntary or induced movement of people resulting from the creation of insecurity, disorder, or other adverse conditions, for the purpose of, or resulting in such migration. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits all forcible transfers. Only the security of the population of the occupied territory or imperative military reasons can exceptionally justify total or partial evacuation of an area under occupation. Those evacuated shall be transferred back to their homes as soon as hostilities in the area in question have ceased.
A key criterion to assess the forcible nature of the displacement is whether or not the transfer is the result of the individual’s own genuine choice to leave.2 As developed in the case law of the International Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia (ICTY), forcible transfer is understood as the forced displacement of persons from where they reside to a place that is not of their own choosing and “includes threat of force or coercion, such as that caused by fear of violence, duress, detention, psychological oppression or abuse of power against such person or persons or another person, or by taking advantage of a coercive environment.”3 The ongoing forcible transfer of the Palestinian people from or within the Jordan Valley in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) is a clear example of this kind of transfer (sometimes misleadingly called “indirect transfer”).
The facts speak for themselves. Although there is uncertainty as to population levels in the past, it is estimated that between 250,000 and 300,000 Palestinians lived in the Jordan Valley on the eve of the 1967 Israeli military occupation.4 After more than 40 years of occupation, the Palestinian population in the area has been dramatically reduced to 56,000.5 However, the displacement of Palestinian people from their homeland is not a phenomenon relegated to the past, but an ongoing process… continue
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