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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By Mark Trecka | The End Of Being | June 26, 2015
In the late morning of June 26th, 1975, two young FBI agents named Jack Coler and Robert Williams entered the property of Lakota Sioux elders Harry and Cecelia Jumping Bull while ostensibly investigating the theft of a pair of cowboy boots, and engaged in a firefight with several native activists who were camped there. Those two FBI agents and a young Indian named Joe Stuntz would be dead by mid-afternoon, slain in the South Dakota sun. Leonard Peltier, one of the activists camped at Jumping Bull that day, is currently serving back-to-back life sentences for the deaths of Coler and Williams. No investigation into the death of Stuntz was ever undertaken.
Reports of military style bunkers and strongholds and large stockpiles of weapons on the Jumping Bull property were disseminated to the American public within the days following this incident, but such reports were promptly found to be fabricated. In an enforced absence of the media during the first days after the event, the deaths of the agents were told to be execution-style murders, the work of hateful, vengeful native militants. This, too, proved to be false. The agents, it seems, did not announce themselves that day and so appeared simply as two armed white men on reservation land. A compelling case has been made that Coler and Williams drove onto that land that day and fired shots for no reason but to set into motion the chain of events which followed. … continue
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