Saturday, September 26, 2009

Coming Clean(er) on Antonia Zerbisias

Fair is fair.

Recently, in a post here at the Nexus about Antonia Zerbisias challenging Liberal MP Irwin Cotler's loyalty to Canada, Zerbisias was unfairly credited for making the following comment on her Facebook page: "It doesn't seem possible for Jewish people to have a RATIONAL discussion about Israel!"

As it turns out, Zerbisias did not make the comment in question.

Although the comment was made by another individual (who is, and will remain, unidentified) she did express agreement with it, writing: "I agree. It's almost existential for some of them."

Evidently, this is what Jonathon Kay actually meant when he suggested Zerbisias "endorses" those views. As Zerbisias' Facebook profile is set to private (it can be viewed by her Facebook friends only), it's actually an easy mistake to make, as her comments were made very difficult to verify.

To some, it would seem entirely natural to attribute anti-Semitism to the comments of both individuals. Attributing irrationality to an entire ethnic group of people could certainly be viewed as a racially inflammatory comment. In the case in question, it could be viewed as anti-Semitic.

But rushing to that conclusion admittedly overlooks the rash hastiness of such comments. In the heat of a blogosphere controversy such comments can be uttered in undue haste -- and interpreted equally hastily.

In hindsight -- as due restraint often restores itself once the heat of the moment has passed -- one would like to be able to attribute Zerbisias' comments to that kind of hastiness. But Zerbisias has made it rather difficult to do so.

Even though she has been asked to elaborate on the sentiments behind her actual comments -- once again, expressing agreement with the original comments -- she has declined to share them.

Which is unfortunate. Zerbisias could very well have not meant to attribute irrationality to Jewish people as a whole, but rather to a particular group of pro-Israeli Jews. Truth be told, she would be right about that. There's little question that some Jews -- as well as some non-Jews -- cast aside the burdensome chore of critical thinking in all matters related to Israel. It's a sad truth.

Likewise, Zerbisias could very well have meant to attribute that to Jewish people as a whole. Her comments, even if uttered in haste, seem to suggest that (they also seem to suggest that for many Jews this irrationality is "existential").

If she refuses to elaborate on her comments, it would be impossible to know for certain.

It's on this note that Zerbisias may entreat herself to an apology for the misquote. Fair, after all, is fair.

But it's hard to leash suspicions of anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism if Zerbisias herself won't explain some comments that seem like they allude to it. If Zerbisias doesn't like it, there are actually very simple remedies as her immediate command:

Don't say things that may make people suspect you're an anti-Semite. For most people, that seems simple enough.

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