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Nick Kadysh: Progressives, there are extremists in your midst
For ages, conservatives have been told to root out the extremists in their movement. Now it is time for those on the left to distance themselves from their own whackos.
By: Nick Kadysh
It doesn’t seem like that long ago, when the Trucker Convoy came to Ottawa and our entire federal and provincial government apparatuses began to fold like cheap suits, that I had an illuminating conversation with The Line’s inimitable Jen Gerson, where she knocked some sense into me.
I was defending the folks in the Trucker Convoy, because — as a partisan conservative — I felt a kinship to those people and their aims. I argued that the majority of the people in that protest were good, and had good intentions, and that they hadn’t caused any serious violent incidents. I argued that their morals were pure, and that their stated goals were just. Surely, I said, that had to count for something.
“Nope,” said Gerson. It doesn’t count for diddly squat, because those noble aims and pure morals were just an excuse to gloss over the fact that they had some serious whackos in their midst — the kind of people who drive a truck full of guns through the gates of Rideau Cottage looking for the prime minister, or plan to attack an RCMP outpost at Coutts. The conservative movement, in short, had a strong positive obligation to sort the wheat from the chaff; to reject the extremists and embrace the moderates. This obligation is everlasting and ongoing.
So, now, in 2023, I’m asking my progressive friends: do you know where your activists are? Oh, sure, I know your morals are pure — nobody thinks of themselves as the villain. But can you account for everyone who is a part of your movement? Are the people marching with you present because they want to end the war, or because they want to end the Jews?
I only ask, because an awful lot of people in the progressive movement seem to have lost their taste for anti-racism recently. Like Bernie Farber (until recently head of the Canada Anti-Hate Network) who popped up in early November to let us know that the Anti-Hate network is only out to find examples of right-wing hatred — they don’t have the budget to look for hate on the left.
That’s a shame. We could use all the help we can get, right? It’s not like there aren’t egregious examples of rife antisemitism in Canadian Society, including vandalism at Jewish businesses, arson attempts at a synagogue and Jewish community centre, not to mention three different incidents of people shooting up Jewish schools in the last week(!!!).
Shooting bullets at schools is not a left- or right-wing issue. It has no justification. It doesn’t matter who did it, or what their political beliefs are … right?
But the fact is, for many, it apparently does matter. Tribalism is deep-seated. It’s not easy to accept the fact that there might be bigots rolling around in your movement. Nobody wants to think that they’re sharing a podium with a guy who prays for Allah to “kill the enemies of the people of Gaza and to spare none of them”. But frankly, none of this is new.
Anti-Jewish bigotry hasn’t just been simmering in the progressive left for the past decade, it’s been at a running boil. The fact that the water is coming over the sides now isn’t news to anyone paying attention. What Jewish Canadians are seeing, instead of support, are a number of our major progressive institutions justifying their behaviour and minimizing what is absolutely a clear and present danger of racist violence.
The appearance of one swastika in the Trucker Convoy was enough to whip almost our entire media and political ecosystem into a veritable frenzy. There are still those who view the Leader of the Opposition’s meeting with the Convoy as a sin — not venial, but mortal. Is anyone seriously still under the impression that there are not people now suddenly emboldened to share their unabashed antisemitism in our society, and that much of this is coming from the broad political left?
Regardless of what anyone might think, being “progressive” is not some form of inoculation against racism and bias. There are clearly Jew-haters in the progressive movement, to found in our public-sector trade unions, certainly online, and even the Ontario provincial legislature. Some have faced consequences for this, but the reaction from many of my friends in the progressive left, especially on the far left, has been a collective shrug. In short: these people aren’t hateful, they’re just misguided.
But nobody accepts “misguided” as an excuse when it’s someone else’s political tribe, and Jewish Canadians are under no obligation to accept it as an excuse if someone gets hurt. With police chiefs around the country warning that anti-Jewish hate crimes are spiking alarmingly, the question may not be “if” for much longer, but “when.” If you’re a part of the progressive movement in Canada: you have a duty, an obligation, to seek out and eject these people. They exist in your movement, and sticking your head in the sand just isn’t good enough. Repudiate them, push them out, make clear that they don’t represent you.
Because if you don’t, they do.
Nick Kadysh is a public policy professional, and founding CEO of PharmAla Biotech.
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