Did you hear the joke about Jewish publications in Canada shifting to the right? I’ll leave you briefly in suspense, as I provide a little background.
Canadaland, the left-wing media podcast/blog run by Jesse Brown, released a March 27 podcast episode entitled “Being Jewish In Public.” The discussion revolved around whether there was “an over-concentration of Jews in the media,” and one of the participants was CJN editor Yoni Goldstein.
A separate piece was posted on Canadaland’s Twitter feed just before the podcast with this description: “As Canada’s Jewish media drifts further to the right, one podcast is trying to counter that.” It sounded far-fetched, but curiosity got the better of me. (I should have let it kill the cat.)
Alex Verman’s piece focuses partly on Treyf, an “unapologetically leftist, loudly Jewish” podcast, and partly on the current state of Canadian Jewish publications. With respect to the latter, he argues the “world of Canadian Jewish media is extraordinarily limited. Finding a genuinely progressive opinion in the pages of our community media is near-impossible, despite the prevalence of those voices in day-to-day Jewish lives.”
To quote the late Gary Coleman’s popular catchphrase on Diff’rent Strokes, ““What’chu talkin’ ‘bout, Willis?”
‘The radical Jewish left believes the moderate Jewish left/centre is shifting to the right because the latter won’t heed the views and values of far-left progressives’
The vast majority of Canada’s Jewish publications (English, Hebrew and Yiddish) have been firmly on the political left. A rare exception was the Jewish Tribune, which folded in January 2015. A few smaller publications, such as the Jewish Independent (formerly the Jewish Western Bulletin) and Shalom Toronto, have occasionally gone against the grain, too. As for The CJN, it’s always been a centrist publication.
Several individuals involved with the newspaper’s ownership and editorial staff are right-leaning. A small number of contributors and columnists (including me) are right-leaning, too. The bulk of them aren’t, however.
So, what is going here? You have to dig a little deeper into this article to figure out why anyone would believe the Jewish media is shifting to the right.
Verman critiques The CJN’s “editor-in-chief and board president” because they “define themselves as ‘strong advocates for Zionism’ and expressly prohibit participation from groups and individuals they believe are not.” He’s also displeased that the paper “is a frequent platform for organizations such as the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA), Hillel and the Canadian Jewish Political Action Committee (CJPAC),” while Independent Jewish Voices and the “interests of leftist Jewish Canadians are cut out entirely from the public perception of what ‘Jewish interests’ means to Canadian policymakers or the mainstream media.”
Aye, there’s the rub. The radical Jewish left believes the moderate Jewish left/centre is shifting to the right because the latter won’t heed the views and values of far-left progressives, but plays nice with conservatives and libertarians.
This type of logic is fundamentally illogical, I’m afraid.
More Canadian Jews are shifting to the political right due to a heightened interest in fiscal conservatism, social issues and, in some cases, Israel. But with the sole exception of the 2011 federal election (since we don’t have data for the 2015 federal election), more than half of Jewish votes historically went to left-of-centre parties.
If Jewish publication owners and employees match the current voting behaviour of Canadian Jews, it wouldn’t make any sense to completely abandon the political left. They need their interest, enthusiasm and money to survive, after all.
Meanwhile, there’s a significant difference between the moderate and radical left. Most Jewish leftists sit in the former camp, and their ideas are regularly cultivated by the CJN and other publications. If the Jewish media opts to either ignore or completely disregard the small latter group, for personal or financial reasons, that’s their decision to make.
The column’s opening line wasn’t a joke about the politics of Jewish publications, as you’ve probably figured out. Rather, it’s this whole line of thinking that’s the real joke.