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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The incredible, non-credible, conspiracy-filled world of Jenny Peto

It all started here. This is the blog that brought national and international attention to Jenny Peto's masterpiece of paranoia, "The Victimhood of the Powerful: White Jews, Zionism and the Racism of Hegemonic Holocaust Education."

Her work was a Master's thesis for the Ontario Institute of Studies in Education at the University of Toronto that alleges mainstream Holocaust education programs are part of an evil Zionist conspiracy to, in her words, "obscure Jewish privilege, deny Jewish racism and promote the interests of the Israeli nation-state."

On the surface that sounds pretty idiotic. She doesn't further her credibility with bizarre contentions like:

"Having shown that Ashkenazi Jews are now privileged white people, I will then work to expose some of the tactics that are used to perpetuate the idea that Jews are inherently and forever victimized." (pg.8)

Many people aside from me, including Professor Werner Cohn and Robyn Urback at Maclean's have commented at length about how OISE's acceptance of Ms. Peto's incompetent scholarship, which used no primary sources, was replete with factual errors, absurd speculation and personal reflection unrelated to the subject, made a mockery of of the concept of academic rigour. So much so, that it called the credibility of OISE as a faculty into question.

Ms Peto and Sheryl Nestel, the academic supervisor for her polemic, have kept a relatively low profile since the public exposure of its existence, with the exception of a love note Ms Peto sent to me via the National Post.

Until now. Yesterday, the University of Toronto's student newspaper, The Varsity, published an interview with Ms Peto and Nestel where they are back on the big conspiracy bandwagon.

As Robyn Urback described it today, "her paper was attacked simply because she was purporting unpopular ideas. “I think that this is about who I am as a pro-Palestinian activist and what I have to say,” she said, “which is very critical of Israel, very critical of mainstream pro-Israel institutions in Canada, and critical of what I see as an abuse of Holocaust memory to justify Israeli apartheid.” In other words, all of that talk of misleading claims and spreading hate was really just a guise for mainstream intolerance of pro-Palestinian ideas."

As far as I'm concerned, this all brings together an interesting thread that comes from a variety of media sources. Perhaps it is not so strange that there is such a close link between conspiracy theorists and anti-Semitism. Part of the whole anti-Semitic proposition is a "world-wide conspiracy" of Jews.

Ms. Peto denies she can be an anti-Semite. But how else can one characterize statements from her thesis like, ""Worldwide, the organized Jewish community works tirelessly to support the racist Israeli state and in doing so, aligns itself with oppressive forces in their own countries." and "a mainstream Jewish community that is dominated by racist and Zionist ideologies"

Ms Peto's usual refrain is that she can't possibly be anti-Semitic because she is a Jew and a descendant of a Holocaust survivor. That assertion is, of itself, demonstrative of her lack of insight. Anti-Semitism is an ideology and prejudice, being a Jew is a matter of birth. Being of a particular ethnic group does not preclude the ability to hold any idea. But then, her inability to understand such a basic concept may be reflective of uncritical acceptance of the racialist theories taught amongst the pseudo-academic psychobabble of OISE's Sociology and Equity Studies in Education program.

But there is a common thread between Peto, Nestel, and a world where Egyptians accuse sharks of, and Saudi Arabia arrests a vulture for being an Israeli spy. It's also no coincidence that conspiracy theorists like 9-11 oddballs Joshua Blakeney and Michael Keefer have aligned themselves with Peto's cause.

This all reflects a paranoid, incompetent mindset that seeks to blame their own failings on others. It suggests a lacks of the introspective ability to question themselves and their own failings, and is so obsessed with attributing blame to an enemy that they create it where it doesn't exist.

Of course, it's so much easier to blame the "Zionists" or the "neo-Cons" than to look at yourself.  It wasn't so long ago that it was all "the blacks' fault."

Incompetent scholarship endorsed by a major university that receives public funds is a serious problem. It doesn't require a conspiracy to explain why there is public criticism of something so detrimental to the University of Toronto's reputation. It does require a conspiracy for the people responsible to try to excuse themselves.


Anonymous said...

After reading the Varsity article and the comments many good questions were raised. But the following question from Dr Howard Tenenbaum (Jan 11, 2011 at 05:48 PM) really gets to the heart of the matter:
“…Peto’s thesis that lead to a larger question. Why was a thesis with such weaknesses accepted by U of T’s Ontario Institute for the Study of Education (OISE), and subsequently, the School of Graduate Studies?”

Elder of Ziyon said...

I had taken apart her paper about a week before your excellent post:

Richard K said...

Hey! Indeed you had, Elder! I found out after I wrote my piece that Werner Cohn had written about it the day before too. My post was picked up by The National Post and was the first MSM mention of it, but the work of bloggers like you and Werner and Blazing Cat Fur are making a big difference in seeing to it that people who are trying to surreptitiously subvert liberal democratic institutions are exposed.

One of the most telling aspects of matters like this and the Libby Davies controversy last summer is that these people are upset at the attention drawn to them.

If I were a politician or had written a thesis, I would want the public to hear what I've said or written. The fact that they don't want the publicity they are getting reveals a great deal about what they are saying.