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Al-Jazeera's Newest (Jewish) Star By: Kathy Shaidle
FrontPageMagazine.com | Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Nothing demonstrates the dangerously misplaced sympathies of Canada's intellectual elite so much as the case of Avi Lewis. A former host with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Jewish Lewis is Canada's answer to Keith Olbermann. But what has everyone in Canada talking is not his past career but his new job: Lewis has joined Al-Jazeera, the Middle East broadcaster that serves as a leading purveyor of anti-Americanism and anti-Semitism.

That the ambitious 40-year-old presenter has departed the state-funded CBC for an international network with exponentially bigger budgets and audiences isn't a huge surprise. But Lewis's career move underscores that the Canadian Left is all too willing to forge an unholy alliance with the official tribune of radical Islam.

In many ways, Lewis is a perfect archetype for Canada's intellectual elite. A third generation product of Canadian political royalty, he boasts a star-studded genealogy that has inspired not one, but two TV specials: Lewis is the son of Stephen Lewis, Canada's former ambassador to the United Nations and former head of Ontario's socialist New Democratic Party. His mother, Michelle Landsberg, is a longtime columnist with Canada's largest liberal daily, the Toronto Star. His grandfather, Stephen Lewis, once led the NDP party on the national level. From his education at the elite private school, Upper Canada College (the "Eton" of the 49th parallel), to his marriage to radical author Naomi Klein, Lewis confirms the critics' mockery that he is more of a "human resume" than a real person. And while the idea of a Jewish broadcaster joining the world's biggest Muslim and hate-America/Israel media outlet may seem shocking, it is in fact natural for a post-modern, "progressive" leftist like Lewis.

Lewis had cultivated a brass persona at the CBC. Armed with a smug, self-satisfied smirk that undermined his attempts to discuss serious issues, Lewis used the forum to propagate his far-Left politics. It is a revealing commentary on his political views that Lewis once criticized Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez. The reason? Chavez was not socialist enough for his tastes.

"For what it's worth," commented Jonathan Kay at the National Post, "I think the jump to Al-Jazeera is a great career move for Lewis. Once he escapes the CBC, he will be able to bash the Americans without even the minimal ideological safeguards the Ceeb imposes. He will also no longer face the embarrassing sniggers of CBC colleagues who see him (fairly or unfairly) as a c-rater riding the coattails of relatives. If he becomes a star at Al-Jazeera, he will be preaching to an audience that's potentially many times the size of the CBC's — and he'll get some revenge against [his former bosses.]"

Lewis' main claim to fame (or, rather, infamy) was an interview he conducted with former Dutch parliamentarian and author Ayaan Hirsi Ali in June 2007. The segment quickly made Lewis, and by extension the CBC, a worldwide laughingstock. But instead of ending his broadcasting career, that interview may have served as Avi Lewis's inadvertent "audition" for Al-Jazeera.

At the start of the broadcast (which is no longer available at the CBC's newly redesigned website) Lewis introduces guest Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a Somali-born Muslim "subjected to genital mutilation, and promised in an arranged marriage to a Canadian…" who "departed from the script and made a new life in the Netherlands," as a member of the Dutch Liberal Party. "She wrote the film Submission with Theo Van Gogh," Lewis continued, "which featured sexualized images of a Muslim woman with verses of the Koran written on her body, telling a tale of abuse. When the filmmaker was murdered in 2004" – Lewis doesn't tell us the culprit was a fanatical Muslim – "the note pinned to his body was addressed to Hirsi Ali."

Lewis also neglected to mention Hirsi Ali's subsequent need for bodyguards, or the assassination of fellow politician Pim Fortuyn as another reason she left Holland to work at "the arch-conservative American Enterprise Institute." ("I wonder if he's ever described anything as 'arch-liberal' before," Dennis Prager mused rhetorically, in his scathing deconstruction of the interview.)

Then Lewis asked Hirsi Ali for her "critique against Islam." Ali, the epitome of poised, calmly responded that "Islam means submission to the will of Allah. A doctrine that requires the individual to become a slave is, in my view, is bad."

"But aren't there different kinds of Islam, just as there are different interpretations of Christianity and Judaism?" Lewis asked.

"No," his guest replied.

Here Lewis began to unravel. Hirsi Ali's calm, cool demeanor actually seemed to agitate him as much as her answers. Grinning for some unknown reason, Lewis insisted that "Evangelical Christianity has risen to the highest ranks of power" in the United States. "They shoot abortion doctors in the United States of America! Homophobia is rampant!" The "abortion doctors" trope is a favorite among the bien pensant elites, of course, but mass-murder, in this case, means that seven murders have been committed and, as Hirsi Ali points out in her interview, they have all been prosecuted and punished -- since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Islamophobia is "rampant", too, in Lewis's view. But not in Hirsi Ali's.

Hirsi Ali: "There is no Islamophobia. It's a myth."

Lewis: "There's no Islamophobia?"

Hirsi Ali: "No."

Lewis: "Anywhere in the world?"

Hirsi Ali: "No. I mean…"

Lewis: "Is there anti-Semitism?"

Hirsi Ali: "It's different…"

Lewis: "Is there racism?"

Ayaan: "Sometimes. We are all racists. Racism is a universal trait, so is anti-Semitism, by the way. But I want us not to confuse a set of beliefs such as Islam, with ethnicity such as with Jews just because they are Jews, or with blacks just because they are blacks, or with gays just because it's something you can't do anything about. Whereas Islam is simply a set of beliefs. It's not 'Islamophobic' to say that Islam is incompatible with liberal democracy. It's not 'Islamophobic' to point to those people who use the Koran and the Hadith to conduct war and to say this is being done in the name of your religion. To do something about it, that's not 'Islamophobic.' That's fair."

Lewis countered lamely that Muslims "don't want to travel because flying is such a hassle." (And whose fault would that be, one wonders?)

Hirsi Ali: "I think it's highly exaggerated that Muslims in the US are under siege. If that were the case -- we know groups in history who were under siege, and what they usually do is, they would leave. I don't see any American Muslim leaving and going back to any Muslim country."

Lewis: "Well, your faith in American democracy is, uh -- delightful!"

Hirsi Ali: "It's the best democracy. It's the best place to be! (…) In America, you can come with nothing, no penny, nothing, and you can become very wealthy. Tell me which Muslim country…"

Lewis: "Is there a school where they teach you these American clichés? Is it part of your application process? I'm sorry -- I'm so upset, I'm losing my cards here. I can't believe you just said that!"

Hirsi Ali: "I've read de Tocqueville, and I've read about democracy, and I've lived in countries that had no democracy, that had no founding fathers, that could not resolve, so I don't find myself in the same luxury as you. You grew up in freedom, and you can spit on freedom, because you don't know what it is not to have freedom. I haven't. I know that there are many things wrong with America, and I know there are many things wrong with Americans, but I still believe it's the best nation in the world."

After the interview was uploaded to HotAir.com, then flew around the blogosphere, even HotAir editor "AllahPundit" was "surprised initially at how much reaction [it] got, but having watched it again now, it is pretty amazing, isn't it? After the years we've spent digesting Cindy Sheehan, Michael Moore, the Kossacks, how strident does your anti-Americanism have to be to make righty bloggers sit up and notice at this late date? Congrats, Avi Lewis. You're a living cartoon."

Fortunately, Canadian taxpayers are no longer subsidizing Avi Lewis's hate-America performances. Al-Jazeera English is picking up the tab for that, giving Lewis his own show called "Frontline USA," covering subjects like America's "failure to protect its poorest citizens" during Hurricane Katrina.

And yet: millions of Canadian tax dollars helped groom Avi Lewis for the cameras since he first joined the CBC back in 1998. Now he's taken that expensive training and precious exposure – which countless Canadian citizens who didn't win the gene pool lottery will never have the opportunity to enjoy – and gone to work for a network that actively supports the destruction of the culture that made his career possible. Not a few of those citizens are wondering where they go to get a refund.


Kathy Shaidle blogs at FiveFeetOfFury.com. Her new book exposing abuses by Canada’s Human Rights Commissions, The Tyranny of Nice, includes an introduction by Mark Steyn.


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