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Canadian Jewish News

February 3, 2005


Survivors "outraged" over CBC News Sunday

By RON CSILLAG Staff Reporter

FinkelsteinA SURVIVOR of Auschwitz who was interviewed by CBC Television says she feels "betrayed" by the broadcaster because the segment included an interview with a notorious American anti-Zionist and unremitting critic of Holocaust reparations [Professor Norman Finkelstein, right].

Even though Judy Cohen of Toronto was invited back to CBC News Sunday this past weekend to rebut the remarks of the controversial Norman Finkelstein, the whole episode has left a bad taste.

"I think it's the end of the matter," Cohen told The CJN as she was preparing her remarks for this past Sunday's show. "But why have something controversial about Auschwitz, of all times, when you're trying to have a serious discussion about the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz?"

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David Irving comments:

I AM FRIGHTFULLY uneasy to learn of all these Holocaust survivors floating around sixty years after Red Army overrun the Auschwitz camp in 1945. They seem to be on every street corner and under every lamp post, hawking their wares to passing television news channels.
   Were Hitler's hangmen really that sloppy, if he was dedicated to exterminating every last one of them on earth? Somebody has some explaining to do to me.
   Another thing: Doesn't this newspaper item, which was meant for their readers only, reveal once again the proprietorial attitude that they have towards the media.
   The media are theirs, alone, this article seems to say, and it is outrageous that anybody else should be allowed aboard, and the Heavens forfend that there should actually be a debate. They call for apologies all round.
   They thought that they had prevented that kind of thing -- after two years Holocaust skeptic Ernst Zündel is still languishing in solitary confinement in a Canadian jail, with no criminal record and without charge -- and yet some ordinary but incorrigible people are still asking questions, even a "notorious anti-Zionist" academic like Finkelstein.
   Now, we ask, what has Zionism got to do with the Holocaust? As though we didn't know.

Cohen, a well-known Holocaust educator, and two other local Auschwitz survivors, Elizabeth de Jong and Max Eisen, appeared on CBC News Sunday Jan. 23 to talk about their wartime memories as part of the broadcaster's coverage of the Auschwitz anniversary.

They say that unbeknownst to them, a debate then followed between Finkelstein and University of Toronto historian and Holocaust expert Michael Marrus on what forms Holocaust commemoration should take.

"They kept that secret from us," Cohen said.

In a letter to the CBC, Cohen said that "had we known this, we would have refused to appear on your show."

The Jewish son of survivors himself and a darling of the far-left, Finkelstein is a U.S. political science professor and author. He is also a much-reviled figure among most of the North American Jewish establishment, whom he accuses of ruthlessly exploiting the Holocaust for political and financial gain, and of using it to justify Israel's treatment of Palestinians.

His book, The Holocaust Industry, accuses elite Jewish "hucksters" and "frauds" of "shaking down" Germany for reparations.

In her letter, Cohen said she and the two other survivors appeared on the show "in good faith" but are now "outraged and wonder why Evan Solomon, the host of the show, did not refuse to do this? Why did you go along with this travesty or at least warn us in advance?"

Finkelstein, she went on, has a "well-known contempt of remembrance and commemoration of our nightmarish experiences."


Cohen said she took particular offense at Finkelstein's remark that

"there are now more Holocaust museums in the United States than there are Burger Kings. And it is only a matter of time that there are more Holocaust museums than there are McDonalds."

She wondered: "Can anyone trivialize more the commemorations of the greatest Jewish and human tragedy in the 20th century than this outrageous, stupid remark? And the host let it pass unchallenged."

The letter goes on: "Never should you have combined our remembrances with the likes of Norman Finkelstein. Never. Your insult is unforgivable and particularly unworthy of the CBC.

"We are deeply offended and so are many of the people who called us."

In his comments, which are posted on the show's website, Finkelstein explains his book's argument: That

"the Nazi Holocaust has been exploited, mainly by American Jewish elites, American Jewish organizations for political and financial gain. Specifically, the Nazi Holocaust has been used as a club to silence criticism of the State of Israel.

"Most recently it takes the form of a new so called anti-Semitism which in actuality is non-existent, but there is a claim of new anti-Semitism, a resurgence of a 1930's style of anti-Semitism, and that is just being used, exploited to silence critics of the Israeli repression in the occupied territories."

He went on to wonder "whether it is time to commemorate the suffering of others."

Canadian Jewish Congress also took the CBC to task. In a letter, CJC said Finkelstein, "true to form, was vulgar and offensive," and that his appearance was "ill-conceived."

Marrus told The CJN he was aware Finkelstein would be on the show, but agreed to appear anyway.

"I regret they had him. I told them it wasn't a good idea. But if I didn't do it, he might have appeared by himself or with somebody who couldn't stand up to him. It was a judgment call."

Once Finkelstein has a platform, "it's important to oppose his views," Marrus said. He attributed Finkelstein's appearance to "showbiz, I'm afraid."

Having Finkelstein on the show was "a programming decision," Stuart Coxe, executive producer of CBC News Sunday, told The CJN. "In the context of the debate, it was about the issue of the relative status of grief and memorials. So in that respect, it was suitable."

However, Coxe added, the CBC doesn't endorse Finkelstein's views, and the offence he caused was "inadvertent."

"The last thing we and Evan Solomon wanted to do is cause offense to Holocaust survivors." He said Cohen was invited back on the show "out of respect for her and survivors, and to express her views."

The CJN was unable to reach Solomon for comment.


Michael Coren calls Norman Finkelstein an extremist, drops him from TV show