Doorstep Postings: The self-isolating political strategy of Ottawa school trustee Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth

This is a special edition of Doorstep Postings, the periodic political commentary column written by Josh Lieblein for The CJN.

Jews don’t have a lot of allies. But that’s always come with the territory.

And while we might not always love the allies we get, we’re in no position to demand with-us-or-against-us, ride-or-die loyalty from anyone. 

Where the enemies of the Jewish people are concerned, it’s a very different story. Standard operating procedure—when it comes to one of the many individuals or groups who threaten our existence—is to make them rue the day. 

So, there must be a clear understanding of who those enemies are, and an absolute boundary between those enemies and those just minding their own business. Deciding that everybody and everything that doesn’t demonstrate absolute loyalty receives the Masada treatment is self-evidently self-defeating. 

But there’s one Ottawa physician, masking advocate, school board trustee, and putative fighter of white supremacy who decided she knew better.

In her efforts to bring back a mask mandate last fall, Dr. Nili Kaplan-Myrth allegedly sent multiple text messages to colleagues. And for those who are familiar with her tactics, the allegations that she insinuated that voting against her motion would be voting with white supremacists will not come as a surprise.

Nor would the fact that Kaplan-Myrth wasn’t deterred by knowing one trustee subjected to this with-me-or-with-white-supremacists treatment was herself Black. 

And when this trustee, Donna Dickson, brought a complaint against Kaplan-Myrth—alleging a breach of the code of conduct for not only this behaviour but also similarly disparaging other trustees and failing to sincerely apologize for not respecting her colleague’s boundaries (even if she sent a regretful four-page letter)—you can also guess what the doctor’s reaction was.

She denounced the process as politically motivated, a waste of time and money, an attempt to silence progressives—and she stated that everyone was out to get her.

And when the votes about whether she breached the code of conduct were counted—where not a single vote went her way, and where she was only found not-guilty because four trustees abstained and eight guilty votes were necessary and only seven were entered—she delivered this absurd declaration:

We know what’s going to happen when we criticize Kaplan-Myrth for her behaviour, or even document her in this way. We know the questions that will be asked. Why are we bothering to wag our fingers at her when white supremacists are on the prowl? Who are we to condescend, to be so misogynistic even to tell a woman, a physician with more education that most of us, how to behave? Why aren’t we Jews entirely taking the side of the pro-vaccine, pro-masking, pro-science, pro-safety, pro-facts, and pro-vulnerable?

And every time Kaplan-Myrth makes these arguments, the outcome isn’t assent and agreement, but silence. It’s an embarrassed silence at being forced into a sudden black-and-white choice between her and the anonymous racists who send her the disgusting messages shared on her own social media accounts.

Yes, embarrassed silence from Jews too, on whom her behaviour is reflecting—rightly or wrongly. 

Kaplan-Myrth makes sure you know that she’ll continue speaking for others. But she might also consider those who are silenced because of her actions. Those who are afraid that her behaviour emboldens white supremacists and alienates allies. Those who resent having their boundaries crossed and their consent violated. And those who refuse to bear the brunt of her lashing out because of her understandable feelings over being targeted.

But when she treats everyone who opposes or disagrees with her as an enemy, that’s when the white supremacists win. That’s the point of their hateful messages: not just to make her afraid or angry, but to cause chaotic episodes like the Sept. 11 display at the Ottawa District School Board, when progressives turn on one another.

It makes it seem like Jewish people don’t know their allies from their enemies, and that they will turn their fury on anyone who crosses them—and that Jews everywhere should be both hated and feared.

For that, she only has herself to blame.  

Josh Lieblein can be reached at [email protected] for your response to Doorstep Postings.