Rebel’s McInnes anti-Semitic? Not so fast.

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According to a report by Toronto police, Jews were the most targeted group for hate-motivated crimes in Toronto for the 12th consecutive year in 2016. Meanwhile, anti-Semitic rhetoric has been discovered at a number of Muslim houses of worship in Toronto and Montreal recently, including at the Dar Al-Arqam mosque in Montreal East where a sheik described Jews as “the most evil of mankind,” ordained by Allah to be killed by Muslims.

Anti-Semitism has also been a hot topic of late within the insular world of Canadian media. But the focus has not been on hate speech at mosques or why Jews are so disproportionately subjected to hate crimes. Instead, the question many are asking is whether Ezra Levant is an anti-Semite, or at least a purveyor of anti-Semitic libels via his right-wing Rebel Media outlet.

As CJN columnist Michael Taube explains in this week’s paper, the commotion began when Gavin McInnes, a Rebel contributor, posted a video online itemizing reasons he’s “becoming anti-Semitic” and describing a visit to Yad Vashem that made him want to defend “the super-far-right Nazis, just because I was sick of so much brainwashing.” A second video, originally titled 10 Things I Hate About Jews, and later changed to 10 Things I Hate About Israel, found a possibly inebriated McInnes spouting off about Israeli cuisine, the country’s crazy drivers and why Israelis “spit talk.”


And did I mention that McInnes recorded these videos while he and the Rebel crew were touring Israel?

After the videos started to spread online, drawing praise from the likes of David Duke, McInnes recorded a new video in which he claimed, “No offence, Nazis, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but I don’t like you. I like Jews.” But for many Canadian media personalities, it was too little, too late. Writing in The Walrus, Michael Coren, a former Rebel himself, argued that McInnes’ videos, and Levant’s defence of them, indicated “a warped new ideological arena where Zionists and creepy Nazi apologists are willing to overlook their differences in service to a common hateful cause.”

At the same time, Canadaland journalist Jonathan Goldsbie set out on the unenviable task of documenting more off-colour remarks made by McInnes and other Rebel contributors, uncovering a video in which McInnes signs off by saying, “Thanks for tuning in to the show. And Jews are ruining the world with their lies and their money and their hooked-nose, bagel-eating faces.”


A clear case of anti-Semitism, right?

Actually, I don’t think so. From my viewing, it looks as though McInnes was joking. At one point early in the original video, he describes his trip to Yad Vashem, using air quotes, “or as I called it, ‘the Holocaust museum’ – no, I’m just kidding.” There’s the key. McInnes was making an attempt at humour – a gross and unsuccessful attempt, no doubt, but an attempt nonetheless.

As for Levant, he’s doubled down, using the fallout over the McInnes affair to call out what he terms “liberal Jewish journalist activists.” I wish he’d stop.

Actually, I wish everyone would put this story to bed. After all, there’s more than enough real anti-Semitism to fight.