‘Reckless and inflammatory’ references to Epstein’s Judaism

Jay Wilson challenges contrarian‘s references to Howard Epstein’s Judaism:

In the article, “Howard’s end”,  you referred to him being, “The only Jew currently serving in the legislature.” By itself, it’s an accurate statement, but something of a throwaway statement as well. By itself, it has little relevance unless you had a specific reason for putting it in. My assumption upon reading it was your desire for full disclosure of the facts.

Then in your most recent article entitled “You have my iPhone and I know where you are,” in reference to Kevin Miller losing his iPhone, you wrote, “…the chances of getting it back looked more and more like a Jewish environmentalist’s chances of getting into the Nova Scotia cabinet.”

It seems to me that you’re making the implication—saying it without really saying it—that Howard Epstein was passed over for cabinet, in some part, because he’s Jewish.

If this is the case, do you have any proof or facts to support this assertion and if so, will you present them to the public? If such a thing did occur and there is any evidence to support it, then it should be exposed.

If this is instead an assertion you’re presenting on your own, with no evidence to support it, then I would put to you it is reckless and inflammatory on your part to suggest there is some kind of anti-Semitism at play here.

I am not either Jewish or a member of the NDP, I should note.

A fair question. Contrarian has no doubt Darrell Dexter finds anti-Semitism repugnant. Still, the insidious nature of prejudice is that it can subtly color our actions and perceptions even when we know it’s evil. This is as true for Dexter as it is for contrarian or, famously, Jesse Jackson, who once confessed:

There is nothing more painful to me … than to walk down the street and hear footsteps and start thinking about robbery, then look around and see somebody white and feel relieved. [US News, 3/10/96]

It’s this quality that puts racism (and anti-Semitism) beyond reach of the hard proof Jay Wilson demands.

Epstein is, to the best of our recollection, the first Jew to serve in the legislature since Paul MacEwan defeated Mines Minister Percy “Pinky” Gaum in 1970. Like many in the North American left, he is a non-practicing, cultural Jew.

His non-Christianity has been a public issue chiefly in his principled refusal to enter the House chamber until after that small but obnoxious daily ritual of Christian bullying known as the opening prayer. NDP brass have never hidden their annoyance at Epstein for making an issue of such insignificant matters as religious freedom and separation of church and state.

A former director of the Ecology Action Centre, Epstein is the most knowledgeable and dedicated environmentalist ever to sit in the legislature, a quality that, ironically, served as a political cover for Dexter’s lamentably retrograde environmental policies.

He isn’t always the best listener, and he suffers fools unhappily, qualities that can make him appear arrogant and incurious about facts and opinions that challenge his own.

Leftism, environmentalism, Judaism, perceived arrogance: All these aspects of Epstein’s persona likely played some role in his exclusion from cabinet. But that exclusion was, above all, an act of reassurance. It said: “We’re not leftists. We’re not going to loot the treasury. We’re not environmentalists. We won’t make Nova Scotians suffer just to avert a passing trifle like climate change. We’re not labor goons. We won’t even repeal the Michelin bill.”

So Jay Wilson has a point. If Pinky Gaum had been elected as a New Democrat June 9, Dexter might have found room for him at the cabinet table.