A Fifth Column

A fifth column is “any group of people who undermine a larger group from within, usually in favor of an enemy group or nation. The activities of a fifth column can be overt or clandestine. Forces gathered in secret can mobilize openly to assist an external attack. This term is also extended to organized actions by military personnel. Clandestine fifth column activities can involve acts of sabotage, disinformation, or espionage executed within defense lines by secret sympathizers with an external force.

Obviously this is a loaded term, Basically the term implies that you not only are siding with the enemy but that you do so with malice aforethought.

In Indian country we call these people “Hang around the fort Indians” or “Scouts,” as those were the Indians who sided with the bluecoats and redcoats against other nations or, worse yet, their own tribes and nations.

A couple of years ago, I attended a Shabbaton where the director of advocacy for a major Jewish organization conducted an exercise. She placed pictures of the conflict, of Israelis and palestinian Arabs around a room, and asked the students to “Go stand beside the picture that makes you feel ashamed of Israel.” I was the keynote speaker at the Shabbaton so I spoke up and said “This is a ridiculous exercise and frankly I am not participating in this repugnant nonsense.” I was told that I was a guest and not the person organizing the education part, so I should keep my opinions to myself. I called my boss to tell her what was going on and she told me to just watch and take notes so I stayed to watch even though an Israeli student walked out very upset. Think about that for a second, the director of advocacy of probably the largest and most well-funded Jewish organization in Canada conducted an exercise teaching students that supporting Israel is shameful. At an age when they need to be taught strength in identity and being unapologetic, they were teaching that nonsense.

Recently another group has formed that could be called a fifth column more accurately: the Jewish Faculty Network (JFN). Not only are they setting themselves directly against the Jewish community, they do so while pretending to be against antisemitism, when their entire reason for being created was to beard for the antisemites who are against the IHRA definition of antisemitism:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Does this seem like an overly sensitive definition to you? Is this a case of Jews trying to silence “criticism of Israel”?  To avoid issues with interpretation, they added this important list.

To guide IHRA in its work, the following examples may serve as illustrations:

Manifestations might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.

Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.

Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.

Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.

Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).

Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.

Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.

Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.

Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.

Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.

Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.

Nothing in there is controversial or even remotely shocking; if anything its pretty mild. I watched the press release video of the JFN and they pretty much follow the playbook; “ We are Jews so we cannot be antisemitic!” “Look, we even pray in Hebrew so how can we possibly be antisemites?” They also did the “land acknowledgements” that really just annoy Indians. But the sad truth is that they are siding with the enemy. Listen to them speak in the video. If you read the list on the IHRA very carefully, it is very clear about what criticisms are fine and which ones are in fact antisemitic. The only people who would be upset by them are in fact antisemites. The most disgusting part of this is the way they play the “Look at how Jewish I am” card while spouting nonsense. At some point people have got to speak up about this and call these people out. Hard.

What really annoys me about these people is that they are in fact arguing nonsense. Nobody says that simply being pro palestinian is in itself antisemitic, but when they make antisemitic claims and use tropes, it is in fact antisemitic. And yes, even when you are “Jewish,” making twisted and false claims about Israel is in fact problematic and, yes, antisemitic. Academia is thoroughly infected with these people and if we don’t speak up against them, we will lose.


Ryan Bellerose

A member of the indigenous Metis people, Ryan grew up in the far north of Alberta, Canada with no power nor running water. In his free time, Ryan plays Canadian Rules Football, reads books, does advocacy work for indigenous people and does not live in an Igloo.

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