When Bernie Farber, Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Jewish Congress was asked by Marco Levytsky, Editor of Ukrainian News, why he persists in calling six aging Ukrainians, who have not been charged with any war crimes, let alone found guilty of any war crimes, "war criminals" at a news conference called to put pressure on the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to deport these individuals, he responded: "I would challenge you to look into my remarks to determine whether or not whether I actually called them war criminals. What we did call them was Nazi enablers and … that's what they are."
In actual fact, reporters attending the press conference held Jan. 30, 2007 in Ottawa, were presented with a press package leading off with a news release under the letterhead of the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Friends of the Simon Wiesenthal Center For Holocaust Studies headlined "Ethnic Canadian leaders frustrated by the continued presence of war criminals in Canada".
The lead paragraph stated: "A number of Canadian ethnic communities whose recent histories are marred by the horrors of genocide came together to decry Canada's continued role as a haven for those who have committed crimes against humanity, drawing particular attention to the cases of six men still living in this country although found to have acted as Nazi enablers by Canadian courts."
[W.Z. To my knowledge, none of the verdicts in these d&d cases referred to their victims as "Nazi enablers".]
(As pointed out to Farber by Levytsky, who cited directly from two such court findings, these courts also explicitly exonerated them from any criminal acts.)
The six individuals are: Helmut Oberlander, Vladimir Katriuk, Wasyl Odynsky, Jacob Fast, Jura Skomatchuk and Josef Furman -- four ethnic Ukrainians, two ethnic Germans -- all from Ukraine.
This is not the first time Farber has played such semantic games, calling people war criminals in one breath, then insisting he didn't do so in another. It's standard practice not only for him, but for other spokespersons for the CJC and B'nai Brith, to falsely accuse Nazi victims of being "Nazi war criminals" while defending an "absolutely kosher" (Farber's own words) process which allows the state to prosecute these people (even if they are in advanced stages of Alzheimer's Disease as are two out of the six victims) without the need to provide one iota of evidence that they committed any criminal act whatsoever.
It is unfortunate that the CJC co-opted Armenian, Rwandan and Roma organizations for their own private vendetta because these ethnocultural groups, which have suffered very serious crimes against humanity that need to be brought to public awareness, will only find them buried by the wayside as long as they allow themselves to be blindsided by the CJC and its anti-Ukrainian witch hunt. It is significant that the Darfur Association of Canada, having been informed earlier by members of the Ukrainian community of what the real purpose of this press conference was, did not attend.
In fact, as far as achieving its objectives were concerned, this press conference failed miserably. It wasn't carried by any television or radio station, nor any hard-copy newspaper. The only report which appeared was on the Globe and Mail's internet site. In that one, reporter Gloria Galloway hit the nail on the head with her opening paragraph: "The men are in their 80s and 90s, and none has been convicted of war crimes, but Jewish groups and other ethnic communities that have been subjected to violent persecution want them deported as Nazi 'enablers'." That story got a tremendous reader response on the Globe's website, almost all of the comments critical of the CJC.
For one thing, this attempt to put pressure upon the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration to revoke the citizenship of the elderly Ukrainians is futile because the Federal Appeals Court, in ordering the reinstatement of Oberlander's citizenship told cabinet "it cannot apply the war criminals policy to a person unless it first satisfies itself, to use the very words of the policy, that 'there is evidence of direct involvement in or complicity of war crimes or crimes against humanity'." Since that decision was not appealed within the proscribed time frame, it stands as law. Even if the government wanted to revoke the citizenship of these individuals, which it doesn't, it cannot do so. Therefore all the energy spent on this useless exercise is wasted.
What this campaign has accomplished, however, is prevented the government from enacting any serious reform of an antiquated Citizenship Act which is rife with so many obscurities and anomalies that horror stories keep coming out on a daily basis -- people whose citizenship is no longer valid because they lived outside Canada on their 24th birthday and failed to sign the right form, they were Canadian-born and Canadian citizens, but got their citizenship taken away when their father took out citizenship in another country, they are war brides from WWII or their children, they are children born out of wedlock to foreign fathers and so on. And this doesn't even include the 6 million naturalized Canadians who become second-class citizens under this "absolutely kosher" revocation process.
The government should not let this private vendetta stand in the way of some very necessary reform. And responsible leaders within the Canadian Jewish community should start to question what is accomplished when a small group of individuals acting in their collective name, continue with a pointless exercise that serves no constructive purpose, but succeeds in poisoning relations with other ethnocultural groups.