In the current election campaign, ugly bigotry is passing for politics as usual.
Louise Mailloux, a star Parti Québécois candidate, has some offensive things to say about religion. She’s compared baptism and circumcision to rape of conscience, a remark not only insulting to Catholics and Jews but also deeply insensitive to rape victims. But it’s Mailloux’s remarks on kosher food that cross the line into pure bigotry.
Jews are required to eat kosher food; the rules are in the Bible, where certain animals, as well as the combination of milk and meat, are forbidden as unkosher. While not all Jews keep the kosher laws, those who do are particular about their food.
Industrial food production has complicated things; one has to puzzle over products made of synthetic mixtures, and wonder what the original raw ingredients were. (Even ordinary consumers are in for a shock when they learn what’s in their food; Starbucks in 2012 had to drop a bug-based dye due to consumer outcry.)
Worldwide, multiple organizations supervise foods to insure they are kosher. They charge a fee that companies gladly pay in order to expand their market share. This model of supervision is not exclusive to kosher food; similar organizations certify Gluten Free, Organic and Fair Trade products.
But to Mailloux, something far more sinister has occurred. She has promoted the myth of a Kosher Tax, and said that kosher supervision is “a religious tax, and it’s a tax we pay directly to mosques, to synagogues and to religious groups. It’s a theft.” To her, it’s a money-making scheme. As she puts it: “Just as the prayers of a priest turn bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ, those of the rabbi turn slaughtered chickens, Nestlé Quick and ketchup into thousands of dollars.”
To Mailloux, kosher food supervision is a Jewish way of conning unsuspecting Québécois.
The kosher-tax canard predates Mailloux; it’s a libel that has been spread for the last 40 years by anti-Semitic propagandists. (In 1977, the Christian Defence League was circulating a pamphlet titled Kosher Food Racket Costs Consumers Millions.)
Anti-Semites promote the “kosher-tax” accusation because it paints Jews as money-grubbing shysters. No doubt Mailloux, a philosophy instructor, can understand the implications of her accusations. Yet Mailloux continues to campaign without having retracted her remarks. Yes, she has offered a non-apology apology; that she “never wanted to offend or hurt anyone … if that has happened, I very sincerely apologize.”
But this so-called apology is more condescension than contrition, a swipe at the “over-sensitivity” of her critics. She’s stood 100 per cent by her original remarks. And Pauline Marois, who is the premier of all Quebecers, has stood by Mailloux despite these overtly bigoted remarks.
Perhaps one can still hope for a real change of tone from the PQ before April 7. As Luciano Del Negro of The Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs Quebec stated: “We expect the Premier of all Quebecers to do the right thing.” We are still waiting for a serious response from her.
No other jurisdiction in North America would tolerate such bigotry. The PQ has made a Faustian bargain, where it hopes identity politics will bring it a majority government. So it’s proposed the secular charter, claiming that religious symbols in public institutions undermine the neutrality of the state. Of course, this is a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist; only a tiny minority of Québécois wear religious symbols, and Bill 60’s only purpose is political demagogy. And in supporting for Mailloux and her kosher-tax canard, the PQ has gone even further, and taken a stance that only David Duke could be proud of.
:: The Gazette