A little about me: Three Jewish grand-parents, recipient of numerous awards from Jewish organizations, regarded as one of the most vociferous pro-Israel and pro-Jewish voices in Canadian media and -- best of all --receiver of daily death threats from assorted Islamic fanatics. Oh, and I was physically attacked at Toronto University last year when speaking at several campuses as the Jewish community's spokesman against the grotesquely named "Israel Apartheid Week."
My Israel bodyguard, however, saved the day -- and my bacon. Whoops, I said bacon. That must make me an anti-Semite. Which was the hilarious allegation made Thursday by an odd little fellow I had the courtesy of inviting on my nightly T.V. show, The Arena. We knew Rabbi Shmuley Boteach would be a difficult guest when he insisted on a meal being provided, and then kept us waiting for 10 minutes while he worked on his computer outside the studio.
Once inside all began amicably, if a little cliché-ridden from the Rabbi. I then said that it was glorious that post-Holocaust theology had transformed the way Christians see Jews, but wondered if secular Jewish people always had a balanced and fair view of Christian conservatives. He disagreed, and asked me for examples. I told him of my vast personal experience, and then spoke of the Hollywood depiction of Christian characters.
Before I could qualify and quantify, he alleged that I said Jews control Hollywood, the media, and banking. I never mentioned banking or media and never used the word "control." I could and would not do so. But in my numerous conservations and conferences with informed Jewish experts and friends, it's clear that there are still solitudes and misunderstandings when it comes to Christianity.
The closest I said to my new best friend about Jews and Hollywood was that "Jewish people do have an influence in Hollywood, and that's a wonderful thing, thank God for it, and we should congratulate ourselves on the fact." But by this time the Rabbi was irrational. He became increasingly aggressive, harangued me, and alleged that Pope Pius XII was one of the wickedest men in history.
He obviously knew little about me, about my Jewish background, and about my most recent book -- Why Catholics Are Right -- a best-seller in Canada as well as the U.S. -- in which I devote an entire chapter to Pope Pius. I referred him to Rabbi Dalin's book , The Myth of Hitler's Pope, and my good friend Sir Martin Gilbert's exemplary work on the Church and the Holocaust.
But the Rabbi was a friend of Michael Jackson's and appears on Oprah; clearly he was out of my league! After the interview he refused to leave the studio, threatened me, insulted a young Orthodox Jewish intern who works with us, and then got down to writing, calling, and tweeting the world about the Jew-hater Coren.
It's all come as a bit of a shock to leaders of the Jewish community in Canada, who just last week had me MC the launch of a book by one of their most senior staffers. There are, however, serious issues here. I almost wept when that young intern pleaded with me to not think all Orthodox Jews behaved thus. I told him not to worry -- there were plenty of arrogant and rude Catholics and Protestants as well.
Also, imagine if I were not so highly regarded within the Jewish world; my reputation and career could have been severely damaged, all because of the extremism and intolerance of a single voice. Now I'm off to research Jewish control of the international bagel industry. Oh no Rabbi, you're right, you're right...