Exiles From Nowhere: The Jews and the Cana­di­an Elite

Alan Mendel­son
  • Review
By – December 12, 2011
In Exiles From Nowhere, Alan Mendel­son pro­vides a mas­ter­ful analy­sis of anti-Semi­tism among the Eng­lish-speak­ing Cana­di­an upper class through a detailed social his­to­ry of the life of George Parkin Grant (1918 – 1988) and his friend­ship and kin net­work. George Parkin Grant was a vir­u­lent anti- emite who nonethe­less was a well respect­ed and dis­tin­guished Cana­di­an writer, aca­d­e­m­ic, and the­olo­gian. His big­otry took a gen­teel” form. Unlike gut­ter” anti-Semi­tism which often advo­cat­ed and prac­ticed phys­i­cal vio­lence against Jews, gen­teel” anti-Semi­tism tend­ed to appear in polite and edu­cat­ed dis­cus­sions. It was often in such dis­cus­sions that polit­i­cal poli­cies were devel­oped that result­ed in the exclu­sion and mis­treat­ment of Jew­ish peo­ple, includ­ing the denial of admis­sion of Jew­ish refugees flee­ing Nazi death camps. 

This social por­trait of Parkin Grant and his group is vivid­ly drawn through excerpts from their writ­ings, speech­es, and descrip­tions of their social world. Per­me­at­ing the think­ing of these cir­cles is Chris­t­ian tri­umphal­ism and super­s­es­sion.” By that Mendel­son means the per­va­sive belief that Chris­tian­i­ty has tri­umphed over Judaism and Jews are a “‘fos­silized’ rem­nant con­demned to wan­der the earth and make their lives through the par­a­sitic exploita­tion of non– Jews” because they did not accept the divin­i­ty of Jesus. A corol­lary belief is that Jews can nev­er be true patri­ots” of Cana­da because their loy­al­ty is sole­ly direct­ed to pro­tect­ing oth­er Jews. Right up until his death in 1988, Parkin Grant dis­tanced him­self from gut­ter” anti-Semi­tism but con­tin­ued to char­ac­ter­ize Jews as a dis­tinct and dan­ger­ous group” who secret­ly con­trolled the media. 

The degree of detail in the descrip­tions of the lives and actions of George Parkin Grant and his social cir­cle may be off-putting, but it presents an intrigu­ing tapes­try of life among polit­i­cal, intel­lec­tu­al, and social elites. To me this book offers insights that may help clar­i­fy the clichéd argu­ments against Israel pro­posed by Amer­i­can and Euro­pean con­tem­po­rary intel­lec­tu­al and polit­i­cal cir­cles. Often they speak with the same sense of moral right­ness, patri­o­tism, and polit­i­cal author­i­ty as those made by the gen­teel” anti-Semit­ic ele­ments of the Cana­di­an elite. These pro­nounce­ments can lead to sim­i­lar ter­ri­ble con­se­quences for Jews, the Unit­ed States, and the world. 

Alan Mendel­son, pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus (Reli­gious Stud­ies), McMas­ter Uni­ver­si­ty, has taught and pub­lished, main­ly in the fields of ancient phi­los­o­phy and reli­gion, for more than three decades.

Car­ol Poll, Ph.D., is the retired Chair of the Social Sci­ences Depart­ment and Pro­fes­sor of Soci­ol­o­gy at the Fash­ion Insti­tute of Tech­nol­o­gy of the State Uni­ver­si­ty of New York. Her areas of inter­est include the soci­ol­o­gy of race and eth­nic rela­tions, the soci­ol­o­gy of mar­riage, fam­i­ly and gen­der roles and the soci­ol­o­gy of Jews.

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