We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo. – Recode

Of all the commentary written about Google’s firing of James Damore, this long read and assessment of the science and evidence appears to me the most comprehensive and convincing one given the range of studies cited.

Most of the op-ed type commentaries – Jon Kay’s The Google Manifesto contained truths that we can’t say, Debra Soh’s No, the Google manifesto isn’t sexist or anti-diversity. It’s science, David Brooks’ somewhat hysterical Sundar Pichai Should Resign as Google’s C.E.O. – tend to be overly simplistic and selective in their presentation of the issues involved.

I am also less than convinced by free speech arguments, perhaps reflecting my time in government where it was clear that any public comment should not undermine, or appear to undermine, the government. While the rules may not be so ironclad in other organizations, employees in all organizations need to be mindful of the impact of their public commentary on the overall reputation, image and policies of their employer.

For the account of the Google board deliberations, see How CEO Sundar Pichai made the decision to fire James Damore was just as hard as Google’s all-hands meeting today will be which highlights the superficialiity of Brook’s piece in particular:

James Damore, 28, questioned the company’s diversity policies and claimed that scientific data backed up his assertions. Google CEO Sundar Pichai wrote that Damore’s 3,300-word manifesto crossed the line by “advancing harmful gender stereotypes” in the workplace. Pichai noted that “To suggest a group of our colleagues have traits that make them less biologically suited to that work is offensive and not OK.”

Damore argued that many men in the company agreed with his sentiments. That’s not surprising, since the idea that women just can’t hack it in math and science has been around for a very long time. It has been argued that women’s lack of a “math gene,” their brain structures, and their inherent psychological traits put most of them out of the game.

Some critics sided with Damore. For example, columnist Ross Douthat of The New York Times found his scientific arguments intriguing.

But are they? What are the real facts? We have been researching issues of gender and STEM (science, technology engineering and math) for more than 25 years. We can say flatly that there is no evidence that women’s biology makes them incapable of performing at the highest levels in any STEM fields.

Many reputable scientific authorities have weighed in on this question, including a major paper in the journal Science debunking the idea that the brains of males and females are so different that they should be educated in single-sex classrooms. The paper was written by eight prominent neuroscientists, headed by professor Diane Halpern of Claremont McKenna College, past president of the American Psychological Association. They argue that “There is no well-designed research showing that single-sex education improves students’ academic performance, but there is evidence that sex segregation increases gender stereotyping and legitimizes institutional sexism.”

They add, “Neuroscientists have found few sex differences in children’s brains beyond the larger volume of boys’ brains and the earlier completion of girls’ brain growth, neither of which is known to relate to learning.”

Several major books have debunked the idea of important brain differences between the sexes. Lise Eliot, associate professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the Chicago Medical School, did an exhaustive review of the scientific literature on human brains from birth to adolescence. She concluded, in her book, “Pink Brain, Blue Brain,” that there is “surprisingly little solid evidence of sex differences in children’s brains.”

Rebecca Jordan-Young, a sociomedical scientist and professor at Barnard College, also rejects the notion that there are pink and blue brains, and that the differing organization of female and male brains is the key to behavior. In her book “Brain Storm: The Flaws in the Science of Sex Differences,” she says that this narrative misunderstands the complexities of biology and the dynamic nature of brain development.

And happily, the widely held belief that boys are naturally better than girls at math and science is unraveling among serious scientists. Evidence is mounting that girls are every bit as competent as boys in these areas. Psychology professor Janet Hyde of the University of Wisconsin–Madison has strong U. S. data showing no meaningful differences in math performance among more than seven million boys and girls in grades 2 through 12.

Also, several large-scale international testing programs find girls closing the gender gap in math, and in some cases outscoring the boys. Clearly, this huge improvement over a fairly short time period argues against biological explanations.

Much of the data that Damore provides in his memo is suspect, outdated or has other problems.

In his July memo, titled, “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber: How bias clouds our thinking about diversity and inclusion,” Damore wrote that women on average have more “openness directed towards feelings and aesthetics rather than ideas.” And he stated that women are more inclined to have an interest in “people rather than things, relative to men.”

Damore cites the work of Simon Baron-Cohen, who argues in his widely reviewed book “The Essential Difference” that boys are biologically programmed to focus on objects, predisposing them to math and understanding systems, while girls are programmed to focus on people and feelings. The British psychologist claims that the male brain is the “systematizing brain” while the female brain is the “empathizing” brain.

This idea was based on a study of day-old babies, which found that the boys looked at mobiles longer and the girls looked at faces longer. Male brains, Baron-Cohen says, are ideally suited for leadership and power. They are hardwired for mastery of hunting and tracking, trading, achieving and maintaining power, gaining expertise, tolerating solitude, using aggression and taking on leadership roles.

The female brain, on he other hand, is specialized for making friends, mothering, gossip and “reading” a partner. Girls and women are so focused on others, he says, that they have little interest in figuring out how the world works.

But Baron-Cohen’s study had major problems. It was an “outlier” study. No one else has replicated these findings, including Baron-Cohen himself. It is so flawed as to be almost meaningless. Why?

The experiment lacked crucial controls against experimenter bias, and was badly designed. Female and male infants were propped up in a parent’s lap and shown, side by side, an active person or an inanimate object. Since newborns can’t hold their heads up independently, their visual preferences could well have been determined by the way their parents held them.

Source: We’ve studied gender and STEM for 25 years. The science doesn’t support the Google memo. – Recode

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Jonathan Kay: Cultural appropriation should be debated. Too bad Canada’s Writers Union instead chose to debase itself 

Along with Liz Renzetti, one of the best commentaries and sad that he felt compelled to resign:

What I (and other Canadian writers and editors) am angry about is the effort by TWUC and its Equity Task Force (which released its own statement) to shame Niedzviecki, and to suggest that his liberal approach to speech is somehow outside the bounds of respectable discourse. TWUC’s over-the-top apology describes the “pain” that the article allegedly caused. It’s part of what may be described as the medicalization of the marketplace of ideas: It is no longer enough to say that you merely disagree with something. Rather, the author must be stigmatized as a sort of dangerous thought criminal. Indeed, the Equity Task Force situates Niedzviecki as an apologist for “cultural genocide,” and accuses him of peddling “a long-debunked false universalism.” The Task Force also claims that the publication of his article is a symptom of “structural racism,” or possibly even “brazen malice.”

This is extraordinary language coming from an organization that represents the interests of “professionally published book authors.” Their mandate should be to seek the broadest possible range of opportunities for their constituents—not act as a chorus for the most restrictive views on acceptable speech.

Unfortunately, this controversy seems to have propelled TWUC in the opposite direction. Its Equity Task Force has released a list of demands aimed at changing TWUC policies, which reads like something out of an undergraduate protest group—including affirmative action hires at TWUC, more humiliating acts of retraction and apology, and sensitivity training sessions. As with all such manifestos, the stiff, dogmatic language carries the creepy whiff of party-line orthodoxy—which is all the more unsettling when you realize that the individuals making these demands are supposed to be professional writers.

Interestingly, the critiques of cultural appropriation offered by Indigenous writers are far more nuanced (and, to my mind, persuasive) than any you will find offered by TWUC. “Do I care if you have a native character in your stupid book about wandering pants or whatever?” writes First Nations writer Robert Jago, for instance. “No. Write away. It doesn’t affect me. But if you’re writing about Native politics, or if you’re writing about crime or drug use, or abuse—that stuff affects us. By writing us one way, and not understanding us properly, you are misrepresenting us and reinforcing harmful stereotypes. You might not think stereotypes matter, but they do when you’re Native and stereotypes prevent you from getting painkillers for an injury.”

“Wandering pants” is a particularly nice touch. But what I really appreciated here was that Jago didn’t go in for jargon: He writes about examples of the real harm—people not getting needed medical attention—that can result when writers get Indigenous culture wrong.

There’s a debate to be had about cultural appropriation: What takes priority—the right of artists to extend their imagination to the entire human experience, or the right of historically marginalized communities to protect themselves from possible misrepresentation. Personally, I land on the side of free speech: I’m fearful that, as at many points in history, small acts of well-intentioned censorship will expand into a full-fledged speech code that prohibits whole categories of art and discourse. But I appreciate why others take the opposite view, especially after I’ve read the critiques of my own views on Twitter.

What I don’t find helpful is the reflexive instinct to shame those with whom we disagree—the kind on display at TWUC this week. Indeed, it is these mobbings that encourage the idea that free speech is under siege from a systematic program of left wing censorship. On both sides, it is fear and suspicion that is driving the social media rage. And as of this writing, there’s no sign it will dissipate soon.

Source: Jonathan Kay: Cultural appropriation should be debated. Too bad Canada’s Writers Union instead chose to debase itself | National Post

Some hard truths no one wants to hear on refugees: Cohn | Toronto Star

An appropriate note of caution in terms of long-term trends:

In the rush to sponsor Syrians to Canada, relatively little is said about supporting the infrastructure of refugee processing handled by the UNHCR in countries bordering Syria. While it may generate fewer headlines at home, not enough thought is being given to the more affordable, sustainable, realistic (if less idealistic) alternative of funding camps closer to war zones, so that refugees can be repatriated more rapidly if those conflicts subside.

We need to open our hearts to the latest wave of Syrian refugees, but we also need to open our minds to what lies ahead. The crisis is unlikely to be temporary. It cannot be resolved with a few thousand more sponsorships and a few million more dollars, as important as those contributions are.

The federal Tories have missed the boat on the latest wave of boat people, but many well-intentioned do-gooder’s have been selling us a bill of goods about the refugee crisis. We need to start thinking about what comes next.

It is good to be principled, but we must also be practical. Mass migrations are at the intersection of war, geopolitics, economics, logistics and human smuggling. They defy easy answers. The reality is that refugee fatigue will set in anew, because the flood never ends — it merely fades from the front pages. What then?

Source: Some hard truths no one wants to hear on refugees: Cohn | Toronto Star

Jon Kay makes similar points:

The morally complex task of determining how many Syrians should be allowed to come to Canada must not be performed through the Tories’ usual practice of reciting jingoistic talking points and slogans. But it also cannot become a no-limit humanitarian bidding war. If we want to preserve the open and generous quality of Canadian society, we must balance our open hearts with hard heads.

Jonathan Kay: Even in face of tragedy, there’s no substitute for a seriously considered immigration policy

Adler won’t apologize for Holocaust reference

Questionable judgement. May be valid to note in a bio but on a sign?

Conservative candidate Mark Adler is defending a reference to the Holocaust on his campaign signage, which has led to claims that he’s exploiting an atrocity to win votes in the Toronto riding of York Centre.

A photo of one of Adler’s campaign signs has been making the rounds online; the sign makes the observation that he is “the son of a Holocaust survivor.” It caught the eye of The Walrus’ editor-in-chief Jonathan Kay, who posted photos of the sign on Twitter Sunday.

“Who needs Yad Vashem when Holocaust awareness is now being promoted on partisan Conservative signage?” Kay wrote on Twitter.

http://ipolitics.ca/2015/08/17/adler-wont-apologize-for-holocaust-reference/ (paywall)

As Robyn Urback notes:

The problem is that his message still only speaks to a proportion of his constituents, and it loses all tact when it’s blown up to 30-inch text. What’s more, with the spotlight now pointed in his direction, Adler’s other claims have become the subject of scrutiny, including his long-held assertion that he is the first Canadian MP born to Holocaust survivors. According to the Canadian Jewish News, the designation actually belongs to former Liberal MP Raymonde Falco. None of this really matters, of course, except maybe to show how easily experiences are cheapened when they’re turned into mere talking points.
I have no doubt that Adler didn’t intend to trivialize the experience of the Holocaust by using it for partisan gain, but that also doesn’t really matter. In politics, perception trumps intention, and in this case, the delivery was about as tactful as listing colitis on the “about me” section of a dating profile. The fact that your parents were viciously persecuted during the Second World War isn’t exactly on the same level as a pledge to keep the “economy strong,” which is why they look so strange sharing space on a campaign billboard. Some things simply do not lend themselves to bullet points.

Were your parents chased by Nazis? Vote Tory

I never felt the fact that my maternal grandparents were killed during the Holocaust made me more or less qualified to represent the Government at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

Air travel and religion don’t always mix. Examples and Jon Kay commentary on El Al

Further to the Porter incident, useful list of other examples:

El Al

A more dramatic incident in 2014, aboard a flight from New York to Israel, drew attention to the challenges of accommodating some ultra-Orthodox Jewish men, who refuse to sit next to women to whom they are not married or otherwise related.

The El Al flight turned into an “11-hour nightmare,” according to one passenger, after a group of men, who had earlier tried to switch their seats with other passengers, reportedly stood up and blocked the aisle shortly after takeoff.

The Tel Aviv-based daily newspaper Haaretz had earlier reported that Orthodox Haredim were causing “a host of logistical problems” for the Israeli airline. But despite outcry at home and abroad, El Al said it has no official policy for dealing with religious seating requirements, and no plans to introduce one.

…Patting down priests

CBC News revealed last year that Canada Border Services Agency managers at Toronto’s Pearson airport allowed a small group of Hindu priests to avoid screening by female border guards to comply with their religious beliefs.

 

…Check your dagger, please

Kirpans, the ceremonial daggers that many Sikhs are required to carry, have been the focus of controversies across Canada — not the least of which was an outright ban by a Quebec school board that the Supreme Court overturned in 2006.

The daggers are allowed in some places that don’t permit weapons — including Parliament buildings and some courthouses — but don’t try to take one on a plane.

Kirpans are specifically mentioned by the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority among the “religious and cultural items” that “should be packed in your checked baggage.” They are also banned by the Transportation Security Administration in the U.S.

Air travel and religion don’t always mix – World – CBC News.

Jon Kay on El Al:

There is a simple way to address such complaints from a Haredi passenger: Have the flight attendants (preferably women) throw him off the plane, give him back his money, and instruct him that he should instead travel to Israel on a mode of transportation more suited, in technological sophistication, to his primitive mindset — such as a canoe made from a hollowed out tree.

Of course, stories of Haredi sexual segregation of have been coming out of Israel for years now. In a move that would make Saudi Arabia proud, some Israeli communities even have sex-segregated busses. And some ultraorthodox communities practice a disgusting mouth-to-penis circumcision practice called Metzitza B’peh, which would be the subject of child-sex abuse charges here in North America if Muslims were doing it. Israeli society shouldn’t stand for such deplorable practices, but ultimately that is Israel’s business.

El Al, on the other hand, is a company that uses Canadian airports and flies hundreds of Canadian passengers to and from Israel every day. Putting aside the question of whether the episodes described above violate Canadian human-rights law, how does it look for Israel’s national flagship carrier to put on display, in front of rows of horrified passengers, the poisonous prejudices of the most narrow-minded constituency in Israeli society?

We are always told (by Stephen Harper and Benjamin Netanyahu alike) that Israel is a beacon of progressive thought, democracy and pluralism in a Middle East brimming with repressive, retrograde attitudes. And in general, that is true. But it seems to me like Elana Sztokman can be forgiven for feeling otherwise.

Jonathan Kay: On El Al’s planes, a case study in appalling sexism

Jonathan Kay: Jihad’s amateur hour

I think Jon Kay has it right:

In at least one case, the 9/11 masterminds apparently recruited, and then rejected, a jihadi because they lost confidence in his terrorist tradecraft: This was Zacarias Moussaoui, often referred to as “the 20th hijacker,” who reportedly met with KSM in Afghanistan in 2000. Examine Moussaoui’s methods, and you find that he was an infinitely more dangerous, methodical and sound-minded killer than Zehaf-Bibeau.

There’s the fact that lies at the heart of my optimism: Today’s most deadly domestic terrorists do not even rise to the level of yesterday’s al-Qaeda rejects. Just because we use the same broad term — terrorist — to cover both species of killer, doesn’t mean that the threat they pose is comparable within even several orders of magnitude.

AA Flight 11 hijacker-pilot Mohammed Atta stares out at the world from photos like a sort of robotic jihadi Terminator. He did not give fiery public speeches, or offer lurid manifestos, or seek social approval. All he wanted to do was kill and die. And it seems highly unlikely that the lone wolves who try to follow his example will — even taken collectively — ever inflict a significant fraction of the death and destruction meted out on September 11, 2001.

Jonathan Kay: Jihad’s amateur hour

Ezra Levant, Sun News Network host, ordered to pay $80,000 in libel case

Accountability. Words (and facts) matter:

But [Judge) Matheson found that at trial, Levant “repeatedly tried to minimize his mistakes and his lack of diligence.”

“The defendant makes a general assertion that none of the words complained of were defamatory due to the defendants reputation,” she wrote. “There is, however, ample evidence before me demonstrating express malice on the part of the defendant.”

Levant also appeared to have little regard for the facts, Matheson found.

“He did little or no fact-checking regarding the posts complained of, either before or after their publication….and with one exception, when he learned that he got his facts wrong, he made no corrections,” she wrote.

The fact that Levant himself is a lawyer ought to have made him aware of the “serious ramifications” of his words on Awan’s reputation, Matheson added.

“Yet, at trial, he repeatedly tried to minimize his mistakes and his lack of diligence,” she wrote.

Levant, meanwhile, wrote on his website that he is reviewing the ruling with his lawyer but plans to appeal “all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary.”

He called the ruling a “shocking case of libel chill” and asked supporters to help him foot the bill for his appeal, which he estimates will cost at least $30,000.

Ezra Levant, Sun News Network host, ordered to pay $80,000 in libel case – Canada – CBC News.

And Jon Kay on Ezra’s ‘business model’ of serial slander:

Jonathan Kay: The weirdest thing about Ezra Levant is he still thinks he’s right

Radicalization and the Ottawa Shooting: Weekend Commentary

Weekend news and commentary I found relevant and interesting.

Consistent messaging from a number of political figures and media commentators on the need for more than security approaches in combatting radicalization. Premiers Wynne and Couillard stress the community and societal aspects in Curbing radicalization a community issue: Wynne |  Toronto Sun.

A great deal of speculation on what measures the Government may be considering (beyond the already announced increase in CSIS powers), ranging from Online hate speech could be curtailed under new anti-terror push (ironic, given the Government’s removal of online hate speech from the Canadian Human Rights Act, and to strip the federal human rights commission’s power to investigate such complaints) to greater use of preventive detention in Tories hint at even tougher anti-terror laws. John Ivison thinks the template will be the UK in  Conservatives’ new anti-terror laws likely to mirror ‘immensely controversial’ U.K. legislation.

Stephen Maher sounds a note of caution, considering the Government’s record on privacy, oversight, and transparency, in Harper government’s intelligence agenda a cause for worry.

Interestingly, Benjamin Perrin, formerly of PMO, argues that existing laws are adequate (including the proposed additions to CSIS’ powers)in Our laws are up to the homegrown terror threat, and Ian Brodie, former chief of staff to PM Harper, advocates for an all-party non-partisan approach to improving security on Parliament Hill in Ian Brodie: There is no reason to turn Parliament Hill into an armed fortress.

And as the debate starts, Scott Reid notes that We’ve seen MPs unite, now we need them to be divided to ensure a full discussion and debate about the appropriate responses to the attacks.

Jon Kay discusses how the immediacy of video heightens fear in Did attack on Parliament really change our lives forever? even if incidents and risk are relatively low.

Doug Saunders explores the grey line between ideology and pathology in The lone wolf: Is it ideology or pathology? with both Islamic-inspired and other extremism examples. Margaret Wente dismisses arguments over blowback over intervention in What do we do about the Islamic State fanboys? without the nuance of Saunders with respect to ideology and pathology. Andrew Coyne takes a similar talk, with more nuance, and makes the valid point that We got off relatively lightly this time. We may not be so lucky the next.

Some nice commentary contrasting restrained Canadian and hyperventilated US coverage of the attacks by Dean Obeidallah in To US media Canadian shooter being Muslim ends investigation.

Douglas Todd reports on the Burnaby Mosque which essentially expelled Zahaf-Bibeau given his intolerant views in Is Burnaby mosque a victim of its own openness?

And while there have been a few incidents against Muslims (Islamophobia: the ugly side of the municipal election?), there has also been support for those Muslims or Muslim institutions (Volunteers help clean vandalism from Cold Lake mosque). And within the Muslim community, some strong messages against radicalization during Ottawa Friday prayers The Roots of Radicalizaton and the Education to Prevent It among others.

More Ottawa Shooting Commentary

Further to yesterday’s round-up of the recent shootings, more of the better commentary or more interesting commentary that has crossed my eye.

Wesley Wark: Reducing the risk of terrorism provides a sober assessment of the ongoing risks and the need neither to over or under act, but learn the lessons from any failures and gaps in security.

In the theme of let’s not get carried away, André Pratte in La réponse and Stephen Maher Time to reflect on the courage of our ancestors remind us to have balance and perspective. Doug Saunders notes how the public space around parliaments the world over has been whittled down by successive security threats in Don’t let the seat of government become a fortress.

On the other side, Journal de Montréal’s Richard Martineau is characteristically alarmist in Terrorisme: appelons les choses par leur nom.

More on the common elements to the two most recent cases of radicalization, Martin Couture-Rouleau  and Michael Zehaf-Bibeau:

Martin Couture-Rouleau et Michael Zehaf-Bibeau partagent plusieurs points en commun : ils étaient jeunes (25 ans et 32 ans), ils s’étaient récemment convertis à l’islam radical, la GRC avait confisqué leur passeport par crainte qu’ils rejoignent le groupe État islamique, et ils auraient agi tels des « loups solitaires ».

Pour les autorités policières, c’est le cauchemar. Les deux jeunes ont agi de leur propre chef, sans même avoir été initiés au combat par des groupes extrémistes à l’étranger. Ils sont difficiles à repérer et à neutraliser.

Un loup solitaire aux motivations inconnues

And further details about the troubled life of the shooter, Zehaf-Bibeau in the Globe in Drugs and religion key themes in Ottawa shooter’s troubled life and in the Post in Details of Zehaf-Bibeau’s life paint picture of a man derailed by homelessness, crime and addiction, detailing his drug addiction, quarrelsome personality and his failed efforts to use his faith to control both.

Canadian Muslims are quick to respond and express outrage in Canadian Muslims denounce recent attacks, fear backlash.

Matt Gurney challenges the military’s decision in Canadian soldiers don’t hide in their own damn country — rescind the order to not wear uniforms in public.

Barbara Kay covers a different angle in The unique anguish of a terrorist’s mother:

If it is inevitable, why feel guilty about these “bad seeds”? And yet, inevitably, parents do. Our sympathetic embrace for the real victims should therefore be wide enough to include their murderers’ collateral damage.

A great deal of favourable commentary on Parliament yesterday, how each leader struck the right tone, the hugs of support, and the deserved standing ovation for Sergeant-at-Arms Vickers starting with Jeffrey Simpson in Tribute, solidarity and back to politics (with some barbs at the difference between Government rhetoric and funding).

Jonathan Kay noted the contrast between this time and 30 years ago, when the then Sergeant-at-Arms was able to talk armed Denis Lortie into surrendering in Two Sergeants-at-Arms, two kinds of heroism.

Rick Salutin, similarly praises Kevin Vickers, but provocatively, and accurately, rubbishes the idea of Canadian innocence in We didn’t lose our innocence. We never had it.

Andrew Coyne, perceptively noted the nuances in the various positions and how that hopefully portended more serious political dialogue and debate in Politics weren’t put aside during the Ottawa hug-out, they were just made over for the occasion:

For Mr. Harper, it was “to identify and counter threats and keep Canada safe here at home,” as well as “to work with our allies” in the fight against “the terrorist organizations” abroad who hope “to bring their savagery to our shores.” For Mr. Mulcair, it was “our commitment to each other and to a peaceful world.” For Mr. Trudeau, it was “staying true to our values” of “fairness, justice and the rule of law.”

“We will not be intimidated,” Mr. Harper vowed. “That is not going to happen,” Mr. Mulcair seconded. “We will not be intimidated into changing that,” Mr. Trudeau agreed. But they meant very different things.

And the still and video images of the citizens of Ottawa paying their tribute to fallen soldier Nathan Cirillo (as well as the accounts of those who tried to save him in ‘You’re breathing — keep breathing’), as well as to democratic values, were moving.

 

Jonathan Kay: On El Al’s planes, a case study in appalling sexism

Jon Kay, continuing on an earlier theme against the Haredim (Jonathan Kay: Shariah with a Jewish face | National Post):

Of course, stories of Haredi sexual segregation of have been coming out of Israel for years now. In a move that would make Saudi Arabia proud, some Israeli communities even have sex-segregated busses. And some ultraorthodox communities practice a disgusting mouth-to-penis circumcision practice called Metzitza B’peh, which would be the subject of child-sex abuse charges here in North America if Muslims were doing it. Israeli society shouldn’t stand for such deplorable practices, but ultimately that is Israel’s business.

El Al, on the other hand, is a company that uses Canadian airports and flies hundreds of Canadian passengers to and from Israel every day. Putting aside the question of whether the episodes described above violate Canadian human-rights law, how does it look for Israel’s national flagship carrier to put on display, in front of rows of horrified passengers, the poisonous prejudices of the most narrow-minded constituency in Israeli society?

We are always told (by Stephen Harper and Benjamin Netanyahu alike) that Israel is a beacon of progressive thought, democracy and pluralism in a Middle East brimming with repressive, retrograde attitudes. And in general, that is true. But it seems to me like Elana Sztokman can be forgiven for feeling otherwise.

Jonathan Kay: On El Al’s planes, a case study in appalling sexism