Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Palestinians celebrate the release of mass murderers & their accomplices

Every now and again, I feel moved to send an email to Esther Enkins, editor in chief of the CBC, pointing out the CBC's bias or an error in their coverage of the Middle East. If you want to try it yourself, her email is esther.enkin@cbc.ca.

Here's an example...

Dear Ms. Enkins:

Re “Israel set to release final batch of prisoners in swap”

and “Who gains from Israel's prisoner swap with Hamas?”

I found that the text of both these articles met CBC’s usual high standards, but with this exception: The term "prisoner swap" is grossly misleading.

Gilad Schalit was a kidnapping victim held for ransom.

The Palestinians being released are convicted criminals. Indeed many of them were convicted of multiple murders.

An ill-informed person might say, but surely it's not “kidnapping” when it's an armed conflict situation and the person held for ransom is a soldier? But it is. The Geneva Convention expressly forbids hostage taking and gives soldiers the same protection as civilians. Such kidnappings are also forbidden by the UN’s 1979 International Convention Against the Taking of Hostages, which correctly refers to such acts by non-state actors as terrorism.

Of course no one expects Hamas to obey any laws, but Canadians should expect more of the CBC than to create a false equivalence between convicted criminals and a kidnapping victim.

This point is particularly important in regard to “Israel set to release final batch of prisoners in swap” which is illustrated by a work of Palestinian propaganda larger than the article itself. The image illustrates the released Palestinians as breaking free of their chains. Surely if the CBC gives such prominence to this image, you should also remind readers that these Palestinians aren't being justly liberated (as suggested by the image), but really are criminals being sprung from jail by the actions of other criminals.

Yours truly...

Since I complained, the CBC has updated the story and improved it, removing the Palestinian propaganda photo and adding a line that reads: "The prisoners freed in the first round included dozens of militants serving life sentences for involvement in bus bombings and other deadly attacks on Israeli civilians that killed hundreds."

However, the article still inaccurately refers to a "prisoner swap," rather than accurately identifying the Palestinians as convicted criminals freed in exchange for a kidnapping victim held hostage.

And the new photo for the article shows a released Palestinian prisoner joyously reaching out to embrace well-wishers. The photo conveys the message that this is a joyous occasion.  For balance, the story should include an equally large and emotional image conveying the reality of the situation; such as a photo of the terrrorists' burned and mutilated victims.

Alternatively, the photo used could just be given a more accurate caption: "Palestinians celebrate the release of mass murderers and their accomplices."

Friday, December 16, 2011

The OISE cult of conformity

OISE, the Mordor of Education

The Ontario Institute for studies in education trains teachers. Unfortunately, its been largely taken over by a far left cult that believes white people, particularly straight men, are oppressors.  Sociologist Werner Cohn has written an excellent series of blog postings about this. See here.

Below, I've pasted in one student's report of her year spent at OISE. I suspect my views on many matters might be closer to the views of her far left professors than to hers. For example, I think it's important that all children feel at home in our schools, which means our school must affirm their identities.

So it's important for kids to see their holidays recognized: Christmas for Christians, Rosh HaShannah for Jews, Eid for Muslims. Gay kids should be able to be who they are without being bullied. Girls should be able to walk the halls of high schools without having their asses grabbed. And no kid should ever have to put up with being harassed about their race. 

For the most part, Toronto schools seem to be doing a do good job - particularly on the multicultural front (though I do hear extremely disturbing things about bullying, sexual harassment and violence in some schools).

But to get back to OISE, while supporting a diversity of identities, OISE draws the line at allowing diversity in thinking.  There is a party line at OISE that's taught to new teachers. It includes explicit support of the NDP, hatred of Israel and tolerance of antisemitism if it's dressed up as anti-Zionism, and hostility toward straight white males as oppressors. (Again, see Cohn's postings here.)

With teachers being educated in bigotry at OISE, is it any wonder that now we have a Toronto teacher connecting his students to antisemitic websites, as I noted in this recent article.
Here's one woman's experience of her year at OISE....

OISE, Indoctrinating the Teachers to Indoctrinate the Children
By: Ruthann Attia

I am sure that many of you have heard about the liberal and leftist agenda that has taken over our institutions of higher learning. I would like to share some of what I experienced attending the University of Toronto’s Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE).

It was my first real experience in a Canadian public education institution as I had previously attended a small private high school, followed by attendance at a university in the United States. I can say now that I am very thankful that the time I did spend in the Canadian public education system was not lengthy.

I began my year at OISE with my mind open and ready to learn, with no previously conceived notions about the political atmosphere of teachers college; I had simply heard that, in general, it was often boring and easy. However, my experience at OISE was anything but boring. In fact, it left me feeling angry, deflated and, most of all, deeply saddened about the direction in which Canada is headed.

Initially, I was entirely shocked by the blatantly obvious political agenda. On the first day I noticed that my classroom wall had a poster listing the main Canadian political parties. It then listed each party’s supposed track record with major Canadian issues, such as health care and education. Unbelievably, the poster went on to proclaim, that, as future teachers, we should be sure to “Vote NDP.”

I looked around for other posters proclaiming the same for Conservatives and Liberals: I could find none. I was so shocked that I pulled out my cell phone and took a photo of it, as proof of the propaganda! Sadly, this poster was the least of my concerns by the year’s end.

Classes began and I was repeatedly baffled by the content of discussions being held in my classrooms. Such issues included why universities and high schools lacked transgendered washrooms, how to not stand for the national anthem, and censoring the celebration of Christmas in schools because it is too “painful of an experience for non-Christians”.

After speaking out numerous times and trying to create a more even-keeled discussion about several issues raised in class, I realized that what was most upsetting about this whole situation was that the door to discussion had been closed. Permanently.

My classmates and professors at OISE had absolutely no “tolerance” for anyone who opposed their views on tolerance, equity, diversity and social justice. I was fighting a losing battle. It was obvious that my classmates and professors were on a mission.

This mission involved indoctrinating each student teacher, and eventually each high school student, with the tenets of their secular religion. The religion’s highest objective was to attain “equity, diversity and social justice” in all aspects of education and social life.

While it sounded great, when seen through an OISE lens it was actually a very totalitarian policy, with a complex language and some very self-righteous believers. I could not even speak about a possible doubt without being cast out of the group altogether and labeled a diversity-hater and an enemy of social justice.

I desperately tried to fight this belief that I did not care about the issues discussed in class, simply because I approached them from a different angle. I was consistently shut down by shallow arguments and silly comments that implied I simply hadn’t developed as far as the rest of the group on the “progressive path”.

One of my classmates even began crying and told the class she found it very hurtful when people (looking in my direction) did not pay attention to issues she found to be of profound importance (this particular class focused on homosexual education). It was all very demeaning and, by the end of the year, I had mentally and emotionally checked out and no longer spoke in class at all.

Fighting against 30 classmates every day took its toll. The last comment I made in class was to let my peers and future colleagues know that it frightened me that they could not deal with my questions or my disbelief in their policies without ostracizing me, for how would they treat the high school students that disagreed with them? As you can imagine, this did not lead to an increase in my popularity.

Needless to say, the year passed by at a dreadfully slow pace. I found myself sitting through classes on how to get hetero-normative language out of the schools, reading countless documents that had been reviewed for “equity”, and reading mandatory Marxist and feminist literature.

I was urged to attend equity/diversity workshops, and asked to volunteer in Gender Construction workshops that were mandatory for grade 10 students, where issues like “straight supremacy” would be discussed by curious 15-year-olds.

At one point, a classmate asked the professor: “So, are we supposed to be activists, or teachers?” and the professor promptly replied, “Can the two really be separated?”
Looking back on my experience now, I realize that, as a student attending OISE, I was subject to what should be described as indoctrination. This indoctrination is of great concern not only to me, but also to all Canadians, no matter what side of the political spectrum.

It is institutions such as OISE that educate the educators, who will in turn educate the nation. It is scary and sad to think of the thousands of students who will be indoctrinated in the classrooms of all my like-minded, unquestioning, and intolerant OISE-educated peers.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Radio Canada (the CBC in Quebec) chastised by Ombudsman for broadcasting Palestinian propaganda

Everyone interested in the issue has long recognized that the CBC is biased against Israel and in favour of the Palestinians. In English Canada, though, this bias has been less pronounced since Tony Burman, the former editor in chief, left the CBC to work for al-Jazeera, a network where Burman's bias is entirely at home.

Also, CBC journalists sometimes attempt to give even-handed reports on the middle east despite their bias. (Certainly the CBC does a better job of being even-handed than the Globe & Mail.)

But that's not the case in the CBC's French language service, Radio Canada, where anti-Israel reporting is simply the norm. Last summer, though, Radio Canada broadcast several reports that were so obviously and outrageously biased that the CBC's Ombudsman upheld a whole series of complaints. The Canadian Jewish News has the details....

Radio-Canada Ombudsman raps Middle East reporting
Janice Arnold

MONTREAL — The Radio-Canada ombudsman has upheld a series of complaints made by the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs (CIJA) about the network’s Middle East coverage.

Most of the complaints concerned reporting by the French-language public broadcaster’s Middle East correspondent, Ginette Lamarche, between June 5 and 7 on the deadly clash at the Syrian border between pro-Palestinian demonstrators and the Israeli army.

Ombudsman Pierre Tourangeau concluded that two reports by Lamarche did not respect the network’s standards for impartiality and accuracy.

Most significantly to CIJA, she failed to report that the Israeli army had issued several warnings before opening fire and that the demonstrators were violent and attempting to force their way across the Israeli border.

CIJA’s predecessor organization, the Quebec-Israel Committee, objected to Lamarche’s reference to the Qalandia checkpoint as a “symbol of [the Palestinians’] daily humiliation,” not making clear that the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine is also considered a terrorist organization, that Ahmad Saadate was convicted of ordering the murder of an Israeli government minister, and that some information was from a non-corroborated Syrian source.

CIJA also objected to Lamarche’s reference that the Palestinians “tried to claim their right of return.” The ombudsman agreed that this “right,” while central to the conflict, has not been confirmed by the United Nations Security Council.

“On an issue as controversial as that of Israeli-Palestinian relations, the choice of words, the precision of the information given and the identification of its source takes on particular importance,” wrote Tourangeau, who became ombudsman on Nov. 14, replacing Julie Miville-Duchêne, who left in July.

Even though some of Lamarche’s reporting was live, which made it more difficult for her to verify the information, the journalist is still obligated to ensure “in a reasonable manner” that it is accurate.

The ombudsman also agreed with CIJA that a June 7 broadcast entitled “Des Juifs du Golan appuient l’attaque d’Israël contre les manifestants pacifiques” (“Golan Jews support Israel’s attack on the peaceful demonstrators”) didn’t meet Radio-Canada’s standards.

Specifically, Lamarche paraphrased an Israeli, identified only as Maurice, as saying: “The army maybe shot live bullets on the civilians who were demonstrating peacefully. If that is the case, it is only doing its duty.”

An audio recording of her interview with the man showed that her paraphrasing was not faithful to what he actually said, Tourangeau wrote.

The ombudsman also found that “this morally questionable attitude” was presented without sufficient grounds as being representative of the Jews of the Golan.

Finally, the ombudsman concluded that RDI, Radio-Canada’s news speciality channel, used erroneous maps March 19 on the program 24 heures en 60 minutes to illustrate the Arab-Israeli conflict. CIJA had termed the maps “propagandist.”

The maps were used to show what a guest described as the loss of Palestinian land between 1945 and 2000.

Tourangeau describes the maps as “erroneous, confusing and incomplete, whose source was not identified.”

RDI’s management admitted that the maps should never have been used, while the ombudsman recommended that a correction be made.


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Antisemitism in Canada – Why Now?

I originally published this piece in the Canadian Jewish News, April 21, 2004. It remains just as relevant now as then.

Across the country, the firebombing of a Jewish day school in Montreal appalled Canadians. Why did it happen? Why now?

I see four root causes.

First, the terrorist attacks of September 11 radicalized anti-American and anti-Jewish sentiment in Canada and around the world. Much of the far left has always considered America and Israel as a single enemy and the primary source of evil in world affairs. While September 11 demonstrated to most people that there are much nastier people around, the far left wasn’t prepared to give up their vision of America the evil.

For example, in his essay, “The War in Afghanistan,” Noam Chomsky claims that America’s war of self-defence was a far greater moral wrong than the terrorist attacks themselves. Much of the left followed Chomsky’s lead. But many people, some Canadians among them, defended their vision of American evil by adopting the notion that the U.S. and/or Israel (or simply "the Jews") were responsible for the September 11 attacks.

Such conspiratorial thinking, which in Canada used to belong exclusively to neo-Nazi propagandists like Ernst Zundel, suddenly became mainstream. Three Toronto Star columnists have promoted the notion of September 11 as an American plot - Michelle Landsberg, Thomas Walkom, and Antonia Zerbisias. Zebisias went so far as to praise an antisemitic web site and recommend it to her readers (a recommendation that she partially disowned after B’nai Brith called her on it.)

Second, opposition to the American-led war against Saddam Hussein popularized anti-Americanism throughout Canada and licensed its expression. When MP Carolyn Parrish said, “Damn Americans, I hate those bastards,” she likely generated more support for the Liberals, not less. And when Canadians opened the door to anti-Americanism, its anti-Jewish twin also snuck in.

Why did America invade Iraq? The answer, according to some conspiracy-minded Canadians, is that America is controlled by Jewish, neo-Conservatives - a cabal that puts Israel’s interests ahead of America’s and, more generally, plots for America to conquer the world.

For example, in an article titled, “Why Won’t Anyone Say They’re Jewish?” Kalle Lasn, editor of the Canadian magazine Adbusters, produces a list of American neo-conservatives with a bullet (or perhaps it’s a little yellow star) beside each Jew. “Half of the them are Jewish,” he writes, in case his readers can’t count. And he says, they control “Rumsfeld’s Defense Department.”

Lasn adds, rather darkly, “One wonders what Israeli-American relations, and indeed what American relations with the rest of the world would look like if [they] … were also in charge at [the] State [Department].”

This idea of Jewish puppet masters is simply a rehash of the century old myth of the Elders of Zion, which in times past was so fervently embraced by Adolph Hitler.
Third, the train bombings in Madrid demonstrated that terrorism works. The bombers of the Montreal day school simply followed the Madrid example, but fortunately burned only books, not people. Next time, according to the note left by the fire bombers, they might do worse.

Fourth, and most importantly, antisemitism in Canada has been activated by the continual portrayal of Israel as murderous and monstrous and not just by the far left but in mainstream media and by mainstream politicians.

To give just one example, the CBC’s Mary Lou Finlay opened a recent interview with a representative of the Palestinian Authority by asking him for his reaction to the Israeli "murder" of Ahmed Yassin. I assumed she’d made an embarrassing slip until Russ Germain introduced a later segment of the program with a clearly scripted line about the world crying "bloody murder."

Have you ever heard anyone on the CBC refer to any of Hamas’s deliberate killings of Israeli civilians – men, women or children – as “murder”?

The CBC’s condemnation of Israel’s “murder” of Ahmed Yassin and Canada’s foreign minister’s condemnation of the assassination were mere peeps in the worldwide outcry against Israel. That outcry was louder, more widespread and vastly more heated than have been any objections to the hundreds of killings and thousands of injuries Yassin’s terrorist organization has inflicted on ordinary people going about their daily lives.

That outcry was surely heard by the people who firebombed the Montreal Jewish day school. When they wrote that their attack was retribution for the Israeli assassination Ahmed Yassin, I imagine they expected praise for their actions. Surely, they were surprised that Canadians unanimously denounced their attack, with the Toronto Star and the CBC as appalled as everyone else. Then again, perhaps the bombers are familiar with hypocrisy.

From the trial of the bomber, we now know that my cause #4 was spot on. The bomber himself explained how the frenzied reporting of the Israeli assassination of the leader of the Hamas terrorist organization, Ahmed Yassin, incited him to go and firebomb a Jewish primary school.

On the other hand, with the benefit of hindsight, I’d cut cause #3 – the Madrid Train Bombing. All successful terrorist acts encourage further terrorism; in that respect the Madrid bombing wasn’t special.

Occupy Wall Street, a tale of the .1 percent

Unlike in Canada, where the Occupy movement has aroused nothing more than mild annoyance or weary tolerance, in the United States, Occupy Wall Street has a lot of support. Many Americans see the movement as a manifesation of their outrage over the country's deep economic troubles.

However, while many Americans identify with the anger of the Occupiers, their claim to represent the 99% who aren't rich is ludicrous. A mix of anarchists, Marxists, anti-imperialists and Israel-haters - the Occupiers themselves represent the deeply delusional point one percent.

In the New Yorker, Mattathias Schwartz has written an excellent piece on the leaders of the Occupy Movement and in particular that noted Canadian purveyor of antisemitisem Kalle Lasn...

The Origins and Futue of Occupy Wall Street

Kalle Lasn spends most nights shuffling clippings into a binder of plastic sleeves, each of which represents one page of an issue of Adbusters, a bimonthly magazine that he founded and edits. It is a tactile process, like making a collage, and occasionally Lasn will run a page with his own looped cursive scrawl on it. From this absorbing work, Lasn acquired the habit of avoiding the news after dark. So it was not until the morning of Tuesday, November 15th, that he learned that hundreds of police officers had massed in lower Manhattan at 1 A.M. and cleared the camp at Zuccotti Park. If anyone could claim responsibility for the Zuccotti situation, it was Lasn: Adbusters had come up with the idea of an encampment, the date the initial occupation would start, and the name of the protest—Occupy Wall Street. Now the epicenter of the movement had been raided. Lasn began thinking of reasons that this might be a good thing.

Lasn is sixty-nine years old and lives with his wife on a five-acre farm outside Vancouver. He has thinning white hair and the small eyes of a bulldog. In a lilting voice, he speaks of “a dark age coming for humanity” and of “killing capitalism,” alternating gusts of passion with gentle laughter. He has learned not to let premonitions of apocalypse spoil his good mood.

The magazine, which he founded twenty-two years ago, depicts the developed world as a nightmare of environmental collapse and spiritual hollowness, driven to the brink of destruction by its consumer appetites. Adbusters’ images—a breastfeeding baby tattooed with corporate logos; a smiling Barack Obama with a clown’s ball on his nose—are combined with equally provocative texts and turned into a paginated montage. Adbusters is not the only radical magazine calling for the end of life as we know it, but it is by far the best-looking.

Lasn was interrupted by a phone call about the Zuccotti eviction while in bed, reading Julian Barnes’s “The Sense of an Ending.” He rose and checked his e-mail. There was a message from Micah White, Adbusters’ senior editor and Lasn’s closest collaborator.

“Eerie timing!” White wrote. Earlier that night, Adbusters had sent out its most recent “tactical briefing”—a mass e-mail to ninety thousand friends of the magazine—proposing that the nation’s Occupy protesters throw a party in mid-December, declare victory, and withdraw from their encampments. A few hours later, officers from the New York Police Department began handing out notices stating that the park had become dangerous and unsanitary, and ordering the protesters to leave, so that it could be cleaned. Those who refused to go were arrested, and whatever they left behind was carried off by the Department of Sanitation, to a depot on West Fifty-seventh Street. After a long night of angry marches and meetings, the protesters were allowed back into Zuccotti, with newly enforced prohibitions on tents and on lying down. The protest continued, but the fifty-nine days of rude, anarchic freedom on a patch of granite in lower Manhattan were over.

White reached Lasn by telephone shortly before nine. Lasn was in the bathtub, and White told him details that he had learned online about the eviction. The police had established a strict media cordon, blocking access from nearby streets. “It was a military-style operation,” he said. These words made Lasn think of the bloody uprising in Syria. He quickly decided that the apparent end of Zuccotti was not a tragedy but the latest in a series of crisis-driven opportunities, what he calls “revolutionary moments,” akin to the slapping of a Tunisian fruit vender. “I just can’t believe how stupid Bloomberg can be!” he said to me later that day. “This means escalation. A raising of the stakes. It’s one step closer to, you know, a revolution.” ... more

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

PLO ambassodor to Lebanon says Palestinian state will not end the conflict

BEIRUT: Palestinian refugees will not become citizens of a new Palestinian state, according to Palestine’s ambassador to Lebanon.

From behind a desk topped by a miniature model of Palestine’s hoped-for blue United Nations chair, Ambassador Abdullah Abdullah spoke to The Daily Star Wednesday about Palestine’s upcoming bid for U.N. statehood.

The ambassador unequivocally says that Palestinian refugees would not become citizens of the sought for U.N.-recognized Palestinian state, an issue that has been much discussed. “They are Palestinians, that’s their identity,” he says. “But … they are not automatically citizens.”

This would not only apply to refugees in countries such as Lebanon, Egypt, Syria and Jordan or the other 132 countries where Abdullah says Palestinians reside. Abdullah said that “even Palestinian refugees who are living in [refugee camps] inside the [Palestinian] state, they are still refugees. They will not be considered citizens.”

Abdullah said that the new Palestinian state would “absolutely not” be issuing Palestinian passports to refugees.

Neither this definitional status nor U.N. statehood, Abdullah says, would affect the eventual return of refugees to Palestine. “How the issue of the right of return will be solved I don’t know, it’s too early [to say], but it is a sacred right that has to be dealt with and solved [with] the acceptance of all.” He says statehood “will never affect the right of return for Palestinian refugees.”

The right of return that Abdullah says is to be negotiated would not only apply to those Palestinians whose origins are within the 1967 borders of the state, he adds. “The state is the 1967 borders, but the refugees are not only from the 1967 borders. The refugees are from all over Palestine. When we have a state accepted as a member of the United Nations, this is not the end of the conflict. This is not a solution to the conflict. This is only a new framework that will change the rules of the game.”

The Palestinian Liberation Organization would remain responsible for refugees, and Abdullah says that UNRWA would continue its work as usual.

U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration recently pledged to veto statehood in the Security Council, which would leave the Palestinians the option of seeking a General Assembly resolution. If this happens, Abdullah says, 129 countries have committed to positive votes.

The United States has of late been taking steps to dissuade the Palestinians from taking their bid to the U.N., sending negotiators to meet with Palestinian officials. The ambassador says these talks have not been fruitful.

“They won’t offer us anything … that saves the peace process,” he says. “They would offer us nothing except to say that they will cut financial aid, and other such threats. Dignity is much more important than a loaf of bread.”

The last minute threats Abdullah refers to include a bill proposed by the chair of the U.S. House Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, which would cut U.S. funding to any U.N. body that recognizes the Palestinian statehood.

Abdullah says now is the time to seek statehood because the peace process has been stalled for around a year, and rattles off the dates of locations of failed meetings with the Israelis last September.

“These meetings did not bring us one iota closer to achieving the goal the negotiations were resumed to achieve.” He says that there are now new obstacles, including settlement building “with some haste” and Israel’s insistence that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a Jewish state or a national home for the Jewish people.

Abdullah says the Palestinians effectively have no choice but to go to the U.N. With talks at an impasse, he says, “nothing was left for us to protect the international consensus of the two-state solution.”

A U.S. veto in the Security Council, Abdullah says, would only harm the great power. “The United States is propagating that it is the champion of freedom and democracy around the world, and if it denies the Palestinians the right to be free, to be democratic, and to live in dignity, it is not a good sign for the U.S. It leaves a dark stain … It’s not good for America,” he says. “America deserves better.”

He says the U.S. should be mindful of “signals in the region … that are ringing a bell.” He mentions the tension between Turkey and Israel and the recent eruption of protests at the Israeli embassy in Cairo.

“If wrong policies are adopted in the U.S., it will only give a freer hand to extremism. It only empowers negative forces. And this will make it more difficult and complicated for rational forces to prevail.”

Despite clear signs of opposition from the U.S., Abdullah says anything could happen next week, when the U.N.’s General Assembly session opens and the issue of Palestinian statehood will be debated.

“When we go [to the United Nations],” he says, “we [will not] bet on anything.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on September 15, 2011, on page 2.

Read more: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Politics/2011/Sep-15/148791-interview-refugees-will-not-be-citizens-of-new-state.ashx#ixzz1YVaEgLvw
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

Friday, July 22, 2011

Black and Jewish

Check out this music video: "Black and Jewish," a parody of "Black and Yellow," a hip-hop tribute to the colors of Pittsburgh’s professional sports teams.

Photo Lisa Bonet, Jewish actress.

Friday, July 15, 2011

United Church minister's bias

Here's a film review from the United Church Observer. The reviewer's profound ignorance and casual bias illustrate what's wrong with even the well-intentioned "critics of Israel" (as they like to be called) ...

The Hilltops
Directed by Igal Hecht
Chutzpa Productions
Reviewed by the reverend Jim Carey

The Hilltops appears to make the case for Israeli settlers to occupy every hilltop possible in the West Bank, presenting the settlers as misunderstood, persecuted and maligned by those who view these settlements as one of the key obstacles on the road to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Scenes of various hilltop outposts and the well-meaning people who occupy them are placed in contrast with statements made by U.S. President Barack Obama in June 2010. It is “undeniable that the Palestinian people — Muslims and Christians — have suffered in pursuit of a homeland,” he said. “The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. . . . It is time for these settlements to stop.”

In the documentary, one woman seemingly replies to Obama, saying, “We will never stop!” This appears to typify the zealous nature of the settlers.

The settlers are portrayed as hippies and back-to-the-earth types who deeply love the land and who seek to live out an interpretation of the Bible that holds that the Holy Land belongs exclusively to Jewish people. This portrayal is contrary to the witness of United Church of Canada partners in Palestine, who report the settlers are militant, law-breaking and often armed.

In the latter half of the documentary, there is an attempt at conversation with neighbouring Arabs about the settlements. But the conversation goes nowhere, as each party believes it has the rightful claim to the land.

The value in this documentary is that it offers a clear window into the mindset and the militancy of the settlers. While appearing to defend the settlers, it offers some explanation as to why the settlements endanger the peace process, render the division of the West Bank highly problematic, and lead some United Church partners to compare the settlements to apartheid.

Rev. Jim Cairney is a minister in Mississauga, Ont. He recently travelled to Israel and the Occupied Territories

A review of the review:

I confess I still find it shocking to see a minister using the word "apartheid" against Israel. I’m more used to hearing such name-calling from bigots on the far left and the far right.

But putting aside this slur, Cairney's review illustrates the sort of generalizations that obscure the nature of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

Cairney speaks of settlements and settlers as if they're all the same. Many (most?) settlers aren't ideological at all; they're suburbanites who have moved into the new neighbourhoods built around Jerusalem.

Nor is it true to suggest that the ideologically motivated settlers are all of a kind. Doubtless, some are violent bastards; others are peaceable and often have good relations with local Palestinians.

In March, following the terrorist massacre of the Fogel family (the mother, father and 3 children aged 11, 3 and 3 months), there was a news story about local Palestinians seeking medical help at a settlement for a mother going through a perilous childbirth. See here.

What struck me about the story was not only joy of a tragedy averted as the Israeli medics saved the Palestinian mother and her new born baby, but also that when faced with a medical emergency, the Palestinian taxi driver took his passenger straight to an Israeli settlement.

Cairney also seems to be misrepresenting Obama. Of course, Obama called for a cessation of further building within existing Israeli settlements. (Israelis haven't built new settlements for more than 10 years.) But Obama has also recognized that the large settlements will never be dismantled; it's simply unthinkable that any country would (or could) move hundreds of thousands of citizens.

This is why no one who's really interested in peace calls for the removal of all Israeli settlements.

On the other hand, all mainstream Israeli political parties treat the small, isolated settlements as bargaining chips to be given up in negotiations with the Palestinians. Unfortunately, this strategy hasn't worked, as the Palestinian side hasn't been willing to accept peace.

Way back when, Arafat turned down a peace proposal (two in a row, in fact) and launched the terrorist war known as the Intifada instead. Arafat's successor has been no more willing to sign a peace deal. Three years ago, the Israelis offered the Palestinians Gaza, east Jerusalem and the West Bank, with land swaps to fully compensate for the settlements to be kept by Israel, giving the Palestinians the equivalent of 100% of the territory.

President Abbas turned the offer down. Because the settlements and the occupation of the West Bank aren't the issues.

The underlying problem is that the Palestinians claim that Israel is an illegitimate state; that the Palestinians alone have rights to all of "historic Palestine" (including Israel), and they will not allow legitimacy to the Jewish state.

This isn't like the wild Israeli settlers sitting on a few hilltops in the West Bank claiming exclusive sovereignty over the land; within Israeli society, such views are marginal. No, the belief that Israel is illegitimate is the view of the Palestinian leadership and of the majority of the Palestinian people.

I’m an optimist, though: I expect we’ll have peace between the Palestinians and Israelis within 20 or 30 years. It will begin when the Palestinians recognize the right of Israel to exist as a Jewish state, just as Israelis have long recognized the Palestinian right to a state of their own.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The folly of dividing Jerusalem

All Israeli-Palestinian peace plans to date have proposed dividing Jerusalem. Unfortunately this idea is divorced from reality. In Jerusalem, Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods aren't just an arm's width apart, the "border" runs right through shared buildings. This shouldn't surprise anyone; after all, Jerusalem has been a single city for thousands of years. Jerusalem has only ever been divided from 1948 though 1967 when Jordan occupied the old city.

Yaacov Lozowick has a brilliant series of posts on the issue, including a few short video tours of the proposed dividing line. Watch here and here. See his whole collection of posts here.

On the topic, I've previously proposed holding a referundum among Jerusalem's Arab population about whether they'd rather stay part of Israel or be incorporated into a Palestinian state. It's almost certain, they'd rather remain part of Israel. See here.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Crystal Ball #2

I'm changing my bets. Yesterday's polls show the Liberal collapse continuing across the country. I now think the Liberals may get as few as two dozen seats.

The only area of the country where Liberal fortunes have improved is in BC. They're still in third place there, but they're recovering enough to split the vote with the NDP and hand some closely contested seats to the Conservatives.

I now think the Bloc is in worse trouble than I thought yesterday, too. I think they may get as few as 20 seats. Hopefully even less.

On the other hand, the NDP surge continues - entirely at the expense of the Liberals and the Bloc. So I now expect them to take at least 100 seats.

The Conservatives continue to hold steady or may be climbing. With the Liberal collapse, I think they've got a 50-50 chance of hitting 155 seats, which is what they need for a majority.

So here's my new prediction:

Conservatives: 155 seats (more or less)
NDP: 105 seats (more or less)
Liberals: 24 seats (or more)
Bloc 18 seats (or more)

Combined NDP & Liberal seats: about 130, versus about 155 seats for the Conservatives.

If the Conservatives manage to win their majority, the constitutional situation becomes mute. We'll have a Conservative government, full stop.

Otherwise, I fear we're into the same mess as I predicted yesterday: The other 3 parties combining to defeat the Conservatives at the first opportunity. Then the NDP and Liberals forming an informal coalition undersigned on a vote-by-vote basis by the Bloc.

I don't know if most Canadians will view such a government as legitimate. They didn't the last time the opposition parties tried it.

But here's a thought: Previously everyone's assumed the opposition would be led by the Liberals, and of course it's impossible to imagine the NDP siding with the Conservatives - party members simply wouldn't stand for it, regardless of any consideration of real politic.

But ideologically, only the left wing of the Liberal party is close to the NDP. After tonight, that left wing will cease to exist - they've all gone over to the NDP.

It may take the Liberals a while to understand their new position - and probably too long to adjust to it - but as of tonight, a Conservative - Liberal colation will make much more sense than and NDP - Liberal coalition.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My 2011 federal election crystal ball

Okay, time to put my money where my mouth is. Here’s my prediction for tomorrow’s election:

Conservatives: 136 – 154 seats. Best guess: 143 (i.e., same as before)
NDP: 64 – 73 seats. Best guess: 67 (up about 30 seats)
Liberals: 53 – 61 seats. Best guess: 56 (down about 20 seats)
The Bloc: 40 – 46 seats. Best guess: 42 (down about 5 seats)
Greens: 0 – 1 seats. Best guess: 0

Combined NDP & Liberal seats: about 125, versus about 145 seats for the Conservatives.

While, I don’t have any faith in these numbers I’ve pulled out of the air, I do expect they’ll reflect the general picture: a Conservative minority, with the NDP and Liberals not able to form an alternative government without the support of the Bloc.

I think this is bad news. A Conservative majority would be my preference. Economically, most countries are a mess – except for Canada. Our economy remains the envy of the world, and a Conservative majority would ensure continued stability.

My second choice would be a Liberal-NDP coalition with enough seats to govern without having their every move okayed by the Bloc. Obviously, this isn’t going to happen. The Liberals are headed for third or fourth place, so they won’t be leading any coalition. Worse, I don't believe the NDP and Liberals can win enough seats between them to create a majority.

So what’s going to happen? Most likely the other parties will defeat the new Conservative government at their first opportunity. Then we’ll see a minority coalition government led by the NDP (though doubtless it will be called something else, so as not to embarrass Iggy who has sworn off coalitions).

Who knows what its policies will be. The federal NDP has never had to create a platform that could actually be implemented. Ignatieff correctly called their election promises “science fiction” – at least $20 billion in increased spending supported by $17.5 billion in new taxes they won’t be able to collect.

But regardless of what the NDP would like to spend our money on, the biggest ticket item will be new goodies for Quebec. To support an NDP-Liberal coalition, the Bloc will charge a high price, and they’ll keep asking for more.

I expect that, sooner or later, the NDP-Liberal coalition will realize it can’t afford to pay more blackmail and the government will fall. Or the Bloc will refuse its support simply in order to demonstrate that Canada doesn’t work – that we can’t even create a government that lasts more than a few months. In the worst case scenario, the Bloc will pull the plug during a new referendum campaign on Quebec separating from Canada.

I hope to be proven entirely wrong in my analysis, but in my heart, I expect we’ll all be back at the polls next year.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Heads they win, tails you lose

Well at least we now know what this election it about. Michael Ignatieff wants to become Prime Minister.

He’s willing to do it the traditional way – by winning more seats than the Conservatives – but as that’s not going to happen, plan B is to lose and still become Prime Minister.

He made this clear just this past week in an interview on the CBC, but presumably, this was the plan all along: Hold the Tories to a minority. Defeat them in the first vote in the House of Commons. Cut a deal with the NDP and the Bloc. Then form a Liberal government.

But what deal will they cut?

At this point in the campaign, the Liberals hope to win 90 seats. But with their campaign going from bad to worse, 70 seems more likely. The Liberals hope to hold the Conservatives to about 150 seats – 5 short of a majority. But clearly it’s going to be a nail-biter. And a Liberal government scratched together in these circumstances would be the weakest, least stable government in Canadian history.

We could have another election in no time – and that might be the best we can hope for.

As the price for their support, Iggy’s partners would be able to demand anything they want. On the social policy front, we’d end up with the NDP platform – which would be fine for a while, until the country goes broke.

But what about the Bloc? The PQ is posed to win the upcoming Quebec election, and they intend to introduce another referendum. So what will the Bloc ask of Iggy? Perhaps they’ll demand that the federal government stay out of the referendum – offer no defence of Canada whatsoever.

I believe Iggy would say no – surely he’s that much of a Canadian. But then the Bloc would pull the plug on the Liberal government and we’d be into another federal election and a separation battle with Quebec at the same time. In other words, heads the Bloc wins, tails Canada loses.

On the other hand, would a Conservative majority be so bad? The Conservatives have provided competent government, and as Stephen Harper never tires of pointing out, our economy isn’t perfect, but it is the envy of the world.

And the last Conservative budget – the one voted down by the Liberals – was in fact a Liberal budget, containing no threat to social programs. On the contrary, it was full of small expenditures for every needy group in the country. Paul Martin might have written that budget.

I know this makes no difference to dyed-in-the-wool Liberals. Political affiliation is a tribal thing. For many, being a Liberal, Conservative or NDPer is part of their identity. It’s not primarily about policy at all.

I understand this perfectly, as I used to belong the NDP tribe. Unfortunately, I became a political refugee because of the NDP’s hostility toward Israel and its supporters (including me). On the other hand, now that I’m without a political tribe, I think I can see better.

I often do vote Liberal. In the past, I’ve campaigned for the Liberal candidate in my riding. This time around, though, I’m voting for stable government and for Canada. I’m voting Conservative.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How to bash Israel in your child’s school, a York University graduate seminar

Recently, I learned of a session offered by York University’s Faculty of Education on “The Politics of Israel/Palestine in the Classroom.” The panel consisted of three notorious Israel-bashers set to discuss: “How do we bring political debate into the classroom?”

Clearly, the real subject was How to teach Israel-bashing to kids – a subject York U apparently thought was worthwhile offering as part of its annual conference for Graduate Students in Education.

Jason Kunin, the high school teacher on the panel, first gained notoriety in 2007 when he introduced an anti-Israel boycott motion at his teacher’s union local. He also proposed putting together an “education package” for teaching anti-Israeli propaganda in schools. Kunin’s motion was overwhelmingly defeated.

The second panelist, Elle Flanders, teaches at York University and makes obscure anti-Israel films. But she is best known as a spokesperson for Queers United Against Israeli Apartheid. This is the group that marches in the annual gay pride parade calling for the eradication of the only state in the Middle East where it’s legal to be gay.

The third panelist, Bh Yael also makes anti-Israel films and teaches at the Ontario College of Art and Design. He and Jason Kunin have both been members of “Not In Our Name.”

In 2007, Not in Our Name attended the Cairo Conference, where members of the Israel-hating left met in Egypt to talk strategy with terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas and Jamaat al-Islamiya. At the time Jamaat al-Islamiya was best known for murdering 71 tourists. It has since become an official branch of al-Qaeda.

Attendees at the Cairo conference decided that terrorists should continue blowing people up while the western far left groups should confine themselves to propaganda and to promoting a boycott of Israel and Israelis.

Did I mention that all the panelists at the How to bash Israel session support a boycott Israel?

Another session at York’s education conference featured a presentation by PhD Candidate Nayrouz Abu-Hatoum on the “Politics of the Visual.” Nayrouz describes the subject of her PhD studies as: the “Israeli-built apartheid wall in Palestinian lands, where I intend to explore creation of new spaces of belonging and resistance to state power.”

Her presentation at the conference was on the same subject, which of course has nothing to do with education. Apparently, her slide show was just meant as a short anti-Israel rant to help break up the day.

But here’s the thing, I’m reporting missed news – this education conference at York happened a year ago. The media covers big hate festivals such as the annual anti-Israel apartheid week, but how many other outrageous anti-Israel events do we never hear about? Plenty. Because at some universities political activism masquerades as academic inquiry every day of the week.

We saw this recently in the Jenny Peto scandal at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (part of the University of Toronto). For her master’s thesis, Peto wrote a dissertation devoid of research or other academic content. Instead, she attacked Jews as racists. (See Werner Cohn’s excellent series of postings on the scandal here.)

When people objected to the University of Toronto granting an MA for this rant, the university responded that it was an issue of free speech. This was pure deflection. No university can really believe that, in order to avoid trampling a student’s free speech, it must grant an MA for any old crap the student feels like writing. Really, the university was saying: Bug off – it’s none of your business.

Similarly, in 2009, York University held a conference on a “one-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict – a solution which amounts to replacing Israel with an Arab majority state. One of the conference organizers was Ali Abunimah, best known as a founder of Electronic Intifada, a website that glamorizes terrorism. Many of the other presenters at the conference were also anti-Israel activists, not academics at all.

Gary Goodyear, Minister for Science and Technology, suggested that government funding for the conference should be re-considered. The president of the Canadian University Teachers Association responded with outrage. How dare the government consider withdrawing its funding for a university event!

Clearly, our universities regard themselves as independent Duchies, not subject to any oversight. Canadians can’t afford to indulge them in this delusion. Especially, since at some universities, the propagation of hatred seems to be part of their day-to-day business.

During the Cold War, it was the Soviet Union that handed out advanced degrees in exchange for students developing propaganda. Perhaps most famously, Mahmoud Abbas, current president of the Palestinian Authority, got his PhD for a thesis concocting a tale of collaboration between the Nazis and the Zionists, with a bit of Holocaust denial tossed in.

Who could have imagined that Western universities would take on this role? That a York student would be concocting a PhD thesis on the “apartheid wall”? That an OISE student would defame Jews as racist – and get a Masters degree for it?

Most universities are still places where learning takes place. But in some departments at some universities, ideologically motivated professors have attained a dominant position. Instead of pursuing knowledge, they’re spreading propaganda – and we’re paying them to do it.

It’s past time for the government to put its foot down and stop this practice.

This piece was originally published at Harry's Place in Britain.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Election 2011: Jack Layton leads charge of the Light Brigade

Everyone who watches the polls knows that the only thing the NDP or Liberals can expect from an election is fewer seats for them and more for the Conservatives. Could be the Conservatives will even win a majority.

But the Liberals are tired of looking like wusses. They've propped up the Conservatives since the last election and figure it's the NDP's turn.

However, Jack Layton can't support the Conservatives. It doesn't matter how many of Jack's policies and spending priorities the Conservatives put in the budget. The Dippers just plain hate Harper. They hate him with passion that's beyond reason.

Make a deal with the devil? No way. As far as rank and file members of the NDP are concerned, Stephen Harper is worse than Satan.

Jack Layton can't be this blinded himself. You don't get to be party leader, not even leader of the NDP, if you've taken leave of your senses. But what does Jack have to lose? We know about his health problems. Most likely this is his last election. Better to go out leading a hopeless charge against the Evil Ones than to be remembered as the guy who bowed to Harper.

As for the Liberals, they stand to lose even worse than the NDP. But some Liberals - call them the Justin Trudeau camp - share the NDP's hubris. They believe themselves so obviously superior to the Conservatives that of course Canadians will vote for them. This view is especially prevalent in safe Liberal seats, like the one held by Justin.

Other Liberals - call them the knives in waiting camp - cannot believe that Ignatief has turned out to be such a hopeless leader. He's even worse than What's-his-name, the last Liberal leader whose main election policy was to raise the price of gasoline.

For the knives in waiting camp, the sooner they get this election over with, the sooner they can stab Iggy in the back and install a new leader. Only problem is there's no leader in waiting.

Bob Rae? Personally I think he's a nice guy and principled, but get real. He's an ex-NDP premier who masterminded the largest provincial debt in history.

So how abot about Trudeau? Sure he's callow and shallow, but his dad was famous. What more do you want?


Photo: A slice of recent history - Jack Layton plotting a coalition government with Gilles Duceppe.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Follow up with the Toronto Board re The Shepherd's Granddaughter

Dear Mr. Spence,

Four brief points following up on The Shepherd’s Granddaughter’s controversy and the steps the Toronto District School Board pledged or proposed to take in response:

1. Lloyd McKell, Executive Officer, Student and Community Equity, wrote that the TDSB would:
“implement a co-ordinated preview process for the Forest of Reading program, at the earliest possible point in the promotion process, in order to identify any concerns about individual books recommended by the OLA as part of the Forest of Reading program.”

The Committee struck to consider The Shepherd’s Granddaughter also recommended that in future the TDSB examine books in the Forest of Reading program before the schools start recommending them to children. Has the Board carried through? Schools across Toronto are promoting the new Forest of Reading books for 2011. Should our schools be endorsing these books? Has the Board checked them?

2. The Committee struck to consider The Shepherd’s Granddaughter recommended that when books are identified as controversial, students should be encouraged to apply their critical skills. On the evidence, this is an inadequate response. I first became deeply concerned about The Shepherd’s Granddaughter after reading a young person’s comment on Good Reads that: “Reading this book made me want to go to Palestine and kill Israelis.”

To assess how our students have reacted to The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, we can go to RedMaple OnLine, a site maintained by the Ontario Library Association where Ontario students reading books in the Red Maple program make comments.

Of the 18 comments on The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, only one student, book_freak1011, noticed the possibility of bias. I think we can assume this student was already aware of the Israeli-Palestinian issue beforehand and, from the vehemence of his/her response, perhaps felt the book as an assault.

The other students all accepted the book as a factual depiction of the supposed cruelty suffered by Palestinians, expressing no awareness of the possibility of bias or misrepresentation. See the student remarks below:

Dec 20, 2010
BORING! But I guess they want us to kno how bad the Jwsh are.

Apr 22, 2010
looked at it didnt read but want too

Apr 20, 2010
This book was ok, but I found it too sad. I liked how it was about real life, though, because it can help people understand what's happening in the real world.

Apr 06, 2010
This book was an amazing book! it brought tears into my eyes to see how human biengs like us are bieng treated like this in palestin! This book got me thinking, that we take soooo many things for granted. But in this book, it opened a new point of view for me.

Mar 26, 2010
I think that the sheperds granddaughter is a great book for beginner readers. This book is really interesting when the girl that wants to be a sheperd but her uncle and her father thinks that it is to risky and she might get shoot by the settlers and the armys trying to build the highway on top of the property.

Mar 25, 2010
A very gripping story.
I'm glad the piano got saved :)
On April 22, it's either this one, or submarine outlaw!

Mar 25, 2010
The Shepherd's Grand-daghter is a pretty good story. I thought it was sad. And i cannot believe that events like that happen today aswell. I really recommend this to people , and i think everyone would really enjoy this book.

Mar 24, 2010

Mar 23, 2010
This book was pretty good and eye-opening for me, but I found it kind of boring.

Mar 23, 2010
The Shepherd's Granddaughter is a story of faith and fearlessness in times of trial. It's about a young girl who follows her dreams and brings with them the true meaning of friendship and family. Her story is very sad, but her strength is admirable.

Mar 11, 2010
I think it was so sad but very realistic for those living in Palestine.The relationship between Amani and Johnathon was very lifelike and is amazing for the language barrier between the two.

Mar 10, 2010
A very lifelike and realistic book. You could believe it was true, and the read wasn't bad.

Mar 05, 2010
didn't really like this book much, it had a slow writing style and took me a week to read (I can read the Harry Potter series in one day, so that means I was morer then a bit bored by it. This was the #10 book in all the Red Maple books, i honestly think they should've switched this book with Vanishing Girl, by Shane Peacock, he's an awesome Canadian author. One of the few parts I found entertaining in this book was when the house collapsed, but the piano was unharmed. Overall I wasn't a big fan of this book, but I did read it all the same.

Mar 04, 2010
This is a saddening book, but really opens the eyes of the reader.

Mar 04, 2010
this book was really sad. i cant beleive this is still happening today. it really opened my eyes i definitely recommend it

Mar 03, 2010
Report This
not a great book it was just boring

Mar 03, 2010
This book was very horendous, it was boring and i don't agree with the author!

Mar 02, 2010
this book was good, really good and although it was sad it had a ----- ------

(see: http://maple.bibliocommons.com/item/comments/655260007_the_shepherds_granddaughter)

3. Mr. McKell argued that: “The Shepherd's Granddaughter contains several themes for creative discussions in our classrooms.” However, he also directed “that guidance from the teachers and teacher librarians is important in producing the desired outcomes.”

Has the Board followed up to ensure that The Shepherd’s Granddaughter is off library shelves throughout the TDSB and accessible to students only to read with guidance?

4. Board policy on dealing with controversial material requires that:
“information, as well as opinions, gathered from a variety of different sources, must be brought to bear on the topics in question.”

Do Toronto schools typically have materials on Israel and the Israeli-Arab conflict to provide student with information and opinions from a variety of sources, as required by Board policy? Especially do the libraries contain material favourable to Israel that might act as a corrective to the biased account provided in The Shepherd’s Granddaughter?

When will the Board follow up to ensure that, if students are exposed to The Shepherd’s Granddaughter, they will also have access to material that counters its partisan and bigoted stance?

Thank you very much for your continuing attention and professionalism in regard to this important issue.

Yours truly...

Update: Chris Spence has replied and assured me that the Board did vet the 2011 Forest of Reading books before schools began encouraging children to read them and that this will be the policy henceforth. Of course no real movement on getting better books about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into schools.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Israel and the Lizard Men of Mars

I recently came across a new on-line newspaper – The Canadian, a truly weird rag that mixes UFO enthusiasm with far left politics and tips on improving your sex life.

The paper includes stories such as “Was the Star of Bethlehem a UFO?” and “Star Trek Linked to New World Order,” and a piece from the Iranian regime’s Press TV complaining that U.S. soldiers aren’t nice to Taliban fighters.

Plus – and this caught my attention – an article by Murray Dobbin, one of Canada’s more important far left ideologues.

Dobbin is a research fellow and board member of the left wing think tank, the Centre for Policy Alternatives, and he writes a biweekly column for The Tyee and for Rabble – a far left website published by Kim Elliot, spouse of New Democratic Party deputy leader Libby Davies.

Davies herself is a leader of the NDP’s anti-Israel faction, which includes about 90% of NDP activists.

In his article in The Canadian (originally published as one of his regular columns for Rabble and The Tyee), Dobbin expresses his outrage over the conference on combating antisemitism held in Ottawa in November.

At the conference, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a great speech pledging to combat antisemitism and to support Israel. In an impressive show of unity, Canada’s governor general, the speakers of both the Senate and the House of Commons, and Michael Ignatieff, leader of the official opposition, all attended as well.

Dobbin calls this “repugnant.”

Worst of all, from Dobbin’s perspective, Thomas Mulcair, an MP from Dobbin’s own New Democratic Party, was at the conference. Within the NDP, Mulcair is a leading light in the sanity faction, which understands that Israel is a normal country, a liberal democracy like Canada that's doing its best in the face of 60 years of unrelenting Arab hostility and terrorism.

Naturally, Dobbin despises Mulcair. But what really pisses him off is that Mulcair didn’t go to the conference on his own. Says Dobbin: “Jack Layton [leader of the New Democrats] actually sent Mulcair to the event to represent the NDP.”

Dobbin says this conference to combat antisemitism left him left him “feeling physically ill.”

However, Dobbin will tell you he’s not an antisemite. He opposes the Parliamentary Coalition to Combat Anti-Semitism because, he claims, they want to make it illegal to criticize Israel.

In fact, the parliamentarians in the antisemitism coalition have never said any such thing. You can read exactly what they've called for here. Only Dobbin and a small coterie of like-minded paranoids have detected any threat to our free speech.

Everyone else – from the Queen’s representative in Canada to the leader of the NDP – is as blind to the danger as they are to the peril posed by the lizard men of Mars.

Dobbin also claims the parliamentary coalition wants to define “criticism of Israel” as antisemitism. Nonsense. In Israel itself, the opposition parties criticize Israel’s policies every day. It’s their job. And I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve had with good Zionists that begin with someone saying, “What the hell is Israel's government up to?”

But such criticisms are about particular actions or policies. In the language of the far left, “criticism of Israel” is code for something like “criticism of Israel’s existence,” and the parliamentary coalition does think such “criticism” is often antisemitic.

For example, when the president of Iran promises to “wipe Israel off the map,” rational people see Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s promise to murder the six million Jews of Israel as antisemitism, not merely as “criticism of Israel.”

Such “criticism” also takes milder forms. Dobbin, for example, calls Israel an apartheid state.

This charge only shows that Dobbin can’t be taken seriously. Israeli Arabs have full equality before the law, vote in elections, govern the country as members of Israel’s parliament, and interpret Israel’s laws as judges – all the way up to Israel’s Supreme Court. Moreover, the idea that in Israel there could be drinking fountains for Jews only – as there were for whites only in South Africa – would be laughable if it weren’t obscene.

Everyone knows this charge of Israeli apartheid is mere slander. But this slander provides a rationale for wiping Israel off the map.

Other “criticisms of Israel” simply update antisemitic lies. For example, when a pseudo-journalist accuses Israel of murdering Palestinians to harvest their organs, rational people don’t see this as “criticism of Israel.”

They recognize the accusation as a new version of the ancient blood libel in which Jews were accused of harvesting Christian children for ritual purposes.

Similarly, Dobbin claims that because they endorsed the antisemitism conference in Ottawa the “individuals holding the most prestigious offices in our national government” showed that they’re “effectively, agents of a foreign power.”

Rational people have a hard time picturing the Governor General and the leaders of the Conservatives, Liberals and NDP as Israeli agents. It makes more sense to see Dobbin’s paranoid vision as an updated version of the antisemitic myth of Jews secretly controlling the world.

It’s a pity The Canadian has allied itself with the far left. Traditionally, UFO enthusiasts have been mostly harmless. They’ve taken a real step down in the world by associating with the likes of Murray Dobbin.

But who knows? Maybe the UFO people will have a mellowing influence, and next we’ll see Dobbin penning a more thoughtful piece, perhaps about the lizard men of Mars.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Who's Silencing Whom?

Professor David Noble of York University died recently. I wrote a piece for the Engage website about Noble back in 2006 concerning a pamphlet he distributed accusing members of York U's fundraising foundation of being an evil influence because of their connections to various Jewish community organizations - in effect damning them solely because they were Jewish...

Toronto. Dec 6, 2006. I won’t say anything about History Professor David Noble of York University in Toronto; I can’t afford to. However, the Toronto Star (22 Nov 2006) reports that Noble "is suing York University's fundraising foundation and several Jewish organizations for defamation, claiming they suggested he is anti-Semitic".

Noble’s suit is for $25 million. This is in addition to his original "union grievance seeking an apology and $10 million in damages for defamation".

It began in 2004 when Noble distributed a flyer titled, "The York University Foundation: The tail that wags the dog".

According to the Star, "members of Hillel of Greater Toronto sent a fax to the university expressing concern that the flyer suggested 'Jews control York University' … [And] The university later issued a news release condemning what [York University President] Marsden called 'this highly offensive material, which singles out certain members of the York community on the basis of their ethnicity and political views.'"

According to the Star, Noble says that he only "criticized York figures for their political views on Israel, not their ethnicity or religion".

Specifically, Noble claims in his flyer that the York University's fund-raising foundation "is biased by the presence and influence of staunch pro-Israel lobbyists, activists, and fundraising agencies".

Among others, Noble names:
MARSHALL A. COHEN, chair of Board of Governors, YU [York University], former Molson [Brewery] CEO, former director, MSHF [Mount Sinai Hospital Federation], Cassels Brock law firm

JUDITH COHEN, chair of YU Fiftieth Anniversary Committee, wife of Marshall.

Does Professor Noble consider Molson’s Brewery a political affiliation? Or was it Marshall’s fund-raising for Mount Sinai Hospital that prompted Noble to add the Cohens to his pro-Israel list? Who knows.

Professor Noble outs additional members of the York University Foundation as being affiliated with other Jewish organizations, such as the United Jewish Appeal – or if not connected to the UJA themselves, for having a brother who is. For example:

H. BARRY GALES, director, MSHF [Mount Sinai Hospital Foundation]; Midland Group, business partner and brother (?) of Leslie Gales, chair of the board, UJA.

The UJA spends most of its money on Jewish education and other local community services, but it does put a fraction of its budget toward pro-Israel lobbying and sends a whack of money to Israel for university scholarships, development of the Negev, settlement of recent immigrants, etc.

So perhaps we should indeed suspect anyone involved with the UJA of supporting Israel’s existence. Indeed, some of these people could be Likudniks – no one knows what their politics are!

Here's my question: Should people with such political views be allowed to raise money for a university? For that matter, should they be allowed to raise money for hospitals? Or to donate money?

This is a serious issue, because it's not just Jewish hospitals. Peter Munk recently gave $37 million to Toronto General. The Kimel brothers donated $15 million to the Baycrest Geriatric Care Centre. Leslie Dan gave $13 million to the University of Toronto's school of pharmacy. Seymour Schulich donated $27 million to York University's school of business and $20 million to McGill's faculty of music. And the list goes on.

I haven’t conducted the sort of research Professor Noble has, so I don't know if these philanthropists have also donated to Mount Sinai or to the UJA or if maybe their brother did. But these philanthropists are Jewish, and on that basis, I believe we should suspect them of supporting Israel's existence.

So what's to be done?

Professor Noble appears to believe ... [Disclaimer: I'm not asserting this as fact, only as my understanding. Readers should look up Noble's actual words] ... but, as I was saying, Noble seems to think that people who countenance Israel shouldn't be part of York University's fundraising foundation.

Noble writes: "The York University Foundation (YUF), which was established in 2002, is the tail that wags the dog that is York University". And: "The recent decisions by the YU President and Board of Governors to discipline pro-Palestinian activists ... and otherwise to clamp down on campus protests, appear to reflect the strongly pro-Israel orientation of the YUF".

I think it's safe to say that not everyone agrees with Noble. Some people doubt that the fund-raising foundation tells the university what to do about student politics, and Noble doesn't seem to offer any evidence for his suggestions. Nor does Noble explain if members of the foundation who haven't been fund-raisers for a Jewish hospital go along with this supposed pro-Israel influence. But, who knows, the lobbyists may have covered up these details.

After all the lobbyists squash all contrary voices, don't they?

According to the Star, Noble is "claiming they [York University Foundation, Hillel, et al] suggested he is anti-Semitic to try to gag [his] criticism of their activities".

Noble also goes on about the pro-Israel influence on student elections (an Israel-hating clique got voted out of power) and the pro-Israel influence on the building of a football stadium on campus (I’m not joking). However, although I'm sure Professor Noble would never dream of trying to gag his critics, I can't afford to go into all of that, lest I say something he finds objectionable.