This week has seen an upsurge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians. In 24 hours, 79 rockets were fired from the Gaza Strip into Israel. Arsen Ostrovsky asks, "My country is under attack, do you care?" The responses to his piece have been disturbing. Israel's occupation of Palestine is wrong. But a denunciation of illegal-Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians need not be prefaced by a resuscitation of each ill that Israel has inflicted on Palestinians. Victimhood must be inclusive.
In the face of international condemnation of Iran's destructive pursuit of nuclear weapons and its repeated calls for Israel's destruction, filmmaker Alexandre Trudeau reports that Iran's atomic ambitions are for "defensive" purposes only, serving as an effective "deterrent" against Israeli "aggression" and belligerence. That is at least the way Trudeau framed the second instalment of his three-part documentary that aired on CBC's The National on October 14.
I was one of the lucky few who was invited to attend a rare opportunity to have a roundtable discussion with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan who was in Toronto for an exclusive speaking engagement as part of an ongoing speakers series. Annan answered our questions which covered various hot button topics including the ways towards a successful society, Iran, Romney and China. Here is what he said.
I'm angry. You see, as most Americans were waking up this morning, and those in Europe and elsewhere around the world were going about their daily routines, here in Israel -- over one million people were running for cover from a hail of rockets being rained down by Palestinian terrorists in Gaza. Can you imagine if even one rocket was fired on Washington, London, Paris or Moscow? No nation on earth can, or should, tolerate such attacks on its people. I'm angry that there is someone out there who does not know me and has never met me, yet still wants to kill me -- for no other reason than being Israeli. No, I am not angry. I am outraged.
For not entirely comprehensible reasons, the Arabs saw the founding of Israel in their midst as the crowning and intolerable humiliation after more than a millennium of Arab retreat, at the hands of Europeans, Turks, and Persians, and Israel was the last straw. It was an unpromising ambiance for negotiation. The Arabs could have peace tomorrow if they were prepared to accept the right to exist of Israel as Jewish state. Israel and its espousers must stay the course and wait for it. It will come; slowly, but it will come.
Tony Burman, current Ryerson University journalism professor claimed "the Harper government's outsourcing of Canada's Middle East policy to Jerusalem is now complete" in the Toronto Star. Without even a modicum of evidence to support his allegation, Burman used only conjecture and specious argumentation to smear Israel, instead of grounding his opinions in facts.
Many commentators were surprised and puzzled when the Canadian government closed its embassy in Iran last week. But the actions are sudden only to us observers on the outside. These kinds of political machinations happen often, especially in a government that knows it holds a tenuous grip on targeted voters in Canada. What better way to crank up the domestic sentiment than to thumb your nose at an entire country that a large portion of your constituency is hostile towards, while other western leaders are left scratching their collective heads?
Speculation over a possible Israeli strike against Iranian nuclear sites is precisely that, no matter how informed. One group, however, is conspicuously absent from most of the discussions of an attack on Iranian nuclear sites: the 25,000 Persian Jews living in Iran. The least we can do is acknowledge that they matter just as much today and that whatever tomorrow brings, their safety and well-being needs to be a priority.
While going through a bout of religious enthusiasm myself, I took on the practice and decided to let my dog have puppies. I think I learned more about mammal reproduction in one morning of midwifing eight puppies than I did studying zoology for four years at the University of Toronto. But living with the puppies was a nightmare.
Why on earth would police put handcuffs on a man walking a large dog at a Queen's Park rally of something called Al-Quds Day? Neither Cupcake, nor Einstoss, were intent on provoking trouble at the Muslim rally which over the years it's increasingly become a "hate Israel" outpouring. Aside from the fact that Einstoss was merely walking his dog, for cops to side with protestors over those they see as counter-protestors, is a violation of everything the police should stand for. Peace at any price is bad value in a democracy.
The sanctions noose around Iran fully tightened at the beginning of July as the European Union joined the United States to impose a total embargo on all purchases of Iranian oil and place severe restrictions on the country's central bank. As the likelihood of war increases it is important to ensure that the nuclear issue does not overshadow human rights concerns.
On July 20, an Egyptian T.V. show prank where famous Egyptian actors believed they were being interviewed by a German T.V. station, turned into mayhem when they were told they were being interviewed on an Israeli network. This should serve as an ominous warning about the prevailing hateful sentiments Egyptian Arabs hold for Jews.
Call it what you want -- bald-faced pandering to rich Jewish donors and pro-Israel voters (a lot of whom, by the way, aren't actually Jews), or even racist, which is how the Palestinian government's Saeb Erakat termed it -- but the Republican candidate's comment during a speech in Jerusalem about the primacy of Israeli culture as compared to Palestinian culture was a fair point.
When I tell people how much I love to vacation in Haiti, many look at me like I'm a crackhead. It's not unlike the reaction I got when my producing partner and I decided to produce a whole TV series on Israel. For too long, people have tried to oversimplify the complexities of both Haitian and Israeli politics. I'm not equipped to fully assess these complexities but I know this for sure: people are not their governments.
In this edition of One On One, Mansbridge does a competent job debriefing the distinguished CBC foreign correspondent Susan Ormiston, back in London after her latest foreign assignment. So why do journalists like Susan Ormiston volunteer to go to all these places where people kill each other, and too often kill journalists who might as well have targets painted on their flak jackets?
Water is an invaluable commodity in the Middle East. Due to the region's scarcity of this vital natural resource, water can be used to perpetuate conflict, fuel wars, and even procure peace. Contrary to claims made by Dr. Shaddad Attili, the Minister of the Palestinian Water Authority (PWA), in his Huffington Post Canada commentary, Israel exports volumes of water to the West Bank greatly in excess of what the Oslo Accords had mandated.
The humanitarian challenges Palestinians face grow ever more severe; In terms of water, the situation is particularly difficult. Through a range of historical interventions, Israel controls the bulk of the fresh water resources in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The situation in Gaza is even more extreme, with a further 1.6 million Palestinians having access only to the very limited underground aquifer within Gaza, with only 5 per cent of the water safe to drink.
Politics is to religion, like oil is to water, they just don't mix. Recently, UNESCO politicized religion by labelling Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity as an endangered world heritage site, despite the fact that the UN's own experts investigating the state of the Church's premises concluded that the building is not in any urgent danger and that PA hype is just hot political air.
In what can only be described as an act straight from the "theatre of the absurd," comes news that Syria is running for a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. That Syria is able to even nominate for the UNHRC in the first place, let alone be in a strong position to win a seat, is reflective of the endemic problem with the body -- the fact that observance of human rights is no barrier to becoming a member.
In 1994, while in the employ of the United Jewish Appeal and Jewish Federation of Greater Toronto, I was given the task of overseeing former Israeli prime minister Yitzchak Shamir's trip to Toronto. But of course, as fate would have it, Saudi Arabian sheiks were staying in the same hotel as he was. What was I to do?
On June 21, a Jewish woman was detained for hours by Israeli police for praying at the Western Wall. Why? Because she was wearing a tallit -- a prayer shawl. Some say that women who are wearing the tallit are flaunting their piety, but is this really the case? Shouldn't we, as a Jewish people, give women the benefit of the doubt when they honour Hashem?