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?
In September 2012, a successor to Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the current Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, will be appointed. The new rabbi will begin his tenure in September 2013. If the post will not undergo a major transformation and become purely one of spiritual and educational leadership, then it is far better to leave the post empty than to continue the institution of a chief rabbi.
A model of non-violence and civil disobedience in line with the Green Movement that began in 2009 is the best course for the future of Iran. International isolation and pressure on the Iranian state will lead the government toward further repressive measures. Military intervention will only make things worse.
I find myself disheartened by the direction that the conversion debate is unfolding in Israel and the Diaspora. While we cannot hope to be, nor should we strive to be, uniform in our views, we have an obligation to be united as one Jewish people. It makes no sense that Orthodox converts, including those looking to make aliyah (moving to Israel), face the possibility of seeing their fully halachic conversions retroactively annulled.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reorganized his governing coalition and canceled a call for elections less than a day after his cabinet agreed to hold them early this September. For Canada, this is welcomed news. Any shift in Israel's government would pose a challenge for this country's Israel policy, which often confuses support for Netanyahu with support for Israel.
The Jewish lobby is given a lot of media attention. But what people should really focus on is the so-called pro-Palestinian lobby, a lobby that is, when one looks closely, more anti-Israel than pro-Palestine. And one that promotes values that are the polar opposite of Canada's. One can support the existence of a Jewish state in the Middle East and support the Palestinians' legitimate national aspirations.
One of the great myths perpetuated by the media is that Israel stands alone, isolated in the international arena. On the domestic front here in Canada, members of our municipal, provincial, and federal political parties have proudly declared that they are Israel's BFFs. Indeed, much of the same is expected next week when Israeli President Shimon Peres arrives here in Canada.
In a massive defeat for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' campaign to delegitimize Israel, the International Criminal Court (ICC) has ruled that Palestine is not a "state" and it therefore does not have jurisdiction to investigate alleged "war crimes" committed by Israel in the "territory of Palestine since 1 July 2002."