Categories for Musings

Sid Ryan: the reverse Midas touch

As in, everything he touches turns to garbage.

This Toronto Star typist gets one big thing wrong, here: Ryan is no friend of Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, or many NDP partisans. I’m a Liberal, and I know that much. (A round-up of the last exchange Sidney and I had, in that regard, is here.)

Ryan’s sole objective is to get labour to support the coming budget: that’s all he cares about.  Other, more sensible, labour leaders have a bigger concern – keeping the Ontario PC anti-labour policies from ever being implemented.

That may be achieved by supporting Kathleen Wynne.  Or, that may be achieved by supporting Andrea Horwath.  My hunch, as I’ve written previously, is they’ll take the latter route – not Sid Ryan’s.



Olivia Chow: your morning media round-up


In Tuesday’s Sun: if you agree with this opinion column, you are apparently an anti-Semite

When you go there, the first thing you notice about Israel is how strikingly different it is from Canada’s Jewish leadership, and Canada’s governing Conservatives.

Israel is, of course, quite beautiful. But Israel is also multicultural and diverse. It is progressive and modern. And it is far, far more secular than you’ve been led to think.

“Progressive and modern” – and “secular” – are not the sorts of things one associates with the worldview of Stephen Harper, or many within the huge entourage travelling with the Canadian Prime Minister this week to Israel. Nor would anyone ever associate many of them with multiculturalism or diversity (one man revealed to be with Harper by Sun Media has ties to Britain’s racist English Defence League).

They are monochrome, they are sectarian, and they resolutely conservative. (And Conservative.)

Israel, when you see it up-close, isn’t like that at all. But that doesn’t deter Harper or his retinue of lobbyists and hardliners: they favour an approach that has isolated Israel (and Canada) globally, and which has reduced Canada’s Jewish leadership to a Conservative Party echo chamber. To them, you’re either in favour of Israeli settlements – which are illegal, and which Harper has refused to denounce while in Israel – or you’re the enemy. There is no in-between, for them.

We Irish are familiar with the species. Conservative evangelical Christians, and Canada’s Jewish leadership, are engaged in what is called “trying to out-Irish the Irish.” They’re hardcore. They’re hardliners. And they could not be more unlike most Israelis, who seek peace – not war – with surrounding Arab nations. (Who Harper, last month, actually called “a region of darkness.”)

Jewish leaders in the United States are wholly unlike Canada’s. There, the Jewish vote skews Democratic. For decades, U.S. Jews have been at the forefront of the civil rights movement, the feminist movement, and efforts to maintain a dichotomy between church and state. Unlike recent Canadian Jewish leaders, they have shrewdly maintained cordial relationships with all sides of the political establishment. So that, whoever is in power, they will always have someone to call.

Not in Canada. Here, progressive Jewish leaders – like the Canadian Jewish Congress’ Bernie Farber, or B’nai Brith’s Karen Mock, or Parliamentary giants like Irwin Cotler – have been shunned and reviled for favouring moderation and accommodation. Here, those who have traditionally regarded themselves as Zionists – like, for example, this writer – have been driven out for the temerity to oppose Israel junkets being offered to Muslim-hating white supremacists.

What has all of this ideological cleansing gotten Canada, and those in Canada who support the Jewish state? Not much. It cost Canada a seat on the U.N. Security Council, and has greatly reduced our voice internationally. It has left Canada’s Jewish leaders aligned with cartoonish Christian zealots who want to convert Jews in the end-times. Most ominously, it has reduced the number of friends Israel has within the Liberal and New Democratic parties, both of whom periodically win power.

A fair question to ask in conclusion: if Harper and his massive entourage are so pro-Israel, why are they so unlike so many Israelis?

Simple: Stephen Harper, and those with him, actually aren’t pro-Israel. They are pro-Likud Party. They, like Likud, are conservative, bellicose, and insular.

Likud isn’t Israel. Israel – multicultural, diverse, progressive, modern and secular Israel – is much more than that. And the sooner Harper and his factionalists accept that, the better off Canada will be.

Israel, too.

Did Harper actually say criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic? (updated)

In fairness to him – and, for what’s worth, I kick the Hell out of the Conservative leader and Canada’s conservative Jewish leadership in tomorrow’s Sun  papers – I don’t think Harper actually said that.  Some media have headlined it that way, but I think his definition of “anti-Semitic” is quite a bit narrower.

Here’s the key section of his Knesset speech, as provided by the ever-helpful David Akin.  What do you think?

“No state is beyond legitimate questioning or criticism.

But our support does mean at least three things.

First, Canada finds it deplorable that some in the international community still question the legitimacy of the existence of the state of Israel.

Our view on Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state is absolute and non-negotiable.

Second, Canada believes that Israel should be able to exercise its full rights as a UN member-state and to enjoy the full measure of its sovereignty.

For this reason, Canada has spoken on numerous occasions in support of Israel’s engagement and equal treatment in multilateral fora.

And, in this regard, I should mention that we welcome Israel’s induction this month into the western, democratic group of states at the United Nations.

Third, we refuse to single out Israel for criticism on the international stage.

Now I understand, in the world of diplomacy, with one, solitary, Jewish state and scores of others, it is all too easy “to go along to get along” and single out Israel.

But such “going along to get along,” is not a “balanced” approach, nor a “sophisticated” one; it is, quite simply, weak and wrong.

Unfortunately, ladies and gentlemen, we live in a world where that kind of moral relativism runs rampant.

And in the garden of such moral relativism, the seeds of much more sinister notions can be easily planted.

And so we have witnessed, in recent years, the mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism and the emergence of a new strain.

We all know about the old anti-Semitism.

It was crude and ignorant, and it led to the horrors of the death camps.

Of course, in many dark corners, it is still with us.

But, in much of the western world, the old hatred has been translated into more sophisticated language for use in polite society.

People who would never say they hate and blame the Jews for their own failings or the problems of the world, instead declare their hatred of Israel and blame the only Jewish state for the problems of the Middle East.

As once Jewish businesses were boycotted, some civil-society leaders today call for a boycott of Israel.

On some campuses, intellectualized arguments against Israeli policies thinly mask the underlying realities, such as the shunning of Israeli academics and the harassment of Jewish students.

Most disgracefully of all, some openly call Israel an apartheid state.

Think about that.

Think about the twisted logic and outright malice behind that: a state, based on freedom, democracy and the rule of law, that was founded so Jews can flourish, as Jews, and seek shelter from the shadow of the worst racist experiment in history, that is condemned, and that condemnation is masked in the language of anti-racism.

It is nothing short of sickening.

But this is the face of the new anti-Semitism.

It targets the Jewish people by targeting Israel and attempts to make  the old bigotry acceptable for a new generation.

Of course, criticism of Israeli government policy is not in and of itself necessarily anti-semitic.

But what else can we call criticism that selectively condemns only the Jewish state and effectively denies its right to defend itself while systematically ignoring – or excusing – the violence and oppression all around it?

What else can we call it when, Israel is routinely targeted at the United Nations, and when Israel remains the only country to be the subject of a permanent agenda item at the regular sessions of its human rights council?”

UPDATE: Akin zeroes in on the problem with the speech – it actually seems to suggest that any criticism of Israel is anti-Semitic.  Which is, clinically, insane.  Now – again – I can’t actually believe Harper meant to say that.  But if he did – and, remember, Akin and colleagues are all there, and I’m not – then he has done a huge disservice to Israel.  And he has thereby left himself looking like a lunatic. For instance:

Does that mean, inter alia, Nelson Mandela was an anti-Semite?

Does it mean most American Jews are, too?

Has the white supremacist EDL got friends on Harper’s Israel junket?

Sun News has reported the names of those who make up Harper’s huge entourage to Israel – and one of them, says the eagle-eyed BCL – appears to have unsettling links to British neo-Nazi street thugs.

Did CSIS flag this to anyone in PMO? Did the RCMP? If they did, and if EDL-enthusiasts were permitted to ride along anyway, it suggests the trip isn’t just for those who love Israel.

It’s for those who hate Muslims.



Two Headed Boy, Part Two

Jeff Mangum, the Salinger of rock’n’roll, is in TeeDot tonight and last night with his Neutral Milk Hotel, totally sold-out.  For a guy with so little output – and almost two decades ago – it is amazing how loyal his fans are.  You can hear them sing along on every one of the (very, very few) clips of the band that are found online.

In Sunday’s Sun: the hate Olympics

“The Olympic Games,” says the president of the American Olympic Committee (AOC), belong to the athletes and not to the politicians.” Accordingly, he says, there should not be a boycott of the upcoming games.

Concerned about the possibility of one, the AOC circulated pamphlets that assert “fair play for athletes.” Athletes should not be used as pawns in political debates, says the AOC.

On the other side of the debate is the Amateur Athletic Union, which points out that the host country has broken Olympic rules that expressly forbid discrimination based on race, religion and so on. Participation would suggest support for the regime’s bigoted policies, says the union.

The mayors and governors of New York and Massachusetts chime in, also strongly supporting a boycott. Various religious groups, mainly Catholic, similarly call for one. Nations like Great Britain, France, Sweden, Czechoslovakia, and the Netherlands also moot shunning the games.

Are Russia’s Sochi games, to commence in 19 days, actually in peril?

No, not at all. The scenario sketched out above is real, and it really happened. But it all happened many years ago, prior to Adolf Hitler’s 1936 Berlin Olympics.

At the time, the head of the AOC, the loathsome Avery Brundage, dismissed growing concerns about Hitler’s persecution of Jews. It’s a “Jew-Nazi altercation,” sniffed Brundage, one that shouldn’t concern anyone else. Later, when it was evident that a Berlin boycott would fail, Brundage would go even further, blaming a “Jewish-Communist conspiracy” to jeopardize Hitler’s Olympics.

If all of this sounds a little familiar, it should. The Sochi games haven’t been controversial because Russian autocrat Vladimir Putin has avowedly anti-Jewish policies, like Hitler did. Putin has a different target: gays and lesbians. In most other respects, Sochi and Berlin, however, bear eerie similarities. The boycott debate has been heard before. And the result will be the same as it was in Berlin: the boycott efforts will fail, and the Sochi games will go ahead.

They shouldn’t. While the Olympic Games are indeed about athletics, anyone who suggests they are without profound political value is an idiot. Hitler certainly believed as much, and he used Berlin to provide a smokescreen for his military plans, and the Holocaust itself. The Olympics, he enthused, “awakens the best human characteristics. It doesn’t separate, but unites the combatants in understanding and respect. It also helps to connect the countries in the spirit of peace. That’s why the Olympic Flame should never die.”

Sounds like a modern-day politician, doesn’t he? Hitler knew the Olympics’ propaganda value. He used the 1936 Berlin games for agit-prop, covering the Olympic complex with Nazi banners, and giddily promoted Aryan athleticism. The Berlin games achieved their objective: no less than the New York Times later declared that Berlin brought Nazi Germany back “in the fold of nations” and “made them human again.”

Putin, as you may have heard, doesn’t like gays very much. He has passed what he calls “homosexual propaganda” law. It outlaws promotion of “non-traditional sexual relations.” It prohibits parents and teachers from telling young Russians that gay relationships normal. It also bans pamphlets promoting gay rights. Anti-gay violence in Russia has accordingly surged, and vigilante groups have formed to hunt down LGBT Russians online.

In the lead-up to the games being held at the Black Sea resort town, however, Putin has also made reassuring sounds about understanding and respect. Sounding rather like a certain German chancellor, Putin told the head of the International Olympic Committee that “we will do everything to make sure that athletes, fans and guests feel comfortable at the Olympic Games regardless of their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation. I would like to underline that.”

That, of course, is a lie. Participation in Sochi will do nothing whatsoever to advance human rights.

As in Berlin, 78 years ago, our participation will set human rights back.