Remembering my Dad on Remembrance Day

Here he is, age 20, at officer cadet training in the Summer of 1952. Front row centre.

He went on to join the Royal Canadian Armoured Corps but the war ended before he could go over. He always regretted being unable to fight fascism and anti-Semitism in battle, but he taught us to always oppose all forms of hate.

We miss him every single day – and on this day, even more.

God bless him and everyone who serves.

Joly = joke

This damned fool wants to elevate Hamas, a listed terrorist entity, to the “negotiating table.”

What a farce we have become internationally. It’s just pathetic.

Quebec 2023. Not Germany 1933.

Quebec so far this week:

• Synagogue firebombed

• Imam says Jews should be exterminated

• Pro-Palestinian screams “kike” at Jewish student

• Professor calls Jewish student “a whore,” says go back to Poland

• Two Jewish schools hit with gunfire

And it’s only Thursday.

My latest: when there is no one left to interview

Don’t make it about you.

That’s one of the first things we learned in journalism school. First-person writing wasn’t completely outlawed – but, if your story had “I” and “me” in it, you had to have a very good reason for it.

And: what you feel, as a writer, was irrelevant. What matters is how the people you’re writing about feel. Their feelings matter a lot more than yours.

Journalists and writers started to violate these rules in the early Seventies. Tom Wolfe, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson, Joan Didion, Ta-Nahisi Coates, James Baldwin and others started to place themselves in their stories – and they started to sell lots of books and magazines and newspapers.

Some, like George Plimpton, even got into the boxing ring so he could write more vividly about boxing. The new approaches had different names: Participative Journalism, New Journalism. Traditionalists didn’t like it, but the first-person approach attracted converts.

Sitting in a darkened room at the Israeli consulate in Toronto this week, watching unspeakable horrors unfold on a screen, I – sorry – remembered these journalism rules. They created a dilemma.

How does one write about what is up on the screen without personalizing it? How does one write an account that doesn’t describe what one is feeling?

How does one do all that in a way that respects – and accurately describes – the feelings of the people on the screen?

That one was the biggest challenge of all. Because the people on the screen simply weren’t available to be interviewed. And their families – who have been living through horrors that cannot be captured in mere words, even by the likes of Tom Wolfe or Joan Didion – were not readily available, either.

They told the IDF and the Israeli Foreign Ministry that the footage could be shown to journalists, but they did not want it on the Internet, to become the fodder for conspiracy theorists and neo-Nazis.

So, it fell to 25 of us gathered at the consulate on Monday – journalists, commentators, news anchors – to describe what we were being shown, and describe its impact.  The raw footage was taken from security and dashcam cameras,  or devices retrieved from Hamas terrorists. It ran nearly 45 minutes.

I decided, even before I got there, that I would just describe what I saw, and avoid editorializing – save and except calling Hamas “monsters,” which is literal and not figurative. And, at the end, I described how I left the consulate and started to weep.

But I would not editorialize. If you can read about the body of a baby – brutalized and riddled with bullets – and not be moved? Well, no amount of editorializing will change you back into a human.

Before the footage was shown, Israel’s Consul-General, Idit Shamir, addressed us. “What value is there in seeing these horrific sights?” she asked, then answered her own question. “To bear witness. Sometimes, words do not do justice to crimes against humanity.”

“We show you these images to show you what Israel and the world now faces.”

So, my colleagues bore witness. Here is a sampling of what they witmessed:

Sabrina Maddeaux, National Post: “The worst part was the glee. The pure jubilation of Hamas terrorists as they filmed themselves killing and torturing; their excited voices bragging about their atrocities…I’ll never forget the gore, but it’s the look of euphoria and pride in the terrorists’ eyes, cheering for the cameras as if they were the ones partying at a music festival that day, that will haunt me.”

Matt Gurney, The Line: “Glee. Pleasure. Delight. Whooping cheers, selfies with the boys (carefully framed to put dead or captured Jews in the background), huge grins. The attacks were efficient, but not joyless. The Hamas terrorists are thrilled to be doing what they’re doing…And they did so with the benefit of having achieved complete surprise. That’s something else I noticed when I took the time to look past the visceral horror of the murder spree.”

Evan Dyer, CBC: “There are numerous scenes of Hamas fighters celebrating, waving one finger in the air and shouting ‘Takbir’ and ‘Allahu Akbar.’ Jubilant and excited gunmen can be seen both leaving Gaza in the morning and returning with bloodied captives, and with the body of German festival-goer Shani Louk. Some of those images have circulated widely.The film shows Hamas hunting people at military bases, kibbutzes and at the Nova music festival…Hamas can also be seen killing injured people and shooting into rooms full of bodies and blood to kill any survivors.”

These writers, and others present that day, all remark on one thing, over and over: the utter remorselessness of Hamas. Their undisguised delight in savagery and barbarism – and the enthusiasm they showed for torture and rape and infanticide and the murder of so many innocents.

So, then, most of us present broke one of the most important rules of journalism. We wrote in the first person, and we wrote what we were feeling.

But we had no choice.

Because the bastards in Hamas had killed everyone.

Into the wild.

So, it’s absurd to suggest, let alone think, that what I am experiencing in any way compares to what Israeli and Palestinian citizens are experiencing. Their pain is immense and ongoing. They can’t escape it.

But it is also inadvisable, and possibly dangerous, for me to think that I can watch raw footage of 138 Israeli men, women, children and babies get slaughtered by Hamas and not be affected by it.

I thought I could. For days, I had been preparing myself for viewing the video of just some of the events of October 7. I’ve been a police reporter, and I have seen bodies in crime scenes before.

It was arrogant and foolish of me to believe that I could see what I saw and be unaffected by it. When the viewing of the video was over, some of the experienced journalists present were crying. Some, like me, just wanted to get out of the Israeli consulate without speaking to anybody.

Downstairs, my colleague and friend Brian Lilley was waiting for me. He had been worried about me and had said so.

All that Brian needed to do was ask me how I was, and I started weeping. Rosie DiManno from the Star came up to us and was kind. I remember that.

I did a video with Brian’s help, and I look and sound terrible in it. I look like a guy who has seen babies and children get murdered would look, I think.

When Brian and I eventually parted ways, I was uncertain where I was. I could not remember, however much I tried, where my Jeep was. Everything seemed a bit fuzzy and indistinct.

I eventually found the Jeep. It was mistake to drive in that condition, but I had to get to my laptop to hammer out what I had seen. Bear witness, as they say.

After writing, I pointed myself in the direction of home. Friends who know me well started to get in touch with E because they were concerned. She was concerned, too.

But when I heard from some friends with a military background – friends with experience in dealing with these things – I realized that it would be a big mistake to minimize what I was feeling.

My ex-military friends told me to take it seriously, so I intend to do so. And, again: the pain being experienced by innocent Israelis and Palestinians – along with what I saw on that video – is vast. It is beyond words.

But the little that I saw is affecting me, too. I know it.

So, I’m going to unplug and head into the wild for a couple days with the dogs. I need to get my head straight.

And in the meantime, a bit of the Springsteen lyric from Nebraska keeps going through my head, which is as good an explanation for what is happening as any:

There is just a meanness in this world.

My latest: the truth of what happened on October 7

October 7 was beautiful, clear day, and the sky above Israel seemed to go on forever.

It was the weekend. It was the Sabbath. It was a religious holiday.

What we saw – taken from home security camera footage, or mobile phones, or live-streaming, but mostly from the footage Hamas shot themselves, on GoPros – was so, so clear.

It wasn’t fuzzy or faded or hard to see. You could see all of it. You could hear all of it.

This is what we saw. This is what we heard.

I saw the decapitated heads of babies and children. I saw babies with bullet holes in them. I saw babies and children who had been burned until all that you could see was the outline of their little bodies, arms reaching up to God.

I saw a girl, perhaps six or seven, her tiny frame covered in blood and dirt. She was wearing Mickey Mouse pajamas. There was the body of another girl, even younger. She was still in a sun dress with blue butterflies on it. Her hands were arrayed across her chest, like little broken pieces of china.

I saw the Hamas monsters – they were disguised as men, but they were assuredly monsters – firing North Korean Type 58 self-loading rifles at cars carrying Israeli families. The windshields would crack and shatter, there would be sprays of blood and viscera, and then the cars would slow to a halt. The monsters would then pull the Israelis out, and shoot them in their heads. They did that over and over and over. Then they’d cheer and dance beside the bodies. They left behind ISIS flags, here and there.

I saw them at the gate to the Be’eri kibbutz, waiting for a resident to drive up and for the gate start to open. Then they shot the man, over and over, and then they walked inside. Once there, they crept past the small white homes. They didn’t speak. You could hear them breathing on their videos. Once or twice, they’d say: “Where did they go?” They were looking for civilians to kill.

I saw them at the rear of a home, where a child’s swing could be seen. Some music is playing. A cell phone still glows on a table. One monster reached up and sliced a window screen with a box-cutter, then shot a woman who was huddled on the floor, trying to hide.

I saw a dog, a black retriever, approach the monsters, his tail wagging. They shoot him – once, twice, three times. The dog falls to the sidewalk.

I saw a man running out of his house, carrying one son, the other son rushing ahead of them. They were in their underwear. They ran into what looked like a concrete shelter. A few minutes later, one of the monsters threw a hand grenade into the space where the man had taken his boys, killing the man. The boys go into their house, bloodied, crying out for their father. The younger one can’t see out one of his eyes, because he didn’t have his eye anymore. “We’re going to die,” his brother says.

I saw two monsters enter a kindergarten. There are little knapsacks hung neatly on the door that the monsters pass through. A woman is hiding inside a room there, under some of the pillows the children use at nap time. There’s no sound. She’s alive – and then, moments later, she’s dead, or close to it. They carry her out. We don’t see her again.

I saw another woman, hiding under a desk in a kitchen. She’s crying. They shoot her three times, and the crying stops.

I saw a man, perhaps a foreign national – dozens were killed or kidnapped that day – lying on the ground near a wall. He’s bleeding. He moves his arms, a bit. One of the monsters then takes a hoe, and starts hacking at the man’s neck, trying to behead him. “God is great!” the monster screams every time he brings down the blade on the man’s neck.

I saw a woman, dead, holding a dead child in her arms. They are in a room. It’s a bit dim. Then I see there are other dead children and adults there, too. The monsters stand there for a while, looking at the bodies. Sometimes, they fire more bullets into them and cheer.

I saw senior citizens at a bus stop in Sderot, which isn’t far from the border. They had been on a sightseeing tour, and the monsters killed them all. Their bodies were twisted on the ground, left among the canes and walkers and the dirt.

I heard a Hamas monster calling his parents in Gaza. “Dad,” he said in Arabic, “I’m talking from a Jewish woman’s phone. I killed her and her husband. With my bare hands, Dad. Dad, I killed ten, ten with my bare hands.” His mother comes on the line. “Mom, your son is a hero! Kill kill kill them!”

There was another one, caught on tape. “Let history be my witness,” he said. “That this was the first man I killed. The first one. A Jew. Give me a knife, I swear to you by God I will cut off his head.”

There was another one. Two monsters are talking about a dead Jew. “Bring him and crucify him,” one says. He laughs. “We’ve totally slaughtered them.”

I saw a man trying to escape the music festival in Re’im. He tries to hide at the rear of a car. A monster sees him, walks over, and shoots the man in the head.

I saw the Hamas monsters – all of them in military gear, top to bottom, no T-shirts or jeans or the like – take selfies with the bodies of the people they had killed at some of the 30 towns and army bases they attacked. Over and over, they’d yell: “Allah akbar!” God is great, but God does not seem to be present on this day.

At the end of the footage – 45 minutes of it, but it feels like it has gone on for 45 weeks – a first responder finds the bodies of the young people at the music festival. There are dozens of them, bloodied and splayed out in the dirt. “Is anyone alive?” he asks, and there is silence. “Give us a sign of life. Is anyone alive?” But no sound comes.

There was more, much more. About 25 of us are there, mainly journalists and writers. A woman is crying. A man I know is crying.

I go outside and my colleague Brian Lilley is waiting for me. He asks me how I am.

And then I start to cry, and I cannot stop.

My latest: the Magna Carta of Evil

It’s the weekend, so there’s going to be more demonstrations against Israel.

They’ve been happening every weekend since October 7, pretty much. There will be chants and signs and banners, proclaiming participants to be “anti-Zionist” (read: mostly anti-Semitic) and “pro-Palestine” (read: too often, pro-Hamas).

By now, everyone knows who Hamas is. They are a terrorist group who swept into Israel on October 7, and murdered 1400 Israeli men, women, elderly, children and babies. They also took more than 200 hostages.

As we say, everyone knows that. What they don’t know, too often – what the people participating in those marches don’t know – is what Hamas stands for.

It’s not hard to find out. Hamas published its “charter” for all to see back in 1988. It’s their constitution, their ultimate law.

It doesn’t disguise the reality of Hamas. And it’s really important that the people marching this weekend know what Hamas thinks of them. Here’s a short summary of the most important “articles” in the Hamas Charter.

ARTICLES 1 AND 2: These say Hamas is an “Islamic resistance movement,” and call for a “complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgement” – as well as “conversion to Islam.” Meaning, only Muslims are truly welcome in Palestine – and Hamas’ rules apply to every aspect of every person’s life. No exceptions.
ARTICLE THREE: If you’re in Hamas, you are required to “rid the land” – kill, mainly – people who are “unclean, vile and evil.” That is, anyone who isn’t like them.
ARTICLE SIX: This one says the goal is Islamic rule “over every inch of Palestine.” Anything else spreads “evil, schisms and wars.” If you’re not properly religious, “there is no life” for you.
ARTICLE SEVEN: This is an important one. Hamas says it wants its control to “spread all over the world,” not just Palestine. It calls Jews “Zionist invaders,” and calls for Jews to be killed, wherever they are hiding, “no matter how long it will take.”
ARTICLE ELEVEN: Hamas and its ilk are entitled to take back Palestine “by force.”
ARTICLE TWELVE: Women and slaves are talked about in this article – yes, lesser beings like slaves are permitted in the Hamas caliphate, and women are considered lesser beings, too. They can “fight the enemy,” however.
ARTICLE THIRTEEN: Pro-Palestinian types may want peace, but Hamas doesn’t. Ever. It calls them “so-called peaceful solutions and international conferences [that] are in contradiction to the principles of the Islamic Resistance Movement.” It says they are “a waste of time.” Peace talks only help “the infidels,” says Hamas. All that is permitted is “jihad” – that is, holy war.
ARTICLE FOURTEEN: It is “a horrible mistake” and “a sign of deep ignorance” to question jihad against the Jews. Ridding Palestine – and the world, see above – of non-believers is “an individual duty for very Moslem wherever he may be.”
ARTICLE FIFTEEN: Pro-Palestinian educators, professors, educational unions take note: there will be “changes in the school curriculum, to cleanse it of the traces of ideological invasion” caused by Christians, Jews and non-Muslims generally. It’s “a duty.”
ARTICLE SIXTEEN: This article is similar. The main textbook is to be the Koran and materials only from “authentic sources.” Only “specialized” people will be allowed to teach. There will be permitted study of the weaknesses of the Zionist and Christian “enemy,” however.
ARTICLE SEVENTEEN: This is a really important one. It’s called “The role of the Muslim woman.” It’s pretty simple: the role of women is to make babies, ideally male babies. “She is the maker of men.” Hamas’ enemies try to manipulate their baby-makers with films and school curriculums,” but also – and this is a quote – “Freemasons and Rotary Clubs.” They “are all nothing more than cells of subversion and saboteurs.” When Hamas runs everything, they “will be obliterated.”
ARTICLE EIGHTEEN: Women are supposed to “look after the family,” full stop. Women are expected to follow Islamic principles every day. Their role is “performance of housekeeping matters.”
ARTICLE NINETEEN: Art is important, but only if it is Islamic art. “The book, the article, the bulletin, the sermon, the thesis, the popular poem, the poetic ode, the song, the play” are acceptable if they are “Islamic.”
ARTICLE TWENTY: Jews are “similar to Nazis.” They are “vicious.” They permit homosexuals and transsexuals, apparently, “making no differentiation between man and woman.” Not allowed.
ARTICLE TWENTY-TWO: Jews “took control of the world media, news agencies, the press, publishing houses, broadcasting stations…They were behind the French Revolution, the Communist revolution and most of the revolutions we heard and hear about, here and there. With their money they formed secret societies, such as Freemasons, Rotary Clubs, the Lions,” as well as World Wars, the Balfour Declaration, the League of Nations, and on and on. “There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it,” says Hamas.

And so on and so on. We could go on, protestor-types, but perhaps a picture is emerging. If you’re a woman, or a girl, or LGBTQ, or a believer in free speech, or just someone who has a faith that is different from theirs – well, they don’t want you.

And, in some cases, they will kill you, too.