In Tuesday’s Sun: Fogeled

It’s all happened before.

Israel has made airstrikes against terrorists before, and it has sent troops into Gaza before, as well.

The reason it has done so, now as before, is the same: Hamas has launched hundreds of rockets from Gaza into Israel, using Palestinian citizens as human shields. All of it has a sameness to it. The rocket attacks, the counter-attacks, the troops massing at Gaza’s borders.

What is different this time, perhaps, is what is happening – or, to be precise, not happening – elsewhere. That is, precious few seem to be clamouring to defend Israel.

Some Jews, some Israelis, will say that is nothing new. When Israel is under attack, when its citizens are being killed, few in the outside ever rush to Israel’s side. To be sure, there are some, like Canada’s Stephen Harper, who make strong declarations of support. But beyond high-sounding words, there is little.


It is amazing, when you think about it. Imagine being in your home – in Calgary or Winnipeg or Ottawa – and your kids are playing in the backyard, and you are mowing the front lawn, and missiles suddenly start to land on your street. Imagine that. Missiles like the ones that Hamas now favours – Syrian-made M-302 Khalbars, which have a range of at least 100 kilometres.

The Khalbars have warheads which can hold nearly 200 kilograms of high explosives, and are five metres long. They’re not exceptionally accurate, but they could wipe out your house, and several of your neighbour’s houses. They’d kill everyone on your street, pretty much.

So, when hundreds of such missiles are landing in neighborhoods in Israel, no fair-minded person would deny Israel the right to respond. No reasonable person would demand that Israel do nothing, right?

So where, then, are the other voices in the West, loudly defending Israel’s right to safe and secure borders? Why have they grown more silent than in the past?

In my view – in my experience – it is not because of Israel, per se, but because of Israel’s supposed defenders in places like Canada. It is the leaders of these groups who have catastrophically mismanaged Israel’s reputation in the West. It is these highly-paid lobbyists who have actually let Israel down in times of need.

Personally, I have in the past been a member of the board to the (now defunct) Canada Israel Committee, and legal advisor to the (also defunct) Canadian Jewish Congress. I was always very proud to support Israel, and to raise my voice to defend Israel’s right to a secure homeland.

Some years ago, however, I learned of plans to send two white supremacists on an expenses-paid junket to Israel. I wrote a personal letter to the head of the CIC to object. His response? To leak the letter to the media, and to permit the junket to go ahead.

I thereafter severed all links with pro-Israel groups, and I haven’t been back. Several other progressive pro-Israel advocates – some of them with decades of tireless commitment to Israel, most of then Jewish – experienced similar shunning.

Some will say good riddance, of course. They will say Israel’s best friends are conservatives, and Conservatives are the government in Canada. Who needs progressives?

I say: Israel does. It needs everyone, Right and Left. On those days when Khalbar rockets are raining down on schoolyards in Israel – and when little, if anything, is being said in progressive circles in the West – it now doesn’t seem like it was avery good strategy, does it? It didn’t have to be this way, at all.

All that is happening in Israel and Gaza has happened before. What is new, in comparative terms, is what is happening elsewhere. Which is, mostly:


Monte Melnick, the Ramones’ legendary tour manager, writes about Tommy

Received in comments this morning. Condolences about his (and our) loss:

Tommy was my dearest and oldest friend.

We grew up together in Forest Hills Queens New York.

I went to Stephen A Halsey Jr High and Forest Hills High school with him.

He got me to pick up the bass guitar and enter into the crazy world of rock music.

We played in several bands together (Triad & Butch) here in NYC over the late 60’s and early 70’s.

We built and managed Performance Studios in NYC, a recording/rehearsal studio the Ramones started in. I worked with him when he was in the Ramones and well after he left.

He had an advanced musical foresight, well ahead of the times in forming and being part of the Ramones. He was a great musician on the guitar, then the drums, later on the mandolin, banjo, fiddle and many more instruments. His musical expanse bridged from Punk to Indie Bluegrass.

I mourn the passing of the last of the original Ramones, my friend and a true musical visionary.

Monte A. Melnick

Tommy Ramone, RIP

I woke up to the bad news, and I immediately felt like going back to sleep for good. I tell ya: if there ever was news that I am going to kick off sooner than later, it’s the news that Tommy is gone. (And his death is the top story on the CBC web site; back in 1976, when I got the first record, the best record ever, the likes of CBC couldn’t have cared less.)

Some of the news reports aren’t exactly fair or accurate: he was the original lineup drummer, but not entirely the original drummer – Marky, still alive, was, too. You can read about all of that stuff in the interview I did with Joey, or Fury’s Hour, etc.

Anyway. Here they are at the height of their powers, in London, with Tommy on skins.  In that Brit audience were bands-to-be who would recreate the Ramones’ sound or approach, and enjoy far more success than Da Brudders ever would.  Not fair, still.

Anyway. Me? I’m heading in to the office. I’ll be wearing the tee of them doing a benefit for Johnny Blitz at CBGB in May 1978, shortly after they changed my life forever.


In Friday’s Sun: fair comment about Tony et al.

The last time I spoke with Tony Ianno – and, for all practical purposes, the first time, too – was in a downtown Toronto food court. It didn’t go well.

It was 2002. We had both been at some political event, and I had stopped at a subterranean food court for a burger on the way back to my Bay Street law firm. Ianno saw me, I invited him to join me, and it all kind of went downhill from there.

Tony, you see, was then a Liberal MP, representing Trinity-Spadina. He was big on Paul Martin, and quite eager to see Jean Chretien disappear. I, meanwhile, was a former Chretien aide, and I then (as now) clung to the possibly-naïve view that several million Canadians had given Chretien a big majority government mandate in 2000, and he was entitled to serve all four years of it.

Tony, as noted, wanted Chretien out, toute de suite, so that Martin could make good on his promise to elevate to cabinet every single one of the several dozen MPs who had pledged fealty to him. But he was irritated about something else, too: Tony apparently was of the view that I was personally responsible for the elevation of Maurizio Bevilacqua to cabinet earlier that year.

Tony considered my friend Maurizio a rival, it tuned out. He felt he should be in cabinet, and not Maurizio, even though he had been more or less openly agitating for Chretien to quit. And it was all my fault.

Now, I didn’t read out loud the dictionary definition of “disloyalty,” at that moment, but I certainly considered it. Instead, I merely pointed out the truth: I lacked any such power. Chretien, like all good Prime Ministers, receives advice from God-knows-who, and he makes his own decisions. That’s it.

Tony Ianno was angry, and he wasn’t buying it. We agreed to disagree, and parted ways. The next time I heard about him, Prime Ministerial Blip Paul Martin hadn’t made him anything more senior than “the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers,” whatever that is. He then lost his seat to the New Democrats in 2006, and he sort of disappeared.

This week, as you may have noticed, Tony Ianno was back in the headlines. He has decided to sue a Liberal Party functionary for allegedly damaging his reputation. In so doing, he was joining his wife, Christine Innes, who is suing the same functionary for defamation – as well as Liberal leader Justin Trudeau.

As someone who has practiced a bit of libel law, and who knows a little bit more about it, I think – my fair comment, if you will – Innes has a good case. She was apparently denied an opportunity to run for the Liberals in Trinity-Spadina because of the alleged sins of Ianno, not her (to wit, he was supposedly mean to some Young Liberals). She was characterized, nation-wide, in very unflattering way by he current Liberal regime.

Along with being arguably defamatory – it identified her, it caused damage, and it had a tendency to harm her reputation – it was also flagrantly sexist.

Innes, who I have never met, was being condemned for the alleged actions of her husband. Not, it should be noted, her own. That’s unfair. It’s also sexism bordering on misogyny.

So, like I say, I think Innes has a good shot at victory. Her husband? Maybe not so much.

Defamation is a legal tort, designed to repair damaged reputations. Christine Innes’ reputation was indisputably damaged.

And Tony Ianno’s reputation? It was already well-established – long, long before now.