Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Remember, Remember, the Theft of December

As Dalton McGuinty’s government presents its 8th budget since taking power in 2003, it is important to consider Mr. McGuinty’s track record over that period. I will leave it to others wiser than me to write about the E-Health scandal, or the ‘it’s not a tax” health tax, or the litany of broken promises littering the political landscape in Ontario. No, I want to remind you who is once again asking for your vote.

Dalton McGuinty is soon to be in a race once again for the Premiership of our province. He took a strong position against tax credits for parents with children in denominational schools. He reversed the Equity in Education Tax Credit. He used reprehensible scare tactics to malign John Tory on the issue in 2007. Many of us were puzzled by this. Why? Not because of his ideology. Not because he should have had a commitment to fairness and equality, and not because we expected his policies to avoid the abuse and violation of the human rights of any resident of Ontario. No. Though all of these ideas were rationale enough for him to have supported fair funding, or the Equity in Education Tax Credit, one fact stood out more clearly.

Our puzzlement stemmed from the fact that Mr. McGuinty decided to avail himself of the public purse in securing a religious education for his children, while emphatically denying that right to even a fraction of public funding for children in other faith based schools. Yes, Mr. McGuinty's children attended one of our province's separate Catholic schools. I am sure that Mr. McGuinty's children received an excellent education. I am sure that they built a strong base of knowledge in their faith, enabling them to maintain their Catholicism, and become valuable and contributing members of their faith community.  I would not have had it any other way. And yet…

Many children were not able to get that excellent faith based education that our taxes paid for. Many others did, but at an incredibly high cost. The strain of paying for a parochial education such as the one the McGuinty children got for free has impacted families, ruined marriages, and strained the resources of faith communities beyond their capabilities. The education these children received will certainly build a strong base of knowledge in their faith, and perhaps reinforce the lesson of sacrifice. And they will learn, despite the abuse of their human rights Mr. McGuinty's policy has perpetuated, to become valuable and contributing members of their faith community, as well as of the broader Canadian community.

Our children have learned other things, though, that no child in Ontario should have to learn. Our children have learned that elected representatives of some of Ontario's political parties have viewed their needs as less important than those of Ontario's vibrant and well-respected Catholic community. Our children have learned that the leaders of the teachers unions that so vociferously opposed tax credits consider their schools, schools that have always found ways to accommodate and support those who couldn't afford full tuition, to be hotbeds of elitism.

Our children have read newspapers that criticized the tax credits and the parochial schools themselves as a matter of dogma. These same newspapers, while covering their front pages with alleged human rights abuses in other parts of the world, studiously ignore such abuse, labeled thus by the United Nations Human Rights Commission, in their own province. Our children have learned that hypocrisy in some media is the accepted norm, instead of a trait to be shunned.

Our children have learned that equality does not mean equality, in some Orwellian take on who counts in this province and who does not.  When they studied Animal Farm in grade 8, they truly understood what George Orwell meant when he wrote that some animals are more equal than others.

Our children learned that some Ontario politicians did not take the United Nations Human Rights Committee seriously, and showed its decisions no respect. In short, our children learned that discrimination on the basis of faith is alive and well in Ontario, so that when they studied such things in their provincially approved history curriculum, they had examples to point to down the road at Queens Park. 

Did Mr. McGuinty's children learn lessons like this in their publicly funded religious schooling? I hope not. They had every right to receive a faith-based education. Our children were no less deserving of that right.

Years ago, many argued that Dalton McGuinty was undoubtedly an honourable man. As parents, like him, we issued a challenge to him, and to every honourable politician in Ontario.

 If you didn’t like the Equity in Education Tax Credit, we told Mr. McGuinty, then come up with your own solution. Do not perpetuate a violation of human rights by repealing the tax credit; Instead, perpetuate the ideals of equality and religious freedom by making an equitable solution part of your next election platform. If tax credits bothered you, you could have instituted direct funding. If accountability concerned you, you could have set policies that would have moved independent and religious schools (most of which meet or exceed provincial standards for professionalism and curriculum) on the way to meeting realistic standards as a function of their funding. Perhaps you would have decided to offer to qualifying schools the full funding that your children's schools enjoyed.

Perhaps you would have wished to emulate or adapt the policies of other Canadian provinces like British Columbia, Manitoba, Quebec, Alberta, and even Saskatchewan that have, in various ways, provided funding for independent and religious schools. England and Australia provided examples of school funding equity in the anglophone world. The Netherlands is another jurisdiction where respect for human rights has guided their education funding policy. It would have been the honourable thing to do to propose something. Anything.

What you offered instead to members of faith communities who wished to avail themselves of what you took for granted was worse than nothing. It was a slap in the face. And after the slap in the face, it was a rough hand in the pocket, taking money budgeted for in the previous year, in accordance with existing government regulations. The clawback of the Equity in Education Tax Credit on December 18, 2003 back to January 1st 2003 can only be construed as larceny writ large and sanctioned by hypocrites.

It is ironic that in these troubled times, when all Canadians are asked to adhere to Canadian values like tolerance, mutual respect, cultural sensitivity, and the supremacy of human rights, Ontarians must challenge their political leaders to apply those values, instead of looking to them as exemplars of Canadian virtues. The world has changed, but some things, sadly, remain the same. So when you read this budget, and when you consider your vote in the fall, remember, remember, the theft of December.

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Two Arab Voices

Gutless. Two Faced. Disingenuous. Worse than useless. 

Name the international organization that fits this description. No, I’m not talking about the UN Human Rights Commission, though it fits the bill pretty well. I am talking about the Arab League. Today, Amr Moussa, its Chairman, who aspires to the post of President of Egypt, expressed his outrage at the fact that the Allied Forces were creating a no fly zone, rather than simply enforcing it, and stopping Gaddafi’s forces, rather than simply watching them butcher Benghazi. 

Moussa was in the room on Saturday when these matters were discussed. He knew full well that the allies were preparing a series of strikes. He knew also that no Western Air Force would endanger its planes and pilots without first taking out Gaddafi’s air defence capability, radars, command and control. They would also not make a pointless gesture of circling in the sky as Gaddafis tanks continued on their merry way to overrun the rebels in the streets of Misrata and Benghazi. He knew all this. Yet on Sunday, in as craven a pandering to Arab self-victimization as I have ever seen, he blasted the West. This is not what we signed on for, he said. No civilian casualties! Just a no fly zone! 

Moussa showed the world on Sunday that he is the wrong person to lead Egypt. He retreated to the old way of Arab diplomacy. Say one thing to the West, and another to the masses at home. See? We didn’t agree to that! The Western Shaitan has bamboozled us again, all in a mindless grab at Arab blood and Oil! He also may be hedging his bets on the off chance that Gaddafi triumphs and ends up being his nasty neighbour. 

An inspiring commentator at arabnews.com, retired Saudi Navy Commodore Abdulateef Al Mulhim, wrote this month about the failed promise of the Arab League. At its outset after World War Two representing countries rich with oil, agriculture, an ancient culture and a prime geopolitical location, it has failed to provide leadership and direction in every single crisis that has beset the Middle East since it’s founding.

I’ve corresponded with Commodore Al Mulhim. His perspective, with the benefit of decades of experience in the heart of the Arab world’s tumultuous Persian Gulf region, reflects a growing point of view, one that is realistic, not jingoistic. One that looks at lost opportunities not as grievance theatre like those Moussa wished to placate, but rather as occasions to learn, and to resolve not to continue on the same unproductive path. Let us hope that voices, and ultimately leadership like Al Mulhim’s continue to grow and resonate across the Arab world. 

What Moussa has failed to grasp, and what will ultimately be the undoing of his generation of leadership – even those who have been in sometimes congenial opposition to Arab dictators, is that young Arabs lust for freedom as if it were a beautiful woman just beyond their reach. And they are way, way more concerned nowadays about the tank coming up the block to crush their voice than they are about American jets or Israeli blockades. 

This weekend, thousands of Syrians have begun their quest for freedom, with demonstrations in several cities. Their President wears a modern, young face, with a young family and a beautiful wife. Yet he speaks the same language as Amr Moussa, and of his late, unlamented father, Hafez Al Assad. Who knows where their protests will go. Syrian repression is infamous across the world. Tom Friedman of the New York Times, in his book From Beirut to Jerusalem coined the term “Hama Rules” to describe the suppression and murder of 20,000 Syrians by the current President’s father in Hama in 1982 when they rose in protest. I fear that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. What voices will be listened to then?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

It's Time to Stand and Be Counted

I wept tonight, when I heard and saw what Palestinian terrorists did to a young family in a small community in the Shomron last night, murdering them in their home, in their beds. I wept for their three other, now orphaned children. I wept for their parents and grandparents. I wept for their neighbours and playmates. I wept because all of the feelings I had hoped were a receding memory, seeing and hearing of yet another atrocity perpetrated by Palestinians against Israelis, tore at my gut once again. 

I have to disagree with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and many of my friends who have reacted to the brutal slaughter of the Fogel family in Itamar last night. Many of them, including the PM, called the terrorists who did this “animals”. Aside from this being an insult to animals, it evidences a fundamental error in considering, countering, and utterly destroying those who would do such things, those who sent them, and those who support them. 

Why is this in error? After all, the evidence seems clear enough. I recently saw the photographs of the victims, and I wept. What human could slit the throat of a four month old, and stab a three year old several times in the heart? The answer is, unfortunately, that many humans can. Many have done this, and worse. All too often to us, and to others. We must recognize that by thinking of our adversaries as animals, or in other ways inhuman, we do two very dangerous things. 

First, when we think of these people as less than human, we underestimate them. We underestimate their motivation, we underestimate their intelligence, and we underestimate their capabilities. Military pilots across the world are familiar with the tactical dictum “Honour the threat.” Never dismiss or diminish an adversary’s capacity to do you harm. This attack was planned, carried out, and the perpetrators have so far escaped. That is not the work of an animal. A terrorist infrastructure still exists in Judea and Samaria (I have rarely used the term West Bank in the past, but  I intend never to refer to the ancestral aboriginal homeland of the Jewish people by the eliminationist term West Bank again) and it must be rooted out, either with the PA’s cooperation or without it. Another fact must be recognized. Hamas has limited capacity to plan and execute attacks like this in this area. It is possible, even likely, that this was done by Al Aksa Brigade terrorists, who owe their allegiance to Fatah. As long as any vestige of that group exists there should be no more negotiations with Palestinians, even ones as enlightened as Salam Fayyad.  

Second, if we use the term “animal” we fall in to the trap set for us by the hypocritical eliminationist radicals who call themselves pro-Palestinian peace activists. Why do I use the word eliminationist? Well, because it describes them perfectly. They see Jewish religious expression as anachronistic. They see Jewish nationalism in its own homeland as colonialist. They see the very steps taken to safeguard Israeli families – Arab and Jewish alike – as racist. And their answer, their agenda, their life’s work, is to eliminate the Jewish state and replace it with one of their conception bereft of a Jewish majority. If we use the term animals, we look and sound like the racists they accuse us of being. The fact is the majority of the broader public are not engaged or convinced on our side or theirs. Let’s not provide fodder for their agenda. 

The IDF will find those who did this horrible deed. Of that I have no doubt. It took them years, but they found those who lynched two Israeli reservists in October of 2000. They will find these murderers as well. And it is my fervent hope that due process is swift and final. 

But what of the rest of us? What of us in the diaspora, advocates for Israel, friends of Israel, Jews and non Jews who care and love and are heartbroken at the images we saw this weekend? It is time, my friends. It is time we got up from behind the safety of our obscurity or anonymity. It is time we came out from our shells and our defensive postures. It is time we put THEM, the apologists for the slaughter of families, the excusers of incitement, the facilitators of boycotts, its time to put them on the defensive. The brave students of Queens University in Kingston Ontario have risen and forced a referendum to remove their rector who abused his position by accusing Israel of genocide. All across Canada, the US, and Europe, on campuses, in media, in government, and around water coolers, it is no longer enough to promote a vision of Israel beyond the conflict. That is a good start, but it isn’t enough. We are at war. In Israel it remains, sadly, a war of deeds. For us it is a war of words, of ideas, and of conscience. 

It is time to get to work. It is time to find those who work against our beloved homeland. It is time to expose their hypocrisy and shame them publicly. It is time to call them what they are – apologists for murder. It is time to expose their agenda relentlessly. It is time to use every form of media and every scrap of talent we have to put them back on their heels. It is time to use every connection, every friend, every ally we can muster to damn, condemn, and isolate them. No more Apartheid slanders. No more Pride parades with their participation. No more student governments with anti-Zionist agendas. No more politicians marching under Hezbollah flags, and no more columnists spewing hateful rhetoric. It’s no longer a matter of reaction or response. Identify the threat, and neutralize it with every legal, rhetorical and technological resource we have. They should be cringing in shame every time they walk out the door, not leading rallies. We have powerful tools, powerful friends, and we, ourselves, are more capable than we imagine ourselves to be.

 It’s time to get to work.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Methinks He Doth Protest Too Much

In a letter released today, Justin Trudeau, Liberal MP and immigration critic takes Jason Kenney, Minister of Immigration, Citizenship, and Multiculturalism, to task for alleged abuses of his office for partisan purposes. Now, I know Minister Kenney. I've had the pleasure of meeting him and talking with him on a number of occasions since 2003. Of course he is a proud and feisty conservative. But he is first and foremost a proud Canadian and Minister of the Crown - one who has presided over a revamped immigration process and has seen the number of immigrants increase to record highs beyond those of the supposedly most-immigrant-friendly Liberals.

Trudeau's petulant complaint got me reminiscing about my childhood. In 1984, I was an 8th grade student at one of the largest Jewish day schools in the country. We often received visits from the perennial Liberal MP in our riding, Father Roland De Corneille. Our class went on a school trip to Ottawa, and we had the honour to meet Mr. Trudeau's father, the Right Honourable Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who was then the Prime Minister. A 20 minute meeting with the PM, followed by an hour closed door session with the AG, the Honourable Robert Kaplan. For 25 eighth graders. That is some detailed engagement strategy, though I didn't understand it at the time.

Here's some more things about the Liberal ethnic engagement strategy I wonder about. As I asked Liberal MP Elinor Kaplan at an all candidates meeting a number of years ago when she was running against the Canadian Alliance candidate and accusing the CA of harbouring neo-Nazis, what explanation for Liberal hypocrisy did she have on the Nazi file? As the Deschenes Commission (set up by the Conservative Mulroney government) demonstrated, successive Liberal governments ignored the presence of Ukranian, Baltic, and German war criminals in Canada for decades (at least publicly. As John Loftus describes in his book The Secret War Against the Jews, Western governments including Canada's were using ex-Nazis as intelligence assets and the Liberals specifically as ethnic organizers, maintaining their electoral stranglehold on those immigrant communities). What did Mr. Trudeau's father do about this travesty done to our immigration process? 

Here's another: When convicted and deported anti-Semite and Holocaust denier - and new immigrant at the time - Ernst Zundel ran for its national party leadership in 1968, why did he feel the Liberal party was appropriate territory, and why did the party allow him to deliver a speech at the convention?

The truth is, Justin Trudeau's own words demonstrate why he is launching off at Kenney. As he told Corriere Canadese last May, "In the past, the so-called ethnic vote, in other words the vote of specific communities, has always been the prerogative of the Liberal Party. Unfortunately, we Liberals have for too long considered this support a proven and sure thing. It was a strategic error."

Mr. Trudeau - it's time to stop taking Canadians for granted. Engagement and policy are related. Minister Kenney is good at it. You and Mr. Ignatieff, well, let's say you have some work to do.