Tag Archives: politics

Munk Debate

My plan was to write about the Munk Debate on my HuffPost page, but alas, I never got around to it and now it feels too late. So I’ll just post a few thoughts/links here now. I brought my sister with me to see the debate – she had a particular interest in the topic as she has worked with refugees in the past. Further, she is knowledgeable and serious about the Middle East and about the difficulties we face in trying to be humane all while doing our best to not be stupid about our own security.

First of all, some links: Steve Paikin sums up how I viewed the evening, for the most part, and — with considerably more edge — so does Kathy Shaidle (I wish I could write like her!). Barbara Kay and Nicholas Nazar are also worth your time.

I went expecting to like Simon Schama and Mark Steyn and not knowing much about the other two speakers, Louise Arbour and Nigel Farage, other than that Arbour worked for the UN and therefore pleases my Annex-nik neighbours here in Toronto (and Farage decidedly does not). Now, it might seem odd that I attended with the expectation that both Schama and Steyn would impress me, but it shouldn’t. Schama is one of the few literati leftists who supports Israel and his Story of the Jews is quite a treat. And Steyn is, well, he’s Steyn — Sinatra, cats, politics, books, Broadway.

By the end of the evening, I found Arbour to be what my mother would have called “a pill,” and Farage to have been quite reasonable and serious. He and Steyn both showed up armed with statistics, facts, ideals and arguments based on an understanding of events and of history. I had expected the same from Schama, but I was disappointed. Other than his choice of very stylish footwear for the evening, he appeared to be phoning everything in, right down to his closing statement, which consisted of him reading John Donne’s Meditation XVII. The latter is a magnificent poem, but really, Simon Schama, that is your closing argument? It was as though both Schama and Arbour felt it was enough to get up there and say “we should be nice.” Well yes, we should be. I have not a doubt the opposing team agreed with that sentiment. But if we’re blind in our niceness, we will be incapable of helping anyone down the line, which is what Steyn pointed out in his closing argument (which was actually an argument).

There was a smugness in how the pro-side approached the debate, and I think that it was, in large part, why they lost. There was kind of a disbelief — particularly from Arbour — that the audience could possibly do anything other than support her statements. She became quite snarky and snide when she felt any change in the crowd’s mood, any sway in a different direction.

In a way, I don’t blame her for that attitude: I’ve been to many Munk Debates and it is generally a pretty Annex-nik audience (or “Trudeau-pian,” as Steyn called it on his website). Schama, for his part, kept mentioning that he “didn’t disagree” with Steyn and Farage about certain things. I couldn’t help but wonder if he wouldn’t have felt more comfortable on the opposing team (particularly given Arbour’s, er, past attitudes about Israel), but couldn’t bring himself to admit it.

I don’t get out much, because I simply prefer to stay home, but I was glad I made the effort. Thanks to my sister, who really provided the impetus, coming from out of town to attend. If you click the link here, you can watch the debate (though you may have to sign in or register or something).

Another Great Bernie Ad

He is wrong about many, many things. But man, does his team make great ads! This is another goosebump-inducer, rather like this one. I would challenge much of what he says here about “rights,” and also, I wonder what he means when he says the U.S. is the only “major” country that doesn’t guarantee healthcare as a “right.” What is “major,” first of all? There’s more I would challenge (particularly about unions and “dignity”), but man, why bother with the facts? Just enjoy! As my late brother used to say, there will be tears!

A(nother) great Nick Cohen Column

The column in question is ostensibly about why we should all become Jews. Of course, Cohen isn’t really suggesting we should, although Significant Other and I often say that we will have to join the Israel Army one of these days…if they would have two middle-aged out of shape folks.

It’s a column about the pathology of anti-Semitism and how far it is spreading, in particular its grip on much of the political left.

But consider how many leftwing activists, institutions or academics would agree with a politer version [of blatant anti-Semitism].

Western governments are the main source of the ills of the world. The “Israel lobby” controls western foreign policy. Israel itself is the “root cause” of all the terrors of the Middle East, from the Iraq war to Islamic State. Polite racism turns the Jews, once again, into demons with the supernatural power to manipulate and destroy nations. Or as the Swedish foreign minister, Margot Wallström, who sees herself as a feminist rather than a racial conspiracist, explained recently, Islamist attacks in Paris were the fault of Israeli occupiers in the West Bank.

(Oh man, I know so many people — some to whom I am related — who buy such nonsense. Depressing. As my late brother used to say, “the ’60s have a lot for which to answer.”)

Cohen writes of his own experiences (his father was Jewish, not his mother) growing up with a Jewish name and in particular of the temptation — which he resisted — to become a self-loathing Jew.

He does suggest one pretend to be Jewish to see how people’s reactions to you change. It’s fascinating, because when I was in Italy in 2014, there was this awful woman who was always very mean to me and I remember one day she asked me if I was Jewish. I just knew that if I answered “yes,” she would have hated me even more, but I thought the fact that she suspected it (as though it were a crime) was revealing.

The Anti-Semitism of the Left (Again)

Roger Cohen is a bit late to have noticed this, but glad he wrote this fine column. I have relatives who suffer from what he calls “anti-Zionism derangement syndrome.” But as my late brother — who was far too smart to suffer from it — used to say, you can’t reason with people who have this affliction, as they have no interest in facts. Sadly, I am not surprised that much of this derangement has flourished in academia. (Occasionally, I consider going back to school to get my PhD, but then I talk to friends of mine working in academia and reconsider.)

What is striking about the anti-Zionism derangement syndrome that spills over into anti-Semitism is its ahistorical nature. It denies the long Jewish presence in, and bond with, the Holy Land. It disregards the fundamental link between murderous European anti-Semitism and the decision of surviving Jews to embrace Zionism in the conviction that only a Jewish homeland could keep them safe. It dismisses the legal basis for the modern Jewish state in United Nations Resolution 181 of 1947. This was not “colonialism” but the post-Holocaust will of the world: Arab armies went to war against it and lost.

So simple, really. I don’t understand the difficulty people have grasping this, but I think Bernard Lewis was right when he called anti-Semitism a pathology, a mental illness. It isn’t rational.

The Left’s Problem with Jews has a long and Miserable History

That is the title of an important article by Simon Schama, published in the Financial Times. If you can’t read the whole thing — due to the paywall — you can read about it, here.

I mention it because of the vote condemning BDS in the House of Commons last week. To no one’s surprise, Elizabeth May, renowned half-wit and terrorist-apologist, said she would vote against the motion and then, perhaps also to no one’s surprise, she skipped the vote (the Green Party would be a lot less pitiful if it got itself a leader with a 3-digit IQ. I suspect some Greens are sane and I do agree with them on rather more issues than one might expect).

The NDP voted against the motion, as well. I expected this from most of the NDP, but I was disappointed in Mulcair. Does he want to remain leader so desperately that he will sell out on the one area where he had some integrity? Sheesh. The irony is, it won’t save him. I suspect they will ditch him and get a new leader, possibly from the growing, totally-crackpot-when-it-concerns-the-Middle-East branch of the party. (Remember that lovely candidate of theirs who made jokes about Auschwitz?)

And, of course, the Bloc voted against the motion. Does it even need to be said?

As for the Liberals, I am glad for the way they voted — although it must be remembered that some of them abstained — but they are all over the map on support for Israel. I suspect it is because they have few guiding principles. On the one hand, they seem to want to go back to the “glory days” of getting invited to UN cocktail parties and hanging out with dictators. Hence, the spouting of drivel about “honest brokers” and blah blah blah. On the other, they voted in a morally sound way on BDS.

So make of that what you will. And read Terry Glavin’s great column about why BDS does not help anyone, least of all any Palestinians.

Consistent Leftists (you Know, the Ones who are Actually Anti-Fascist)

There aren’t many, particularly when it comes to battling jihadis/Islamism (why we miss Hitchens and Norm Geras and why we appreciate Paul Berman), but Hilary Benn has revealed himself to be one such rare bird. This speech is extraordinary — the moral clarity, the integrity, the intelligence. Would any Canadian NDP or Liberal politician speak this way? No. Mediocrity is certainly the default position of both of those parties.

The really fun part of watching this clip is, of course, Jeremy Corbyn’s expression. He’s all like, damn, but I love Islamists! And the West is bad! We’re bad, bad, bad...blah blah blah. What a major loon.

From the speech – stand-out quote (among many):

We are here faced by fascists. Not just their calculated brutality but their belief they are superior to every single one of us in this Chamber tonight and all of the people that we represent. They hold us in contempt. They hold our values in contempt, they hold our belief in tolerance and decency in contempt, they hold our democracy — the means by which we will make our decision tonight — in contempt. But what we know about fascists is that they need to be defeated. And it is why, as we have heard tonight, socialists and trade unionists and others joined the international brigade in the 1930s to fight against Franco; it is why this entire house stood up against Hitler and Mussolini; it is why our party has always stood up against the denial of human rights and for justice. And my view, Mr. Speaker, is that we must now confront this evil.

Now watch and marvel.