WHY A BLOG?
Imaginative ideas, energy, honesty and lack of patience
describe me totally. I was chosen out of many applicants
to sit on the community editorial board of the Toronto
Star and I enjoyed putting my thoughts in print. You can
only serve one year and then it is more difficult to get
into the paper on the editorial or opinion page, and
so a blog.
Comments of an intelligent nature are invited.
May 11, 2013
WHEN CANADA BETRAYED THE JEWS
What follows are excerpts from an address delivered by The Right Honourable Brian Mulroney to the Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee Annual Dinner in Montreal on May 9, 2013
It was when I moved to Montreal to practice law in 1964 that I first came into contact with a large Jewish community.
The Jews of Monteal were, in my judgement, remarkable. Families were close, values were taught, education was revered, work was honoured and success was expected. How could it be, I often wondered, that the progenitors of such a law abiding and productive group -- that was demonstrably making such a powerful contribution to the economic, cultural and political life of Montreal and Canada -- was reviled over centuries and decimated in a six-year period, beginning in the year of my birth.
It was during my early years in Montreal that I learned of the shocking culture of anti-Semitism that prevailed in this country and this city within our own lifetimes -- of a strike at a French-language hospital because a Jewish graduate of Universite de Montreal medical school was appointed to intern there. Of the notorious quota system at McGill, with Jewish students also needing higher marks to get in. Of clubs where Jews needn't apply.
In 1937 our Prime Minister, William Lyon Mackenzie King visited Germany to meet Chancellor Adolf Hitler. King recorded the following impressions of that meeting: "He (Hitler) smiled very pleasantly and indeed had a sort of appealing and affectionate look in his eyes. My sizing up of the man as I sat and talked with him was that he is really one who truly loves his fellow man...As I talked with him I could not but think of Joan of Arc. He is distinctly a mystic."
This, from the Prime Minister of Canada less than 2 years before Hitler launched the bloodiest war in world history.
The following day, our Prime Minister had lunch in Berlin with the Nazi Foreign Minister von Neurath, who delivered himself of some interesting opinions: "He admitted that they "the Nazis" had taken some pretty rough steps in cleaning up the situation, but the truth was the country was going to pieces at the time Hitler took hold. He said to me that I would have loathed living in Berlin with the Jews, and the way in which they had increased their numbers in the city, and were taking possession of its more important part. He said there was no pleasure in going to a theatre which was filled with them."
And yet Mackenzie King wrote: "I left...feeling that I had met a man whose confidence I would continue to enjoy through the rest of my days...After returning to the hotel, I wrote a letter of some length by hand to von Neurath whom I like exceedingly. He is, if there ever was one, a genuinely kind, good man."
The Prime Minister sets both the agenda and the tone in Ottawa. Is it any wonder then that Canada was slammed shut to Jewish immigrants before and during the War and when asked how many Jews would be allowed into Canada after the War, a senior immigration official famously replied: "None is too many"?
This was a moment when Canada's heritage and promise were betrayed -- because of political expediency; because the Prime Minister had a visceral distrust of Jews and was afraid he could not carry his cabinet on an open-door policy, which in government circles was very unpopular.
But Prime Ministers are not chosen to seek popularity. They are elected to provide leadership. Prime Ministers are supposed to tell Canadians not what they want to hear but what they have to know.
And that is why you all must take an active interest in politics and public policy debates in Quebec and Canada. You must be present in all political parties where policy is developed, stands are taken and leaders are chosen. Political action operates from the ground up. If you are not there with the foot soldiers, you don't get to qualify for promotion up the ranks, where the major decisions are ultimately made.
So join the political party of your choice and participate strongly in its growth. Both you and Canada shall reap the benefits of such activism. And I can tell you that, over a lifetime, I have never seen an instance where an organization of any kind has failed to be enriched and enhanced by the presence of a large, vigorous and vocal participation from the Jewish community.
Article from the National Post
May 10, 2013
It is natural for Arabs who live in Palestine to want to govern themselves as other Arabs have in the Middle East, and to form a state recognized by the world. In recent history the Arabs in that area have always been controlled by others. There has never been a state called Palestine. It is my opinion if the invading Arab armies of the neighbouring states had succeeded in defeating the new Jewish state, they would have just taken over the land and added it to their own land mass. There would have been no Palestine and the Arabs in the area would have accepted the rule of their kinsmen. The Palestine Liberation Army would never have been formed, and if it had, it would have been viciously put down by the occupying Arab nations. The fact that the Jewish state of Israel was formed emboldened the Palestinians to seek control of the areas in which they lived. It is commonly voiced by non-partisan people that the Palestinians are the Jews of the Arab world.
Guerrilla warfare is as old as war itself. Insurgencies of irregular soldiers fought in India with the Moslems fighting a Hindu government, insurgents acted in Cuba with Fidel Castro leading a communist group to power, in Palestine with the Jews wanting to eliminate the British from power, and in Ireland the Irish Republican Army (IRA) fought the British. Since 1775 the average guerrilla war has lasted 7 years and since 1945 almost ten years or longer.
Power, self-interest and hypocrisy govern all human behavious, without exception. There is no ethnic group, religious entity, or race that is exempt. So it stands to reason that by being quiescent, the Palestinians would not have achieved their objective, a state of their own governed by themselves, and with as big a land area as they can negotiate and where they have the majority. The Palestinians of course, would like to eliminate Israel as a state entirely and the Israelis would rather not have to deal with them in any way. Without any resources but small arms, and the lives of their people, they took the only way open and fought a guerrilla war, and killing civilians is the easy way to be troublesome. If they had done nothing, the Israelis would have acted accordingly. They will eventually succeed for a very political reason. The Israelis want a Jewish dominated state but it is crucial that it is a democracy, and that would be impossible with an ever-growing Arab electorate. That is reason enough never to absorb the West Bank. The only unknown at present, is the timing, the borders, and the fate of East Jerusalem.
April 27, 2013
THE AMERICAN WAY
There is in the United States a long-held tradition of possessing firearms to the extent that it is enshrined as one of the Articles of Confederation. An American citizen is by law allowed to own a gun. This dates back to the frontier history of the American states where settlers guarded themselves against Native Americans, wild animals and foreign armies. It is in the western and the southern U.S. that this tenet has the most support.
Statistics arrived at in 1995 by a branch of the American government indicates that there were 223 million firearms in the country. In 2005 almost 18% of U.S. households possessed a hand gun compared to only 3% of Canadian households. A study done in 2011 had 34% of American adults who personally owned a gun, 46% of adult men and 23% of adult women. As well, in 2011 it was shown that 47% of the adult U.S. population lived in a gun household. Guns appear frequently in contemporary culture, such as television, movies, magazines and books. The passion for hunting in the U.S. is very strong and stems from the time that the U.S. was an agrarian society and hunting provided an auxiliary source of food.
Prior to the American Revolution the American states' governments did not have a standing army, or the ability to maintain one. The armed citizen soldier maintained this responsibility.
Americans asked their leaders something very basic: to help change the fact that we have become ridiculously vulnerable to gun violence, includng rapid-fire weapons and bullets designed to cause maximum damage. Every year the massacres and gun deaths and injuries continue to pile up. There is no doubt that the majority of the American people are in favour of some sort of gun control and keeping the guns out of the hands of the mentally ill and criminals. Politics remains politics. It is disheartening to learn that the members of the American Senate pay more attention to the people that provide them with the money to run their campaigns than the actual will of the American people. The American Rifle Association has threatened to defeat gun opponents.
More stringent gun-control laws are not in the future of the U.S. and it is probable that taking guns away completely to the level it exists in Canada and the rest of the world is impossible. If the Newtown, Massachusetts massacre didn't bring change, nothing will.
April 18, 2013
I am trying to come to terms with a book "The Singularity is Near" by Ray Kurzweil, a futurist. The essence of this book is that life as we know it is changing, but the changes are not minor. They come at an ever increassing rate. This is called "exponential growth". It may have taken man a million years to develop language, but change is now measured in years or even months. There is a coming union of human and machine with much greater capacity for speed and knowledge. In a previous blog I describe some major and minor changes in our lives. I refer to the use of computers, communication advances like Facebook and Twitter, the slow demise of reading books and the post office and personal cheques. Of course most people are aware of pharmaceuticals, available for the last 100 years, which help you sleep, keep you up if tired, make you happy if depressed, and allow you to go to the bathroom if constipated.
But can you imagine such a sophisticated drug which will change a marriage or partnership by being able to influence a person's mind to be more amenable to the thoughts and actions or personality of a partner. "Oxytocin" opens a mind to other perspectives and can possibly cure failing marriages. Should we want that? How authentic would a relationship be if it depended on drugs to make it successful? Is the process of manipulation mind chemistry on the same level as body chemistry? Taking a drug to lessen pain is not on a level with a personality change. This is a polarizing situation for ethicists who ae perplexed by technological advances and modern pharmaceuticals. Proponents say that if you have children, you have a moral obligation to keep the family together by taking "oxytocin".
A new DSM-S, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders now lists "shyness" and a "lengthy grieving period" as a mental disorder. A new anti-love drug is in the works for people with an unhealthy emotional bond like the "Stockholm Syndrome". This syndrome also called "capture bonding" is a psychological phenomenon, in which a person is kept hostage in an unhealthy relationship. Some orthodox Jewish groups give serotonin, a vasodilator to yeshiva students to weaken their libido and allowing them to follow their faith's moral code. Women exhibit a limited sexual libido compared to men. Change that, and relationships in many marriages would never be the same. A female "Viagra" would have blockbuster sales. There appears to be no limit by men to change personalities for the better, as they see it.
But we haven't even scratched the surface of manipulation. What would you do if you could guarantee healthy children, brighter childen and vey attractive offspring. This does not involve just being a caring parent. No! You have to change the DNA of a future child before they are born. You can make your new-born resistant to cancer, AIDs, heart attacks and alzheimers. This will not happen this year, or even next, but it will happen sometime in the future. It is called genetic engineering and is happening to mice and a few farm animals now. You insert new genes into a freshly fertilized egg. At present, the federal Human Genome Project is deciphering the 100,000 or so genes spelled out by the 3 billion letters of the human DNA library. The technology is there, but prone to many unknows and errors. Mistakes are acceptable in trials with mice but not humans. There are major problems ahead in human existence and the results are impossible to predict.
March 28, 2013
TOP ATHLETES THINK FAST
What keeps a world-class athlete at the top of his or her field? They need to start off with "natural ability", they have to "practice" many many hours each day, they have to keep fit by "working out" nearly as long as they practice and last but certainly not least their "reaction time" has to be way above average. Fast reaction time is like natural ability, you either have it or not..
When I was much younger I attended the Laver-Emerson tennis camp in North Carolina. Emerson was very friendly, a talented tennis player who won many Grand Slams both singles and doubles. He enlightened me about the habits of professional tennis players in the 1960`s when he competed. Fitness was a bit of a joke, and after playing the tournament, they went out drinking and having a good time. Of course they practiced a great deal. This is not the case to-day. Every professional athlete in order to be competitive MUST be fit. So what divides all athletes with natural ability, a strict practice regimen and many hours in the gym? All athletes do not achieve the same level of fitness as hard as they try, and do not perfect their abilty to perform equal to one another. But the differences between the top players in world-class sports is marginal. That is where "reaction time" enters the picture.
Top athletes think fast. A new study produced information that elite players are able to process cognitive information faster than most. I will offer a few examples. A tennis player hits a forehand wide and moves in for a put-away volley but the opponent has moved his position to receive the volley easily. In that split second the aggresive volley direction must be changed. From the eye, to the brain, to the hand and the volley is out of reach. Or a basketball player jumps for a lay-up with his right hand, and notices the way is blocked. He instantaneously moves the ball to his other hand and sinks the shot. The speed of the change is the key. All athletes have a fast reaction time but some react faster than others. These are the players who remain at the top of their field and stay there. As I have found out age slows reaction time.
March 25, 2013
ISRAELIS AS OCCUPIERS
It does not matter who was there first. Both the Jews and the Arabs deserve their own state in the Middle East. There must be two democratic states living side by side in peace. Jewish people who care, are very sensitive about the existence of Israel and the fair treatment of Palestinians. I am not naive enough to believe that everything Israel does in the need to maintain the survival of the country is constrained. I expect, under certain circumstances, morally ambiguous tactics are used to achieve a desired result. Israelis are human beings and are not perfect, far from it, and in addition it is my opinion that the Palestinian leadership takes into consideration the human rights passion of most Israelis and acts accordingly. What shocked me in a documentary movie entitled "The Gatekeepers" by Dror Moreh, made for distribution in 2013, and well received in Israel, were the opinions of six former leaders of Shin Bet, an Israeli agency charged with protecting the security of Israeli citizens. The six leaders are Ami Ayalon, Avi Dichter, Yuval Diskin, Carmi Gillon, Yaakov Peri and Avrahamn Shalom. Ami Ayalon has since been elected to the Knesset (Israeli parliament) as a Labour party member. These are not ordinary Israelis. While not making top level decisions alone, they were somewhat involved as leaders in Shin Bet in the decision-making. Avraham Shalom, leader of Shin Bet, 1980-1986, confirms that after the "300 bus hijacking", the two leaders of the Palestinian terrorists who surived the action were beaten and executed with the consent of the highest levels of the Israeli government. More recently Shalom acknowledges that the Israelis, in some instances, have become a "brutal occupation force". To have an Israeli soldier execute a terrorist in anger is understandable, but with the concurrence of the highest level of the Israeli government, is totally unacceptable. And that is not the least of the problems. It appears that in times of calm when it may have been possible to sit down and talk with the Palestinians, to quote Dror Moreh, "nothing is happening".
March 23, 2013
WOMEN ARE SEXUAL OBJECT
Women are sexual objects always, but not all the time. The editor of the British edition of Esquire, Alex Bilmes, in a public statement at a conference "Advertising Week Europe" stated the obvious.--"Women are objects" in his magazine. They were,are ,and always will be, in his opinion because it is in the nature of men to look at women in a sexual way, especially in a magazine which objectifies the female body.Of course, they are our sisters, mothers, daughters but in a man`s magazine they are only one-dimensional--sexy and that sells Esquire.
It is ironic that even magazines catering to women readers, follow the same route and objectify beautiful women because these women want to be attractive to men and impress other women with their beauty.Magazines for women do not feature men in scanty clothes, because women are different. This in no way diminishes the obvious fact that women are as clever, talented in their work choices, intellectual and attractive as human beings outside of their being objectified as sexual objects.Women, in general, do not go about their business day thinking" What would it be like to sleep with that gorgeous hunk of a man" It is just the way our world functions.