Saturday, 30 August 2014

Gaza Ceasefire: Did Netanyahu Make the Right Call?

The latest war in the Gaza Strip has finally ended, or so it would seem.  After nearly a dozen failed ceasefires, all of which were broken by the terrorists in Gaza firing rockets into Israel, this latest cessation of hostilities seems to be holding - much to the dismay of many Israelis, including myself, who wanted Netanyahu's government to finish off Hamas and the rest of the terrorist bunch in Gaza once and for all.  Immediately after the ceasefire was announced, polls showed that support for Netanyahu, who we Israelis sometimes call "Bibi", had taken a nosedive (see: Prime Minister's support plummets as fighting ends).  For those of you who have read my previous blogs regarding Israel's latest scuffle with terrorists in the Gaza Strip, you know that I favoured military action until every last vestige of terrorism in the coastal enclave was eliminated.

Gaza's Terrorists Choose Their Rockets Over Their People's Well-Being

Netanyahu: Don't Listen to Bleeding Heart Liberals Like Obama and Kerry.  Stay the Course

Hamas and All Other Terrorists in Israel's Midst Must be Exterminated

After hearing about Bibi's sudden loss of support, I think it's safe to say that many Israelis thought the same way that I did.  But even though I'm not happy that Netanyahu has allowed Hamas, Islamic Jihad and all the other terrorist scumbags in Gaza to survive, I still trust his judgement because he is the only person who can lead Israel in the current situation.

In Netanyahu I Trust

I've always thought of Bibi as Israel's own Winston Churchill, who also consistently and correctly warned the international community about the clear and present dangers of the time - and who was all too often ignored in very much the same way that leaders in the international community have ignored Netanyahu over the years.  People should know by now that they ignore Bibi at their own peril.  In fact, if we had heeded his warnings, Hamas and company wouldn't be in control of the Gaza Strip and Israel would not have lost many of its own civilians and soldiers trying to stop them from pelting the country with rockets up until now.  So even though I and many other Israelis may disagree with his decision to end our assault on Gaza's terrorists, we should nevertheless give him the benefit of the doubt.  I continue to place my trust in Netanyahu and I hope that my fellow Israelis will do so as well.  After all, he's been right so many times already, so it's very difficult not to trust in him. 


Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Great Dog Debate

Today, I read a piece by The Toronto Star's Joe Fiorito discussing a potential solution to the problem of man's best friend doing their business on Toronto's lawns (see: Dogs have Toronto yards going to waste).  In his article, Fiorito recommends that dog owners in Toronto be required to walk their dogs alongside the curb to prevent them from urinating or defecating on the city's lawns.  For those of you who live in Toronto or any other big city where there are both a lot of people and a lot of dogs, you've probably had the misfortune of stepping in dog feces at least once or twice.  And if you're one of the folks in Toronto who is lucky enough to own a home with a lawn despite this city's crazy home prices, then chances are you've probably caught a dog owner, or two, or more using your delicately manicured grass for Fido to relieve himself.  Oh the frustration!  But of course, this frustration also exists amongst dog owners.

I am a dog owner myself and I too am frustrated by the behaviour of some of my fellow dog owners.  In fact, whenever I happen to step in dog poop, it's usually when I'm walking my own dog.  Believe me, I and many other dog owners who are responsible and pick up after their pets do not like seeing our beautiful lawns and parks fouled by dog waste any more than people who don't have dogs do.  So for those of you dog owners who think you don't have to pick up after your four-legged friends, my message to you is either wise up or don't own a dog because you're giving all of us dog owners a bad name.

Still, I believe that dog owners like myself have legitimate grievances that people who don't own dogs fail to consider.  For example, like a growing number of dog owners, I do not live in a single family home with a fenced yard.  Instead, I live in a condo on the 8th floor of a 20-story building.  And although my dog lives a happy life with me, not having my own personal, private lawn often means that my dog has to do her business outside on someone else's lawn.  This is a fact of life for many dog owners who happen to live in multi-unit buildings.  And it just isn't practical to expect everyone who owns a dog to have a home with a fenced yard, especially in Toronto where housing prices are through the roof.  Now of course, when my dog defecates, I pick it up, but there's nothing I can do when my dog needs to urinate.  Yes, I understand that dog urine can ruin a lawn and leave yellow stains on the grass, especially since my dog is a female and the urine of the female is more acidic and hence more harmful to grass.  But what else am I or any other dog owner in my situation supposed to do?  Should I train my dog to go on the concrete instead?  I don't think so.  People in Toronto or any other big city don't appreciate dogs fouling the streets and sidewalks any more than they enjoy them doing their business on public or private lawns. 

Unfortunately, however, many dog owners are in a worse situation than I am in that they may not even have any lawns nearby where their dogs can do their business.  Let's face it, green space is an increasingly rare luxury in big cities like Toronto, which is why there are frequent conflicts in public parks where dog owners illegally let their dogs off-leash to play because legal, off-leash parks are very hard to come by and creating new ones is a prospect that is often fiercely opposed by members of the public who don't understand or respect the needs of dogs and their owners.  In fact, even when new, off-leash parks are created, the results aren't always positive.  I still remember when an off-leash area was created in the park I used to go to with my dog.  It ended up turning into a mud pit and the soil became contaminated, so I stopped going there.

The fact of the matter is that both dog owners and people who don't own dogs feel increasingly under siege.  Dog owners like myself feel that there simply isn't enough space for our canine buddies and that our dogs are increasingly unwelcome in the city.  On the other side of the coin, people who don't own dogs are tired of unruly pooches running loose, making noise and even causing harm to people, not to mention the growing nuisance of dog waste left behind by irresponsible pet owners.

I think what is needed is for both dog owners and people without dogs to take a deep breath, step back a little bit, and take some small, easy steps that will help cool the tension a little bit.  For dog owners, the simple step of picking up after your pet will go a long way to lessening the frustrations of your fellow citizens.  For those of you who don't own dogs, please try to have some patience whenever Fido leaves his mark on your lawn.  Try to understand that sometimes, dog owners have no choice but to allow their canine friends to relieve themselves in the closest place possible.  Hey, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go.  And if your lawn does end up with a yellow spot, or two, don't make such a fuss.  It's just grass, and there are plenty of inexpensive products out there that can repair the damage done by pet waste.  Finally, both dog owners and folks without dogs need to chill out and climb down from their high horses.  If someone asks you not to let your dog do his business on their lawn, don't immediately flip them off and start shouting obscenities.  The same goes for when you see a dog defecate on your lawn.  Don't just scream at the owner using various four-letter words.  Instead, kindly tell him to pick up after his dog.  You can even offer him a bag.  Basically, if we all just mellow out and take some simple, tiny steps towards being more neighbourly, we will all feel a lot better at the end of the day. 

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Gaza's Terrorists Choose Their Rockets Over Their People's Well-Being

The late Abba Eban, a former Israeli diplomat and cabinet minister, once remarked that the Palestinians and their fellow Arabs "never missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity," and it looks like they've done it again.  Not too long after Israel agreed to extend the latest five-day ceasefire by 24 hours, Gaza terrorists again fired their rockets.  In fact, just hours before I began writing this, terrorists fired a barrage of rockets into central Israel, with Tel Aviv and Ben Gurion International Airport amongst their targets.  Once again, optimism about the future of the Gaza Strip and its people has been replaced by the dread of continued conflict, more deaths and more suffering.  All because Gaza's terrorist leaders decided that their rockets and their ability to keep terrorizing Israel's citizens was more important than the well-being of their people.

What Could Have Been...

During the ceasefire discussions mediated by Egypt, a lot was offered to the Gaza Strip and its people if only the terrorists would agree to the territory's demilitarization.  The border crossings could be opened.  Goods could start moving into and out of the Strip again.  Homes and businesses could be rebuilt.  There would be trade and commerce again; a real economy again, where Gazans could return to a meaningful existence, instead of just trying to survive from one day to the next.  In short, demilitarization in exchange for economic prosperity and a better future.  But as we all know now, Gaza's terrorist leaders have decided that their rockets are more important than their people.  I'm not surprised.  Hamas and the rest of the terrorist bunch in Gaza feed on the misery of their people.  They need to keep their people miserable.  Why?  So that they can keep telling their people to blame Israel for their misery.  Just think of what would happen if the terrorists agreed to demilitarization.  There would be economic prosperity and they would lose the support of their people, because people who have the opportunity to earn a decent living for themselves and their families are far less likely to support terrorists.  In fact, Palestinians are beginning to realize that as long as Hamas and other terrorist groups in Gaza rule the roost, they will never be able to live meaningful lives.  See, for example:

Subtle voices of dissent surface in war-torn Gaza

After months of bitter fighting, Gazans said questioning Hamas decisions

Palestinian Leader Mudar Zahran: Hamas is killing my people

What Should Israel Do Now?

First, Israel must do whatever is necessary to put a permanent end to the rocket fire on its citizens from the Gaza Strip.  Second, Israel needs to make sure that it can end its blockade on Gaza so that Palestinians can once again start living meaningful lives, without compromising its own security.  The Israelis and the Palestinian civilians who have died during this conflict will have died in vain if these two objectives are not achieved.  But how can Israel achieve this?  Should its government keep trying to negotiate with the terrorists for a long-term ceasefire?  Absolutely not!

Gaza's terrorists have already shown time and again that they cannot be trusted to adhere to any ceasefire agreement, short-term or long-term.  Besides, a ceasefire is just what the terrorists need to recover their strength, rebuild their weapons arsenals and prepare for future conflicts where they can harm Israel again (see: Hamas: Ceasefire Allows Us to Prepare for Future Battle to Destroy Israel).  Some people just don't get it.  Terrorist groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad are out to wipe Israel off the face of the Earth and will not stop until they achieve their objective - or until Israel destroys them first, which is exactly what I think Israel should do.  And this isn't the first time I've said this.  In fact, shortly after this latest conflict in Gaza began, I said that Israel should exterminate all of the terrorists in their midst (see: Hamas and All Other Terrorists in Israel's Midst Must be Exterminated).

I do understand that there are many folks out there who don't believe a military solution to Israel's conflict with Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups is possible, but they are just plain wrong.  Many people probably also thought that there was no military solution to the terrorist insurgency in Sri Lanka, where the Tamil Tiger terrorist group managed to take over a sizable portion of the country's north.  But in 2009, the Sri Lankan military finally defeated the terrorists and took back all of the territory that they had conquered.  Israel now has the opportunity to do what Sri Lanka did five years ago: to defeat the terrorists in its midst and drive them out of the territory that they've taken once and for all.  Bear in mind, of course, that the defeat of the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka did not end the conflict between the island's majority Sinhalese community and the minority Tamils, nor will defeating Hamas and the other Palestinian terrorist groups bring an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  But exterminating terrorist groups like Hamas will allow Israelis to live in peace without the threat of rocket fire or other acts of violence, while Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and elsewhere in the Holy Land can live their lives without obstacles to their economic prosperity and rightful pursuit of happiness.      



Sunday, 10 August 2014

World War I Began One Hundred Years Ago This Month. How Likely is Another World War? Unfortunately, Very Likely

People all over the world have been marking the 100th anniversary of the beginning of World War I, which began one hundred years ago this month.  As we mark this pivotal point in world history, some find themselves asking if another world war could take place.  I hate to be the harbinger of doom, but unfortunately, I believe the outbreak of a third world war is very likely.  And even more unfortunately, I think it will happen soon.

The Prelude to War

Today, I believe that the world is sewing the seeds for another world war.  One aspect of this is a re-assertive Russia.  Indeed, the behaviour of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin is very reminiscent of Hitler's behaviour leading up to WWII.  The former's seizure of Crimea and his attempt to take over eastern Ukraine is very much like Hitler's takeover of Austria and his subsequent annexation of Czechoslovakia's Sudetenland.   In the same manner exercised by Hitler, Putin is simply testing the waters and seeing how far he can go before having to take on the West militarily, which he is not yet ready to do, nor was Hitler when he made his first conquests.  Unfortunately, the West did not threaten Hitler with force for taking over Austria and the Sudetenland, nor have they threatened Russia with force for taking over Crimea and trying to conquer eastern Ukraine, so it appears that history will repeat itself and Putin will be allowed to grow stronger, just as Hitler was.

An increasingly assertive China is another factor that I think will eventually lead to war.  China is already the world's second largest economy and is on pace to eclipse the current 1st place economy, the U.S., before the end of this decade.  The Chinese military is expanding rapidly as is the country's sphere of influence.  China is now the leading investor in Africa, which will give it allies in the upcoming global conflict.  And in the last few years, China has begun to rattle its sabers, attempting to assert control over islands in the adjacent seas that are also claimed by other countries in the region.  Actually, China is claiming entire seas rather than just a few islands in them.

Another development that will characterize WWIII is the increasingly violent feud between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.  The recent emergence of the Islamic State and its growing list of atrocities is just one example of this feud, and I strongly believe that the Sunni-Shiite feud will become part of a wider global conflict.

The last thing I would like to mention is the growth of anti-Western regimes in Latin America.  These regimes currently control several countries in the region.  They will inevitably grow closer to the West's main opponents, Russia and China, and may even be launching pads for invasion of the U.S. itself in a future world war.

As what I have mentioned above comes to fruition, the world will edge itself closer and closer to the greatest conflict that humankind has ever seen.  I believe that we have around ten to twenty years before WWIII begins.  I base this timeline on the fact that two of the main players in the upcoming conflict, Russia and China, do not yet have the military strength to challenge the West directly, but I believe they will have it within the next decade or two.

The Competing Blocs:

As with the first two world wars, I contend that WWIII will be a competition between two alliances or blocs of states.  The first of these alliances will be NATO, overlapping with the European Union.  They will be joined by other non-Western countries, most notably Israel, Japan and the Sunni Arab states.  This alliance will be opposed by one led mainly by Russia and China, whose allies will include the Shiite-led states of Iran, Iraq and Syria, as well as other countries in Latin America and Africa.

What Sparks the Conflict?

My feeling is that WWIII will begin in very much the same way as the first two world wars; with one event starting a chain reaction that leads to country after country hopping onto the warhorse.  And I believe that it will be one of the countries in the alliance led by Russia and China that will initiate hostilities.  My sense is that one of these countries, perhaps Russia itself, will attack a country allied to the West over a dispute involving natural resources.  One possible scenario that comes to mind is Russia attacking Israel over the latter's plan to export gas to Europe, thus reducing or even eliminating the continent's dependence on Russian gas and thereby endangering the Russians' ability to influence European affairs.  By this time, of course, there will likely already be a lot of tension between the two blocs of countries that I mentioned above.  In any event, such an attack would immediately cause NATO to come to Israel's defense and declare war on Russia, leading the Russians to call on its own allies to join them in the fight against the Western-led alliance.  From there on, it will pretty much be all hell breaking loose.   

The Frontlines:

Almost all the main frontlines in WWI were in Europe, whereas the main frontlines in WWII spanned three continents: Europe, Asia and Africa.  During the two wars, and especially in WWII, significant battles also took place in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  Both wars left much of the world untouched, which is one of the reasons that the United States emerged from WWII as the preeminent Western superpower as there were no battles on the soil of the Americas and so the U.S. was spared the kind of destruction witnessed by its allies in Western Europe.

In World War III, however, I believe that no continent or ocean will be spared a significant amount of devastation.  Indeed, some of the most ferocious battles may take place on North American soil, where no great battles have taken place since the 19th century.  I am almost certain that Russia and China will attempt an invasion of North America, but I don't think that this invasion will begin in Alaska as the Americans might expect.  Instead, I believe that Sino-Russian alliance will circumvent Alaska and invade North America through Canada.  Decades ago, when the impact of climate change was not as significant as it is today, this would not have been possible as ice would block an invasion force from entering northern Canada, even in the summer months.  Now, however, the waterways in Canada's north are almost ice-free during the warmer months, making an invasion possible.  My sense is that northern Canada will be taken quickly, and after just a month or two, the armies of Russia and China will have control of Alaska and a large part of Canada.  Their next goal will be to take the Canadian province of Alberta and its vast oil and gas reserves.  Indeed, the fight for oil and gas will shape many of the frontlines in WWIII.  Whoever is able to control the vast majority of the world's oil and gas reserves will likely win the war.  This is actually the reason why I support the Keystone pipeline that is meant to take oil from Alberta to refineries in Texas.  This pipeline may be key to America's survival, and if it isn't built, the U.S. may have a much harder time getting the oil and gas it needs to win the war.

The other main battle fronts will be in Europe, Southeast Asia and the Middle East.  The battle for control of the Middle East will be particularly bloody, perhaps worse than any other front.  In fact, I think that some of the war's worst atrocities may take place in this region, influenced mainly by the hatred that characterizes the Sunni-Shiite feud.  Of course, the oil and gas resources of the Mideast will be a major factor, but ironically the most important source of these resources that the Western-led alliance will need to protect may not be in the Arab states, but in Israel.  Today, Israel is certainly not a main hub for oil and gas, but this will change in the near future with the recent discovery of vast reserves of natural gas off the Israeli coast in the Mediterranean Sea.  I believe that in the future, these reserves will allow Europe to get rid of its dependence on Russian gas, and so the survival of Israel in WWIII may be the key to preventing Russia from taking over all of Europe.  Indeed, victory in Europe for the Russians may mean victory in WWIII altogether.  Hence, Israel itself may be the key to victory in the entire war.  As I already mentioned, it may even be the site of the attack that starts the war.

The Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction in World War III

During the Cold War, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union kept their fingers off the nuclear trigger because they knew that the use of nuclear weapons would mean mutually assured destruction, or M.A.D. as it was also known.  I believe that something akin to this concept will delay the use of nuclear weapons until later in the war when one side is on the cusp of defeat and desperation kicks in.  I also believe, however, that each side will resort to the use of other WMDs throughout the course of the war, including biological and chemical weapons.

Who Will Win?

I am a firm believer in the principle that good always triumphs over evil, and so I surmise that the West and its allies will ultimately emerge from WWIII victorious.  It will be very close though, just as it was in WWII when Hitler's Nazi Germany was on the cusp of the total conquest of Europe with only Great Britain standing in its way.  At the time, many believed that the British would not survive the Nazi onslaught and that it was only a matter of time before they were defeated.  But of course, Great Britain did survive and its survival ultimately allowed the Allies to stage the so-called D-Day invasion, which eventually led to the fall of Hitler and his tyrannical Third Reich.  I believe that this type of scenario will probably play out again in WWIII, and just as in WWII, the West will manage to stand their ground.



Wednesday, 6 August 2014

Ethnic and Religious Minorities in the Middle East are in Peril, But Nobody Seems to Care

For the last month, the international community has been preoccupied with the conflict in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has been fighting to safeguard its citizens from barrages of rocket fire and infiltration attempts onto its territory by terrorists who have been using Gaza's civilians as human shields to protect themselves and their weapons from the Israeli onslaught.  And while different nation-states and international organizations have been busy heaping condemnation on Israel for defending itself, the cries for help from other peoples in the region, specifically those who happen to be members of an ethnic or religious minority, have generally gone unnoticed.

Christian and Other Religious Minorities in the Middle East on Brink of Extinction:

Anyone familiar with the history of the Middle East knows that Christianity was founded in the region just as Judaism and Islam were.  Indeed, Jesus Christ is sometimes referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, after the town where he spent his childhood, now located in northern Israel.  Christianity once thrived throughout the region and some of the oldest Christian communities still reside there...but for how long?  Not too long, if the Islamist fanatics have their way.  The Christian exodus from the Middle East began as the Arab states in the region gained their independence.  Under the growing influence of Islamic fundamentalism, many Arab states began a process of Arabization and Islamization in which anything and anyone non-Arab and non-Muslim was considered heresy and needed to be uprooted.  The Christian population in the Middle East is now at its lowest level history, since the founding of the religion itself.  In fact, one of the only Middle Eastern states in which the Christian population is actually growing is Israel.  Contrast this with other parts of the Holy Land, such as Bethlehem or the Gaza Strip, both of which are communities under Palestinian control where the Christian population has sharply declined.

The gravest threat to Christian communities in the Middle East today is the growing reach of the so-called Islamic State, formerly known as ISIS.  This group, which some say is more extreme than even Al-Qaeda, has taken over large swathes of territory in northern and central Iraq, as well as northeastern Syria.  Some of this captured territory includes large cities, like the northern Iraqi city of Mosul.  In fact, shortly after the Islamic State captured Mosul, the group ordered the city's large Christian community to covert to Islam, pay a head tax, or be killed (see: Iraqi Christians flee from Mosul after ISIS ultimatum: Convert to Islam, pay a tax or face death).  This ultimatum triggered a max exodus of Christians from the city.  The most recent advances of the Islamic State's military forces have left another ancient religious community, the Yazidis, virtually trapped and pleading for help from the international community (see: Politician begs world to help Iraq's Yazidis). The response from the international community so far: pure silence - so quiet that you can hear the wind pushing the tumbleweeds past your feet.  But of course, it isn't Jews or Israelis carrying out this campaign of extermination, so the rest of the world simply doesn't care.

Muslim Extremists Look to Preserve and Reclaim Their Conquests of Ages Past:

Whether it's Hamas, Al-Qaeda, the Islamic State, or some other terrorist group, all Islamists share one common agenda: to preserve the conquests made by Islamic rulers in medieval times, to take back territory formerly controlled by those rulers, and to rid all Muslim territory of non-Muslim elements, whether they be Jews, Christians or anyone else.  In essence, they are continuing the fight that the Muslim Arab invaders of old started in the seventh century following the Prophet Mohammed's death, in which the Middle East's original Jewish and Christian populations were displaced, exterminated and/or marginalized by hordes of Muslim Arab invaders.  It's time the region's original inhabitants started fighting back!

Mideast's Original Inhabitants Must Take Back What is Theirs

I do not believe it is enough for ethnic and religious communities in the Middle East to just try and hold onto what they still have.  On the contrary, they need to take back what once belonged to them, just as Israel has done.  Israel hasn't been "conquering" or "occupying" land since it was founded in 1948; it has been taking it back and restoring it to its original inhabitants - the Jewish people.  In fact, even some Christians in what is now Israel have begun to support the state, remembering that their community predates the Muslim Arab community in the country and knowing that they will have a better future in the State of Israel than in an Islamized state of Palestine (see, for example: Israeli-Arab Christians take to the streets of Haifa for an unusual protest).



I believe that non-Arab and non-Muslim communities in the Middle East need to follow Israel's example and take back their territory, or at least their independence, from the descendants of the Muslim Arab invaders.  Indeed, the Kurds of northern Iraq have begun doing this, taking back Kurdish territory from the Arab, Muslim dominated Iraqi government, including Kirkuk, which some call the Kurdish Jerusalem.  I hope this trend will continue and that the Middle East's original inhabitants will take back their territory and their independence from the Arab Islamist horde, whose thirst for land and power knows no bounds.  I am certainly not saying that Mideast's original communities should try to push the Muslim Arabs all the way back to the Arabian peninsula where they came from, because by doing this, they would be guilty of the same ethnic cleansing that they have been victims of.  What I am saying is that it's time for the regions' original peoples to put themselves back on the map and do what is necessary to preserve and rebuild their proud cultures.