Thursday, 30 June 2016

Canada Must Endure as a Country of Values or Cease to Exist

Tomorrow is Canada Day.  Canada is a very dynamic country; a great country.  But it's just a country, not a nation.  The reason I say this is that the word "nation" for me means a group of people with a common language, ancestry and history.  But the people of Canada don't have any of these.  All Canadians, with the exception of the country's aboriginal population, are descended from people originating in different lands.  In other words, Canada is a country of immigrants - immigrants from every corner of the world.  Many would argue that it is Canada's multicultural make-up that is the country's ultimate strength.  Former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau thought so.  In fact, he practically made multiculturalism the country's state ideology.  But history has shown that multicultural countries, which I sometimes refer to as multinational empires, are usually unstable and can often become failed states, which is why countries whose borders were drawn up by colonial powers, like those of the Middle East and Africa, are home to so much violent conflict and instability. 

Canada is of course a country drawn up by colonial powers and built on the foundations of conquered aboriginal nations.  But unlike other multinational empires, most of Canada's people live in this country because either they or their descendants chose to be here.  In contrast, millions of people in today's multi-ethnic states didn't choose to become part of those states, but rather were forcibly included in the territories of such states.  For example, the Kurds of the Middle East never consented to being part of artificial creations like Iraq and Syria.  One could say the same thing about aboriginal populations in Canada, but aside from them, no one else in this country was forced to be part of it. This is one of the reasons why Canada has continued to exist and to prosper.

Another reason is that while Canadians come from many different backgrounds, the overwhelming majority of us share the same values - values like freedom of speech, freedom of religion, gender equality and so forth.  In fact, I would say that if a country does not have a homogeneous population that shares a common language, a common culture, a common history, etc., it must be a country of shared values, otherwise it will likely cease to exist.  Hence, if Canada wants to continue existing as a country, it must maintain a population whose overwhelming majority share what we would consider Canadian values.  My fear, however, is that because of certain policies brought on by successive governments in this country over the last half century, Canada may soon no longer have a population with shared values.

One of these policies is the official multiculturalism that Pierre Trudeau introduced during his tenure as prime minister.  As part of this new state ideology, Canada's immigration controls were relaxed to allow more people from places like Asia and Africa to come live in the country and become Canadian citizens.  Up until the Trudeau era, most immigrants to Canada came from Europe as immigration from other parts of the world was severely restricted and those non-Europeans who managed to come and stay in Canada faced horrible discrimination.  I certainly don't have a problem with the fact that a person can immigrate to Canada and in time can become a Canadian citizen regardless of where he or she comes from.  If I did have a problem with this, I'd be a bigot, and the last time I checked, my name isn't Donald Trump.  In fact, I mentioned in my Canada Day blog post last year, What Makes Canada Great?, that one of the great things about this country is that anyone has the potential to be a Canadian regardless of where they come from.

What I'm worried about is that since Pierre Trudeau introduced multiculturalism as Canada's new state ideology, adherents of it have used it as a pretext to look the other way whenever certain folks come to this country, become citizens and then try to impose customs and practices that are out of sync with Canada's values.  In essence, multiculturalism has become the card that its proponents will always use to justify bringing people into this country who don't believe in things like democracy, freedom of religion or gender equality.  My fear is that if this continues, Canada as we know it may cease to exist.                 

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Five Cents for a Plastic Bag!? This Canadian is Tired of Being Nickeled and Dimed!

Today, I went to Shoppers Drug Mart to buy a couple of things and was asked by the cashier if I wanted to "purchase" a bag.  I said no, because in my opinion, charging a five cent bag fee is just another way big corporations are squeezing more profits out of their customers.  To make matters worse, this is a practice that's been encouraged by some of our incompetent politicians.  The pandora's box of bag fees was opened in Toronto when then mayor David Miller and his band of leftist councillors decided to make all retailers in Toronto charge a five cent fee per plastic bag. But as if this wasn't bad enough for Joe the taxpayer, the new rule didn't require retailers to turn the money over to the city or use it for environmentally-friendly initiatives, despite the fact that the whole argument in favour of the bag fee revolved around reducing the use of plastics that harm the environment. Instead, retailers could keep the money from the bag fees, which is exactly what most of them did, even after the city cancelled the mandatory fee years later. Now just to be fair, some retailers do voluntarily donate some of the money from the bag fees to environmental causes.  But for the most part, the money from the five cents per bag that people in Toronto and elsewhere pay is going straight into the pockets of big retailers.  As if the big multi-billion dollar retail giants don't charge us enough for their goods already at a time where more and more people are having trouble making ends meet.  

Okay, I understand that this is an old issue and that many people have grown used to this ridiculous example of nickel and diming.  The truth is that most of us just shrug and accept it.  This is the unfortunate case with many other dumb charges that big companies use to gouge Canadians. Remember when you didn't have to pay fuel surcharges and baggage fees at the airport?  How about when the airlines used to feed us for free on short-haul flights?  Or when you didn't have to pay to receive paper bills?  And please don't get me started on all those banking and credit card fees!  I think the real question here is, why do we let this happen?  Why do Canadians allow big corporations to levy such ludicrous charges so that they can squeeze more profits out of us?  The simple answer is that we don't complain loud enough about it to the point where our politicians can hear us and make laws to stop big business from nickel and diming us to death.  Unfortunately, the word is out that Canadians will pay more for everything.     

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

End Partisan Government Advertising!

Have you seen the self-serving, totally partisan ads that Ontario's Liberal government has been putting on TV lately?  The ones advertising some of the government's most controversial policies, like the proposed Ontario pension plan, the revised provincial sex ed curriculum and the government's clean energy policies.  One of the latest ads features a bunch of small children talking about the threats posed by climate change.  Up until recently, these kinds of ads were illegal in Ontario.  But then the government tweaked the law to allow them.  Now just to be fair, Kathleen Wynne's Liberals aren't the only ones guilty of showering voters with ads designed to make us feel good about their policies.  Other parties play the same game and play it just as well.

Does anyone remember those annoying TV ads by the Harper Conservatives?  The ads sang the praises of the so-called Economic Action Plan, much of which hadn't even been approved by parliament, hence the small and much less noticeable text in the commercials that read, "subject to parliamentary approval."  One of my favourite examples is from around twenty years ago during the days of the Mike Harris government in Ontario.  The then slash-and-burn premier talked a great deal about wasteful spending, but he had no problem spending our tax dollars on signs that proudly proclaimed, "Your Ontario Tax Dollars at Work."  

The fact of the matter is that governments of all stripes engage in self-serving partisan advertising paid for by our tax dollars.  This is a practice that has to end and end now!  So whenever you see one of those pathetic commercials talking about how much of a great job our politicians are supposedly doing, keep telling yourself to remember our leaders' cynical use of our hard-earned money come voting day.  Better yet, forget about waiting until the next election.  Instead, shout out to our politicians over the phone, through the mail or on social media and tell them to stop wasting the taxpayer's money on partisan ads.  If politicians want to pat themselves on the back in the media, they should use their own parties' funds to do it, not ours!    

Monday, 27 June 2016

Guidelines for Achieving a Semitic Cultural Revolution in Israel

Last month, I wrote about why Jews in Israel should return to their Hebrew, Semitic roots and turn away from the cultural traits that the Jewish people have adopted as a result of thousands of years of exile.  I would like to use this post in order to provide some guidelines for how I think we can do this. I will begin first by saying that although Jewish culture has been corrupted by non-Semitic elements, such as the Yiddish language and other non-Semitic Jewish dialects, or the non-Semitic Ashkenazi pronunciation of Hebrew, just to name a couple of examples, the fact of the matter is that all cultures influence each other and that no culture, including ours, is immune from outside influences.  I want to make this clear for those of you who may have read my previous posts and assumed that my desire is to create a Hebrew, Semitic culture in Israel that is completely free of foreign influences.  This is certainly not my intention as it would be both impractical and impossible for our culture to be free of foreign elements.  I do, however, seek to rid our culture of certain elements that significantly weaken our identity as a Semitic people.

Jews Living in Israel Must Behave Like Yehudim, Not Yids!

I really don't understand Jews who make the decision to go live in Israel and yet continue to live as if they were still living in whatever country they moved from.  Like I said before, I don't think it's right for Jews living in Israel to have non-Semitic names, like Wasserman or Rubenstein.  A couple of people have called me a hypocrite because of the fact that my name is obviously not Hebrew or Semitic.  I admit that I would be a hypocrite if I were to go live in Israel and keep my name as it is. Many of the first Israelis, including some of the state's founding fathers, didn't have Hebrew names before they came to live in Israel.  For example, David Ben-Gurion was David Grun and Golda Meir was Golda Meyerson.  But of course, once these people came to live in their ancestral homeland, they took it upon themselves to adopt Hebrew names in order to help them reconnect with the Hebrew, Semitic identity of their ancestors, and I believe that any Jew who goes to live in Israel should follow this example.  Now just to be fair, virtually all Israeli Jews have at least a Hebrew first name.  Many of them, however, have maintained a non-Semitic last name and I would encourage them to do away with those names and adopt Hebrew family names in order to reinforce their Hebrew, Semitic identities.  I make the pledge here to adopt Hebrew first and last names (I actually already have a Hebrew first name) if and when I move to Israel.

I would also encourage Jews who move to Israel to do their best to learn the Hebrew language.  It really makes me nuts how anyone can move to another country and not make a good effort to learn that country's language.  I see too much of this phenomenon in Canada, where I now live, but I've also seen it in Israel. My grandmother living in Jerusalem, for example, had a friend who also lived in Israel for decades, but still hadn't mastered the Hebrew language.  I'm sorry, but unless you have a learning disability, or something like that, there's no reason you should not be able to learn Hebrew and be fluent in it within a reasonable amount of time.

Finally, for those of you who happen to be members of the Haredi community, if you're planning to move to Israel, please shed your medieval Polish garb, the corrupt jargon you call Yiddish, and that horrible, Yiddishized way you read Hebrew.  These kinds of things belong back in the shtetl, not in Israel. Israel is a country for Yehudim, NOT Yids!

Hebrew Must Be Reinforced and Reformed

I would say that one of Israel's greatest achievements is the rebirth of Hebrew as the national language of the Jewish people.  It's another reason we should do away with non-Semitic Jewish dialects like Yiddish and Ladino.  We simply don't need them anymore.  We have our real language back!  Nevertheless, I think that modern Hebrew is still a work in progress and that it has lost some of its Semitic character.  I'm no linguist, but I'm betting that the Hebrew of our Biblical ancestors sounded significantly different than today's Hebrew.  I'm certainly not advocating a complete return to the Hebrew that was spoken in the times of David and Solomon, but I do think we could make some changes to it so that it is more Semitic in character.  For instance, the letters  "ט" and "ת" sound the same in modern Hebrew, but I'm guessing that in the past, they probably sounded different.  My thinking about this stems from my study of Arabic, another Semitic language, which also has two "t" letter equivalents with both having unique pronunciations.  The "א" and "ע" also sound the same in modern Hebrew, but if the original Hebrew language was anything like Arabic, and I'm betting it was, the "ע" probably had a distinct sound.  Arabic actually has the same two letters, though obviously written in a different script.  But unlike the "ע" in modern Hebrew, the Arabic equivalent has a distinctly different pronunciation.  My point is that we should bring back at least some of the Semitic characteristics that modern Hebrew does not currently use.

Furthermore, I believe that the use of Hebrew in Israel needs to be reinforced.  Yes, I know you're probably thinking that it's contradictory for me to be saying this while writing in English, but the unfortunate fact is that most of the Jewish people still don't speak Hebrew yet.  On my trips to Israel, I see way too many signs written only in English or some other language besides Hebrew and Arabic. To combat this type of trend, I would propose adopting laws similar to the Canadian province of Quebec, where French is the dominant language and culture.  In order to reinforce the French language and prevent further anglicization, Quebec's government has enacted laws that require all signage to be in French.  Signs in other languages are legal, but French must be the dominant language on all signage. New immigrants to the province are required to study in French-language schools regardless of their mother tongue, and children in these schools are discouraged from speaking any language other than French.  I would love to see similar laws implemented in Israel, with the only exception being that Arabic be exempted in order to accommodate the country's Arabic-speaking minority.

Remove Funding and Other Support for Non-Semitic Jewish Culture

The last thing I would like to see is for our leaders in Israel to cut off all support, financial or otherwise, for the promotion and maintenance of non-Semitic Jewish culture.  For instance, any elementary or secondary school in which Yiddish or any other non-Semitic Jewish dialect is taught must not receive funding from Israeli authorities.  No government support of any kind should be given to any festivals or organizations promoting non-Semitic Jewish music, arts or other cultural practices.  In addition, no government support should be given to religious institutions in Israel that promote religious practices or traditions consistent with non-Semitic Jewish practices or traditions. As I've stressed before, Israel is a democracy and no one can prevent people from maintaining and celebrating non-Semitic Jewish cultural traditions, but no Israeli government should feel obliged to provide any support to anyone who seeks to maintain and celebrate traditions that are not consistent with the Jewish people's true Hebrew, Semitic roots.  

Friday, 24 June 2016

May Brexit Spell the End of the United Kingdom and the British Empire

Yesterday, the people of the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.  Many of the folks who voted in favour of leaving the EU believe that they are taking back their country, so to speak.  I think they'll soon find that they've done just the opposite.  In fact, I'm hoping that this decision to leave the EU will be the final nail in the coffin of the British Empire and the United Kingdom itself.

I've made it clear in previous posts that I am not a fan of multinational empires and the U.K. is one of those empires.  It is an empire dominated first and foremost by England, with Scotland as a junior partner and Wales and Ireland as subjugated countries, not to mention the countless millions around the world that fell under British rule over the centuries.  Now that this empire is all but gone, the next logical step is the dismantling of the United Kingdom itself.  Hence, I am very happy that pro-independence forces in Scotland are calling for another referendum to secede from the U.K. and that pro-republican leaders in Northern Ireland have begun to speak about the possibility of holding a vote there on merging with the Republic of Ireland and creating a united Ireland.  I look forward to the day that Scotland and Wales are independent members of the European Union, joined by a united Ireland and I hope eventually a wiser and more mature England.          

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Israel Does NOT Belong to All Jews

Do all Jews, wherever they may live have a stake in the present and future of the State of Israel? Absolutely!  But does Israel belong to all Jewish people, regardless of whether or not they live there? Absolutely not!  I know I'm going against the grain here, because most Jews will probably tell you that Israel belongs to all of the Jewish people.  Heck, most of Israel's leaders, including our current prime minister, would say that Israel belongs to all Jews, regardless of where they live.  But as an ardent supporter of Israel and an Israeli citizen, I'm afraid I must disagree with the notion that Israel belongs to all Jews.  After all, Israel is a modern, democratic state; and a modern, democratic state belongs to its citizens and no one else.  In other words, Israel belongs to Israelis and no one else.

I look at it this way.  If an American who can trace his ancestry all the way back to the British colonization of North America insinuated that the U.K. belongs to him and all people of British descent, he would probably be laughed at.  Yet the notion that Israel belongs to all Jews is widely accepted among Jewish people around the world.  In fact, I'll be very surprised if some people reading this don't write back to me and tell me that I'm crazy or insult me in some other way.  The fact of the matter is that Israel does not belong to all Jewish people, anymore than the U.K. belongs to all people of British descent, France to all people of French descent, Ireland to all people of Irish descent and so forth.  I do understand that most people whose backgrounds come from places where they are not currently living have some sort of connection to the "old country" in terms of the their culture, beliefs or some other characteristics, but that doesn't mean that they consider whatever their "old country" is to belong to them, unless of course they were born in that country or are citizens of that country living abroad.

I also do not dispute the inherent right of all Jews to live in Israel.  Contrary to what some of Israel's critics want you to believe, it is common practice among many countries, not just Israel, to have some kind of law of return that allows a person whose origins lie in the country in question to come and live in that country.  Yes, all Jews have the right to live in Israel.  However, until Jews from the diaspora become Israeli citizens, they have no reasonable grounds to say that Israel belongs to them.       


Saturday, 11 June 2016

Other Arabs Condemn Terrorism Against Israel, But Palestinians Continue to Support It

After four Israeli civilians were shot and killed by Palestinian terrorists this past week, leading Arab citizens in Israel quickly condemned the attack and called for peace (see: Israeli Arabs: Attackers 'don't deserve air to breathe').  Another call of condemnation came from a very unlikely source: the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  In the minds of many, including myself, Saudi Arabia is the main breeding ground and primary source of Islamic fundamentalist-inspired terrorism in the world.  Yet, the Saudi media was actually talking about the attack in Tel Aviv as an act of terrorism.  WOW!  And the Saudis weren't alone.  A noted Egyptian journalist and former candidate for her country's presidency also decried the attack (see: Egyptian journalist condemns Tel Aviv Terror: 'What's heroic about shooting people?').  Maybe the folks in the Arab world are starting to wise up, eh?  Well, let's not get carried away with hope just yet.

The handful of people in the Arab world who condemned the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv were still drowned out by the masses who took to social media to praise and celebrate the attacks.  There was also no condemnation of the attacks on the Palestinian street.  Instead, the Palestinians reacted the same way they always have - by singing songs of praise for the terrorists and passing out candies to celebrate the murder of Israeli civilians (see: Palestinians celebrate terror attack in Tel Aviv, Saudis strongly condemn).  Yes, the Palestinians still don't get it and I don't understand why, because decades of terrorism have still not yielded the Palestinians the freedom they seek; it's just made their lives harder and more miserable.  Now, for instance, more than eighty thousand Palestinians have had their entry permits to Israel revoked in response to the attack in Tel Aviv.  That's more than eighty thousand Palestinians who won't be able to visit their families during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan.  So can someone please tell me how terrorism makes things better for the Palestinians? Other Arabs are slowly starting to discover that terrorism against Israel doesn't pay.  It's a pity that the Palestinians can't do the same.          

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Celebrating Jerusalem's Reunification and Liberation

Israel has just finished celebrating the 49th anniversary of Jerusalem's liberation and reunification. As we should all know, during the Six Day War in 1967, Israel defeated the armies of several Arab states for the second time since the first Arab-Israeli war in 1948. The Israeli military captured the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights and the Biblical heartland of the Jewish people in Judea and Samaria. But I think most people would agree that Israel's greatest prize in the Six Day War was the reunification of Jerusalem after nineteen years of division.  East Jerusalem was liberated from the grip of the Hashemite dictatorship and reunified with the Israel-controlled west.

My father, who fought in the Six Day War, has told me stories about the liberation.  He still remembers walking through the Old City and visiting the Western Wall for the first time, where he and his fellow soldiers cried like babies, overjoyed at liberating Judaism's holiest site.  He also remembers how his father was able to see friends that he hadn't seen since the city was divided after the War of Independence.  It was truly a joyous time for the people of Israel.

Today, Jerusalem is a modern metropolis mixed in with the ancient parts of the city that date back to biblical times.  It's hard to believe that just a century ago, Jerusalem was a shell of its former glory. In the waning years of the Ottoman Empire, the city was nothing more than a backwater with little commerce and little hope for the future.  This began to change when Jews began returning to what has always been their capital.  During the British mandate period, new neighborhoods sprang up in the city and modern infrastructure began being built.  After the War of Independence, Jerusalem became the capitol of the Nation of Israel for the first time in two thousand years.  Unfortunately, the eastern side of the city would continue to be neglected until its liberation in 1967.  My father told me about how filthy the Old City was when it was liberated.  There was so much garbage and excrement that you could barely walk through the streets.  He even said that the military command issued a warning to soldiers not to eat the produce sold in the markets because it was watered with sewer water.  Thankfully, Israel cleaned up the mess that the Hashemites left and turned the Old City back into a thriving center of commerce and tourism, as well as a free place of worship for the followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

Israel also showed a great deal of moral strength when it liberated eastern Jerusalem.  It would have been easy, for example, for the Israelis to destroy the Dome of the Rock, the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the other Muslim holy shrines that Arab and Muslim conquerors had built so that Solomon's Temple could be resurrected in their place.  But they didn't. Instead, they turned control of the sites on the Temple Mount over to the officials comprising the Islamic trust or Waqf and allowed Muslims to worship there freely to this day.  Critics of Israel often complain about how the Israeli authorities sometimes prevent some Muslim worshipers from praying on the Mount for security reasons.  My response to them is to ask how many Jews were allowed to worship at the Western Wall when it was under Hashemite rule.  The answer?  Not one!

In fact, inasmuch as Arab residents of Jerusalem complain about being neglected and persecuted by Israel - even to the extent that some have recently taken part in stabbing and vehicular attacks against Jewish Jerusalemites - polls have shown that the city's Arabs would rather be ruled by Israel than by a future Palestinian state.  It's probably because they know that they have freedom in Israel that people living in the Arab states can only dream of.  Unfortunately, however, there are still those in the so-called peace camp that seek to physically divide the city just as it was divided before.  As a person who is descended from a family that has lived in Jerusalem for five generations, I can say that physically dividing the city again would be like slicing my heart and the hearts of many others into pieces.  It cannot be allowed to happen!