Thursday, November 6, 2014

Why Do Canadian Men Behave Like Pigs?

The ongoing Jian Ghomeshi scandal in Canada has brought the issue of violence against women to the forefront, and I find myself shaking my head and wondering why so many Canadian men behave like pigs towards women.

Jian Ghomeshi who for many years was known as a charming and talented radio host, appears now to have been physically abusing many women for many years with impunity (Ghomeshi’s staff complained about ‘culture of fear’).  It is reported that Ghomeshi’s abuse affected many women, all his staff knew about it, it was even reported within the organization, but Ghomeshi’s abuse was allowed to continue.

In September 2003, a story broke out about a chant promoting rape in main events of Frosh Week at the University Of British Columbia Sauder School Of Business.   Not having learned anything from the UBC incident, a similar chant was reported at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax the following year.  Apparently, Frosh leaders, both at St. Mary’s and at UBC said “it’s just lyrics, it’s just a chant, they had no meaning behind it” (Frosh week controversies).

In November 2014, two players from the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees hockey team were charged with sexually assaulting a young woman in a Thunder Bay hotel during a game trip seven months earlier (University of Ottawa sexual assault scandal highlights campus rape culture).  Taking no chances, the university president Allan Rock suspended the entire team, but his caution was criticized by students as “unfair”.

Radio hosts and university students are considered to be among the most educated Canadians, and such educated people are expected to understand that women are not their sexual toys.  Some people have suggested that Canadian universities have a “rape culture” (Canadian universities tackle campus rape culture).  I think that the problem extends far beyond universities.

According to Canada’s Department of Justice, “the highest number of police-reported sexual offences were against girls between the ages of 11 to 19, peaking at age 13 (781 per 100,000 population)” (Statistics on Sexual Assault).  Think about this for a minute: Thirteen years old girls are the favourite target of rapists.  The same document also states that “78% of sexual assaults were not reported to the police”; other reports give even higher numbers, going as high as 94% (

One could argue that 781 per 100,000 population is only 0.78% and therefore not representative of the general Canadian population.  However, since only 78% of sexual assaults are reported, the actual rate is 3.5%.  In addition, the 3.5% rate of rape is only the tip of the iceberg.  Sexual misconduct goes well beyond rape.  In June 2013, almost 300 current and former female RCMP officers joined a class-action lawsuit alleging harassment in the workplace (282 join RCMP sexual harassment class-action lawsuit).

According to the Canadian Labour Congress, “10% of women 18 to 24 years of age report having experienced sexual harassment in the workplace within the previous 12 months” (Women's Health and Safety).  At this rate, it is not hard to imagine that most women in Canada have experienced sexual harassment at least once in their lives.  In fact, the private company Canadian Labour Relations estimates that over 90% of women in Canada have been sexually harassed at least once.  This is far beyond an innocent Frosh week chant; this indicates a sense of entitlement on the part of men towards women and girls.

This is clearly not a Canadian problem only, but we pride ourselves on being better than the rest of the world.  We have a reputation for being polite, liberal, and egalitarian.  Perhaps we do not deserve it.  The reality is that the vast majority of Canadian men have behaved like pigs at one point or another in their lives, and many, like Ghomeshi, appear to feel fully entitled to do so as often as they wish.  It is not just our universities that have a twisted idea of sexual consent; this syndrome appears to be widely shared among men in our society.

I don’t know why men do this.  Perhaps we have not yet evolved beyond the caveman mentality.  Perhaps we are unable to handle modern life, and we take out our frustrations on those who cannot defend themselves; after all, sexual violence is violence, not sex.  Whatever the reason, we should be ashamed of ourselves, but most importantly we need to change.  There is no excuse.

Note: a modified version of this blog was published at

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Confronting ISIS: The NDP Has Lost its Way

It is very clear by now to anyone paying attention that the group calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) is an extremely violent organization promoting a fanatical ideology and quickly expanding across the Middle East with the intention of reaching into Europe and beyond (it has already made explicit threats against Canada). ISIS is also allied with like-minded organizations from around the world, including Boko Haram in Nigeria and the Taliban in Pakistan.

The threat posed by ISIS to the world and particularly the Middle East is urgent and undeniable. ISIS is known to engage in gruesome mass killings in an effort to ethnically cleanse groups that they consider undesirables, including Christians and including Muslims who do not abide by their brand of Islam. ISIS has two important elements that make it into a world threat that must not be ignored: its drive to massacre groups that it considers undesirable, and its drive to expand its empire to the whole world.

To find an equivalent organization in scope and extremism, we need to go back to Nazi Germany at the start of World War II. The main difference between them is that Germany’s first target was Europe whereas ISIS’s first target is the Middle East, but to anyone who considers that the lives of all individuals (Arabs or Europeans, Muslims or Christians) have the same value, this difference is hardly relevant.

No reasonable person would suggest today that Canada should not have been engaged militarily in the coalition against Nazi Germany, yet both opposition parties, while acknowledging that ISIS is a dangerous and criminal organization, stood in Parliament and voted against military involvement by Canada. They voted to let other members of the coalition do the work of combatting this threat, and they voted to not have Canada offer even the small symbolic military contribution that the Conservative government of Canada has offered as part of the coalition.

Liberal leader Justin Trudeau left the door open to supporting Canada’s military involvement at a later date, presumably when it appears safe to do so without losing popular support. New Democratic Party (NDP) leader Thomas Mulcair went even further and left no door open. Mulcair made it clear that he has no interest in pursuing any military involvement against ISIS, now or in the future.

The opportunistic Liberal position does not surprise me because it is fairly consistent with traditional Liberal politics, although Bob Rae, a former New Democrat, was a temporary and far-too-short breath of fresh air. I am, however, surprised and disappointed that the party of David Lewis and Tommy Douglas refuses to stand up for the minorities who are under assault by ISIS and refuses to engage in a war that may determine the future of much of the world.

When faced with the threat of Nazi Germany, the NDP of the past (Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, CCF at the time), firmly supported Canada’s war effort. Tommy Douglas, later to be the leader of the NDP, even enlisted in the army to fight the Nazis. Douglas stated the following in Canada’s House of Commons in 1939: “If you accept the completely absolutist position of the pacifist, then you are saying that you are prepared to allow someone else who has no such scruples to destroy all the values you've built up. […] if you came to a choice between losing freedom of speech, religion, association, thought, and all the things that make life worth living, and resorting to force, you'd used force.” (Stewart, Walter (2003), Tommy: the life and politics of Tommy Douglas).

Canada’s official opposition is essentially saying today that peoples of the Middle East should fend for themselves while Canada sends only humanitarian aid and sits tight while hoping for the best. The NDP did not take that stand when the peoples in a similar danger were Europeans, but today that peoples of the Middle East are losing “freedom of speech, religion, association, thought, and all the things that make life worth living” and often their lives as well, the NDP is content to do nothing.

One could argue that this is an indication of NDP discrimination against Arabs, but I think that it simply a sign that the NDP of today is not the same principled and forthright party as the party of Tommy Douglas, David Lewis, and M.J. Coldwell. The NDP is today, as it has been for the last two or three decades, a party dominated by radical leftist ideologues with little connection to average working people. Upon the election of Mulcair as leader of the NDP, there was much hope that he would move the party back to its principled roots.

Sadly, it appears that Mulcair has no will or no ability to stand up to the party’s radicals, and he has adopted without question the “absolutist position of the pacifist” which Douglas had denounced.The NDP was once the conscience of Canada while the Liberal party was widely known as an opportunistic party that would steal NDP ideas once they became popular. Today, the NDP is no longer anybody’s conscience; and it does not have the electoral appeal of the Liberal party either.

It is a party without a purpose and without a future, a party that is captive to ivory tower activists who think that supporting Arabs and Muslims is somehow the same as promoting hatred of Israel. Whether the war with ISIS brings an end to ISIS or not is still an open question, but it seems that it has already claimed its first victim in Canada: the relevance of the New Democratic Party.

Note: This blog was first published in New Canadian Media (

Friday, September 12, 2014

Israel’s Controversial Settlements in the West Bank

During the last Israel/Hamas war, Israel was supported by Jews and other friends of Israel from around the world.  While the anti-Israel mobs had a hateful message against Israel’s right to defend itself, often in open support of Hamas, the message of the pro-Israel crowds was simple and non-violent: Israel wants peace.  This message was clear and powerful, and it had the support of every Western government, even if many had concerns about the number of civilian casualties in Gaza.  Most importantly, it was a message that unified all those who support Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state.

Since the Six-Day War of 1967, Israel has occupied the West Bank, and within a year, it slowly started building settlements there.  These settlements send a message that diverts from the simple and powerful message that “Israel wants peace”.  They send the message that Israel also wants more land.  No government in the world, not even the openly pro-Israel government of Stephen Harper in Canada, supports Israel’s settlements policy in the West Bank.  This policy pits Israel against everyone else, and it splits the pro-Israel camp as well, creating animosity and mistrust between its proponents and its opponents.

As a supporter of Palestinian self-determination, I reject Israel’s settlements policy in the West Bank because it makes the project of a Palestinian state next to Israel more difficult to achieve.  However as a friend of Israel, I have to ask why Israel would stop building settlements in Judea and Samaria (the Jewish traditional name for the West Bank) when it is Israel’s right to build them and when Arabs have refused since 1948 and still refuse today to create a Palestinian state (see my previous blog Palestine Delayed).  Palestinians can end the settlements policy any time they wish simply by agreeing to reasonable peace terms with Israel.  Unfortunately Palestinian leaders, far from taking this sensible step, have in fact used the settlements as a reason not to discuss peace with Israel, a highly foolish and self-defeating position, but a position fully consistent with Palestinian leaders’ tendency to ignore their people’s best interests.

To Israel’s credit, there is a vocal and strong movement within Israel that opposes the settlements.  Among them Peace Now, founded in 1978 by 348 reserve officers and soldiers from Israeli army combat units, is an organization that is proudly Zionist but that eloquently advocates against the settlements (although it has lost some credibility within Israel since its earlier days).  Such organizations present the view that a two-state solution is the right solution for Israel, that Palestinians deserve the right to self-determination, and that Israel should not take actions that stand in the way of achieving these objectives.  What’s more, such organizations illustrate an important contrast between Israel and its Arab neighbours – Israel, which has always waged wars only in self-defence has a healthy number of outspoken peace groups while Arab states who truly need peace activists do not tolerate any.  This contrast has long sustained my admiration and support for Israel.

We live in a time of increasing antisemitism.  Antisemitism levels in Europe have reached heights comparable to the 1930’s.  The fuel being used most often to feed antisemitism is anti-Zionism.  By any rational measure, anti-Zionism has become synonymous to antisemitism.  The issue of settlements helps anti-Zionists because it allows them to make the superficial and erroneous claim that Israel is an imperialist power.  Freezing the settlements would give a boost to Israel’s image in the world, and reversing them would go even further in that direction.  This is what happened when Israel abandoned its settlements in Gaza.  Israelis also remember however that this boost in Israel’s image was only temporary, and that when Israel started defending itself against terrorist attacks from Gaza, the new-found support evaporated.  Antisemitism, like racism, is irrational and would not be significantly affected by goodwill gestures from Israel.

Israel is not invincible, and it should not behave as if it were.  Israel was almost lost in the 1973 Yom Kippur war due to overconfidence.  Is Israel displaying the same dangerous overconfidence in its settlements policy?  Cautious people like myself would like Israel to avoid this risk, while many others, including perhaps the majority of Israelis, consider this to be a minor risk compared to the many others facing Israel.  As in 1948, Israel is still surrounded by despotic regimes that to various degrees do not hesitate to use antisemitism to further their own goals, and the Palestinian culture of hate is stronger than ever and renders Palestinians completely incapable of living at peace with Israel (see also How Palestinian Hate Prevents Peace).  Proponents of the settlements also argue that Israel is stronger today that it has ever been, and it can therefore afford to ignore some criticisms.

While freezing or reversing the settlements would be the generous thing to do to Palestinians (most of whom are genuinely victims of circumstances beyond their control or comprehension), and while it would boost Israel’s image, at least momentarily, Israelis do not want to give them up without anything substantial in return.  Considering how little goodwill has come from Arabs towards Israel, I cannot blame them.  The West Bank is actually Judea and Samaria, part of Eretz Israel, the Biblical name of the traditional “Land of Israel”, and many of the settlers are simply returning to homes that they or their ancestors had to leave due to anti-Jewish violence during the war of independence or earlier conflicts.  The Israeli settlements are perfectly legal since the land is not legally recognized as owned by any nation (The legal case for Judea and Samaria) and since Jews have as much right to that land (particularly unused land) as non-Jews do.

Israel cannot be expected to always act against its own best interests simply to hold the higher moral ground.  In its wars with terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah, due to the terrorists’ policy of using civilians as human shields, Israel always warns before attacking, thereby losing the element of surprise and letting terrorists go free in order to minimize civilian casualties.  Israel also abandons bombing missions if there appears to be civilians at the target site, again letting terrorists go free.  The world seems to have become accustomed to Israel being selfless and highly moral even though its enemies’ only objective is the destruction of Israel and the Jews.  On the issue of settlements, however, Israel is doing what it considers best for its citizens – it is allowing them to build homes on their ancestral lands, even though this policy appears to somewhat complicate the Palestinians’ project of statehood.  This is not the high moral ground, but it is a behaviour that would be accepted from any other government on earth under similar circumstances.

Despite Israel’s controversial settlements policy in the West Bank, it is clear that the message that “Israel wants peace” is as true today as it was on the founding of the modern state of Israel in May 1948.  While many pro-Israel advocates would like the issue of settlements to go away in order to simplify their defence of Israel, Israel must still be supported now more than ever.  Enemies of Israel (which are also the enemies of Jews) have become very adept at using this issue to demonize Israel, but friends of Israel, while still needing to debate this policy, must not let it divide them.  We must not forget that this issue would not even exist had it not been for Arab antisemitism, and it will only be fully resolved when Israel’s Arab neighbours finally accept its right to exist as a Jewish state.  This is the only way forward.  This is what Palestinian supporters need to aim for.

Friday, July 25, 2014

What do Israel’s critics really want?

Israel’s operation Protective Edge is on its eighteenth day, and Israel’s critic are intensifying their demand that Israel stop its operation.  It is clear to any reasonable observer, as Canadian columnist Michael Den Tandt wrote recently (The simple question detractors can’t answer) that “Hamas has put Israel in a position where it has no choice but to defend its citizens”.  So what do Israel’s critics really want?

When pressed to give a reason, Israel’s critics say that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is not acceptable and Israeli civilians have suffered very few casualties.  The implication is clearly that Israel should simply grin and bear it.  Israel should accept daily missile attacks on its civilians with the high likelihood that a large number of victims will ensue, possibly in a missile strike on Tel Aviv or other large urban area.  Israel should accept that its main airport be threatened and that airlines suspend flights to it.  Israel should accept the impact of such a situation on the morale of its citizens and on its economy.  This is what they are really saying.  And this would not resolve the humanitarian crisis for Palestinians because sooner or later fighting would have to resume anyway.

But it doesn’t stop there.  Hamas has an extensive set of tunnels to allow it to smuggle weapons in and to allow it to infiltrate Israel’s civilian population and commit extensive acts of terror.  If Israel does not destroy the tunnels, then it should expect more than a daily shower of missiles on its cities.  It should also expect that heavily armed terrorists could attack its schools, malls, and parks at any time of the day or night.

If presented with these facts, Israel’s critics will admit that Hamas’ ethics aren’t spotless but then they retreat to the claim that, as the cowardly Palestinian Authority likes to say, the real root of the problem is Israel’s occupation.  Which occupation?  Israel left Gaza years ago and it even dismantled its settlements there, causing great pain to many of its people.

Israel’s critics will then say that even though Gaza isn’t technically occupied, it is not free to trade with the outside due to Israel’s and Egypt’s blockades, and that this is causing great hardship for the Palestinians in Gaza.  Yet, when Israel loosened its blockade of Gaza and allowed more construction materials in, Hamas did not build school and hospitals; it built tunnels for its terrorist activity.  It is blindingly obvious that Hamas uses any loosening of the blockade to arm itself better for the next confrontation with Israel.

Israel’s critics will also mention Israel’s occupation in the West Bank.  Does anyone really think that Hamas is building terror tunnels in Gaza and launching missiles against Israel in order to free the West Bank?  If that were true, Hamas would demand a two-state solution as its condition for ending the war in Gaza.  Instead its conditions are the release of convicted criminals and the lifting of the blockade so that it can build more tunnels and bring in more missiles and other long-range weapons.  In addition, after leaving Gaza, statements by various leading Israeli politicians indicate that Israel intended to follow that up with an evacuation of the West Bank, and the only reason this did not happen is because missile attacks from Gaza convinced Israelis that unilateral withdrawal was not a palatable option.

It is extremely clear that Israel cannot choose to stop the operation until Hamas is disabled at least temporarily, and yet Israel’s critic are demanding Israel’s unconditional surrender.  As demonstrated here, we know that those critics are not asking Israel’s surrender for the sake of Palestinians or for the sake of peace, so the only alternative left is that they agree with Hamas’ objective of destroying Israel.  They agree with Hamas’ objective of killing all the Jews in Israel and establishing an Islamist dictatorship in its place.  Israel’s critics are in fact in a way worse than Hamas; Hamas at least has the courage to state what it really wants.

Note:  This blog won first place in the category "Non-Council" at the site on the week of August 1, 2014.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

"Proportionality" in the Israel/Gaza War

One question that often comes up in the ongoing (and third) war between Israel and Hamas is the issue of proportionality.  As of this writing, 318 Palestinians and one Israeli have been reported killed.  So why the discrepancy?

I will answer this question in two ways: first to simply explain why the discrepancy, and second to explain why the question is misleading and largely irrelevant.

The discrepancy in counts is due to a number of factors:
  • Israel has built an anti-rocket system called Iron Dome that is very effective at intercepting rockets and destroying them before they can reach populated areas.
  • Israel has built shelters for its civilian population and has trained its citizens on using them when they hear sirens announcing the arrival of rockets.
  • Hamas did not build any way to protect its civilians; they have instead used their resources to build shelters for Hamas terrorists and for rockets and to build tunnels to smuggle weapons.
  • Hamas knows that it cannot win militarily.  Its strategy is to ensure that as many civilians die as possible to increase external pressures on Israel to accept Hamas terms, i.e., the release of criminals and the end of Israel’s blockade on weapons to Gaza.  Therefore, Hamas uses civilians as human shields and coaxes them into going near likely targets.
  • Despite the high number of Palestinian casualties and Hamas’ best efforts at increasing civilian casualties, a large number, if not most Palestinians dead are Hamas terrorists (accurate estimates are not available at this time).
  • The number of reported casualties on the Israeli side does not account for Israelis who have died or have had serious medical problems as a result of panic during rocket attacks.

Despite all of the above, I question the validity of the question in the first place.  Israel is attacking Hamas in order to stop rocket attacks into Israel, and Israel has the right and even the duty to defend its citizens.  Despite the use of Iron Dome, the rockets still terrorize Israeli citizens and cause damage to the Israeli economy.  No sovereign nation on earth would accept that its citizens be terrorized without attempting to stop the attacks.  The fact that Palestinians have far more casualties than Israel isn’t really relevant because Israel does not target civilians, and each and every civilian death is Hamas’ fault.

The low number of Israeli casualties is not due to lack of trying on Hamas’ part.  If Hamas rockets were not intercepted by the Iron Dome, the number of Israeli casualties would be far higher than Palestinian casualties.  Let’s look at it this way: if a Hamas rocket managed to reach a large building in Tel Aviv and killed thousands of Israeli civilians, would that mean that by virtue of proportionality Israel would now be justified in killing thousands of Palestinian civilians?  Of course not.

The war in Gaza is not a football game.  When Germany beat Brazil 7-1 at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, near the end of the game many German fans felt sorry for Brazil because they did not want to humiliate Brazilians.  In that case, speaking of proportionality made sense – there is no need for Germany to win by a huge margin in order to win the cup.  The war in Gaza, however, is not a game.  It is an attempt by Israel to stop terrorist attacks on its citizens.  If Israel stopped its operation without reaching its objective and simply because of the need to maintain some misplaced proportionality, would that be desirable?  Certainly it wouldn’t be desirable because Israelis would continue to be terrorized by Hamas rockets and sooner or later Israel would have to go after Hamas again anyway.

The one and only way to end repeated wars in Gaza is to stop Hamas and its allies from attacking Israel.  This can be done in two ways, either by Israel putting so much control over Gaza that terrorists can no longer re-arm, or it can be done by having the Palestinians choose a Gaza leadership that is willing to recognize that violence is not the answer.  The latter is of course the preferred outcome, but lacking that, no reasonable person can blame Israel for attempting to achieve the former, and each and every casualty along the way is Hamas’ doing.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Conflit arabe / Israël : la Palestine en Suspens

C’est à la mode de blâmer Israël pour le fait que l’état palestinien n’a pas encore été créé. Ces jours-ci, Israël est souvent critiqué à cause de ses colonies en Cisjordanie. Personnellement, je suis contre les colonies, non pas parce qu'ils sont illégales (les opinions sur ce point sont divisées), mais parce qu'ils affaiblissent les palestiniens modérés (quels qu'ils soient) et ils renforcent ceux qui jurent de ne jamais accepter aucune sorte de paix avec Israël.

La question que je voudrais explorer ici est de savoir si les arabes ont fait tout ce qu'ils pouvaient pour créer l'état palestinien qu'ils disent maintenant vouloir. Bien que beaucoup d’évènements aient eu lieu avant 1948, y compris les occasions manquées pour les arabes d’accepter la présence juive au Moyen-Orient, pour cette discussion, je vais commencer par le plan de partition des Nations Unies du 29 Novembre 1947.

Le plan de partition des Nations Unies alloua 43% de la Palestine mandataire (précédemment occupé par la Grande-Bretagne) pour un état arabe avec une population juive de seulement 1%, alors qu'il a alloua 56% de la Palestine mandataire à un état juif avec 45% de population arabe. Les dirigeants juifs acceptèrent le plan avec hésitation, mais les états arabes le rejetèrent. Si les arabes l’avaient accepté, l '«état juif» aurait été faible, et avec 45% d'arabes, il n’aurait été un état juif que de nom. Les arabes auraient créé une Palestine presque purement arabe dans les 43% qui leur était attribué.

En plus de refuser le plan de l’ONU, les arabes commencèrent une guerre contre l’état d'Israël dès qu'il était déclaré en mai 1948. La guerre causa plus de 12 000 morts, et elle se termina dix mois plus tard par un armistice. Pour l’armistice, Israel signa des accords séparés avec l’Égypte, la Jordanie, le Liban, et la Syrie, laissant à Israël 78% de la Palestine mandataire et moins d'arabes que dans le plan de partition de l'ONU étant donné qu’environ 750 000 arabes furent chassés ou quittèrent avec l'intention de retourner après une victoire arabe.

La guerre de 1948 constitua une perte énorme pour les arabes. Ils perdirent un plan de partition qui les favorisait, et ils perdirent la contiguïté territoriale. Cependant, ils contrôlaient toujours le reste de la Palestine mandataire, et ils auraient pu déclarer unilatéralement la création d'un état palestinien dans ces territoires, mais ils choisirent de poursuivre les hostilités avec Israël.

Le 30 mai 1967, la Jordanie signa un pacte de défense mutuelle avec l’Égypte. L’Égypte se mobilisa en masse à la frontière sud d’Israël. Le 5 Juin, en mesure préventive, Israël lança une attaque aérienne surprise contre l’Égypte dans une guerre qui allait durer six jours. À la fin de la guerre, Israël avait occupé la péninsule du Sinaï (Égypte), la bande de Gaza (Palestine mandataire), la Cisjordanie (Palestine mandataire), Jérusalem-Est (Palestine mandataire), les fermes de Chebaa (Liban / Syrie), et le plateau du Golan (Syrie). Le territoire occupé par Israël était maintenant plusieurs fois la dimension du territoire alloué à l '« état juif» dans le plan de partition de l'ONU.

Les arabes auraient pu alors négocier le retour de leurs territoires en échange pour une paix durable avec Israël, ce que cet état désirait plus que tout. Ils auraient pu alors créer l'état palestinien en Cisjordanie et à Gaza. Au lieu de cela, en Août 1967 les dirigeants arabes se réunirent pour discuter de leur position envers Israël, et ils décidèrent qu'il n'y aurait pas de paix avec Israël, pas de reconnaissance d'Israël, et pas de négociation avec Israël (connu comme les « trois nons »).

Les hostilités entre Israël et les pays arabes continuèrent. Le 6 Octobre 1973, durant de la fête de Yom Kippour, le jour le plus important du calendrier juif, la Syrie et l'Égypte organisèrent une attaque surprise contre Israël. L'armée israélienne n'était pas préparée et prit trois jours pour se mobiliser. Ce délai permit à d'autres pays arabes d’envoyer des soldats pour aider les Égyptiens et les Syriens. Israël réussit quand même à se défendre, et après le cessez le feu du 25 Octobre, Israël avait encore augmenté le territoire qu'elle occupait, quoique légèrement.

Plus tard dans les années 1970, l'Égypte décida de conclure un accord de paix avec Israël. Les états arabes auraient pu s’unir pour négocier la paix avec Israël, et ils auraient pu achever la création d'un état palestinien. Au lieu de cela, les états arabes isolèrent le président égyptien Anouar El Sadate pour le punir d’avoir voulu faire la paix avec Israël.

En 1994, la Jordanie décida de négocier son propre accord de paix avec Israël. Ici aussi, le Liban et la Syrie auraient pu joindre les négociations et obtenir un état palestinien, mais de nouveau ils choisirent de ne pas créer l'état palestinien.

Maintenant en Mars 2014, la Syrie et le Liban sont enfoncés dans des luttes internes, et les palestiniens divisés participent sans conviction aux négociations de paix avec Israël, mais dû au soutien de l'Iran pour Hamas et Hezbollah et au refus arabe de régler la question des réfugiés palestiniens, les pourparlers de paix vont probablement échouer ou aboutir à un nouvel accord intérimaire.

Dans leur relation avec Israël, les états arabes ont eu de nombreuses occasions de créer un état palestinien, mais leur incapacité totale à accepter un état juif au Moyen-Orient a fait que depuis 66 ans, ils ont préféré laisser les palestiniens apatrides et la Palestine en suspens. Aujourd'hui, plus que jamais, les pays arabes sont paralysés par les conflits internes, les guerres civiles, et les régimes tyranniques, et pourtant ils blâment leurs malheurs sur Israël et autres démocraties libérales.

Étant d'origine arabe, j'ai honte de ce que les arabes ont fait et continuent de faire, mais je veux aussi croire que les conflits arabes peuvent être résolus. Je crois que le problème principal des arabes est qu’ils n'ont pas de dirigeants compétents et honnêtes comme l’était l'ancien président égyptien Anouar El Sadat. Ils ont besoin de dirigeants qui croient en leur avenir en tant que nations fortes et capables d’être des partenaires égaux dans la paix et dans le commerce. Ils ont besoin de dirigeants modernes, intelligents, et instruits au lieu de faibles, de truands, et de démagogues, et la Palestine pourra enfin devenir une réalité.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Arab/Israel Conflict: Palestine Delayed

It has become fashionable to blame Israel for the failure to create a Palestinian state.  These days, Israel is often criticized and even vilified over its settlements in the West Bank.  Personally, I don’t support the settlements, not because they are illegal (there are conflicting views on this point), but because they weaken the Palestinian moderates (whoever they may be) and they strengthen the hand of those who vow to never accept any sort of peace with Israel.

The question that I would like to explore here is whether the Arabs have done everything that they could to create the Palestinian state that they now claim they want.  Although much has happened before 1948, including missed opportunities for Arabs for reconcile with the Jewish presence in the Middle East, for the purpose of this discussion, let’s start with the UN partition plan of November 29, 1947.

The UN partition plan allocated 43% of Mandatory Palestine (previously occupied by Britain) to an Arab State with only 1% Jewish population while it allocated 56% of Mandatory Palestine to a Jewish State with 45% Arab population.  The Jewish leaders reluctantly approved the plan, but the Arab states rejected it.  Had the Arabs accepted it, the “Jewish State” would have been small, and with 45% Arabs, it would have been a Jewish State only in name.  The Arabs could have created an almost purely Arab Palestine in the 43% allocated to them.

In addition to refusing the plan, the Arabs started a war against the state of Israel as soon as it was declared in May 1948.  The war resulted in over 12,000 casualties, and it ended 10 months later with an armistice.  The armistice as signed in separate agreements with Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, left Israel with 78% of Mandatory Palestine and fewer Arabs than outlined in the UN partition plan since about 750,000 Arabs were either chased away or left with the intention of coming back after the war had ended.

The war of 1948 was a huge loss for the Arabs.  They lost the right to a UN partition plan that favoured them, and they lost territorial contiguity.  However, they still controlled the rest of Mandatory Palestine, and they could have unilaterally declared the creation of a Palestinian state in those territories.  Instead, they chose to continue hostilities with Israel.

On May 30, 1967, Jordan signed a mutual defense pact with Egypt. Egypt mobilized and massed on Israel's southern border. On June 5, in a preventative strike, Israel launched a surprise air-based attack on Egypt in a war that would last six days. By the end of the war, Israel had occupied the Sinai Peninsula (Egypt), Gaza (Mandatory Palestine), the West Bank (Mandatory Palestine), East Jerusalem (Mandatory Palestine), Shebaa farms (Lebanon/Syria), and the Golan Heights (Syria).  The land occupied by Israel was now several folds larger than the land allocated to the “Jewish State” in the UN partition plan.

At that point, Arabs could have negotiated back their land in exchange for giving Israel what it desired, which was peace with its neighbours.  They could then create the Palestinian state in the West bank and Gaza.  Instead, in August 1967, Arab leaders met to discuss the Arab position toward Israel, and they decided that there would be no recognition, no peace, and no negotiations with Israel (also known as "the three NOs").

The hostilities between Israel and Arab states continued.  On October 6, 1973, during Yom Kippur, the most important day of the Jewish calendar, Syria and Egypt staged a surprise attack on Israel. The Israeli military was unprepared and took about three days to mobilize. This gave time to other Arab states to send troops to help the Egyptians and Syrians. Israel managed to fight back, and after the ceasefire on October 25, Israel had increased even further the land that it occupied, even if only slightly.

Later in the 1970s, Egypt decided to reach a peace agreement with Israel.  At that point, Arab states could have united in negotiating peace with Israel, and they could have secured the creation of a Palestinian state.  Instead, Arabs states vilified Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat for his initiative.

In 1994, Jordan decided to negotiate its own peace agreement with Israel.  Again, Lebanon and Syria could have joined in the negotiations and secured a Palestinian state, but again they chose to stay out and leave the future of the Palestinian state unresolved.

Now in March 2014, Syria and Lebanon are mired in infighting, and the divided Palestinians are going through the motions of yet one more round of peace negotiations with Israel, but Iran’s support for Hamas and Hezbollah, and Syria’s and Lebanon’s refusal to settle the issue of Palestinian refugees all mean that the peace talks are likely to fail or end in another inconclusive interim agreement.

In their relationship with Israel, Arab states have had many opportunities to create a Palestinian state, but their complete inability to accept a Jewish state in the Middle East has meant that for 66 years, they have preferred to leave the Palestinians stateless and Palestine unresolved.  Today, more than ever, Arab states are stalled in internal conflicts, civil wars, and state tyrannies, and yet they blame their woes on Israel and other liberal democracies.

As someone of Arab origin, I am ashamed of what Arabs have done and continue to do, but I also want to believe that the Arab conflicts can be resolved.  I believe that what Arabs lack most is competent and honest leadership like the one provided by former Egyptian President Anwar El Sadat.  They need leaders who believe in their futures as strong nations able to be equal partners in peace and in trade.  They need modern, smart, and educated leaders instead of weaklings, thugs, and demagogues, and then Palestine might finally become a reality.

Fred Maroun

March 2014