Thursday, 29 April 2010

Israel's enablers

Dawg's Blawg: Israel's enablers
We enthusiastically chose to become a colonial society, ignoring international treaties, expropriating lands, transferring settlers from Israel to the occupied territories, engaging in theft and finding justification for all these activities… We developed two judicial systems: one — progressive, liberal in Israel. The other — cruel, injurious in the occupied territories. In effect, we established an apartheid regime in the occupied territories immediately following their capture. --former Attorney-General of Israel Michael Ben-Yair

Link to main article:
Canadian journalist Jeet Heer opens a discussion of Israel and her enablers in today's National Post, of all places. A strong supporter of the two-state solution (a sovereign Palestine coexisting with a sovereign Israel), Heer takes issue with those who have encouraged--and continue to encourage-- Israel in its cruel and reckless treatment of the Palestinians.

And, in case the story is taken down, here it is, from the National Post, April 29, 2010:

Jeet Heer: The Jewish state and its enablers
Posted: April 29, 2010, 10:30 AM by NP Editor
Jeet Heer, What's your peace plan?

This month, Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak declared that Israel must withdraw from Palestinian territories. “The world isn’t willing to accept — and we won’t change that in 2010 — the expectation that Israel will rule another people for decades more,” he said. “It’s something that doesn’t exist anywhere else in the world.”

Is he right? Is peace even possible? And if so, what form should a final agreement take? Those are the questions we asked National Post writers in our series What’s Your Peace Plan?


Belligerent, self-destructive men aren’t always loners. Think of Ernest Hemingway. He abused his body with drink, constantly picked unnecessary fights and alienated those he loved. In short, he wrecked his life and his final act of self-slaughter was merely the last in a long string of self-inflicted wounds. But despite his shoddy antics, Hemingway was rarely alone in his folly. He was surrounded by cronies who egged on his terrible deeds, celebrating misbehaviour as a form of manly defiance. These cronies were enablers who encouraged the worst excesses in their hero making any possibility of self-correction much more remote.

Israel is the Hemingway of nations. Like the great writer, Israel is admired by many for its courage and fighting prowess and indulgently allowed to go on pursuing those elements of its behaviour that can only end in disaster. And just as Hemingway had his bar-room buddies who cheered on his alcoholism, Israel has its enablers, foreigners who encourage the Jewish state to follow the self-destructive path of keeping the Palestinians permanently immiserated.

When we talk about the barriers to peace in the Middle East, we have to realize that there are more than two parties involved. Aside from the Israelis and the Palestinians, there are also the vicarious warriors who sit in comfort in North America and encourage a reckless policy of intransigence. Peace requires not just a change in course for the people in the region, but a confrontation with the enablers who make diplomacy virtually impossible.

What does it mean to say that Israel is self-destructive? If we look at the simple demographics of the region and add up all the Palestinians who are inside of Israel proper, plus Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem, plus those who are under occupation, we find a population nearly as large as the number of Jews living in the same territory. The luckiest of these Palestinians live as second-class citizens in Israel, with formal rights but little access to political and social power. The unluckiest are caught in a stateless limbo, under the tender mercies of an occupying army. This state of affairs has lasted more than four decades. If it continues indefinitely, then Israel will truly become the contemporary incarnation of apartheid-era South Africa. The logic of the situation was spelled out by former Israeli prime minister and current Defence Minister Ehud Barak. “If, and as long as between the Jordan and the sea, there is only one political entity, named Israel, it will end up being either non-Jewish or non-democratic,” Barak noted. “If the Palestinians vote in elections, it is a binational state, and if they don’t, it is an apartheid state.”

For Israel to survive as a Jewish democracy, a two-state solution is absolutely necessary. What is the major stumbling block? Ever since the late 1940s, the Palestinians have been squeezed into smaller and smaller bits of land. The original UN partition plan of 1947 would have given Palestinians 45% of the disputed land and Israel 55%, but after Israel’s War of Independence it was in control of 78% of the land, and since 1967 it has occupied all 100% of Mandatory Palestine. The Palestinian leadership since 1988 has accepted the 78-22 divide as the basis for the two-state solution, yet Israel’s leaders have been unwilling to consent to even that — to the creation of a genuinely independent Palestinian state on that remaining 22%, or the equivalent thereof, with secure borders, contiguous territory and internal autonomy. It is true that certain Israeli negotiators offered land swaps and came close to the 78-22 formula but none have ever accepted a clear 1:1 territorial exchange.

The one Israeli leader who was willing to break with the longstanding policy of permanent domination over the Palestinians was the late Yitzhak Rabin, and for his trouble he earned an assassin’s bullet from a fanatical Israeli nationalist. Since Rabin’s assassination, Israel has continued building settlements so that now more than 60% of the West Bank is out of bounds for the Palestinians. The logic of the settlement policy is to make any viable Palestinian state impossible, leaving only a few isolated islands of self-government amid a hostile sea of setters. In effect, the Israeli elite has worked to create the equivalent of the Bantustan system that apartheid South Africa tried, with a Palestinian puppet government assigned the job of keeping a restive population subservient.

Israel’s recalcitrance can be seen not just in its treatment of the Palestinians, but also its high-handed scorn for its own allies. The most famous recent example is the announcement of yet more settlements during the visit of U.S. Vice- President Joe Biden. The Netanyahu government has insulted other allies recently, including Turkey and Germany. Even Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government was offended by the continued building of settlements.

Why does Israel continue to indulge in behaviour that will lead to its own isolation? Here is where the enablers come in. The Israeli elite feels it can get away with this course of action because there is a strong contingent of Western public opinion that will defend them no matter what they do.

Who are the enablers? Some are Jews in the Diaspora who feel, either out of tribal loyalty or guilt at their comfort, that Israel deserves unconditional support. Others are Christian millennialists who view the Middle East as a playground for their own apocalyptic fantasies. Still others are regular conservatives nostalgic for the imperialist days of yore when Westerns nations could impose their will on the unruly masses of the Third World. Some of the enablers have genuinely good motives. After the Holocaust, concern for the survival of the Jewish state is a strong moral imperative. What the enablers don’t realize is that the policies they defend will doom Israel as a Jewish democracy.  

Whatever their motivations, the enablers, and the Israeli intransigence they support, are a stumbling block to peace. The so-called “peace process” of the 1990s failed because the Clinton administration allowed Israel to continue building settlements, undermining any faith the Palestinians had in the honesty of either the United States or Israel. The current attempt to restart the peace process is also likely to fail because every time the Obama administration criticizes Israel it is attacked by Israel’s enablers.

A successful peace process requires a strong American government that is willing to pressure both the Israelis and the Palestinians to make the sacrifices necessary for a genuine two-state solution. Which means a successful peace process requires challenging and refuting Israel’s enablers. The road to Jerusalem lies not through Baghdad but through Washington, and perhaps through Ottawa.

National Post

Harper intends on breaking the law again

Harper digs in over Afghan documents -
Evidence has shown that the Conservative government knowingly ordered our troops to hand over prisoners in Afghanistan into the hands of people who were torturing the prisoners. This is a war crime.

Now, Harper and his Conservative government, is saying they won't hand over the documents relating to this, even after the Speaker of the House made his ruling on the issue. It has been made quite clear that by not handing over the un-censored documents, Harper and his government will be in contempt of parliament - which is a serious crime too. It is a crime against the people of Canada and our democracy.

I say lock them up and throw away the key.

Contemptible Conservatives record of obstruction

Dose of Democracy for Harper’s Obstructivist Conservatives | Conserving Memory


To finish things off Milliken gave the Conservative government two
weeks to work with parliament to comply with the document requests.
According to an article
in the Toronto Star4 (27 April 2010)

“If they don’t, the Conservative government could stand
charged with contempt of Parliament and the supreme law of the land.”

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Troubled TTC Still The Better Way

The TTC has been getting a lot of media coverage lately - complaints, the fare hike, management, unions, etc.
And this has brought out opinion pieces, some useful, and some written by trolls who do little research and just try to stir up anger.
But, if you compare the service and the fare cost with other systems, our TTC stands out as still a good service for the fare.
From my own experience and from the experiences of friends across Canada, the TTC seems to provide more frequent and reliable service than those of other transit systems in Canada.
And, the cost of our fare is at least comparable to systems around the world.

Here are some examples:
Toronto - $3.00 cash fare. Very little government subsidy (local city subsidy only)

Ottawa - $3.25 cash fare. A significant portion of government subsidy. Service overall is not as good as Toronto's

Stockholm, Sweden - $2.85. Largely subsidized (and taxes are much higher there too). Apparently great service. Publicly managed and privately operated.

New York City - $2.25. Largely subsidized.

London, England - $6.25. Largely subsidized. Public-Private operation. Frequent delays and overcrowding.

These are just a few examples. But, as you can see, the fare to take the TTC is comparable to the others - it comes out about average. And, considering our current funding problems, our fare is very reasonable, especially when you take into consideration that the majority of the TTC operating money comes solely from fares.

I ride my bike most of the time. I used to ride the TTC regularly (throughout the '80s) and now I ride it on occasion. For the most part, when I ride the TTC, service is frequent and there have been few delays. And $3 is far far cheaper than paying for cab fare.

Could it be managed better? Yes.
Could the operators be more civil to the public? Yes.
But these are minor issues compared to the funding issues. The TTC needs better regular funding - it needs the Ontario government funding back. And, to get this, it is not an issue of courage by our current politicians. We know that the Conservatives and Liberals will not return the regular funding of the TTC. What it will take to return the regular provincial funding is electing MPPs in Toronto from a party that DOES support returning the funding - the NDP.
But, where will they get the money? Simple. They will roll back the huge tax cuts to corporations that the Mike Harris government put in place and the Dalton McGuinty government left in place.
Oh, but then the corporations will pull out of Ontario! No, even if we roll back those tax cuts, the corporate taxes will still be about the lowest in the industrialized world.

Maybe if we put enough pressure on the Liberal MPPs in Toronto they will return the funding. Maybe.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Toronto Mayoral race - initial words from Joe Pantalone

Toronto transit - The TTC - to privatize or not.

Here are two opinion pieces regarding the TTC and whether it should be privatized or not.

OPINION: TTC Privatization is Not the Best Answer - CityNews

I don't believe that privatizing is the answer for the TTC.
The number one problem for the TTC is funding. It is the most underfunded (by upper levels of government/tax dollars) of all the transit systems in North America. This is mainly due to Mike Harris, who totally stopped the regular provincial funding of the TTC. And now, thanks to the McGuinty government, this sorry trend continues.
You will notice in the article about the transit system in Stockholm, that the government funds that system far more than the government here funds the TTC.
Without proper funding, the TTC cannot function properly. And, without proper funding, the system in Stockholm, privatized or not, would not be able to offer the good service it does. When you have to stretch your resources so thin, it is difficult to manage and give good service. That is why service has gone downhill in Toronto.
From article one: Talk about
privatization will do nothing to solve this. There is no way
privatization will cover the $220 million funding gap. Indeed, it could
make it worse, as busy, profitable routes are sold off and less revenue
flows to the TTC
. Moreover, privatization isn’t going to magically
produce the billions of dollars needed to build Transit City. Focusing
on privatization distracts us from the real issue of how to get the
province to meet its historic funding commitment.

We need to pressure the mayoral candidates, as well as the Toronto MPPs regarding the return of the provincial funding for the TTC.  Regaining regular provincial government funding is the key to fixing the TTC.

War on cyclists in Toronto

NOW Magazine // Daily // The war on bikes

Since rejoining the ranks of the civilized a couple of weeks back
(ie: those who bike ride to work) a few things have become painfully

towards cyclists is at an all-time high in the city, at least it seems
to me after a couple years hiatus from the biking brigade.

Some of that
attitude has without a doubt been fuelled by the bike-hating bile being
spewed by mayoral wannabe Rocco Rossi.

The media’s negative editorializing on the
subject isn’t helping.


Why bike registration fees are wrong

» Bike fees: Misinformed, misguided and a step backwards for Toronto • Spacing Toronto • understanding the urban landscape

From today’s Toronto Star:

Giorgio Mammoliti boldly announced Wednesday that if
elected mayor, he would introduce a $20-$30 registration fee for bikes.
“It’s an agenda that seems to be taking over so far in this election.
It’s all about the downtown core and the downtown agenda, and the
suburbs don’t want to continue to subsidize these pet projects,” he

With all due respect, he’s got all his facts wrong.

Cyclists live and ride all across
the city, and there are major infrastructure projects happening in the
suburbs right now to help ensure that cyclists have a safe place to ride
in every part of Toronto.  In fact, the city (along with federal and
provincial funding) is spending $23 million in North York and
Scarborough to build bikeway trails – far more than is being spent
downtown.  (The downtown bikeway projects will cost an estimated
$330,000 this year.)

So his math is completely backwards.  Not only that,  but according
to the city’s own Cycling Survey (2009), utilitarian cycling is growing
faster in the suburbs than in the core. (download PDF report highlights)


Thursday, 15 April 2010

Toronto - bike lanes divide mayoral candidates.

Bike lanes divide mayoral candidates -
Let's see, one for bike lanes, one on the fence, and the rest against them.
Another reason I'll be voting for Joe.

Cyclists make their way north on University Ave. using the right shoulder. Toronto's summer bike lane pilot project will put bikes in the left lane of University Ave..